An Electrified NEC Classic Car Show!

Car shows? You either love them or you hate them. There are those people out there who simply cannot get enough from seeing the same cars again and again. They almost wish that time was frozen and that a classic car show could be their sanctuary. In stark contrast, there are others who detest them. They detest the people who go to them, seeing what seems like a stagnation on an annual basis,  and also feeling robbed after spending a good chunk of cash on not only on entry, but also sundries, like car parking, and of course, inevitably, food, drink and whatever catches the eye!

The Footman James Classic Car show I am glad to say is always a little different! Sure, it’s full of new tech, some old tech, and some recycled but it’s always interesting to see what is out there. This time, there was certainly something there for everyone, and to the chagrin of the old guard, some new blood in the mix.

This would be different for me for another reason. Camera. Over the years I’ve been using trusty SLRs, starting off with a Nikon D70s with an 18-200 VR-II lens, before moving onto another Nikon. This time a D7000, again with an 18-200 VR-II lens, but also a 35mm Prime. The latter I got due to the bulk of the 18-200, but also after I careless damaged the lens after 10 years of faithful service. So I went to using my smartphone for images. Honestly, I was kidding myself that this was fine! I also never liked the bulk of an SLR, but I loved the flexibility and quality! OK, maybe not the flexibility or lack of rather, with a 35mm prime. In a small show, the lens’ use is great, but limits. Seeing all of this talk of leftfield cameras in the form of mirrorless items, this would be an opportunity to try the new boy in my collection. This would be in the form of a Sony A6000, shod with a 16-50mm lens. Would I like the camera, would I hate it? Well, I’ll let the images do the talking.

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This will be a familiar entry to many!

Off I went into the NEC, with the new camera. It was nice not worrying about what I was going to hit. Immediately upon entry, I saw an MG restoration stand, with it showing plenty of stuff, from an original MGB GT V8, in addition to a coveted Costello V8 conversion:

 

But what was next? Engines of course! But not what you expected. Sure, you had what have become bread-and-butter engines in the British Restomod scene, like the arcetypical Ford Duratec HE engines, but you also had the Duratec derived 2.3 Ecoboost engines! If 320BHP for £7000 sounds like your bag for a turn key engine, then the fabulous ATR stand was certainly worth a look! This would be one of the first hints of things going modern here!

But maybe this is going too modern for some folk out there! Fear not, salvation came in the form of the great Austin Healey stand, which didn’t just have mint condition cars adorning the stand thankfully:

 

What did you have however where increasingly popular barn-finds in addition to lovely Mercs, like this lovely 300SL:

 

What was a welcome addition was the Jenson Interceptor Six Pack or SP to others. It’s lovely seeing a bit of Mopar on a British Brute!

If British tin didn’t take your fancy there was a large influx of French material. Alot was very much of the Hydropneumatic variety, with some of these cars being later than what some people would deem acceptable. One was a super rare BX GTi 16 valve. Yes, a rare BX that hadn’t given its heart to a 309 GTI or a 205! There was also new blood in the form of a 306 Rallye. Too new or just right on age, you have to admit; it’s been quite some time since most of us have seen one:

But maybe this was all a little fragile to some people or ‘French’! Fear not. The Teutonic beauty of the German cars was out in full Force. The BMW owners club focused on the best cars from each 3 series generation, while the Audis looked stunning on their stand:

If BMWs were not your thing from the German side of things, that was fine. After all, Porsche was celebrating 70 years of making Sports cars. Naturally, the stand was the typical Porsche stand that had been attending the NEC for years:

When I say usual, I mean a clean cut and professional stand. Did I forget to mention that their stand took up an entire corner and wall within one of the halls?

Here in their large display, they showcased the newcomers like the 911 996s, the Boxsters, the front-engined brethren within the group, all in Zermatt Silver and tidily displayed, as you’d expect from them. That’s not to say Porsche were forgetting their roots. Oh no. Amongst cars being in other colours besides Silver, a slice of their foundation was shown in the form of a tractor:

That’s not to say the British cars were not lacking limelight mind you. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Classic made an appearance, this time showcasing their parts they could offer to Joe Public? This included showcasing a set of 212mph ready tyre set for your XJ220 at a cool £6000; what did I say about the pricey rubber for my M3? Furthermore, their own JLR Single DIN sat-nav to adorn the inside of any older Jaguar or Land Rover.

