Written by Jack and Brian Collins
A lot of people have been wondering what happened to our 1951 MGTD MkII project. Truthfully, we're long overdue on giving everyone an update!
The MGTD came to completion after nearly 100 days in the Ceres Motorsports garage. It took longer than we expected, but the results were stunning. The owner wanted to bring this little car back to life and is very pleased with how it turned out. Initially we thought we could simply refresh the engine, polish it up, and hand it back. Ultimately it took a lot more work and a lot more parts to bring this one back to life. What we encountered was a car in which every system needed our attention.
When we first got the MGTD, we were told by the owner that the engine didn’t have any oil pressure. We ended up pulling it out of the car and disassembling it for inspection. We found one cracked ring and some scuffing on one of the main bearings. The oil pressure issue seemed to originate from a rusted and worn ball in the check valve. The engine was otherwise very sound, so with some new rings, some replacement ARP bolts, new bearings, seals and gaskets, it all went back together. After the engine was assembled, we were pleased to see that it produced well over 60 psi of oil pressure.
The H4 SU carburetors were a mess from sitting too long with a lot of corrosion, rusty linkages, sunk floats, and other issues. As we got into the fuel system, we found fuel lines full of muck and rust. The dual Mk II fuel pumps were both inoperative due to corrosion and rust in their electrical and pump mechanisms. We cleaned the inoperative points and restored both pumps to look like new before re-installation. We also thoroughly cleaned and rebuilt the carburetors and cleared the fuel lines. We knew that the fuel tank was leaking so repairing it was also high on our priority list.
The leaking fuel tank was a challenge. We knew there was a leak, but we had assumed it was a fuel sender gasket or one of the fittings on the bottom of the tank. After close inspection, we encountered our worst fear- we had a rotten tank and it was leaking from all the rusty spots hidden inside under a support brace. Unfortunately this is a common problem we see on T-series MG's. We removed it and took it to our gas tank renewal shop to be blasted to bare metal, welded and sealed. Once we got the tank back, we matched the red color of the car and repainted the tank. We remounted the tank and fuel lines, filled the tank up with gas and fired up the car. After some carburetor and timing adjustments, it ran like a sewing machine. It was music to our ears.
Oil leaks are usually a fact of life on XPAG engines. There are aftermarket oil seal solutions for the rear main while the front crank seal uses a modern Viton seal, but these things still drip and it’s annoying. One of the solutions that we have had success with on other MG’s is the addition of a modern PCV. We fabricated a vapor separator that sucks crankcase fumes from the tappet cover thru the PCV and into the intake. The vacuum reduces crank case pressure and helps prevent oil from seeping out of the engine. So far the results have been great. The oil leaks are very minimal- which is a real bragging right with an MGTD!
While we had the engine installed and running perfectly, there were still other systems to inspect. For example, the brakes were new – 10 years ago. Even though all the brake components were unused, all the years of sitting had caused them to rust, corrode, leak, or lockup. We replaced the master cylinder as well as all six of the wheel cylinders. After flushing and bleeding the system, the brakes worked flawlessly.
Once we thoroughly inspected and repaired safety items on the rest of the car, the customer wanted to add a few custom items. We installed reupholstered MGB seats, a Bluetooth stereo system, LED lighting, and a T9 five-speed transmission conversion. While purists might protest these additions, the discreet features help make the car more drivable for the owner. Besides, what good is a car if it can't be driven?
The MGB seats have upholstery that mimics the pattern of an MGTF, so they don’t look out of place in this car. The seating position is lower and further back than the original TD seats would allow. By removing the pedal extensions and bolting the pedal pads directly to the brake and clutch arms we gained a couple of inches of much needed head and leg room. The owner provided a 14” Nardi steering wheel that he had previously used on other cars. With these changes the TD is very comfortable for the over-six-foot owner.
For audio, we installed a hidden, compact Bluetooth amplifier. It is roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes and mounts under the scuttle in a waterproof alloy housing with four separate speaker outputs. We built a speaker enclosure that fits behind the seats to house two speakers and mounted the other two on the hoop under the scuttle. The system is discreet and the only visible part of the system is a very small knob to control volume. All the owner’s music and radio streams thru his phone via Bluetooth either from his music library or a streaming app. To keep his phone and other devices charged we mounted a dual USB charging port in the glovebox. The amp provides plenty of volume and the custom speaker box and underdash speakers deliver a crisp, full, clean sound.
