Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Well, a bit early...

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Better Distribution

I got my rebuilt distributor last week and installed it over the weekend.  Jeff at Advanced Distributors did a great job. He also recurved the advance so I don't get as much advance at higher RPMs.  I even got rid of that annoying buzz in the radio--the internal ground wire must have been faulty before.  After a quick retune, I'm back on the road and running well.  She pulls nicely and smoothly off of idle and revs past 4500 RPM without a hitch.  I haven't gone to redline yet... I need another 100 miles on the clock first!
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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Driving to Work

Having put about 250 miles on the clock, I decided it was time for a longer trip.  Unfortunately, that trip was to work. :(

I live about 50 miles from my office, which works out to about an hour commute each way.  (I'm not complaining, by the way.)  But that makes for a nice 100 mile round trip... so last week I bit the bullet, packed a repair kit and hit the road.

I took mostly side streets at about 45-55 mph, but about 15 miles of the journey was on the freeway (southbound 101, actually) and I topped out at 75 mph.  (That's 4000 RPM, which is better than it was with the 4.22 diff).  It was definitely interesting.  The car ran really well and the ride was comfortable.  I do have a vibration in the steering wheel at 70, which I chalk up to needing to balance the tires at the lower pressure I'm running (24/22 instead of 32).

UPDATE 7 Jan 19: I am now running 26 front/28 rear and I like this configuration.  It was a tire balance issue and everything is perfectly stable at highway speeds.  I've made it up to 83 MPH per the GPS.  As Neo would say, 'Whoa'.

On the way home, I took side streets only and it was pretty decent.  The car developed a knocking from underneath (which was a slightly loose mount for the stabilizer bar and a slightly loose rear damper) and a thrumming in the steering wheel at 60mph (which I think is a wheel bearing that needs to be shimmed).  I need to look at the steering rack, too; it clunks a bit, and I don't like that.

Anyhow, here's a couple of pics of me and Gidget at work!

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

First Service

At almost 200 miles on the clock, it's time for a service.  I changed the oil and filter, transmission and rear axle oils.  The oil filter was particularly stubborn--I had to remove the spin-on adapter from the block, which meant removing the generator to get to it.  I ended up punching a screwdriver through the filter to get it off.  I don't know why it was so difficult, but the new filter is on just hand tight and shouldn't be a problem at the next change (likely 1000 mi).

The transmission fluid (actually, just motor oil) looked pretty clean with just a few bits of brass that aren't abnormal to see.  The rear axle fluid was more gray than I expected, but it had no bits in it... the axle tube may have just had some residue.  We'll see what it looks like next time.

I also dropped the oil pan to replace the cork front and rear seals with neoprene versions.  The cork seals were already leaking.  When I pulled the oil pan, I didn't see anything too scary inside--the oil was clean and there were just a few bits of residue that I think are not bad to see.  I also took a look inside the bottom end, and while there are some scuff marks on a couple of cam lobes (likely a result of the sticky valve issues I had) I think everything's OK.

Once the sump was reinstalled, I filled up the engine and transmission with Castrol GTX 20w50, and the rear axle with 80w90.  I also Tefloned the transmission and rear axle filler plugs as I noticed drips from those spots.  A subsequent drive to get lunch with my daughter shows no leaks around the oil pan or the filler plugs, so here's hoping things are sealed up nicely now.  I did check the front and rear oil seals and see no leaks there, which is great news as those are the typical leaky spots to worry about.  It seems that the rear main seal from Gerard's Garage is working well.

I did get a little eager filling the engine and managed to spill about a 1/2 cup of oil, which was fun cleaning up and got a little smelly as it burned off the exhaust header.  Next time I'll take it easy.

After the oil change I noticed that my oil pressure is much improved, though it wasn't bad before... now I pull 60psi cold at idle and about 50psi when warm, up from 50 and 40 respectively. The break-in oil was a 10w30w, so this isn't a surprise.

The car still runs well, though it is definitely running rich to compensate for timing being off while I wait for my recurved distributor.  I got up to 60 for the first time without any problems (and my new speedo cable worked nicely, too).  Aside from a couple of annoying vibratory rattles, the car is a blast to drive.  It has good power when you push the go pedal, even with the 3.9 ratio diff, and I haven't even put it all the way down yet.  It pulls nicely from idle and really picks up around 3000 RPM with a throaty exhaust note.  I'm really happy with the setup, and I expect more once I get the timing set properly.

I did take a stab at shifting the rear axle, but I am beginning to suspect that a combination of factory and restoration alignment problems (one isn't my fault) are the culprit.  I think I will have to either shift the rear spring hangars about 1/4" or make a custom set of plates to shift the centering point on the about 1/8".  Alternatively, I could admit that the axle stabilizer isn't doing its job and install a Panhard rod to pull the axle over a bit, but that's money I don't want to spend right now...

