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.