The MGA With An Attitude
MGA Guru Is GOING MOBILE - (April 16, 2015 - April 30, 2015)
Thursday April 16, 2015:
Primary task for today was to get that oil change, for which we spent 2-1/2 hours at the Walmart Supercenter (as there is no dedicated oil change store in Douglas, Arizona). Then we got what may be the worlds most expensive car wash when we got a ticket for turning left after a traffic light turned red. Sheesh. This little town is beginning to get to me. But we are staying here regardless, because tonight we will meet and greet the Australian origin caravan of seven intrepid MGs with occupants who have been traveling the length of South and Central America (still to do North America). We have checked into their motel to wait, anticipating a late evening border crossing.
Well they got through the border crossing okay, arriving at hotel before sun down. One car is still a day behind the rest, as they had some paper work problem with the car registration while entering Mexico a couple days earlier (issue now resolved). We had dinner with the rest of the group (12 people) at Pizza Hut (not a lot of choice for restaurants late night in Douglas).
This last row is "RIP", the MGA that is the instigator of these long trips. It may give you some idea how they pack and what to carry for spares for a long trip. They all make me feel guilty about towing my trailer all around the country.
Friday April 17, 2015:
Packing it all in for the next day's travel. How do they get all that stuff into these little cars? The BGTs are easier than the roadsters and touring cars. "Blue B" needed a push start (dead starter for a few days past). We will have to do something about that later. It ran so bad after starting that I couldn't resist adjusting the carbs before leaving the car park. One turn too lean on the rear carb, three turns too lean on the front carb (wow).
Then we were off to Breakfast at Denny's, followed by a clear morning photo-op before hitting the road north (which is pretty much the only direction these blokes go on this trip).
There was one brief stop at a roadside viewing area to check out The Lavender Pit, which used to be a low grade ore copper mine. My MGA was bit reluctant to start here, having a little tif with an "iffy" starter pull switch. With a little harder pull it broke the pull cable so we push started it and drove on (at the rear of the pack).
15 miles short of our next destination in Phoenix the car started to misfire, and it got worse quickly. Doing 65-70 mph on the expressway, wanting to flash headlights at the car ahead, the engine cutout completely with the lights, but recovered with lights off. Ah-ha! Dead battery. Switched off everything electrical except ignition and fuel pump (kill the blowers and fans), and it ran better and kept running until we all parked the cars. We would deal with this a few minutes later.
We had stopped here to celebrate a BBQ lunch with The Arizona MG Club. For me lunch was pretty quick followed by a look under the bonnet. Ha! Simple problem with an easy fix. The power wires had dropped loose from the alternator. One wire terminal later it was back together, and a miniature jumper box had it started in a flash. We left it running fast idle to recharge the battery while the gang finished formalities indoors. Then we were off again.
Heading north out of Phoenix, I have done this route before. About 30 miles flat through the dessert followed by 100 miles up some killer hills to higher altitude. But we stopped short at Camp Verde, Arizona for the night.
Saturday April 18, 2015:
Two quick fixes this morning. First was to get Blue B's starter motor going, jacked up, RF wheel off, test light in hand, discover and repair one loose Lucar connector on the starter motor (gawd I hate Lucar connectors). Next was a temporary patch for the pull cable on my MGA starter switch. The quick fix was to connect a spare throttle cable to the starter switch, and run the cable through the bulkhead where we could two-hand it from in the cabin to start the car. And we were off again.
Up the hill some more to Flagstaff, then off the expressway onto US-180 through the low-lying mountain passes in the general direction of the south rim of the Grand Canyon, with a short stop at some small snack bar for a quick break.
Another quick rest stop accidentally turned up a few classic cars on display, and a photo-op at Bedrock City. Yabba Dabba Doo! Well, that last one was definitely antique, I don't know about classic.