I also want to stiffen up the rear dampers a bit to prevent bottoming out over bumps.  A 30w fork oil is the first step (up from 20w), and a valve adjustment is the next if that doesn't do what I want.
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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Crossing the Finish Line

I've crossed the finish line.  Well, figuratively.  I guess I could say I crossed the grass to make it to the show.

My goal was to get Gidget on the road in time for the British Wheels On The Green show hosted by the Arizona MG Club (which I have rejoined).  I made it!  It was a great show with over 80 cars from British marques such as MG, Austin-Healey, Triumph, Jaguar, and Mini.  There were Jensen-Healeys (three!) and a couple of Lotuses (Loti?), and even a Rolls.  It was cool to see so many of these cars still survive in Arizona.

Without further ado, here's Gidget at the show!


How did I do?  Well, I was the only Midget (of two scheduled) and we needed three entrants to make a class.  So I didn't walk away with any awards, but I did get a nice mention during the awards presentation and a promise that I'd have competition next year.  I got lots of great comments on the body and paint work, on how clean everything was, and questions about how I did things.  I met some new friends and am looking forward to participating in the club.

It doesn't matter. My award was getting there and being part of the festivities.  My marathon is over.  Now I can just tinker and keep things running.  I already have a short list:

  • Fix a leaky fuel sender gasket.
  • Replace the oil pan gasket at my first fluid change.
  • Install those headlamp relays.
  • Keep trying to seal up the steering rack.
  • Fix a noisy horn contact.
  • Continue to try to realign the rear axle--that tire still rubs, and I just had a new one installed (the old one is now the spare).
  • Install the recurved distributor I have out for rebuild and retune.
  • Fix a couple of rattles that happen at just the right RPM.

But hey, that's life with a classic car.  I can live with that.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Enjoying the Ride

As I finish off the last few bits of trim, I've started driving to a few places.  But I had to do some major engine work first.

On my first extended test drive, I found that I couldn't get over about 45 MPH before the engine would drop a cylinder.  However, once I returned to idle it would run on all four again.  After some diagnosis of plugs, wires and ignition, I got some advice that it might be incorrect clearances for the valve guides.  So I pulled the head, and wouldn't you know it--they were right.

When I had the head rebuilt, the machinist installed bronze valve guides.  They're great because they self-lubricate and last practically forever.  The thing is, you have to know what you're doing when you install them.  Because bronze has a higher expansion coefficient than iron (the OEM guide material), the guide needs a greater clearance when cold so the clearance is correct when warm.

I found that three of the valves were stuck in the head (well, not totally stuck--but not easy to remove).  I had bought a special set of gauges and a hone to fix this, just in case--I guessed right.  The clearance was as little as 0.001" when 0.003" is required.

So I honed them out, put everything back together, and so far all's been well.

I'm glad I sorted this out.  Now, I have confidence I can get to the show, and still have some time for those few final trim pieces and to paint a spare tire rim.  Other than that, everything's functioning.

Once I get about 150 miles on her, I'll do a long drive and take her to work.  That will probably be after the show.

Right now my biggest dilemma is whether to fit the bumpers.  I assembled them and did a test fit, and I can make it work--but it hides that pretty spoiler.

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Street Legal and Ready to Roll

I did a mundane, yet extraordinary thing today.  I drove to the DMV and got my car registered.  The extraordinary part is that I drove Gidget!

(The bonnet is open because I was waiting for a VIN inspection.  It shuts.)

To get to this point, I had to:

  • Install the steering wheel (and horn button, which works!).
  • Install seat belts (3 point, and hopefully I will never have to find out how well they work).
  • Remove the lowering kit from the front suspension; the tires were rubbing against the bottom of the wings, and I couldn't get out of my driveway with the spoiler installed.
  • Install the spoiler.  Doesn't it look cool?
  • Bolt in the radio to finish the interior.
  • Add the wing mirrors and some of the chrome trim.
  • Tighten the exhaust so it wouldn't clank.
  • Finish the front wiring and install the grille.

I drove there, got the inspection done (to fix my title, which had an incorrect VIN), and got a plate.

While I can't customize it, 'JS' are my daughter's initials.  So, awesome.  The registration cost $66.00.  Gidget is titled as a '66.  So, karma!

On the way home, the clouds began to clear and it was a beautiful day.  I stopped and got a full tank:  6 gallons (I had a gallon already).

