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.