Next stop was the south rim of the Grand Canyon early afternoon. After a short visit others were staying longer while I was escorting Blue B a bit back south to the small tourist town of Grand Canyon, Arizona, where we could spend some time working on Blue B's electrical problems.
First business was to figure out why Blue B's LH headlamp had no light on high or low beam. Test showed proper power and ground at rear of lamp, but no light, so it was a dead bulb. Program a stop at the next Walmart for replacement sealed beam bulbs.
Then on to investigate why overdrive was not working. We found two issues here (aside from some prior emergency patch wiring). There was an intermittent connector contact near the ignition switch that refused to cooperate, so we cut and spliced one wire to bypass the faulty connector. The overdrive solenoid had a dead short to ground internally, so we left it disconnected while awaiting delivery of the replacement part (previously ordered for delivery farther along the planned travel route). We also took the opportunity to clean up some of the prior patch wiring, reconnect the 3rd-4th gear interlock switch, and reconnect everything except the final solenoid wire.
With the rest of the cars returned from the Canyon there was a short confab in the hotel bar, followed by dinner at a local steak house ("The Steak House"), followed by some time on WiFi to bring you these photos and notes.
Sunday April 19, 2015:
Before morning departure I was checking out RIP's surrey top. This is a really neat accessory. The front attachment is similar to the convertible top with standard wood bow and wing bolts. Rear attachment also uses the standard steel strap. Side brackets are special fabricated stake pockets that attach to same screws as the standard convertible top frame.
The single tubular bow is adjustable for height by wing bolt set screws. Drop the bow down low to use the convertible top. In that position the bow is about the same height as an accessory wind breaker (and I can imagine it being used for that purpose with a coarse cloth panel added). When the canopy is installed the bow can be raised until it pulls good tension on the canopy. Hemmed front and side edges of the canopy are curved, so the curved bows in tension will keep good tension on the canopy. I was intending to get dimensions and make drawings, but ran out of time. May still be able to do this later.
One last look at the Grand Canyon in the morning light before heading east on AZ-64 and north on US-89.
The Canyon got shallower as we drove east, then we were headed north through the Painted Desert along US-89. The Australians are getting used to the idea that the Harley Davidson folks often cozy up to the Little British Cars. These days we have the common interest of keeping our classic vehicles running and enjoying driving them.
Just a few hours in we landed in Page, Arizona, allowing time for some more repairs as well as casual evening celebration. Photos below are on Lake Shore Drive along the west side of Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon Recreational Area, just shy of the Arizona/Utah border. Having made a stop at O'Reilly Auto Parts a bit earlier, we took a few minutes to change Blue B's headlamps. Then a few pictures to commemorate our brief three day encounter, with special emphasis on the Australian MGA "RIP" and "the MGA with an attitude".
In the failing evening light at the hotel I finally had the time to install the replacement front bearing hubs with new bearings. None too soon, as the RF wheel was up to 1/4-inch wobble the LF not as bad but needing to be fixed as well. We have seen this process changing wheel bearings a few months earlier, but this time it was to replace the hubs which were worn in the bores that should be press fit for the bearings. Note to self: After nearly 40,000 miles in the past year I need to order up some new front brake shoes. But with the brakes properly adjusted we now have high and solid brake pedal action. Will find out tomorrow if the tendency to wander on the road is reduced with the new bearing hubs.
We enjoyed one last dinner with the Australians, and one late night tire kicking tech session in the car park with RIP before bidding farewell to the Australians. Pity that Blue B's overdrive is still not working, but it has to wait for delivery of a replacement control solenoid. Late night WiFi was to be followed by early morning WiFi to bring you these photos and notes.
Monday April 20, 2015:
Mostly a travel day today. After a morning WiFi session we did a run down the express routes south to Phoenix, about 4-1/2 hours with a short fuel stop (and bug scraping exercise). Today's destination was the home of Buckley McChesney in Peoria, Arizona (near Phoenix) with late afternoon arrival. Bill has this nice daily driver MG ZA Magnette. Also hiding in the garage is an MGB which hasn't run for a while (and may have a dead battery). We are short on time today, but had a nice home cooked dinner to go with late night chat about car clubs and such. I will be short on sleep tonight, with early morning departure for next appointment (but we may come back later).