It was a great drive.  There are no squeaks or rattles of consequence.  Everything's tight and the ride is firm, but not jouncy.  It is surprisingly quiet.  The exhaust sounds great.  The shake and rattle in the gear shift is gone, which was a big problem I blamed on worn out mainshaft bearings.  The brakes work well and she stops straight, with some effort (no power brakes here, folks).

It was like driving a new, old car.  And it was wonderful.

So I have a few things left to do. Everything works, but I found a few problems:

  • The left rear tire rubs pretty much all the time against the fender well.  I will have to remove the lowering kit and attempt to align the rear axle better.
  • My turn signals stopped working, mostly.
  • The radio blew its fuse because I accidentally grounded the charge port against the parking brake handle.  I will have to be very careful about that.  And I need to make it easier to change the fuse.  (My iPod Nano works and I was listening to FM, so that's cool!)
  • I need to do a tune up.  I think she's running rich.
  • I need to add toe-in to get some steering return.  It tracks straight, though--which means everything's aligned properly front-to-back.
  • The revamped speedo (the original) is off by about 9%, which is roughly what I expect.  The odometer quit working.  I think a spring let go.  But I have another, newer speedo that I plan to do an internals swap after testing.
Things to do:

  • Take care of the rear axle issue.
  • Finish installing the few bits of chrome and snaps and things.
  • Assemble and install the bumpers, which I think I should do even though I don't have to (and I like the clean lines without them).
  • Finish the tuneup.
  • Fix my turn signals and replace the radio fuse.
  • Clean up and paint a spare tire rim and get a tire mounted, and get a hold down clamp for it.
  • Figure out the speedo issue.
  • Perform an alignment.
  • Touch up some paint chips.
  • Install the top (that is, the hood).
  • Install my new license plate!
I also have to install a headlamp relay kit that takes the power away from the headlamp switch and therefore saves it from getting burned up.  It will be the first 'upgrade'.

After a couple hundred miles, I have to change all of the fluids.  But that's no big deal.  I will also fix a couple of small leaks when I do that.

Those things are minor compared to what it took to get to today.  So, I am saying I'm 'done'.

I'm done.

I can't believe it.

So, what now?  It's like Inigo Montoya said; "I've been in the revenge business so long, now that it's over, I don't know what to do with the rest of my life".

But I do know what to do.  I will have fun driving Gidget with my wife and my daughter, who will drive and own her someday.  And I'll keep tinkering, because that's what one does with a car like this.  Then I'll find a new project after I catch up on the years of good will my family has given me to do this.

I'll keep posting, but this is really the end of my restoration saga.  I hope people find good information from this blog that they can use to fix their own cars.  I'm glad I wrote this, even if it's just for posterity.

So as the MG motto goes, 'Safety Fast!'  And thanks for reading.
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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Waxing Rhapsodic

I finished polishing the car, and waxed her today for the first time.  I also installed the bonnet, with a little help from my friends, of course.  Add a little chrome trim and a grille, and she's really coming together.  She looks, well, stunning.

The grille's not installed yet, just sitting in place.  I have to polish it up first.

I also added something special to the underside of the bonnet.

It's down to the chrome trim and bumpers, some mechanical tweaks, and we're there!
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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Interior Decoration

I installed the complete interior this weekend.  It looks fantastic.

I started with some sound deadening / heat shield underlayment...


Then I test fit the carpet, and glued in the pieces over the rail and the transmission tunnel.


From there, I fit the carpet over the wheel arches and the rear "seat".  These are glued down as well.  I spent a lot of time test-fitting since you only get one shot with the glue.  The carpet under the seats isn't glued or snapped in; the seats will hold it in place.

Then, I installed the snaps for the transmission tunnel cover and the footwell carpet.  In each footwell, there are four snaps: two at the crossmember and two on the firewall.  The transmission tunnel cover has six: three each side, where one is at the firewall, one on the back side of the crossmember, and and at the back end along the tunnel.

Once I had all the carpet in place, it was panel time!  I started with the doors.  They were a real fun job.

First, I installed some plastic as a seal.  

After that, in went the insert.  That's the original vinyl from 1965.

Finally, in went the door card, the pull handle, and the winder.


Then, I did the other one.  This one was harder; the panel didn't want to fit under the trim rail on the top of the door, so some gentle persuasion made things better.  Then, when I closed the door it stuck out over 1/8".  The door seal is sealing against the panel, which isn't right... but some quick work with a Big Hammer set things to rights.  Now, it shuts perfectly.

Next, I installed the rest of the cockpit surround and the vinyl that covers the door jambs.

From there, I started on panels. I put in the trim panels for the footwells and along the door.  That involved finding and mostly drilling lots of little holes.  I messed up on one panel, but it's the passenger's side by the seat and not too noticeable (I hope).

