The MGA With An Attitude
MGA Guru Is GOING MOBILE - (June 16 - June 30, 2014)
Monday, June 16, 2014:
Pete Brown emailed about a problem with an MG TD that would not restart after partial warm up. He was only 75 miles away, and we had no other appointment today, so we pointed it North to Alexandria, New Hampshire. On arrival in late afternoon we find he has two TD, two MGA, and three MGB.
The TD with the re-starting problem was running overly rich, needing adjustment of the choke cable and minor carburetor tune-up, after which it was purring like a kitten. The MGB GT with HIF carburetors was also running very rich, but not such an easy solution. This seems to have sticking internal main jets so the carbs will likely have to be disassembled for a fix (job for another day).
After dinner and late night chat I update the web page, and then we need to turn in as it will be a longer day tomorrow.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014:
Today we cruise southeast for nearly 5 hours, getting caught in crawling traffic in the I-93 tunnel in Boston for an hour or so (should have taken the bypass). Plenty of time though, even with a long lunch break, so we arrive in Sandwich, Massachusetts (Cape Cod area) with time to reserve a campsite at Shawme Crowell State Park, just minutes from our next appointment at The British Beer Company (BBC)
for a meeting with Cape Cod British Car Club. The web site gave only email for contact information no phone number(s), so we just crashed the party to see if anyone would notice. They did, of course. The MG motor home caused a bit of a stir, and the accompanying story caused some slack jaws and questions.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014:
Today we continue East on Cape Cod to the end of the world, destination Provincetown, Massachusetts. But first stop is George H Chapin Beach. Just anxious to get my feet wet in the ocean water. Rather cold water, getting used to it after a few minutes, but don't think I'd go swimming today. Have respect for the sea turtles and bird sanctuary. Humans can coexist if you don't walk on the dunes or litter.
On the way out we were enjoying Route 6A near the north shore of the peninsula for a while, until it dawned on us that we would run out of daylight before we would reach Provincetown. So we slipped onto US-6 and rolled along mostly 40 to 50 mph until we ran out of land and road.
Next stop is end of the land, Cape Cod National Seashore at Provincetown. Nice beach, historical home, airport, playful seals, great sunset, friendly human wildlife on the beach, and one very significant monument on the highest bluff in Provincetown.
It was dark by the time we drove back into Provincetown, and the digital camera was not up to hand-held time exposures, so no more pictures. We did get to drive Commercial Street in Provincetown, an interesting excursion if you are not is a hurry. One lane one way street with lots of pedestrians. We were following a pedicab but mostly failing to keep up. People didn't seem to mind the MGA with trailer intruding, but virtually all of the more common modern cars were parked and immobile for the nightlife. This is not the place to be if you are trying to get somewhere, but if this is the place you wanted to be, it couldn't be more enjoyable than crawling along in the MGA while other had to walk.
With the slow local traffic beginning to annoy us, we turned back along 6A again for a while. This is nearly all commercial stuff, lots of motels, hotels, bead & breakfasts, and restaurants galore. One lane each way, narrow road, close buildings, tight traffic, bicycles to share the road. Several miles on there were more private homes, less commercial stuff, more dark, rougher streets, and low speed limits, so we retreated to US-6 to get along going back west. About 11-pm we find a McD's with dining room closed, drive-up open and the WiFi still working when we parked close enough to the building.
Thursday, June 19, 2014:
We got tired of Cape Cod traffic, didn't want to go back north through Boston traffic, so decided to go west through the lower end of Rhode Island (in spite of a $6 toll on the Newport Bridge over Coasters Harbor). Then RI-138 to I-95 South. Wanting to give the Rhode Island a chance before moving on into Connecticut, we ran down I-95 to exit 2, then turned back up to exit 3, specifically to visit the Rhode Island welcome center. Unfortunately the only Welcome Center in Rhode Island is now closed with concrete barriers. So we conclude that visitors are no longer welcome in Rhode Island, turn around at exit 3 and flee the state in preference to Connecticut.
Immediately into Connecticut we bail off the expressway and turn north (finding better roads) to Hopeville and Jewett City, CT. Sitting on WiFi again we get an email message asking us if we will be going to Long Island, New York. The way the crow flies (and the way the ferry goes) we were only 70 miles away, but more than 200 miles by way of roads. No matter. One way or another we will be on Long Island come Friday morning.