Tuesday April 21, 2015:
After late night WiFi, we had to be early risers to get on the road a bit after 5-am, making a sprint (a lot at 85-mph) south to Tucson, Arizona, for a breakfast meeting with the Tucson British Car Register at 7:30 am. I didn't count noses, but I suppose about 30 people in attendance. The best part was, these people actually drive their British cars so there was an ample supply in the car park.
After the morning party, WiFi, catching up with a big backlog of email. Then we plotted a night time drive on secondary roads, and ended up back in Douglas, AZ before midnight. Beautiful warm night under the stars.
Wednesday April 22, 2015:
Only one "official" appointment today, nothing important. I was in Douglas to settle a traffic ticket I got a week earlier. That only required a half hour in the morning. Then I "had the day off", which means I spent the entire day catching up with WiFi work. Most of the day was spent making inquires to set up appointments for visits with prior calls from clubs and people with a request (still exclusively in Arizona). This looks like the existing list may keep me busy for nearly a week more before we might move on to California. So far all of the remaining appointments may be in the Phoenix area. So tonight we headed north again, stopping in Tucson about 10:30 for the overnight. Last nights drive on secondary roads was so nice that we made the return trip on the same roads (including a smile and wave through from the same Border Patrol check point).
Thursday April 23, 2015:
Today we ambled up the expressways (mostly 75 mph) to Mesa, Arizona (east of Phoenix). For those BBS users who have been wondering about Leslie and Jonathan Baney, Leslie is a class act, doesn't mind getting her hands dirty to work on the MGA when necessary. Well, Jonathan is okay too. Their MGA 1600-MK-II is nicely restored, runs well, drives well. It has typical (modern) issues with door latches that don't line up right, but that can be fixed. It wouldn't idle slow enough, but a few minor carburetor adjustments set that right.
This cas has an aluminum radiator and electric fan, but also the standard belt driven fan, a modern fan shroud, 7-psi pressure cap and 50/50 glycol/water coolant. Once it was running well I had a chance to do a bit of testing on the cooling components. Turn engine to low ide (900 rpm), switch off the electric fan, and watch the coolant temperature rise. Like most any other MGA with a modern radiator, coolant temperature rose slowly until it passed the 230dF end of scale on the gauge. Pull choke slightly, enough to set fast idle around 1800 rpm, and watch the temperature come back down slowly to about 220dF. Switch on electric fan, and temperature dropped to 200dF. It looks like any other MGA to me, and I don't suppose the aluminum radiator makes much difference.
Friday April 24, 2015:
Much of the spent on WiFi work, except to run navigator into Phoenix for a card tournament.
In the evening hours we shot over to Surprise AZ, a western suburb of Phoenix, to visit George Bean, president of Arizona MG Club. He has a nicely restored MGA 1600, good daily driver. I gave it a minor tweaking on the carburetors, but otherwise all is well with this car. Late night chat about cars and clubs is followed by a bit of WiFi chat with management at Chicagoland MG Club.
Saturday April 25, 2015:
Early morning rising to meet some folks for 7-am breakfast at a local beanery. This was followed by a short trip to another local residence where we met more club members with a mission. We were here to sort out cars and parts from an estate, getting things together in preparation for liquidation. Here we found four MGs, one TD and three TF.
The yellow TF was a complete restoration, had some miles on it, and a slightly dented RF fender, but had been parked for some time. With minimal work we got this one running. One of the daughters of the estate wants to keep this car in the family. There were parts everywhere, on the floor, on the walls, on shelves, in the rafters.