Once the panels were in place, in went the seats!  They fold down and everything.  They slide back and forth, too.  They are very comfortable and I sit at a good height.  I will say--it's much smaller in there than I remember. 😀


Once all of that was done, I went for a quick spin around the block.  Side streets only--I don't need to get in too much trouble!  So far, so good--I got up to temperature with no weird noises (well, once that sounds like a tire rubbing, but I can't see it).  Unfortunately, Speedostein (my cobbled together speedometer for the diff I installed) is a bust.  It showed me doing 50 when I couldn't have been doing more then 30.  So, back to the lab...

But doesn't she look great?

I got through over half of my punch list this weekend.  I think I might actually get there by the end of next weekend... or at least, close enough to drive!  Next up is the bumpers, cut and buff and install all the chrome trim, install the radio, and fit the bonnet with its heat shield.

I might actually finish this.
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Monday, September 17, 2018

Winky Winky I Got Blinkies

I got my turn indicators working last night.


I'll be honest... I'm not exactly sure how I "fixed" them.  I had some crossed wires, but uncrossing them didn't make it better.  I hooked up an old switch, which behaved the same way until I accidentally shorted a contact... and the indicators started working.  They work with the new switch, too.  It's not cool that I can't definitively identify the fix.  I think there was a grounding problem, but that's not a good enough answer for me.

Well, I'm going with them working until they don't.  I do have to fix the driver's front indicator as the bulb doesn't always make proper contact with the base.

I also got my high beam indicator working...

So as of now, all of the electrical systems work as they're supposed to.  This is rare for a Lucas electrical system.

Fingers crossed!
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Sunday, September 16, 2018

And Closer Still...

A busy day today... I sorted out a bunch of stuff and got that much closer to being on the road.

First off, I installed my new Maniflow Sebring exhaust system.  It's nice.  It has a throaty sound that's deep but not too loud, and it has twin tips that look really cool.  It also doesn't leak like the original.  It took a bit of modification to the middle mount, but it fits beautifully.


After that, I installed an axle stabilizer from SpridgetMania.  It adds a third member to make a triangle, to keep the rear axle from shifting under cornering.  It also helped me bring the axle closer to center.  It's still off but I think it's close enough and won't shift around.

Then, I finished bracing the dashboard to keep it from making noise (and keep the steering cowl from squeaking against the dash).

I took a bit of time to bolt up the high beam switch.

Next, I fixed up the driver's side door by installing the felt strip and fixing the bracket that holds the bottom of the quarter vent.  Neither job was fun.  I sacrificed a bit of me in the process.  I hope she doesn't become possessed, like Christine...

I then re-centered the butterfly on the rear carburettor to cure my high idle.  Now I can drop the idle down to 600rpm (which is too low) and I set it at about 1000 rpm.  I also installed the air cleaners, which took a bit of modification to the filters to get them to fit.  She revs smoothly and immediately off idle and runs just wonderfully.

Finally, I installed the trim pads on the doors.  That was another epic battle that I am glad is over.  But they fit and look great.  They're soft too.

Oh, and I installed the radio antenna. :)

Next up:

  • Finish fitting the bumper mounts
  • Fix the turn signals (EDIT: Fixed!)
  • Install the hood liner and fit the hood to the car
  • Install the interior carpet and panels
  • Re-fit the passenger's fender (it sticks out in one spot and I don't like it)
  • Install the headlight relays
  • Adjust the valve lash
  • Grease the front suspension
  • Try to fix that damn leak from the steering rack
  • Clean and finish cutting and buffing the fenders, then wax the whole car
  • Fit the remaining cockpit surrounds, chrome trim and the spoiler
  • Fit the bumpers
  • Attach the VIN plate
And I am done enough to put a license plate on it and drive.

About the plate: I went to the DMV to get registered, and there is an error in the title.  The title's VIN doesn't match the car; it's off by one letter.  This was their screwup, but my problem.  So now I have to get it inspected, which means the car has to be together enough to drive with a 3-day temporary.  I can get the plate after the inspection.

I am almost done, but I'm also almost out of time to get to the car show on November 4th.  I better hustle.
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Sunday, September 9, 2018


I'm getting closer...


I bolted on the wings (obviously), but I also modified and installed the heater switch (which works!), installed the speedometer and cable, and installed the headlights and turn indicators.  The headlights and running lights work, but the turn indicators don't.  I think the problem is the flasher unit, but I'll have to do some testing.

It looks good.  I like the drop from the lowering kit.

Next up: the interior.  That's a whole weekend.  Beyond that, it's the trim, hood (with liner) and figuring out how to fix the offset in the rear axle.  I also have to adjust the rear carb's butterfly so its seals better, and (finally) figure out what to do about my leaky steering rack.
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