The MGA With An Attitude
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MGA Guru Is GOING MOBILE - (March 16 - March 31, 2016)

Wednesday March 16, 2016
Today we are in Gainsville, Georgia, for the "ORF Tour" with members of the Peachtree MG Register. By now you may have noticed that this is a very active club. It took me a while to figure out what "ORF" means. It is "Old Retired Friends", which makes sense when you realize this is a mid-week event and there are nearly a dozen cars involved. Weather permitting, they do this every Wednesday (and they are not shy about mileage). Wonderful weather today, 66dF in early morning, destined to be above 80dF by afternoon. Upon arrival the first thing we notice is a non-MG car with the only bonnet that was up all day. Nothing serious I trust. Breakfast at IHOP. By start time we had two MGA, six MGB, and the TR Spitfire. They found some very nice side roads, and the drive was fantastic.

At the first rest stop we collected two more cars, an MG Midget and a Datsun 240Z. The Z-car has in interesting heritage dating from post-way when Japan was licensing rights to produce Austin cars (to get the Japanese economy moving again after the war). They began building a small car with a 1200cc (de-stroked) version of the Austin B-series engine. Ignoring small sedans, the sports cars included a 1500 pushrod engine, then a 2-liter OHC engine based on the B-series block. That Datsun 2000 was (arguably) superior to the MGB (certainly power wise). The 240Z engine is like a 1600 with two more cylinders to make 2.4-liter 6-cylinder, also with OHC. This then evolved into the (over bored) 260Z and 280Z before they developed an all new 3-liter V6 for the 300Z. In short, the 240Z has very close relational ties to the MGA and MGB.

After some more fun roads we stopped to visit one of my favorite subjects, a covered bridge at Watson Mill Bridge State Park. This the longest covered bridge in the state, spanning 229 feet across the South Fork River.

The associated "Mill" was not a water powered mill. The dam here was used to run a low pressure water turbine to generate electricity, which in turn was used to run a mill several miles away. The bridge and dam are now the primary attraction of a 10000 acre state park.

The tour then rolled on several miles for lunch at Maggie's Cafe in Comer, GA, a very nice experience in itself. Chalk up more than 120 miles for the tour. Afterward it was everyone to himself to find their way home (more miles), but we had not firmed up our next appointment.
Fortunately the Cafe has WiFi, so after one phone call we used MapQuest to plot the next leg, and we were off again, heading 40 miles north. Given alternate routes that were not much different in distance or time, we took the "shortest route" (which commonly means the scenic route). Sure enough, our kind of roads through the hills. At one point we turned onto a gravel road which then turned into a dirt road, but only for a mile or so before breaking out onto a state highway again. Our destination was Eastanollee, GA, to visit Jim Harris who has a nice MGA 1600 Coupe, and MGB (1974 I think). When Jim saw us roll in his first comment was, "I can't believe you came from THAT direction".

The MGA is fairly original with one repaint, and I think the inner body sills were replaced some years ago (likely a body-on restoration). There is a Paxton supercharger on the shelf, professionally restored by George Folchi, a very nice piece of work including the correct valve cover with oiler to suit the MGA.

The MGB is low mileage in good daily driver type condition (although I don't recall if it has been running recently). The supercharger, MGA, MGB, and the purpose built MG transport trailer are all for sale (if anyone was interested).

Thursday and Friday, March 17-18, 2016
Destined to be two days off (meaning serious work days to catch up). By the time you can read this, I hope you are enjoying the new photos and notes for the last few days above. We spent Wednesday night in Lavonia, Thursday a short stop in Braselton before a night in Buford, and Friday night in Marietta, GA, only 130 miles in two days, but set for the next morning.

Saturday, March 19, 2016
Today we had a Tune-Up Tech Session hosted at British Car Service in Marietta, Georgia. This was instigated by Peachtree MG Register and Southeastern MG T Register. There were about 20 LBC present by mid morning.

Tune-Up Tech Session began indoor with some advice on techniques and tools (with accolades for Harbor Freight). The Sunbeam on the lift was not nearly as nice as it looks, with rested floors and cut brake pipes.

Outdoor I found a few resident cars. Someone is apparently fond of TR GT6+.

The tech session soon moved outdoor on a warm and overcast day, very nice working weather, and of course tune-ups going on all around.