This car gets driven quite a bit, so in the interest of safety we upgraded the lights to make it more visible. We installed a set of our high output Cree LED brake light bulbs for the tail lamps, which are extremely bright. We also installed a pair of H4 style headlamp housings along with high output LED bulbs. These bulbs only draw a total of 2.5 amps, but deliver far more light than the sealed beams that were in the car when we got it. It makes an incredible difference for night driving.
The owner didn't like the TD transmission. He tried driving the car for a short period of time but just couldn't enjoy it. Besides the non-synchro first, rattling noise, and lousy shifter accuracy, the owner wanted an overdrive gear to help him reach highway speeds. We contacted our friends at Moss (a big thanks to Filipe Abreu) and ordered a Hi Gear 5-speed T9 transmission conversion.
The only downside to doing this conversion was having to do it after we had already finished installing the new interior! We had to take the interior out to remove the original transmission and make minor modifications the chassis. The kit we used also required us to move the engine forward about 3/8", which was pretty straight forward with the supplied parts in the kit. If you haven't done a 5-speed conversion on a T-Series car, we can tell you- it's absolutely worth it. It's a ton of work but it absolutely transforms the car. With a .82 OD ratio, the engine speed drops by 1000 rpm at the highway speeds the owner drives at. It shifts accurately and smoothly, and the shifter rattle is nothing but a memory.
Since delivering the car back to the owner he has logged close to 3000 miles in just a couple of months. He has been driving it daily for fun, errands, and whenever the mood strikes. And he’s not babying the car, either! He pushes the speed limits on most roads and there is an E-Pass sticker on the windscreen which allows him to run up and down the expressways of Orlando at speeds of 60-70 mph – quite a feat for a car which has a theoretical top speed of only 78 mph! In the end, we're glad the car is loved by the owner and is being driven often.
Written by Jack Collins
If you’ve ever visited the Ceres Motorsports shop, you might have noticed a little white 1960 Austin Healey Sprite sitting in a corner of the shop floor. We acquired this "barn find" Bugeye Sprite last Winter when we helped someone clean out a very full and cluttered garage.
The owner was somewhat surprised to even find a car back there. Buried behind a wall of boxes, it remained unseen and forgotten for over 20 years. When we pulled it out we were happy to find that it was very complete, somewhat disassembled, but mostly rust and damage free.
The seats, dash with all switches and gauges, top frame, side curtains, and sundry parts were lying in the car. The original 948 engine and smoothcase transmission were still installed as were the tach drive generator, SU’s, and exhaust. The wiring harness was long gone.
The tires are 20 years old but look like they have zero miles. Unusable, of course, but they are on a set of awesome vintage Cosmic alloy wheels. There was a problem with the differential or axles since the car would roll freely in any gear. Maybe that’s why they parked it 20 years ago.
The owner really didn’t want the little car and offered to give it to us gratis for helping clean the garage (12 trips to the landfill!), but we made a fair cash offer and took the car with us.
It had been sitting in the corner of the shop since we bought it, but a few weeks ago we had a couple of rare spare minutes. We decided to tinker with it and cleaned the points, checked the carbs, and wired up an ad hoc ignition and starter circuit.
We pulled the plugs, squirted PB Blaster into the cylinders, and hit the starter first just to see if the engine would turn. To our delight it spun over freely and sounded pretty good. A quick compression check showed 150-160 lbs. in all cylinders. We stuck the plugs back in, filled the floats with fuel, and turned on the ignition. At the first turn of the starter, the engine fired, belched some smoke, then settled into a decent idle! We ran it long enough to burn the fuel out of the floats then repeated. We stopped at that point since the cooling system wasn’t hooked up, but we were happy to hear the little engine come to life with so little effort! Check out the video below to see the engine running:
That was enough to get us thinking about how much work would it really take to get this car running and driving again. We talked about it a lot and decided that we really needed to make some essential fixes.
First was the busted diff. When we pulled the axles, we found the inner axle splines twisted – not good. Just to check, we stuck in a set of good axles but still got the same result. We were pretty sure the diff was broken, probably busted spider gears.
Second, I’ve driven Bugeyes with original drum brakes and while they work ok, the later discs are so much better. Some new stub axles and disc components as well as the appropriate hydraulics would take care of that.
Last week we came across a 1972 MG Midget that looked like it might be a good parts car. It was another project car that was partially disassembled and left to sit for over 20 years. We took a look, made an offer, and brought it back to the shop. Brian and Jesica spent a weekend taking the car apart and setting aside all the parts we would need for the Bugeye.