However, despite the modest display from JLR Classic, signaling a sign of the times of the company, this would not be something the MG Car Club would do. Oh no! Not only was their stand alot larger than JLR’s efforts, but so was the expanse of cars. On one hand, you had superb cars like a Frontline developed MGB Roadster, complete with Rover K Series Power:

Meanwhile, a few steps away was a very interesting effort. At first, it looked like an MGA with its bonnet and grille up. Strange! This car did prove that not all was as it seemed:

But what’s this? A charging port? It can’t be! But that engine doesn’t seem quite right either:

OK, I’ve been holding out on you folks. This, ladies and gentlemen, was showcasing a Finnish outfit’s efforts, Retro EV, about how they saw another chapter in MGA development. A world far away from electronic ignition or even engine swaps. No. This was far more of a transplant! There will undoubtedly be many muttering that this is sacrilege and that allowing it the show is terrible, a crime worse than letting in newer Porsches! A lover or hater of electric classics, you have to admit, the quality of the workmanship looks superb on first glance. But this would not be the only outfit giving electric power a go. Again, this would be another MG, this time an MGB Roadster:

This time, RBW showed their vision of a zero-emission classic car. Gone were the classic Smiths dials present within every MG, and in came a very modern looking display. Again, it was a clean cut effort.

One does begin to wonder about where some of the older JLR products were, like the TWR XJS or some of the Le Mans winners, or even their much publicised Jaguar E-Type Zero! Seeing an OEM’s product against aftermarket retailers would have been an interesting comparison!

Whatever your thoughts, there was no doubt that this show was a great one for a change. There was plenty of material present for the purists, but also with a hint of technology showing the changing times we live in.

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Progress? What’s That? Oh, That. MGB Sebring Restoration Update

Sometimes you have to admire the method in one’s madness! That is to buy a non-roadworthy car, get it roadworthy, all while trying to deal with a restoration become more of a body conversion! But there was method to my madness for 2 key reasons. The first was I was now using the Chromie as temporary daily transport, after selling my then Peugeot 306 GTi-6 after deeming that too pricey to run; funny really! It also helped my motivation in tackling the massive project the Sebring had now become! Another reason? Thanks to seeing a complete car I now had a vague idea of where the fixings went, as opposed to being sent the ‘right’ screws, only to find out they were wrong, and seeing what the restorers had broken when I first got the car back; the bolts went back into boxes without any marking which really cut my work out!

 

The first thing to do with the Sebring was to refit the Britax sunroof. Because all of the screws were now just an assortment this made life tricky for reaffixing the canvas lid. I only had one screw left! After trying my local screws place they didn’t know either; the threads weren’t the best on this! Eventually, I got hold of a Britax roof specialist who saved me a lot of trouble by sending out the right nuts. Now I had a car that was closer to being watertight!

 

It was however never going to be watertight with the door I acquired years ago! Everyone said it was down to the wing fitment, despite the previous door fitting perfectly. In the end I would source another door as a result of much fettling with the poor door. With the original item bolted up and the reskinned item removed I now had a door that looked like it belonged to the Sebring! Except it was Pageant Blue!

 

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Iy may be the wrong colour but at least the fitment is much improved

 

I also took the opportunity to replace my shot bootlid for the much more solid item, and treated it to new seals all round. With the windscreen fitted in thanks to some parachute cord and helpful friends it was look great for the car! It was time to celebrate! This I did by buying a tired Moto-Lita steering wheel and polishing it until it looked sound once more. Fitted in the car it finally started to show more promise!

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This would admittedly slow a little when I checked the brake pipe to Spax damper conversion clearance on full lock. Finding the supplied Spax damper brake pipes in my assortment would soon cure this issue, where I also took the opportunity to change the rear flexible hose to a braided item, so as to compliment the front end.