When most of the activity died down and many cars left, I found time to tend to my MGA, as it had been idling rough again. Compression test reveals slightly low pressure on #1 & #2 cylinders (nothing very bad). But valve recession had been a recent issue, and #4 rocker arm was out of adjustment range with only 0.006-in clearance. I was prepared for this "fix", having bought a small battery powered Dremel a month ago. Pry the valve spring down, move the rocker arm aside, and grind about 0.020-in from the tip of the valve stem to give it more running clearance. In short order the valves were adjusted and it had smoother idle again. I'm not complaining, as this is the third engine this head has been on in the past 20 years (and there is a new head in the works). The last picture shows a pair of jack stands and an aluminum floor jack (compliments of Harbor Freight) small enough for my traveling tool kit. They might fit in my pocket, but the jack only lifts 100 pounds for a few inches.

Heading south on I-85 late afternoon we had a tentative appointment in Hamilton (near Columbus), but it fell through (lock of response). So we continued on through Columbus and landed in Phenix City, Alabama for the night (sill on EST, barely).

Sunday, March 20, 2016
Morning appointment with Dave and Tonya Arwood from Smith's Station, AL, just up the road a few miles (still trying to figure out which time zone they're in). We met at Waffle House in Phenix City for a late breakfast. You might recognize them, or at least the orange MGB, from the prior Brits In The Valley tech sessions. The car is running well after resetting the timing chain. After breakfast we followed the MGB home, as my MGA was begging for a bit of attention. I put the "A" on ramps to check the exhaust system, thinking it may have come loose from the manifold, but it was just a leaky center pipe joint. A quick trip back to town for a pipe clamp, and it was happy in short order.
Then heading northwest on US-280 for a couple hours to the south side of Birmingham where we landed for the evening.

Monday, March 21, 2016
We had a short run to Chelsea, Alabama (south side of Birmingham) to meet Randy Darden (who happens to be president of Birmingham "British" Motoring Club). He has a nice personal workshop in the country (not an advertised pro shop) where he fiddles with his cars and sometimes does some work for car club friends. The MGA outside belongs another cub member.

Today we were here to get an MG Midget running (another club member's car). This one had been dormant for a long time, had not run yet for the current owner. It had been repainted some time past, and there was work done on the engine and gearbox.

The fuel tank had been boiled out and repainted, and a new fuel pump connected, but it wasn't delivering fuel. Putting the pump supply hose in a fuel can did deliver fuel, so the problem was in the tank. Blowing into the outlet port would hiss, not gurgle, so the pickup pipe was ruptured somewhere above fuel level.

Set the faulty tank aside, find another tank, mop out a small rust stain bottom center, transfer the fuel level sender unit to the replacement tank, get it back in the car, and we had fuel delivery.

Fuel spewing on top of one carburetor float chamber, tighten a hose clamp. No crank by turning the key, but it did crank by pushing the button on the solenoid. Quick test revealed open circuit in the solenoid coil, so set that one aside and install a good used one. Then it would crank, and it ran after a few tries, three cheers.

However .... (always one of those around), very fast idle could not be reduced, apparently one of the throttle plates binding on the throat, likely a worn throttle shaft. Main jets were stuck tight so fuel enrichment (choke) would not work, and one of the air pistons was sticking before bottom of stroke. So remove the carburetors for disassembly, cleaning and adjustments. Realigning throttle plates is an easy task. Loosen retaining screws a half turn so the plate can move around a bit. Close the throttle valve and wiggle it around until it seats all around the inlet bore with no visible air gap,then tighten the screws to hold the pate securely in place. Finish by spreading the split ends of the screws a bit so they cannot fall out.

Both fuel jets were stuck tight in the jet bearings, had to be muscled loose, cleaned and oiled up for free movement. One of the air pistons was sticking in the housing, needed solvent and working around to clean that up. One of the jets was off center causing binding of the metering needle before full drop, needing jet centering for free motion there. We didn't take the float chambers apart, but otherwise all back together and installed on the car. Then one float overflowed, whack it with a wrench to stop the hemorrhaging. Soon adjusted and tuned up, the engine was running well, and the car moved out under its own power for the first time in many years.

Job done, time to find our way out of the woods and back to civilization (meaning find a WiFi hot spot). Had a bite to eat, downloaded photos from camera, checked email, deleting a bunch of spam messages when the phone rang. It was an old friend who just blundered into impeccable timing. We had no more appointments in Alabama, had about one day to spare somewhere between here and Illinois by Friday.

So we pointed it north on the expressway, up I-59, one fuel stop, cut across NW corner of Georgia, crossed timeline from central to eastern time, blew past Chattanooga, Tennessee, one food stop, and by 11-pm EST we were crawling down a side road in the dark to find our nesting place.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016
So where were we this fine brisk sunny morning? Down another windy little road through the hills to visit Larry Benson in rural Greenback, Tennessee. We were here before, seems like back in the dark ages, late August early September 2014. His cars don't need anything now, but we have another mission at hand, something about a big Healey.
So Larry pulled out his latest toy, a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, late 1980's vintage, quiet V8, General Motors 3-speed Hydramatic transmission, like riding on a cloud (so it has an appropriate model name). We took a 20 mile cruise to visit a friend with an Austin Healey 3000. The Healey was "running a little rough". No. Really? A strong blip on the throttle would produce a huge cloud of black smoke out the tail pipe. Yuck!