Friday, June 20, 2014:
It must have been after 10-pm Thursday when we hit the road again. Since the ferry doesn't run at night, and the ferry fee is more than a tank of fuel, we opt to run around the water to go through New York City, and cross the Queensboro Bridge (the only non-toll bridge available to Long Island). Heading west out of Connecticut into New York, about 90 miles on we stop at an oasis (wayside with full facilities) to cook up a midnight dinner in the car park. That went well and we were soon on the road again. Approaching the bridges about 1-am navigator opts to ad-lib his own route and promptly loses the course. On the 3rd go around we bail off an exit (any exit of choice) and blunder into a McDonalds where we catch the WiFi, consult Mapquest, end find the correct path. City streets crossing the first river are a very confusing maze, but we finally blunder our way through to find Queensboro Way and the bridge, after which it is a more simple route. Long Island is appropriately named and has its own interstate highway (I-495) right down the middle. With 55-mph speed limit everything is moving 75-mph, so an hour and a quarter later we can pull into a truck rest area to get a few hours of shut eye (just before sunrise).
After a dearly needed nap we are moving again with about 40 miles to go. We bail off the expressway at exit-70, and 15 miles later we are arriving in Westhampton Beach 9:15-am to visit Phil Roe. We have a nice personal chat, then tinker a bit with his MGB. Then we take the opportunity to do the second oil change and lube job on the MGA. Averaging nearly 1000 miles per week it doesn't take long to accumulate another 4000 miles.
After a quick lunch we take the MGA with an attitude to pick up Phil's MGA from the shop where it just had its safety inspection. Then we take a quick run to Indian Island County Park to reserve a camp site, followed by a little WiFi (not enough to catch up), followed by dinner followed by more chat until well after dark. Finally we get back to the campground where we can get most of a good night's sleep.
Saturday, June 21, 2014:
Today we're up early, because Phil wants to go cruising in his MGA to escort us around the east end of the island. We go east up the north arm to Greenport where we catch a Ferry (south) to Shelter Island.
After a short drive farther south we catch another ferry to Sag Harbor on the south arm. (That's a Fiat 2000).
Then drive several miles on NY-114 to NY-27, which we take east another 20 miles to end of the land at Montqauk Point.
Here we spend sometime visiting an old WW-II radar and artillery installation, followed by an extensive light house tour, including a climb of 130+ steps up a circular staircase to the top, and a short hike to the beach for more pictures.
While resting in some shade near the beach we can tend to a couple of details on Phil's MGA. The windscreen glass was installed by a "pro" several years earlier. Physical assembly was okay, except for number of odd style screws. The glass appears to fit right but is delaminating a bit round the edges. This is Safevue brand glass, which I hope will make it into my windscreen tech pages. The vinyl top was installed by the same "pro" with a number of errors. There is no rain flap at top of windscreen, and one of the end caps for the hidem strip was misplaced so the screw missed the wood bow. That was an easy fix, just cut the strip a little shorter and reinstall the screw in a more forward location.
Around 4:30 we head back west for a two hour stretch in traffic to get back to Riverhead (the split point for north and south arms of the island). Here we find another McD's with WiFi, while Phil returns home to his own life while we get to work on the backlog of WiFi stuff.
About 10-pm we get a nibble on email for a possible appointment for the next day. At 11-pm we get tossed out of McD's dining room when they are closing. So we retire to the campground to cook up a late night dinner, followed by more time with the computer (not on WiFi) to post photos and notes on the web page (to be uploaded to web site in the morning). We finally turn in at 2-am. This is sometimes tough playing MGA Guru while doing full days on tour.
Sunday, June 22, 2014:
Up early again (well not too early), a little more work on the photos and web page, pack up the camping gear, and head for McD's for a short stint on WiFi to upload the trip log. Today we want to get off of Long Island before the evening rush hour (maybe). Sometimes plans do work out. We made a bee-line dash west on the Long Island Expressway, then took the Throgs Neck Bridge (first toll bridge available) about 2-pm, put up with a little slow traffic, and continued north on expressways. I-684 turns into NY-22 which joins with NY-55. Finally NY-55 spins off eastward (nice winding blacktop) into Connecticut where we run smack into Gaylordsville (no kidding).