We ended up with a good rear end, disc brakes, a lot of electrical bits, and a full set of good front suspension parts for a disc brake conversion. We also got a rebuildable 1275 engine and a ribcase transmission. We know that the 948 runs, but the 1275 could give us nearly double the power and would be a bolt in.
We stashed the good body parts and cut the rest of the rusty shell apart. Dumpster time! It’s surprising how small a Midget can get when you dice it into little pieces with a saw and plasma cutter! We should be able to sell the good parts for almost what we paid for the parts car.
We disassembled the engine and it’s is ready to go to the machine shop. We pulled the rear axle apart and swapped the diff, axles, and brakes to the Bugeye. The diff is a 3.9 vs the 4.22 that was in the Bugeye.
One of the big decisions in this process was whether to use the Midget wire wheels. We looked at lot of photos online and in the end, Jesica made the call – Wires it is!
Parts for the front suspension are on order and we’ll get the front end installed next week with all four wire wheels on the ground. We’ll have to decide what to do with those awesome Cosmic alloy wheels and that nifty original 948 engine and transmission.
Stay tuned, much more to come as we work on this and continue making progress on our other projects.
Written by Brian Collins
When we first got the phone call from the owner, he came to us with an unfortunate story- His 1951 MGTD MkII had begun a restoration but was abandoned by the restoration shop nearly a decade ago. From what we were told, the shop owner was overwhelmed with other projects and later became too ill to finish this one. This particular car hasn't been driven since the 1970's and it either needed to be completed or sold off. He also mentioned that the engine had been completely rebuilt but didn't show any oil pressure. We agreed to first inspect the car in person and then tow it to the shop.
We all know that neglect is a killer of classic cars. It's never intentional but when cars aren't driven, components begin to seize, rust, wear, and sag. It's hard to remember which unfinished assemblies are left. Rubber parts begin to lose their flexibility and durability as they dry rot. Chrome plating starts to rust. The worst part is that while all the parts are slowly expiring, the car is begging to be completed and driven.
When we arrived at the other shop, the car was only partially covered and coated with a thick layer of dirt and dust. The engine and transmission sat in the car, partially assembled, waiting to be tested for oil pressure issues. The car smelled strongly of old fuel and varnish. It appeared that the fittings on the fuel tank had been leaking on the rear splash panel and lifted the paint. Fortunately, the wood pieces had already been replaced throughout the whole car and the chassis and suspension components looked good. Overall, it appeared that most of the missing parts were in boxes but the car hadn't been assembled. We decided to help the owner and arranged to to have the car towed to our shop.
As soon as the MGTD arrived at Ceres Motorsports, we didn't waste any time inspecting it. We first wanted to examine the condition of the exterior of the car. Jesica diligently cleaned the exterior using a clay bar and buffed the exterior panels. The car had sat for so long that dust and other contaminants had become etched into the paint. Aside from a few scratches and chips, the paint had minimal issues. The chrome was is in fairly good condition with practically no corrosion on most parts. The car cleaned up well but the rear splash panel will have to be repainted due to the fuel leak mentioned earlier. Once the car is completed, we will do a final finish polish and waxing.
We found a few additional issues once we got the car on a lift. The rear suspension was misassembled- the center bolts on the leaf springs were installed upside down causing the axle to sit on the bolts instead of properly resting on the leaf springs. Also, the MkII MGTD's have dual shocks on each wheel, all of which were very loosely mounted to the chassis. The suspension bushings on the leaf springs and shackles were rotting and sagging. Then we took a look at the front suspension, which was even more concerning. None of the castle nuts had cotter pins, the trunnion seals were missing, and the tie rod ends were only finger tight as if they were simply being mocked up. The steering rack was seized tight from sitting for so long.
The main priority for our customer's car is safety. We want to make sure nothing falls off and that all the lighting, electrical, and brakes are in good working order. The MGTD will require thorough inspection to ensure a safe and well performing car. There's not a single system or component that can be overlooked. We already pulled the engine and transmission and disassembled it in our production area. We've also begun to rework the fuel system and suspension.
Over the last several weeks we've made significant progress and we're hoping that within the next few weeks we'll have the car reassembled and ready to drive.
Written by Jack Collins
When we arrived, the car was in the drive, top down, and from 50 ft away it didn’t look too bad. We crawled all over it and under it and were fairly pleased with the body. It really didn’t have much rust, just some surface spots on the inner rockers and only a few minor bubbles on the floor pans.