One carb was a little rich at idle, the other was a little more rich at idle, not terribly bad, and easy to set right. But the kicker was fuel enrichment for acceleration with the screws turned way out. And this was the work of a "pro shop". The excess fuel enrichment doesn't make much difference in the idle quality, but it was dumping gobs of excess fuel into the engine on acceleration. Once the enrichment screws were cranked down to almost closed it ran much better under throttle. The white cloth on the tail pipe demonstrates the difference.

All is well that ends well. Out for a late afternoon lunch then back to Larry's place. He had to make a conference call, while I got to tinker with his MGA. Report was the headlights quit working and tail lights were intermittent. It took one minute with a test light to reveal a loose screw terminal on the lighting switch, and another minute to tighten the screw to fix it. I should have made up a long story about having to repair the wiring harness. Okay, get some sleep, as tomorrow will be a long travel day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Late morning start, heading out of Greenback and Lenoir, west on I-40 through Tennessee near Nashville, then north on US-231 past Bowling Green and Owensboro, Kentucky. Two fuel stops, one food drive through and six hours on we had a short stop to visit Donnie & Eileen Oxendine in Huntingburg, Indiana. Donnie has (had) an MGA 1600 Coupe that is going to a new home very soon.

He also has an MGA 1600 roadster that is bound to be a long term keeper. It is well along in restoration, currently struggling to get wings and piping and wiring harness installed. I offered a bit of advice on tossing the irregular piping and starting again with better material. Also noticed the carburetor float chambers are front to back, needing to switch to opposite carbs to stand up straight. That was apparently a professionally born boo-boo. The seats are covered with Marine vinyl, pleating narrower than standard, thermally welded seams, not original leather material but very nice (and very economical). Non-vented valve cover and pancake air cleaners need to change, as it is otherwise a standard 1600 engine with draft tube crankcase ventilation.

This visit was kind of a "fly-by hit and run". Next time we pass this way we hope to give more advance notice so more SIR-Brit club members may get together. By days end we expect to be another hour and half farther north in preparation for a morning appointment.

Thursday, March 24, 2016
Good day in southern Indiana today, starting off fairly warm and drizzly. We were down another nice side road to visit Tucker Madawick at Autosport, Inc in rural Bloomington, Indiana.

In his shop we found an Elva Courier MK-III (customer's car) with 1622cc (MGA) engine,

then Tucker's MGA 1600-MK-II "Deluxe", where I was happy to see an original cell core radiator (but SU H6 carburetors with odd arrangement of float chambers).

There was an interesting assortment of machinery including a very expensive dynamic balancing machine,

a vintage valve refacer, some accurate scales for balancing con-rods and pistons, a lathe and milling machine.

There were also Tucker's personal race car, another Elva Courier, and a nifty artist's rendering of the racing crowd from "The Last Open Road" (couldn't resist the picture).

We toddled off momentarily for lunch at "The Office" (chuckle). On return the weather had let up a bit so I could get a few snaps of more cars under the car port. Count one Sunbeam Alpine, a BMW 2002,

at least four MGB, most of an MG Midget, and a fairly rare Universal Laminations factory issue fiberglass hardtop for MGA (in need of some restoration work).

By mid afternoon we were making our way through the woods again (a very nice drive) heading north up Old State Route 37 then IN-37, 39 67, 39, 67, and finally I-465 around Indianapolis, and I-65 north. By evening we needed a fuel stop in Merrillville, IN, and spent some quality time on WiFi. Late night we will be heading farther northwest into northeast Illinois, our old stomping grounds. I don't know why yet, be we seem to be gravitating this way a couple of times per year, and this is not the best time of year to be here. Weather deteriorating rapidly, more rain and cold. Do we really want to do this?

Friday, March 25, 2016
Dumped navigator off to visit with friends this morning, followed by some WiFi time, laundry day, and a visit to the post office to get a replacement key for my PO box (finally succeeded after more than a year trying). Then a trip to a muffler shop to get the MGA exhaust pipe welded, as it was cracked and leaking at the front pipe center joint (under driver's seat). After welding, toss out the pipe clamp that was regularly getting bashed on speed bumps. More web site work, then late evening pick up navigator and go have dinner with younger daughter (navigator's sister).

