The Sebring Conversion Begins!

For the first time ever with the MGB project it looked like I was finally making progress!  I finally had a plan, a tangible one at that, my painter was keen and being local to him, communication could be kept much better between the pair of us!  He had been given £400s worth of Smith & Deakin’s finest panels.  But as you know from the previous post that was not the case!

 

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This really was the best place for the wings.  In the bin!

 

Since we’d be salvaging the original wings as a base for the arches to be grafted on my painter and I agreed on that!  However, he’d need some wheels quickly so as to know how to mount the arches but also deal with the inner items!

With that in mind, I tried searching and search for a cheap set of 8J wide wheels in around 14 or 15″ diameter.  Given that the MGB has a PCD of 4 x 114.3mm such wheels are not common now even with banding taking off!  You can imagine what my situation was like in 2005!  It was poor!  I really did not want to spend a fortune on wheels.  But sometimes you have to swallow your pride and just go with it!

As a result I ended up buying a set of genuine 8J x 15″ Minilites with steel inserts and the magical ET0 offset (i.e no offset for the dish) for the sum of £540!  Wow, that did hurt at the time!  Or so I thought it did!  But then I needed some tyres.  Again, I’d search, search and search even more to find fruitless results secondhand due to me wanting an uncommon size.  It was either going to be 215/60R15, 225/50R15 or 225/55R15s!  In the end I went for the 225/55 in Kumho Ecsta 711 flavour ; This added on another £240 onto the bill which to be fair was quite reasonable!

With that done there was nothing left for me to do except pop into the painter’s a few times and see how things were going!  Now that I had the parts these bits progressed very well suddenly!

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Firstly, the wings were offered up.  Next, the car was cut up for it to accept the wings.  Would this please most MGB owners?  Somehow I doubt it.  But when the result was looking to be finally taking shape I could not really care what they thought!  Finally this car looked like it may one day see the road again!

What he had done was fillet out the inner wheel arches towards the wings and then have that as a strengthener.  However, having a fibreglass to metal join is never an easy task to undertake: just ask any Ford Racing Puma owner about that!  That is why the car had a bit of filler on it so as to disguise the join!

One day it really did look like it was a car again!  It was great news for me, the painter, and all involved!  The car was now only weeks away from seeing paint thankfully!

The panel gaps were spot on, any visual sign that the wings and arches were two different materials looked like they would be gone once the car to paint and all was looking superb.  However, it was not to be.

I remember being at university at the time when I got a phonecall from the painter’s solicitors.  The news was something I never thought I would expect, and something I really didn’t take in for some time!  After all, the painter soon became a friend of mine and was a great pillar of the community, to both the Sikhs in Leamington Spa as well as many of the VW folk!  I say was as he had passed away!  It has been said that 2 pack paint doesn’t do painters any good and this was a stark reminder that the paint fumes were not a force to reckoned with!  Unlike radiation it may have had a smell and taste.  The fumes however were invisible and deadly even with precautions taken!

Why stop the project again?  But also, why take one of the good guys away in his 50s?  That’s no way for such a bloke like him to go!  With that in mind I got the car out of the shop ASAP for his family’s sake and yet again I had the car back on the driveway, but not as expected.  I almost lost the vision for the car again, but worse still I had lost a friend!  Just what would be the thing to do now?  Would the project stall again or would it be kickstarted once more?

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A Change of Direction with the ‘B

Tests.  They can get you stressed, anxious and even at times depressed.  Looking back, it seemed like my MGB was just one massive test.  After all it began looking like a simple project but after one setback or another beyond my control it seemed like it was a project that was deemed to fail going by my tribulations from the previous MGB blogs.  This however looked set to change once I dropped the car off to the bodyshop of my first choice from all those years ago.  Since then I had used him for a few cars for minor panelwork and strangely I even bought a 1970 VW Beetle off him which gave its own challenges.  The “grass is always greener” strategy also entered my mind with me buying a horrorshow of an MG Midget with its share of problems.  But I had to do something with the wreck of my MGB, and so I got in touch with Sagoo, the first painter I asked to work on the ‘B.  It was fair to say that he was a known entity ; if there was a chance of getting the car done this was it!.

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A familiar face to a few Leamington Spa people here ; Sagoo and his apprentice.  

The brief like all things started off simple.  Restore it back to original.  After all, we had a tailgate, a set of rear quarters, a pair of wings and valances to boot.  However, with having a blank canvas and seeing magazines written by people who modify cars would soon change this.  From tinkering with cars to mildly pepping them up I was about to throw myself into the deep end, more than I would realise.

This would start from me picking up a copy of the RPM magazine, which has now morphed into Practical Performance Car Magazine (PPC).

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I shall look into whether I can get my hands on a copy of it but in short, the magazine outlined how you could build an MGB Sebring V8 for £4,000!  OK, £4,000 bought you a few nice cars back in 2004 but all of the same,  an American derived V8 in a quintessentially British everyman car.  Throw some big wings into the mix and some fat wheels and all should be well!  Sounds easy eh?  In short, it wasn’t.  What I didn’t prepare myself for was the frankly shocking fitment of the wings from Smith & Deakin ; I wondered if Stevie Wonder had created the moulds for the wings!  They were miles and miles off from fitting right.  I struggled to put them on myself and Sagoo the painter dug his heels in here when it became apparent at just how much work faced us.  Of course, I felt he was sandbagging a little.

Remember that internet forums were only just beginning to kick off at this stage and information only came from car clubs and even then only those who tried to fit the parts on. I was very much on my own as was strangely my painter.

What we decided to do was go along to the MG Car Club show at Silverstone to see other MGs.  In short, we noticed that any MGB with fibreglass wings had compromises made in terms of how it fitted the car.  Some cars had the wings catching the doors so as to fit, others were just as shoddy as ours, while others were pin straight.

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This was one kit suggested for my car instead of the Sebring kit. Out of the Max Power days its appear is a little lost

Why were some pin straight?  The others had grafted the arches on from the Sebring wing kits onto an existing wing.  This of course presented me with the first of many hurdles with the Sebring conversion.  I had to source a set of Chrome bumper wings.  Truthfully, the secondhand rubber bumper wings had been questionably repaired and were not really suitable.  When new wings were £225 each new this was a hard pill to swallow; suddently the £4,000 budget was looking threatened of snowballing up!  But like all events you make some great friends.  Somehow, I got a set of wings and an Ivor Searle 1500 engine for my MG Midget for £100!  Yes, that figure is correct!  Sometimes, going to shows can really open up an avenue of people more than you realise and it’s one reason why we should all support the right events.

With that said there was only one thing left to do ; let my painter get on with it and put my feet up.  But as we all know, it’s never that simple.

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The first sign of hope in this situation.