But all good things would soon come to a stop. Over a year after I started working on the Sebring again the upper arm decided the remains of the bolt would become at one with the arm! This really was a pain! I resorted to heat, whacking it with hammers and punches to no avail. My sister remembers the hammering sounds! Eventually it would take a lot of heat and a puller to remove the remains of the bolt! Hallelujah! Finally the car was on all 4 weeks again!

 

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How the remains of one bolt would prove to be such a pain!

 

Another issue I had put off was the welding on the car. With my welding supplies from Halfords and an overly dark fixed darkness welding mask it didn’t start well at all! I could not get a consistent feed from the welder! Annoying! Thankfully, a retro rider by the name of Grunty would come down, condemn my welding equipment as rubbish, have me fix my old welding gear before he would begin! Suddenly the car became very solid!

Now I had other issues. The car wanted tuning up badly! The issue was the ignition advance was stuck at 10 degrees throughout the rev range! To add insult to injury it wasn’t moving freely in the engine either for adjustment or removal! With some brute force I soon had the dizzy removed. A short while later, and the car was running well once more. Or so I thought

It was then time to put the car through an MOT. Despite it randomly now puffing out blue smoke and not seeing an MOT for over 10 years how would it all go?

Procastination and Problem Solving? Simple. Get Anoter Car

I know what you are thinking. There I am with one restoration project and deeply involved too! So how does a £400 restoration project solve it? Simple. It becomes a parts car. Except it wasn’t to be!

The parts car in the form of the white MGB wasn’t too bad at all. Sure, it had primed sills, wings that looked like they were held together by rust and fibreglass, and minor spots of rust elsewhere! Add to that a rotten castle section it was not looking good for the ‘B! But what about the good stuff? Truthfully there was more than I bargained for, including:

-Stainless Steel bumpers
-Stainless Exhaust
-A genuine 53,000 miles with MOTs and receipts to warrant this; they went back to the 70s.
-Unwelded and sold floors
-18G head
-A complete car for the best part!

 

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Not a looker I admit! But it was all sound.

In some ways the shell was better than mine. Of course, this is what sealed my fate; this car would be made roadworthy again! With the Sebring off the road I began cracking on with the Chrome bumpered ‘B. The first place to start was the appalling starting; this would be a simple case of a good service, new points, and some fresh fuel. Now the engine purred and went as it should. Next was to sort out the poor steering. Despite having failed and then passed its previous MOT a year prior to me buying it on worn track rod ends it was surprising when I saw them again! The reason for this? They had not been changed when the MOT had previously been done! There was zero grease left in the track rod ends themselves with the boots having been long gone! While the tyres would have pleased the originality freaks I personally was not happy driving around on 18 year old Dunlop SP4s! So off they went and on came a set of refurbished Rostyles with fresh Nankangs on; I recycled these from my Sebring build; after all, I wouldn’t need them on the big arched Sebring anymore! Selling the Chrome bumpered car’s Chrome Rostyles would also help the kitty so that was a win as far as I was concerned!

 

Obviously it wouldn’t be an MGB without any welding required! I enlisted this to my local garage, where I provided them a Heritage castle section to put into place once the rotten one had been cut out. With that done, any signs of surface rust were dealt with underneath with the entire lot being stonechipped once the rust had gone!

What result did the MOT bring after all of this work? A fail! OK, it’ was just for the rear seat catch not being present! With this robbed from my Sebring, seeing as it wouldn’t have rear seats again, the Pass was given!

 

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It’s amazing what a clean can do to an engine bay!

 

With all of this work done it wasn’t a bad car to drive about, albeit an untidy car! With me selling my Peugeot 306 GTi-6 (that story as Ted Moseby said, can wait until later!), the MGB soon became a dependable daily driver! I even had it looking more reasonable with some careful use of Leyland White 13, and some G3 polishing compound! The has-not soon began to look like a could-be!

So, not only had I failed to not break a parts car, I also managed to rescue an MGB back to its former glory, I also tidied it a little, have a bit of fun with and have it be a daily driver before I sold it on! Why would I sell it on? Another car which had caught my eye came into the horizon! But that story can wait for another time quite some time on from now!