There was a second TF chassis, mostly finished with recently restored wooden body tub and lots of light yellow primered body parts hanging around the garage. By day's end one of the local club members had arranged to buy this one with the intention of finishing the restoration.
Next up was a TD chassis with engine in place, but totally flat tires, sitting outside. We were close to finding enough parts to make a complete car, still a good candidate for restoration.
The fourth one was another TF rolling chassis outside with the engine and gearbox inside. We moved tis inside and collected as many remaining parts as we could find without duplicating anything.
In about half a day we seem to have organized what was originally anticipated to be a two day chore. The busy bees took a minute to pose for a group shot for the club newsletter.
See a following page for more photos and notes on this tech session.
Someone had been waiting patiently for a little of my time. This MGA with MGB master cylinders had a clutch problem, pedal to the floor and it still would not release completely. The pedal had a bit too much free play, but the MGB master pushrod is not adjustable. We think this is an issue of air in the circuit, but it will have to wait for another day.
Back at George's place I finally got to change the front brake shoes on my car. They were not worn too thin, but one of the linings had delaminated (came unglued) from the shoe for most of the length, about to suffer catastrophic failure. It's a dirty job, but didn't take long, and I got to replace the distorted spring that had been hanging in there since the late May repair. The shoes had Moss Motors Classic Gold part numbers, acquired through Delta Motorsports in Phoenix. For initial adjustment the adjusting cams turned a full half turn before the shoes came into contact with the drums (standard size never turned). So these shoes are a bit too small and will run out of service life when only half the lining has been used. I also made a bit of a mess while putting oil in the front shock absorbers (again), so we were cleaning up puddles from the floor.
Sunday April 26, 2015:
Party time. Some of the local club members came to George's place, supposedly to celebrate my arrival in Phoenix. They wouldn't stand still long enough to get a group picture, but I guess about a dozen people. They spent time checking out George's trian set, gobbling up BBQ, chatting up clubs and cars. Apparently no one brought an MG in need of repairs, so I had the day to cool my heels; well, at least until everyone left. There was a bit of tech session on an MGA 1622 engine needing to be assembled, but the owner has to find the main bearing caps first.
Someone brought a good used starter pull switch cable, so I took a few minutes to install the wire core and return the temporary patch throttle cable to the parts box. One more niggly little maintenance job out of the way.
Monday April 27, 2015:
Today we took a drive to the desert (as though we weren't there already). The picture is actually a city street in Surprise, AZ (a bit dusty). George's brother has a 10-acre plot out here with an air strip and some interesting toys. He is famous for turbocharging dune buggies and sand racers. Here he sits preparing to weld a broken headlamp bracket for an MG TD. Outdoors is one of his championship sand dragsters
A pile of VW engine parts, and a hill climb dune buggy reported to do 700-HP from the turbo VW engine. What?
The real reason for being here is to pick up George's most recent project car, an MGA with a Chevy Citation 2.8-liter V6 engine, automatic transmission, rear axle from a small truck. The body is almost finished painting, and this chassis needs to have the exhaust system installed before the body arrives. There was some special cut and weld required to refabricate the left side exhaust manifold to fit around the steering U-joint.
We have a choice of trailers. The 26 footer is overkill, could haul two MGs on that one. Settle for 18 feet with duck tail and winch.
There's the small truck axe, one inch wider each side with tube shocks.
Adaptations for exhaust manifolds, engine mounts, and a high torque gear reduction starter. We hauled this chassis to a local exhaust shop for for fitting of the pipes and muffler.
Then I toddled over visit Buckley McChesne in Peoria, AZ (the guy we hit one night on the fly a week earlier).
Now we came back to take up where we left off. First problem was the Magnette with a bum clutch. This turned out to be sucking air while trying to bleed the clutch so it needs a master cylinder repacking kit. Then we rolled out his MGB that hadn't run for a few months. Gave the fuel pump a whack to get it ticking, and we got it started. But it backfires and dies when you hit the throttle. It has a Weber downdraft carburetor, and the acceleration pump is shot, not pumping, leaking fuel. Cheap part and easy fix but waiting for another day.