The rest of the car was totally and completely shot. It needed everything. The engine had a badly leaking rear main seal, the SU carb conversion was leaking and poorly tuned, and the shifter bushing was missing which make finding gears a real Easter egg hunt. One axle seal was leaking, the interior was worn away from carpet to seats, the top was only a suggestion against rain. It had had one cheap repaint many years ago and that was fading and peeling. Every bushing in the front and rear suspension had perished long ago. The rear springs were so used up that this rubber bumper car looked as if it had a lowering kit on it already.
On the plus side, it started up and idled ok, the brakes seemed to work ok, and it looked like it would run long enough to get it to the shop. We struck a deal with the owner and after exchanging a modest amount of cash we gathered up some of the new parts he had purchased and set off for our garage.
I drove, Brian followed, and it was an uneventful ride. Except for all the smoke. And the sputtering. And the broken ignition key that fell out onto my leg. And the dragging front brakes. And……..
A combination of poor tuning and stupid parts mixing prevented the car from revving more than 3500 rpm. By the time we got back to the garage the oil pressure was only a suggestion at idle and would climb to 30lbs if revved. I think we used up the last 15 miles that the engine had left just getting the car back to the shop.
The next day we started the teardown. The reason that all those mechanical issues were of no concern is that we are only using the body. This car is going to eventually get a modern engine, a five- or six-speed transmission, a high-end interior, and much more. We just needed the body as bones to build on.
We’ve pulled everything off the car and as we thought, the car is pretty much rust free. The passenger floor pan has a few pinholes and we’re debating whether to patch or replace. The right front wing has a little accident repair just behind the bumper, but we’ll fix that. Other than some surface rust under the pedal box, the car is not bad at all. The lack of rust made unbolting everything very easy. It only took us about three easy days, or about 30 man-hours to disassemble the car to a rolling shell. If you do the beer math, you can tell we were taking our time. And one of those days was a beer-and-hot dog day with some friends who stopped by to help. (Many thanks to those who stopped by!)
The next step, before we start body prep, fabrication, or repair, will be to get this shell stripped to bare metal. The nearest metal stripping company that can dip the whole car is over two hours away and it could take weeks to get it done. There’s also a dustless blasting outfit only 5 miles away. At this point we’re still evaluating options. In any case, we want all the old paint, undercoating, and dirt gone.
So that’s where we are going into 2017. We’ll pick up the pace when the shell gets cleaned and hopefully will make a lot of progress in the next few months. Keep watching!
Written by Jack Collins
Our MGB’s are always being used to test and fit our ideas. Some work, some don’t, but there is always something going on in our shop.
Expect our report soon on the rear shock kit. We’ve measured and modeled the rear suspensions on our chrome bumper GT, rubber bumper Roadsters, and the MGC and learned some interesting things about lever shocks, tube shocks and the way they each work on the MGB/MGC. We’ll show you what we learned when our testing is finished this fall.
Written by Brian Collins
MGB's are fun cars that are full of charm and character. Whenever we drive one of the Ceres Motorsports MGB's around town we always get comments about how cool they are. But let's face it- MGB's are not quick cars. Even with an extensive naturally aspirated build, the original 1.8L is limited to how much power it can make. Truthfully, the only way you could make any big power gains is by using forced induction. Instead of putting our efforts into modifying an original engine, we decided to find a modern engine and transmission and swap it into the car while retaining the spirit of the MGB.
Written by Brian Collins
I purchased a rubber bumper MGB roadster and have been driving it daily for the last couple months. I love driving it around town but I couldn't help but be annoyed by the stock amber tail lamps. It's baffling that the large lower half of the tail lamp is used as the turn signal while the smaller top portion is used as the brake light. Today's drivers are already distracted by cell phones, flashing bill boards, etc. I imagine it's difficult for other drivers to see when you're braking, putting you and your MG at risk for being rear ended. In my opinion, they're not only ugly but unsafe.
The entire housing is made of amber plastic, with only the top portion coated on the inside with a translucent red paint. You can achieve a consistent red finish to the same effect by painting the inside of the housing with a translucent red lacquer, such as VHT Nite Shades. While Ceres Motorsports has no affiliation with VHT Paints, we love using their products. Not only is this a really easy modification but it's very affordable. For about $10, you can increase the safety and improve the look of your MG.