Indian Island Park, a very nice place to camp on Long Island for cheap.
A prior email has us searching for Charlie Lumb somewhere near this little berg, but we don't have the exact address (yet).
So we travel several miles south to the next large (larger) town, New Milford, where we find a McD's for WiFi connection. Searching the net for "Charlie Lumb +MGA +Connecticut" turns up a classified ad in a club newsletter with his phone number (as navigator nearly falls out of his chair in disbelief). One phone call for the street address puts us on our way again following Mapquest directions. A bridge out makes us detour a few miles, after which we find a narrow gravel road winding between trees in another forest, and we find post box 105 as planned, followed by Charlie Lumb waving and smiling.
A nice VW Karman Ghia we flagged down at McD's.
A bit of poking around turns up Charlie's project MGA with a good start but a long way to go. He is in the process of welding a new (used) outer shell onto the rear clip, but is having problems MIG welding old sheet metal with "weld-through zinc based primer. I have done this with new sheet metal, but this old metal is a real trick. After a few tries under my hands we set it aside for having better things to do (like break out the ale). We chat some, then have dinner, then chat some more, and time flies when you're having fun. About 10 pm the group is turning in for the night, but I have some web site work to do for a few more hours before crash and dream.
Monday, June 23, 2014:
We get to sleep in a bit this morning, then get to a bit more web work and email and BBS. After a late breakfast we go poking around the yard a bit. There is this old Allis Chalmers tractor with front end loader and back hoe, looking a little piqued, but I am assured that is was "running when parked" just a few years ago. It has done a lot of construction work around the property and "Doesn't owe us a thing".
There is more chat while I check email and make a couple of phone calls to make appointments for the next couple of days. Then we take Charlie's 4WD Subaru Outback for a winding cruise through the woods to a local vintage and historic burger stand for dinner. This is followed by more sneaking through the forest going to visit vintage and historic Bulls Bridge at Kent (north of Gaylordsville) just off of CT-7 on Bulls Bridge Road.
This odd arrangement starts with a short flat bridge over a narrow canal, then a steep drop before entering the covered bridge, and a steep rise on the other side onto a small island, followed by another flat bridge. The canal ducts water down stream to a hydro-electric plant. The "creeks" on either side of the island carry a small amount of water most of the year, but huge torrents of water during the spring snow melt.
Ah but the Guru's work is never done, so back to the house at dusk for more web work before a late night turn in.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014:
Having a short run to do today we have time in the morning to catch up with email and BBS before travel. Our first task for the day was a little tour of the nearby town with out namesake, Gaylordsville.
Our next stop was Kent Falls State Park. The primary attraction here is the waterfall, but the covered foot bridge also caught our attention. The park is full of picnic party people enjoying the warm sunny day.
Next up the road was another covered bridge at West Cornwall, CT.
The important appointment for the day was to visit David Cobb in Enfield, CT. His MGA was dying sporadically, then recovering, then dying again. Last report was that it wouldn't start at all. In the end it had a few different problems. First, the choke cable was adjusted too long so it had very little choke action for cold starts which we fixed). Second, the rear choke lever was broken so it could not carry the J-link, so the front choke was not working at all, and subsequently no fast idle function either. When I held the chokes manually it finally started but was running on two cylinders only. The third problem was no fuel in the rear carburetor float chamber, because the Gross Jet was stuck shut. That little gadget had to be removed and molested a few times to clear it out, but finally worked well.
Finally running an all four cylinders we could tune it up to run well, and we took it out for a dinner date. David needs to order a replacement rear choke arm. Otherwise his MGA is back on the road again.
Not quite done for the day, after dinner we big goodbye to David and took a night cruise north, finally camping about midnight out a few miles shy of Brattleboro, VT (preparing for a little longer drive next day).
Wednesday, June 25, 2014:
Getting motivated early, we cruise into Brattleboro, VT (gosh this place looks familiar) in time for 9-AM opening of Outdoor Outfitters. Whatever it was we were looking for there, we didn't find it and moved on. After picking up ice for the cooler we did our regular routine at the McD's WiFi, which took longer than expected (nothing new).
