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.