Saturday, March 26, 2016
Breakfast with navigator's friends before sending them off to a games tournament, then find a hot spot for WiFi work. I may get something constructive accomplished, if I don't tell anyone I'm in town. Indeed something done. Got off my monthly trip report for the CMGC newsletter. Navigator staying overnight with a friend.

Sunday, March 27, 2016
Spent some time searching for new tires for the MGA (sorely needed again). Kumho is nowhere to be found. Nexen is seemingly a bit more rare than 18 months earlier (no longer available through Walmart). On suggestion of one on-line supplier, I checked for local installers, finding NTB (National Tire and Battery) and Pep Boys. I have personal grudge against NTB, but Pep Boys happens to be open on Easter Sunday. so I dropped in for a little discussion. They may have a source for the Nexen tires, will check first thing Monday morning.

Then off to visit older daughter, late lunch date, hard to find an open restaurant in small town on holiday, ended up at Burger King (boo, hiss). Back to work in WiFi in the evening.

Monday, March 28, 2016
Got an 8:30-am call from Pep Boys. They found the tires, can be delivered in a day or two. Yes, please order them. Got another call from Pep Boys two hours later, the tires are here. Whoo-hoo, bounce right over there and have them installed. I don't throw away anything prematurely, so of course the old tires were on the wear bars. I was a bit disappointed at only 55,000 miles, but there were some problems with wheel bearings that ate some of the tire rubber (and a few autocross dates), so maybe it was reasonable.

In short order they were installed, spin balanced with tape weights inboard (since thin aluminum rims do not hold knock-on weights). Out the door for $380 all fees included (in Illinois), vs. $297 for the last set 17 months earlier (in North Carolina). Retail price was $15 per tire higher this time, and the balancing fee was pretty high (padding the profits a bit more), but still reasonable in the right place at the right time.

Early afternoon, lunch with younger daughter. All smiles today. Then a visit to Naperville Auto Haus (Naperville, Illinois). They "specialize in foreign and domestic cars and trucks" (everything, maybe?). Not new cars. They appear to be progressively taking over more space and buildings in a small auto mall. If this keeps up they may have to find a larger venue. There are about 100 modern cars out front, and maybe 100 more vintage sports and specialty cars inside the buildings and out back.

Yes there is some British iron here, along with some classy classic custom American stuff.

For those with sharp eyes, that's a Shelby GT500 under the cover in the center photo.

But my real purpose for this visit is some folks being interested the modified MGA "Drop Head Coupe" hiding out back. This car has a clear title with chassis number 10125 (the 25th MGA from production in 1955). The Car No plate on the heater shelf appears to be original bearing the original engine number and matching the title. Chassis number on the frame is entirely illegible.

This early car would have been a roadster, and appears to have an early Coupe body transplant (after first Coupe, before first Twin Cam). The removable roof is steel, apparently off-cut from the Coupe body. There are a number of prior racing day modifications, including remnants of a rudimentary roll bar. The body is rusted in the sills, needing complete restoration. The frame is likely rusted as well, sagging enough that the doors are difficult to open or close. You can find more information and more photos for this car as a Variant in the MG Tech section of this web site, tech article VT-107F3.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016
A full day on WiFi, like 16 hours of it. Catching up three days of photos an notes, lots of email and BBS, on new tech page on heater duct hoses. Also posting the Chicagoland MG Club events for the whole year on their web site. Actually good to have some "time off" to catch up with this stuff.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Navigator playing with friends again today. While sitting on WiFi in Glen Ellyn, IL, an old club friend Jim Michel from Glen Ellyn stopped in to chat for a while. That killed some time, but it was a nice break. Now, what did we ever go back to before we had drawing boards and salt mines?

In the evening I went to visit local club member Seth Jones in Glendale Heights, IL, and had dinner with his family at a local eatery. You might recall Seth as the curator of the web site www.SpridgetGuru.com. He has an MG Midget that has been in the family since he was knee high to a grasshopper, and he is about to embark on restoration of the (rusty) little beast. He has a one car garage only 10 feet wide, and only a little extra depth, a challenge enough in itself. First requirement is to remove a lot of household "stuff", clothes dryer, bikes and toys etc. Then we have to figure out how to install a small work bench, and a place for an air compressor, acetylene welder/torch kit, pedestal grinder, tool cabinet(s), and how to hang stuff on the walls. Just preparing the workshop will keep him busy for a while. (A few archive photos below).


Thursday, March 31, 2016
This may sound familiar by now. Sitting on WiFi in Naperville around lunch time, and another club member Bill Kalafut from Westmont walked in to say hello. The MGA with trailer sitting out front is an irresistible trap. Most of the day was spent contacting clubs in Illinois and Indiana. I think I see 2000 miles of roads lined up in front of us for the next 2 weeks.

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