The MGA With An Attitude
MGA Guru Is GOING MOBILE - (August 16-August 31, 2014)
Saturday, August 16, 2014:
Today's appointment was at Pete's Dinner in Monroe Township, Williamstown, New Jersey. It was "Tour of South Jersey" by the British Motor Club of Southern New Jersey. I didn't count them all, but pretty sure there were at least 20 little British Cars present. We did about 50 miles cruise on smooth asphalt roads through the forests, including a moderate amount of traffic. Aside form the "short" trip and extra cars, not a lot different from the the day before, but a nice lunch at the end.
It was nice to see a few more MGA on the road.
Tonight and/or tomorrow we have two appointments (in PA and MD), but haven't made the phone connections yet. So we point it west out of New Jersey, across the
Delaware Memorial Bridge, across the north tip of Delaware and into Maryland just south of the PA border to hedge our bets. Still no phone contact, so we turn north on I-83 to the PA welcome center (where they happen to have open WiFi).
Then we get lucky and make two phone contacts. Appointment in MD will wait for next day, but not so in PA. So we fly north and west for an hour to East Berlin, PA, to visit Bob Arlotto (about 9-pm). We came to see his MG TD and two (plus) MGA project cars, but it's dark and late, so we have dinner and party and chat until past midnight before we turn in.
Sunday, August 17, 2014:
Daylight and photo time at the Arlottos.
If you stare long enough you may find a front clip, two rear clips, two engines, a second frame, and far more bonnets, doors and fenders than required for two complete cars. Seems like they're collecting parakeets as well, about two dozen of those, plus three cats and a Husky. Time flies, and it is we past noon before we point it south and head back out of PA.
Next stop is a visit with Bill Rowe on the north edge of Baltimore, MD. Not exactly a social call, but business this time. He has an early MGB rear axle assembly, and I need the differential from it to (hopefully) cure the whine in the rear end of MG MGA. We make short work of the disassembly, less than an hour I think. In the end I have the pumpkin bagged and deposited in the trailer, and the skeletal remains is scheduled for metal recycling.
Having "used up" most of the northeast states, we plan a bypass route south. Rather than go through the DC area again, we turn back east for an hour or so into the north tip of Delaware before turning south. We intend to run the entire length of the state of Delaware to end up in Norfolk, Virginia. We will see how it goes tomorrow.
Monday, August 18, 2014:
We did spend the day cruising south, and Delaware didn't last long (small state). We took US-13 to avoid DE-1 tollway. Navigator didn't want to veer off of the main highway, because he said it looked just like southern New Jersey. At the southern border of Delaware we took a side road and doubled back several miles. He was right, so we didn't bother taking pictures.
Then we ran south across the lower toe of Maryland, continuing another 100 miles or so into Virginia, including $18 toll for the long bridge/tunnel just prior to Virginia Beach and Norfolk. It was our intention to motor right on through Norfolk and not stop until well on the west side out of the greater city area. Not so lucky. First a tunnel was closed for maintenance, so we were re-routed from I-264 to I-64. A short distance later the engine made a couple of nasty noises and changed to running on three cylinders. We managed to nurse on a bit farther to an exit with some civil amenities (WiFi and hotel). On investigation, the top of #4 piston is stuck in top of cylinder, and there is some water in the oil. SOS message was posted to the BBS before 10 PM, and we received a few responses before we retired for the night. For more photos and notes on the engine repair in the next week, see following page.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014:
The car made it across the street to a motel last night, and back across the street to McD's this morning. The engine still runs on three cylinders, but it seems prudent not to drive it farther with water in the oil. Response to our SOS is copious and gratifying. By late afternoon John Tershack is bringing a trailer to us. We will be going south to John's place in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Thanks to everyone who has responded.
The MGA fits nicely on a 16-foot flat bed along with the little trailer. Man this is embarrassing, having to be towed once every 100,000 miles or so, for a car that nearly always gets where its going under its own power. John's truck was in the shop for brake repairs today so he borrowed his neighbor's truck. I wonder how many people I will have to thank by the time this episode is finished.
John has his own assortment of toys. Will have to move one of those out to allow my MGA to rest in the shade. John makes this look easy, so we presume he has done it before (not that his car ever needs a push).
Not to forget the real purpose of this trip, John has another MGA in the closed garage. This restoration project is well under way, and apparently progressing, so no speculation please on how long it may take to finish. These are hobby cars, right? The rest of the evening was allocated for dinner and chat until the hosts turned in and I get to work late updating this web page (and monitoring email and BBS of course).
Wednesday, August 20 to Tuesday August 26, 2014:
#4 cylinder is badly scored and will need to be sleeved. One of the score marks has coolant slowly dripping from the water jacket, so it will be a wet liner installation. Simple enough repair, but the trick here is finding a machine shop that can do the work without too much delay. I'm bull headed enough to drive a rental car a long distance for service and parts if necessary.
The good news is, the cylinder head is unscathed. I poured coolant into the combustion chamber, and it didn't lose a drop for 20 minutes. For lots of photos and notes on the engine repair, see following page.
