It's been a while since I've been active. I would apologize however I know nobody cares, so I'll at least say "you're welcome."
As some of you may be aware, last March I went ahead and bought a car that I've always disliked and had no interest in purchasing. As I am not a retired man or a married female, MGs have never really taken my interest. You see them everywhere, and there's really nothing special about them.
My brother and I share the same outlook on the topic. So I was surprised when he called me on the phone, describing a "decent" rubber bumper MGB over the phone. I have been looking for a project car for a while, and knowing the values of these piles, I figured it might be less of a "project" and more of a "run it, beat it, blow it up."
I had the day off school and decided to make the drive to see the car. There's a Taco Bell not too far from where the car was, so even if it ended up being something pulled out of grandads back field or even someone else's unfinished project, at the very least, I could grab some top-tier dining at the Bell. Surprisingly enough, pulling up to the driveway where the car was sitting slightly shocked me. A presentable MG B in a unique color with well rusted but still interesting wire wheels. Hmmmm...
First impression was a 2015 NYS inspection sticker and an equally expired registration. I knock on the guy's door and it opens, where I meet a retired truck driver. I felt kinda bad because I could see that I'd interrupted his episode of Walker: Texas Ranger and knowing how good of a show that was, I almost ran away in shame. Thankfully I didn't, though, because he was appeared ready for a stranger to knock on his door. Probably wasn't expecting a teenager, and hopefully he wasn't hoping for anyone younger.
Nonetheless, we talk over the car, I looked and poked and kicked and asked him how much he'd like. Keep in mind that my brother had told me "An easy buy at $3k". Low and behold, the owners shoots out a number way further out than I was expecting. All said and done, I paid $1 per cubic centimeter and away we went.
Getting it home was an issue. We got it running, but the clutch wasn't engaging. Instead of starting it in gear and speed shifting it to our destination, we decided it would be just as easy to find a trailer and get it home that way. We were wrong.
A few weeks go by and we get it home, the previous owner so sick of it sitting in his driveway that he offers to tow it to us, free of charge. We didn't want to go that route, as I already felt I stole his car, but eventually that was what we had to do.
We had ordered a new clutch master cylinder, slave, and hose in order to fix the first issue with the clutch. It was at that moment I put my very first order into Mossmotors.com, and it was far from the last. Additionally, the car had come with a new brake master cylinder, as another thing stopping us from driving the car home was that there were no brakes. These parts now installed, it was time to take the ol' Abingdon roadster for a spin. Literally. We spent the next hour or so doing burnouts on the concrete in our garage and launching it onto the snowy driveway outside. It was a little R and D to make sure everything was working properly.
My next order of operation was to try my hand at restoring old British wire wheels. It was at this moment where I was actually glad I didn't have an E-Type Jag or a Triumph TR-4 sitting in the garage, because restoring wires on an MG is much less nerving. I grinded away on three wheels, one taking me a total of 25.5 hours to get perfect to where I wanted it.
Not to toot my own horn, but I got the wheels looking phenomenal with the only mistake being how much time I had spent on them. A win for me thusfar, but I still have yet to do the fourth wheel in fear that it will take another day or more to get back to new.
In addition, I had decided it would be nice to order a new top, as the old one was in pretty bad shape. Initially, I thought only the plastic windows would need to be replaced, but it was definitely best to do the whole thing. And as my brother and I had never done a convertible top on anything before, this was one of my greatest stresses about the whole project. And because of this, it was four months before we actually fitted the top, finally getting it done the night before my deadline of September 9, 2022.
Between not knowing what the proper glue to use was and panicking that the top would sag as much as Nancy Pelosi's face, it took a while for both of us to gather the strength to finally endeavor across this uncharted path. I set the top out in the sun for a day, allowing it to stretch, and we got to it.
Immediately we ran into a problem. We had a glue we were going to attempt to use, but we struggled to actually understand how the top was fitted to the header rail. I had spent the four months between ordering the new top/ taking off the old one researching and forgetting how it was supposed to be fitted. Mercifully, we did get it right the first time we tried, but I now had to get ready and go to work.
Another week passes and I continually panic as to whether the glue we have is the glue we need. The day prior to the deadline, I bite the bullet and we go with what we have, knowing that there's no turning back if we make a mistake. And withe the Buffalo Bills kickoff playing on the radio in the background, we get the damn thing to stick. We sit back, take a break (as we held onto the vinyl for dear life), and decided we were going to finish. And not to toot my own horn, but this also turned out better than expected.
The wrinkles along the sides have since straightened out nicely and there is minimal sag and no wrinkles throughout the center. Definitely a job well done and worthy of a quick pat on the back.
As you would expect with these cars, it is always one step forward, two steps back. I was able to drive the car from the time we fixed the clutch and brake systems, and thankfully we were able to work some quirks out along the way. I was driving it illegally for that time, as we were chasing wires wondering why I didn't have turn signals, a horn, reverse lights, and pretty much everything else needed for a valid NYS inspection. This made for an excellent senior prom experience, but I won't bore you with the details of that.
We had fixed the tail lights, high beams, and marker lights just in time for the hazards, turn signals, and brake lights not to continue functioning. Additionally, when I went to move the car one night, my starter was sticking every time I turned the key. This led to a frustrating diagnosis that took us about two months to solve. I was able to drive the car illegally every so often up until this point, when I finally decided to park the car for good and figure out what was going wrong.
I am no wiring technician, so I gave my brother full control over the workings of Lucas electronics. Why do the British drink warm beer? Because their refrigerators were designed by Lucas.