We then headed north on US-5 and associated side roads, avoiding I-91 expressway. Our destination today was Lyme, NH, about 75 miles farther north. About 20 miles up we found overcast and cool, followed by wet roads, followed by light drizzle. This was comfortable top down driving weather, as long as we kept moving. Then the drizzle turned heavier as the sky turned darker. There was no place to dive for shelter, and by the time we found a place to pull over it was a downpour,
and we got soaked by the time we got the top up. Then the car being wet inside fogged up the windows while heavy rain flooded the roads making driving difficult. So we decided to re-route and headed to I-91 for easier driving. Another hour plus we did ultimately arrive in Lyme to visit Jack Elliot. There was a bit of drying out, and checking to be sure the computer would still work, after which we moved to the "barn" (workshop) to check out his MGA problem.
The engine would crank well, but no fire. No spark at the plugs, and no spark from the coil. This has a Crane XR-300 ignition module on the inner fender, and a 3-wire plug connecting the distributor.
These modules are quite robust, but this one has strange wiring due to being a negative ground unit connected in a positive earth car. Power input to the module is connected to chassis ground along with the "+" terminal of the ignition coil. The trigger wire from the module is connected to "-" on the coil, effectively turning coil power on and off rather than switching the ground wire. There is also a ballast resistor, as this has a 1.5-ohm coil, and the resistor connects in line between the module trigger wire and the coil input. There is no wire to bypass the ballast resistor for cranking. The circuit for this setup is not in the Crane instruction booklet and required a little head scratching to figure it out.
Once properly connected there was a nice hot spark from the coil, but only a very tiny spark at the plug wires. Conclusion then was, failed rotor in the distributor shorting spark to ground on the shaft. When I produced a new Lucas rotor from my magic traveling tool kit it fired up and ran well. Close inspection of the failed rotor revealed black smudges inside the shaft cavity. It appears the leak path is from the rivet securing the top contact plate to the metal spring plate in the bottom socket. Another interesting point is that the failed rotor is red plastic, for those soothsayers who believe red is good and black is bad.
With the important job done we could walk a few hundred feet to the local restaurant/bar for dinner and a couple of cool ones. After dinner it was raining again, so the walk back was a bit quicker. Then the MGA with trailer was escorted to the local lodge where our gracious host has arranged a cabin for a couple of nights. No WiFi here, but plenty of time to process photos and update the web page (which will be uploaded in the morning with WiFi in the Lodge.
Thursday, June 26, 2014:
There will be a slight delay. What happens for the next few days was entirely unexpected.
Just prior to retiring the night before, there was a little meeting of the vehicles, rather physical in nature. The rear bumper of that White 1963 GMC Delivery van in the photo above had an intimate encounter with the front of my MGA, something about the back up camera not working. The MGA grill was crushed. Otherwise it was a nice clean hit only affecting the grille surround panel on the body, no touch on the bumper or wings or lights. So today a new grille is on order for next day delivery, while disassembly and body work and primer are order of the day. See following page for more details and lots of pictures of the ensuing body work tech session. Back to the cabin at the lodge for the second night.
Friday, June 27, 2014:
Filler and primer done, wet sanding and finishing being done as the new grille arrives while host is out picking up the red paint. Last coat of primer drying while we take a lunch break. Final wet sand of primer,
wash clean blow dry, and application red top coat done by mid afternoon. No sense wasting time watching paint dry, so we take the host's MGA for a short covered bridge tour. Upon return a friendly (and nosy) neighbor greets us with an invitation for a short tour of the local lake in his new boat (so why not). Strip masking tape off of the MGA, and do a little artist brush touch up of some chips and scratches about sundown. Lodge reservation expired, so we will drop the tent in host's back yard tonight.
Covered bridge tour while the paint dries. The first stop was the Clay Brook bridge on River Road south of Orford, NH.
The second covered bridge is Union Village Bridge over a feeder for the Ompomanoosic River in Union Village, VT.
A slight delay as some amatuers who don't know how to pick up a snapper turtle move him off the road. Then we have a nice rest with a boat tour of Post Pond (the local lake) in Lyme, NH, and a nice chat with some new friends.