Time to enjoy sunset at the dock, just to let you know that I'm not worried (yet).
Thursday, August 21, 2014:
Late night and early morning phone calls landed a willing machine shop in Chesapeake,VA. Diligently trying to beat the weekend with the machining work required. All about critical path planning and best use of the time and resources available. Morning job was final lift of engine from chassis, total disassembly to bare block, and cleaning of the block (and myself). Then picked up a rental car (about 1:30-PM followed by a dashing around for pick up and delivery of parts. This included a trip to Petersburg, VA to pick up parts at the Moss Motors warehouse, then back to the machine shop, Wargo Automotive Service, in Chesapeake.
Back in Kill Devil Hills after dark, time for pizza (breakfast?) and soda and rest and chat, and later at night the day's WiFi work. For lots of photos and notes on the engine repair, see following page.
Friday, August 22, 2014:
Get a call from the shop with report of issues with the engine. The sleeve needs to be thicker to be used as a wet liner, Also #3 bore is slightly out of round, probably caused by the beating in #4, so needs to be re-bored. May or may not clean up at 0.040 o/s. Moss in Petersburg has 0.060 o/s pistons, but does not have thicker liners. Shop calls around and finds the thicker liners in warehouse in Charlotte, NC. Sleeve will be here Monday early, because I will drive to Charlotte to pick it up today. Giddy-up rental car. For lots of photos and notes on the engine repair, see following page.
Saturday, August 23, 2014:
Another trip to Moss Motors in Petersburg, VA, early morning this time, returning with 0.060 pistons, and some additional bits for other issues, like one outer front wheel bearing plus gaskets and seals for rear axle (to change differential later). Another three hours back to Kill Devil Hills, a little more WiFi time, but I think I need to catch up on some sleep about now.
Sunday, August 24, 2014:
This is very strange, having a day off with nothing to do. Rather like waiting for paint to dry. Chance to catch up with a couple of tech pages.
Monday, August 25, 2014:
Early morning trip to shop in Chesapeake, VA, drop off thick liner and larger pistons (and a new camshaft). Hang at McD's for a few hours catching up on WiFi and a note to the club in Chicago. Call from shop at 10:50 AM, job is finished, and now the real rush begins. Return to shop, pay bill, pick up parts. At right, machinist with the magic touch. Return to Kill Devil Hills, unload, and turn in rental car, having added nearly 1500 miles on the rental car in 4 days. 2 PM, begin reassembly of the engine.
I took this opportunity to also install a new stock grind camshaft and new tappets, as the engine has 100,000 miles, and I didn't think the old cam would go another 100,000 miles. Midnight, engine is assembled and bolted into car, still not fully dressed.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014:
4 AM, now we're fully dressed. Oil and water installed, but not primed, spark plugs out.
60 seconds cranking brings oil pressure to 40 psi, using the 100,000 mile oil pump, crankshaft and all crankshaft bearings! Why? Because I am who I am, and I don't throw away good parts. Spark plugs in, ignition on, and it fires right up, kick it up to 2500 rpm fast idle. Too much noise for 4 AM, so kill it and return later. For lots of photos and notes on the engine repair, see following page.
Our gracious hosts have early appointments today, so we pack and run by 7 AM. I must say that John and Leslie have the patience of a saint and huge hearts to match. It must have been somewhat trying at times, putting us up for a week and putting up with us for a week. The initial engine run-in, 2500 rpm for 20 minutes,
happens as we cruise casually northward on US-158 along the Outer Banks, Sitting 22 miles north in Grandy, NC, we spent some time on WiFi posting photos and notes for the past two days. The car was screaming "Wash Me!", but was being ignored for a while.
We stopped to visit Grave Digger, the monster truck (or a few of them) in Poplar Branch, NC. It was there when we drove by, so we took some pictures. I don't know why El Toro Loco was in Digger's shop.
Being a nice day, and feeling good about being on the road again, we then drove (casually) 240 miles west to visit Eric Russell in Mebane, NC. Along the way we had a coolant leak and had to stop and put water in the radiator a couple of times.
Nothing serious, just teething problems after the engine work. We arrived in Mebane after dark, so the evening was reserved for a snack and some chat before we turned in for a well deserved great sleep session.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014:
Mid morning wake up was followed by chat and lunch before we got serious about more tinkering with the car. First order of business was to fix the coolant leak, which was dribbling out around the temperature sensor probe. Apparently the threads for the flare nut to cylinder head joint were clogged with some kind of dirt (or maybe dried anti-seize compound), so the nut wouldn't screw all the way in. The brass nut had a few damaged corners and was very tight. I thought it prudent to pull a spare safety gauge out of the trailer and check its operation before possibly damaging the one in the car.
This led to a very interesting phenomenon that I had heard about but had never experienced before, super-heated water. We put water in a coffee cup and heated it to boiling in the microwave oven for testing the temperature gauge. The temperature probe was inserted into the boiling hot water to see if the gauge would read "212" as intended. When it wasn't quite hot enough, the cup was returned to the microwave oven for more heating, until it began to steam and boil.