Of course I was still left with an MGB Sebring which had little progress made to it! With my procrastination session over with the Sebring as well as me suffering from the ‘grass is always greener’ syndrome. Would me working on the Chromie provide me with some much required mojo towards doing the Sebring? We shall see with the next instalment.

Want to Put Double-DIN Headunits into a BMW E46 3-Series? Here is Your Guide!

While I was debating over changing the big end bearings in my E46 M3 I needed to improve the audio interface. I had been full circle here like a few people. My car like a few of my age came with a tape deck and a 6 CD Autochanger. Great if you listen to both mediums. If you are like me this can get rather clumsy and limit you, especially in the days of Spotify, and MP3s being around:

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Yup, I soon realised I needed a handsfree version of Bluetooth in my life. So this happened:

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So, the Alpine worked great with the steering controls and gave me great Sat Nav directions via the phone! But it wouldn’t fit right due to depth issues and it well, looked crap! It would take a year before I decided what to do!

The E46 HU choices have been discussed here many times over the years. Some things to me weren’t clear which I will discuss. I never realised that installing a Double DIN HU would require a chunk of fabrication, even with the shallow depth units.

We all know that conventional (read most) Double DIN headunits will not fit the car without compromising the heater function, specifically the foot and window demister function. Furthermore it will require a bit of cutting of the heater box. While you can buy kits to make the heater box functional again it does add cost on and further work to make it work. This of course leaves you with two choices:

The Choices:

1) Get one of the Chinese E46 Lookalike HUs. These seem to have a variable reputation with some being better than others like the Dynavin and the Eonon. These can work with Android phones however. Some people like the look, but a few also feel the quality of these is poor despite looking fine in the photos.

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2) Consider Alpine’s iLX-702E46. This does DAB, has built-in Sat-Nav and has Bluetooth & Apple CarPlay. However, it is rather expensive at £750. It is one of the few plug-and-play conversions out there. If you want a zero hassle conversion that does almost everything this possibly the headunit for you:

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3) Look at the Alpine iLX-700 and Parrot Asteroid Smart. Both have their pros and cons. The Alpine doesn’t have Bluetooth, and the Parrot is a little pricey in addition to some people not getting on with the interface; it seems fine from what I’ve seen. Both however will still require fabrication of the cage to actually mount them. Some people use the fascia which looks like it was never designed for that kind of job, others modify their single DIN/heater control unit cage to mount the lot while others will get a metal cage for around £60 to mount the HU on. If you pay someone to install it that cost naturally will increase significantly. There is also a Kenwood HU on the market which is also a shallow depth head unit.

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4) Get the Sony XAV-AX100. With the Enfig kit this is a plug-and-play affair, circumventing the need to construct cages etc. and the fascia kit for this HU from Enfig is of a very high quality. If BMW did a factory Double DIN Conversion like they did for the Single DINs it looks like it may have been this. Most people out there could install this.

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The Sony also comes with a couple of bonus features too. Firstly, you can buy a TomTom module from Sony to give you permanent Sat-Nav for £180 more, it has Bluetooth unlike the Alpine and it can also do Android Auto. If its CarPlay is as good as it has been so far I would expect similar results on Android Auto. This is great news for people with a robot phone.

Anyway, it’s time to bore you folks here with my experience. This can be done in the next instalment.

It’s Time to Go Big End on the M3

It’s fair to say the car hasn’t been the cheapest thing to run, where thoughts of selling up were dancing in the horizons of my mind. They often do when faced with expenditure. Why? I wished to change the big-end bearings.

But why? That is pretty simple really. The way I see it, two things can finish off an M3, well, make keeping the car unviable:

1) A boot floor cracked badly enough to warrant a new Rear Axle Carrier Panel (RACP); About £5k no matter where you go
2) The Rod Bearings; If these go and the crank is marked/scored there is a question mark over whether the crankshaft can be saved; They are tuftrided from the factory and it is said generally reground cranks aren’t as strong as original items. A shame as a new crank is over £2k from BMW, and even the S54 engines are £3k secondhand! That is before fitting!