Saturday, June 28, 2014:
Ta-da! Next morning a bit of sanding and buffing followed by reassembly, and the car is good to go again. Not bad, considering it was done in a barn. There was one overlap spot that had a bit of primer showing after wet sanding (too aggressive), so we masked it off and re-sprayed a small spot in the transition zone. No rush here, so we left the tent in the back yard for one more night.
Sunday, June 29, 2014:
Up early to wets and and buff the small respray areas, no big deal, but now the MGA is all the same color again (and it has a fresh coat of wax on the repainted parts).
Today we have an afternoon appointment in Nashua, New Hampshire, so about 11:30 am hit the road and point it south.
Fifteen minutes on we need "Left on NH-4A, 0.2-mi. Also see "Bridge out, 1/4 mi". Then just 0.15 miles on we find "Bridge Closed" for real, and our intended turn is just on the other side of the bridge. Nothing new with Mapquest, and only a short detour around. Not all misdirections are bad. This one led to a nice view of a lake and dam.
At 2:15 we arrive to visit Jim and Carolyn Mail in Nashua, New Hampshire. Before we get too far in to tinkering with Jim's MGA we hike across the street to crash the neighbor's yard party and pilfer some burgers and brats.
Back at the Mail's we get serious about Jim's MGA and why it isn't running right. It doesn't take long to find a stuck choke and two bad spark plugs (too much resistance). With a fresh set of plugs and a little tune up it runs well. Then to the problem of the ignition light on and battery running down. System voltage is 12.5-volts at any engine speed, indicating the AC alternator is not working. Off with the alternator, and off to the parts store to have it tested. Duff alternator requires purchase of a new one, making one wonder if the low cost alternator is such a good value. But the new one has a lifetime guarantee from Autozone.
Jim then produces a set of contact points that came out of a freshly rebuilt distributor from Advanced Distributors. The top contact is loose and wobbles around on the moving arm, which was causing the points gap and dwell to change dramatically on the fly. A new set of points cured that problem (resolved before I arrived).
With daylight fading we drive 25 miles west for camping at Greenfield State Park. We check in after hours but in time to get the tent up before dark. Lots of bugs here, but also plenty of firewood for a good fire to chase the bugs away. I have time to post photos and notes, but no WiFi here, so upload will wait until morning.
Monday, June 30, 2014:
We bailed out of the campground as early as we could, considering the office didn't open until 9:00 am, and we had to pay on the way out. Pretty determined to get to Maine sooner than later, we headed east on some local roads, high-tailed it around Manchester, NH, on the expressways, and made a bee line east on NH-101 experessway. We stopped at Epping, NH, being the first McD's with WiFi, to upload pictures and trip log from the day before. Then we turned back west momentarily on NH-27, only 12 miles, to visit Historic Motor Sports in Candia, NH. NICE PLACE.
First thing that caught my eye in front of the building was this Chevrolet SSR (Super Sport Roadster). I couldn't believe it is a standard factory configuration, but it is. It is a retractable hardtop convertible pickup truck manufactured between 2003 and 2006. This vehicle is for sale if anyone might be interested.
Then there was a big Healey owned by one of the employees. Stepping inside revealed lots of wownderful toys. Some are here for storage, some for consignment sale (go ahead and ask). Other services offered here are repairs and restoration and parts sales.
Speaking of parts, a couple days earlier I had noticed my MGA has a significantly loose front wheel bearing that has been causing odd tire wear, vague feel in the steering, and sometimes shimmy at 70+ mph. I intend to fix this soon, so this seemed like a good time to ask if Historic Motor Sports might have the bearings in stock. By coincidence, one of the guys pulled the parts out of his race car transport trailer. I have the front hub seals in my trailer. I picked up two inner bearings and one outer bearing. I still need to find one more outer bearing, but at least I can fix the one hub with the worst loosness (as soon as I find the opportunity).
We then point the MGA east again and roll with a purpose Back on NH-101, then heading North on US-1, we crawl through a bit of Portsmouth, then roll cross the Piscataqua River bridge. And guess what? WE ARE IN MAINE! YEE_HAA! Finally, after three weeks of good intentions and too much back tracking we are here. Now we can stop at another McD's to upload photos and notes and check email and BBS. For the next few days we intend to be casually moving up the east coast on US-101 (or whatever else might strike our fancy). Now, are there any more MG enthusiasts in Maine?