On the table top, water in the cup was not boiling. When the temperature probe was inserted into the cup, the water began boiling around the probe, making us think the probe was leaking and losing the ether normally contained inside. In a few seconds it quit boiling, and the gauge was still reading high temperature. We removed the probe from the water, and the temperature indication dropped rapidly. We soon had two cups of hot water prepared, and tried the same thing with both cups. In one cup the water would boil profusely for a few seconds when the probe was inserted. This could not be reproduced in the second cup. As far as I know the cups and conditions were identical.
The gauge was reading a little high, so I pulled the needle off the gauge and reinstalled it pointing exactly at 212dF (standard procedure). Having proved the gauge to be working we went back to work on the car. No luck unscrewing the probe nut with tools at hand (without damaging the brass nut), so we took a trip to a local parts store to buy a 5/8" flare nut wrench. I believe this is the first new tool added to my traveling tool kit since 1989. We soon had the nut and probe out, then spent some time cleaning the threads until the nut would screw in with finger force only. That solved the coolant leak problem, so the spare gauge was returned to the parts stock in the trailer.
We then proceeded to re-torque the cylinder head, reset valve lash, and reset ignition timing. I then took the opportunity to replace bearings in the right front hub (to match the left side done some weeks earlier). Small job, easy enough, done quickly. The picture shows the tub of wheel bearing grease securely closed for traveling,
As the day was waning, and our gracious hosts were planning dinner out, we packed up and hit the road again. We got as far as a local hardware store to procure a few flat washers for the trailer hitch, bought ice for the ice chest, and landed at the nearest McD's to do WiFi work (where we are still sitting and working well past midnight).
Thursday, August 28, 2014:
This was almost a day off. After a substantial amount of WiFi work I think it surprised a few people that we were still sitting in Mebane, NC, in the evening. We found a BBS message from Christopher Wilson in Greensboro, NC, just 30 miles west, but no contact information. We left a reply on the BBS, then drove to Greensboro to wait for more information. At 11 PM the store closed and we had to leave, so no visit here this time. We continued west, got gas at Kernersville (just east of Winston-Salem), then found a rest stop just west of Winston-Salem where we cooked up a late night dinner (about midnight). We continued a little farther west (not much), and spent the night near Claremont, NC, only 126 miles for the day.
Friday, August 29, 2014:
At 9 AM we received a nice phone call from Bernie Wargo (the machine shop in Chesapeake, VA). He was following up to see how we made out with the engine work. I was of course absolutely delighted to tell him it was back on the road less than 24 hours after it left his shop.
Cruising down the interstate at 70 MPH is boring (especially in the dark). This morning we stopped at Hickory, NC, for WiFi. From there we took US-70 westward (slowly with traffic) as far as Ashville, NC, where we hooked up once again with the Blue Ridge Parkway (right where we left off three months ago on May 21). And suddenly, all was right with the world. Shaded winding roads with rolling hills sometimes requiring 3rd gear up (and sometimes 3rd gear down as well). Drivers of other sports cars and motorcycles wave in passing, and pedestrians at pull-overs give a thumbs up. Feels good all over.
We followed the Blue Ridge Parkway until it ran into US-441 on the south side of Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Here we turned a mile or so north to visit the historic Mingus Mill (just before dark), This vintage grain mill used a Pelton wheel water turbine developing 11 horsepower to run all of the mill's machinery.
Then we dropped a few miles south to US-19 to find WiFi and to spend the night at Cherokee, NC (a tourist trap with little interest to me).
Saturday, August 30, 2014:
Today we ran up US-441 from Cherokee, NC, through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN (three of my least favorite tourist traps). We managed to not set foot in any of them. The road was nice, as long as you don't mind plodding along with the traffic. Had a dozen Jeeps following me all the way. Winding up hill for 17 miles (a lot of it in 3rd gear) before winding down the other side. I did not get to run Tail Of The Dragon yet, but perhaps later.
After the run north we tuned west on US-321 through Maryville, TN, where we found Destiny Used Cars with a large lot full of classic cars (mostly the larger American variety).
We continued west to rural Greenback, TN, where we had an appointment with Larry Benson. He has a nice old house that was built about 1851 and is on the Historic Register. He also has an interesting variety of toys including an MGA tucked away in the old garage.
After an appropriate cool-down cycle for both car and passengers, we took the opportunity to do an oil and filter change for the recently repaired engine (668 miles after engine repairs). We also took a shift at catching up on Laundry. Later in the evening we made our way to Lenoir City for dinner, dodging through a few rain storms in the process. When things got quiet at night I got to a little more WiFi work before turning in.
Sunday, August 31, 2014:
Day off for the navigator, but work for the guru. I spent most of the day re-composing the CMGC news letter in web page format to be uploaded to the club web site. Then I got on to catching up with two days worth of email and tech questions and BBS messages, Late night (into early morning) I was updating this travel log so you can see the last two days worth of photos and notes. Some things are never finished.