One of the biggest things we were able to conclude that Leyland enjoyed pushing mechanics to their suicide through these electrical systems. Also, a mechanic "friend" of the previous owner had the idea to try and correct this problem his own way, making matters worse. We studied the wiring diagram in our Haynes manual and half matched, while the other half was cobbled together by a gorilla playing with spaghetti.
We spent the entire summer diagnosing and solving, running wires back to where they needed to go. In doing so, we got everything to work as it should APART from the starter issue. At this point, we had two cars. One where everything worked and the starter stuck and another where the starter wouldn't stick but you lost everything needed for a NYS inspection.
It was numerous weeks of torture, looking at a the same wiring, the same switches, and the same diagram hoping we hadn't overlooked anything stupid. We searched online, and found an interesting problem that these MGB's were notorious to have. "If you are starting your car and the starter sticks, check your brake diode." Um, what?
We tear the brake diode out, and sure enough, all our problems are solved. The diode runs from a brake warning light on the dash through your hazard switch (which powers your wipers, turn signals, cigar lighter, brake lights, reverse lights, and of course your hazards). From there, it runs back to your ignition (which we had previously replaced, hoping that was our issue) and e-brake. Diodes are designed so that power flows in on direction, and when they go bad, they start back feeding electricity to other components they shouldn't. In this case, the brake service warning light was supposed to remain on for 5 seconds after turning the key, then turning off unless a) your emergency brake was on or b) you needed to bleed your brakes. Therefore, with the diode for the "brake service warning lamp" going bad, we had electricity back feeding to the ignition and starter, making it stick until you disconnect the battery. Apparently, there are extreme cases where you can engage your starter with the e-brake alone!
We finally were able to drive the car in mid-August for the first time in over a month, where everything worked and I could enjoy myself driving it. I take it for a drive to pick up a pizza for dinner, when now I find a new issue. Smelling fuel, I look underneath the car to find my fuel pump is leaking.
F**k. One step forward, two steps back.
My appointment to get the little devil inspected was now a day away, and I didn't have the ability to get an electronic fuel pump delivered by the time of my appointment. Until my brother remembered that his 1979 Ramcharger had a similar issue a few years back, and he remembered having to buy a new electronic fuel pump for that. Although we could drive the car with leaking fuel, I could not justify consistently filling the tank, just for it to drain all over our nice concrete floor. Given today's fuel prices, I don't see any reason as to why anyone would want non-ethanol collecting dust on the ground.
Get that fixed, get the car inspected, and everything looks great. So great in fact that my brother takes the car on a wine tour with his friends, expecting to have his first good time with the car. Well...
We lost brakes. Then, just as quickly, the fronts started locking up. And then, because this was about three weeks prior to putting the top on, it started to rain and he limped the car home in the rain with nothing but a windshield to protect him and the inside from the only rain shower of the summer. He wasn't the happiest camper in the park, but we knew there would be another problem somewhere.
The car sits for another two weeks. We begin fiddling with the top while it's out of commission, and figure part of our issue is that we never fully adjusted the rear drums when we put the brake master cylinder on way back at the beginning of our adventure. Adjust the drums, and we get brakes.
Now, if anyone is still with me here, you may remember a mention that the deadline for this car was September 9, 2022. The date is very specific as it is very special. Living in the village of Watkins Glen, we have a celebration the Friday after Labor Day every year known as the Vintage Grand Prix Festival. On this day, we celebrate the return of road racing in America after World War II, the creation of the SCCA, and the very first Watkins Glen Grand Prix. People from all over the northeast bring their classic and modern sports cars to participate in road rallies, car shows, and laps around the original Watkins Glen Grand Prix circuit on the streets of the village.
This year's celebration was of Bugatti and Mustang, however all marques are welcomed to join in on the festivities. My original intent was to enter the MG Beater in a road rally, glue a FOR SALE sign on the window, and actually enjoy myself for a change. But as all the rallies were booked out, this was no longer an option.
Nonetheless, the main event of the evening is when the historic race cars competing in SVRA competition at Watkins Glen International come down into the streets of Watkins Glen, do some parade laps around the original course, and then head back up to the track to be put through their paces over the weekend.
It's one of the greatest vintage racing events of the year, attracting a large crowd of enthusiasts. It was the perfect marketplace for an MG like mine.
Or so I thought.
I had set my campsite up at the track and had hoped that my purchase of a FOR SALE sign at Walmart would prove to be successful. However, I was somewhat parked in a low-traffic area of the racetrack with MGs surrounding me on both sides. Although there was interest in the vehicle, nobody nibbled and made an offer like I had asked.
I had kept to myself that there were brake issues once again with the vehicle in hopes that someone would make an offer on the spot, cash in hand, and take the wretched vehicle off my hands. But in all honesty, I didn't feel that selling a vehicle with no brakes was the best idea, and I purposefully kept it out of view. Once I lost brakes heading up to the track, I knew the notion of a sale was washed down the hill and into the lake.
It's the amount of MGs at this event in particular that always thrusted my hate towards them. There were always so many, and they were always all the same sh*t boxes. I knew this even ten years ago when I first visited WGI at the Vintage Grand Prix of Watkins Glen. However, here I am in possession of one, begging and pleading that someone take it off my hands.
Yet, it's almost comical how stereotypical my experience has been. People from all over, even here on Oppo, warned me that the road would be rough, but I figured I had what it takes. I didn't think I had the strength to continue the project, and was seriously debating setting the car on fire. However, now that it's getting colder and all my nice driving weather blew out the window, I now don't think I have the strength to get rid of it.
This picture started it all, telling me that there's a car out there that needs to be saved. After investments of too much time and money, my roadster is finally ready to go for winter.
I guess to sum it up, there's been heartache and pain. I don't know if I could face it again. But I can't stop now, I traveled so far.