Tuesday April 28, 2015:
Day off, sort of. Catching up posting photos and notes and lots of email. Dinner and a movie with the McChesne's (putting us another three hours behind on documentation).
Wednesday April 29, 2015:
Long morning work on photos, notes, BBS and email. Early afternoon visit to Richard Glass in Peoria AZ to check out his 1959 MGA. This is the one we touched briefly at the T-type tech session a few days earlier. MGB master cylinders and clutch bleeding problem. We got side tracked and didn't touch the clutch problem today, but did adjust valves in the aluminum head, give it a tune up and install a new valve cover gasket. Choke arms were way out of whack giving trouble with mixture adjustment on the rear carb, but we got most of that sorted out, and it runs well now.
Then we walked a few doors down the street to visit Richard's neighbor. Sorry I don't recall his name, just noted as "the guy sitting next to you at George's party". His late model MGB had a stutter problem that seemed to be misfire (not a carb balance issue with the single carb). So we pulled the spark plugs, all carbon fouled (running rich). Richard took the plugs home momentarily to give them a bit of abrasive blasting while we did the compression test (pressure was fine at 150-160 PSI all across), and we replaced the leaky heater return hose. Back together still running rich, I didn't have the right tools to tune the Z-S carburetor (or the time), so mixture adjustment will wait for a better day. One more picture on the way out, the late model fuel injected Mustang engine in his vintage 1957 Thunderbird. Then they insisted on feeding us dinner, so we killed an extra hour and were a bit late for our next appointment.
Late evening arrival in Scottsdale AZ to visit Bill Graham. He has an interesting pair of stable mates. First is a recently restored vintage Corvette 396 (425-HP) with a larger (454) engine transplant with tons of torque (still 425-HP). There is also his 1958 MGA, not quite finished but driven around the block once.
This one had a problem running very rich on the rear carburetor. This was caused by new issue choke arms being way out of adjustment, and the front arm slightly malformed so it would not drop freely to lowest required position. We shortened the J-link, re-synchronized air flow and relocated an errant fast idle link. In the end it runs well, but a slight pull on the choke results in heavy choke of the rear carb along with fast idle. The front choke arm will have to be remodeled later. Meanwhile the MGA took a second trip around the block, apparently running better this time, judging from the resulting smile.
Web work into the small hours of the morning brings you these photos an notes as well as my overdue monthly report for the CMGC newsletter. And I think I may be caught up with documentation for the first time in a week. How many cars did I fix today?
Thursday April 30, 2015:
Very early rising, only a couple hours of sleep. Hopped on WiFi right off, primarily to catch up email and a couple tech pages, then began contacting clubs in California. The guru's work is never done. Got through maybe 1/3 of the clubs listed in California by mid afternoon. Then we took a break for another appointment. We were off to visit Glenn Frost at The MG Shop in Tempe AZ. Everything outside lives up to the name, MGs all over the place.
Yes that's Glen in the middle. He normally has a couple of helpers, but they must have been hiding today. He looks a bit frazzled in the afternoon sun, and we understand as we are running with the top up these days. Inside in a position of honor right up front is a nice MGA nearing completion of restoration. In the next room another MGA restoration off to a good start.
Not sure how the Z-car got into this mix. Maybe it's not a totally exclusive club. The white Morris truck is a work vehicle, good for about 15 miles before traffic may get on your nerves. The B and A tucked in the back room are the owner's house pets.
It's hot, and Glenn is busy, and we have other things to do, so we don't stay too long. Back to WiFi again (where it's air conditioned of course). This is only end of April, but it really is time to get out of Arizona. We checked into a little more WiFi (to cool off), and sent out a few more feelers in California. After dark we headed west for a couple of hours before snooze time (about an hour shy of California).