Yes, head gaskets, VANOS & SMG pumps can go, but generally, the expense is much smaller and easier to spot without generally writing the car off. In those cases, cheaper and potentially longer lasting solutions have been found too in the case of the VANOS & SMG gubbins.

With that in mind I dropped the car off to Autobahn in Halesowen.

Given that Rob was known to colleagues of mine in addition to him racing E46 M3s I figured the car would be in safe hands.

All was going well! I dropped the car off on a Saturday, and then went to the Restoration show at the NEC. That was until Tuesday. I had a phonecall to say that one of my rod bearing bolts was being stubborn.

It was fair to say that I was slightly anxious at this point! But how would it all go? Would this really be a big stalling point?

Stagnation ; It ain’t Pretty!

Sophocles once said, “there is nothing more demoralising than money”.  He was almost right.  It was the lack of it!  This was certainly the case with the MGB!  It was 2006 and I had received the unfortunate news that my painter had died.  This was unfortunate for many people and it affected me personally as well as his friends and family!  Why does it seem to be the good guys that are taken?

This left me with a bit of a predicament regarding the car.  I had a car that was almost finished on the bodywork but still requiring alot of legwork to finish!  I mean, how bad could it be?

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The truth was quite bad!  One painter with a very variable reputation offered to take the car on, but they wanted £1000.  For my dad and I it was about our limit to commit to!  We then had recommended faces come over.  That was a predictable outcome; they all took one look at it and replied “it will cost you £2,000 and whatever else we find along the way”; they wanted an open chequebook for the car!  For both me and my dad this fee seemed extortionate!  There was no way that we could commit to that!

To put it bluntly, we had a car that seemed like a lepar to most painters and with the costs to match something perceived as untouchable!  With this in mind the car went under a tarpaulin for probably the best part of 6 months and the project stagnated completely.

 

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The thing under the Blue Tarp?  That’s the MG!  The Ka was one reason for the slowdown, but that can wait for another time, as Ted Mosby said

Of course, with something seeming as doomed for eternity procrastination kicks in, and boy did it kick it hard with the MG?  This is a theme that has run in many a retro owner’s blood, with me being no exception!

 

What did I do in that time?  Quite alot, just not anything really related to the MG.  OK, not directly?  Part of it involved me going to Spain with a few mates in a £260 Volvo, messing around on the said Volvo, and tinkering with my then new daily of a Focus 1.6, in particular its audio system!

 

If you need to console yourself with a procrastinator I am all ears!  Don’t, however, expect any productivity to come at the end of it!  It’s all good and well procrastinating with a black cloud over your project like a rash!  Of course, the uninitiated people of restoring would often laugh and joke about the lack of progress my car was making.  Were they helping me however?  Most didn’t, probably because deep down they knew I faced a big task.  That was to either give a half decent bodyshop an open chequebook to completing the Sebring conversion or for me to get off the sofa and actually crack on with the task.  Time would tell however.

Seeing as I was still in my first year of University and hardly rolling in cash I decided to embark upon embracing all aspects of the car!  For a first time restorer you really do pick things up thick and fast!  I did however have help!  Come Spring 2007 and progress was being made with the bodywork, much to the dismay of my neighbours!  The weekends were progressing nicely however:

It’s funny really!  Sometimes to make progress you do have to do it yourself!

By the time the summer of 2007 had arrived it was looking a more complete, albeit very brown!  It wasn the finish or brown that I envisaged either!  But when you are working to an impossible budget, compromises have to be made!

In this case, it was sticking to the car’s Russet Brown!  I originally planning to go with more of a modern chocolate brown as used on the R56 Minis.  However, yes, that little matter call a budget would me I’d stick to the brown!  Over the course of the summer of 2007 my painter friend and I kept on chipping over the available weekends it seemed we were doing alot but acheiving very little!  He was paid of course for a bit of the work he did!

 

In this time the engine still hadn’t been fired up since 2002, the battery was truly dead by now, where even Unipart’s lifetime warranty couldn’t save it; some of you will remember the Samson batteries warranty out there!  I also cut my teeth into the welding aspect of this car!  And sure enough with the crappy MIG gas canisters from Halfords, it wasn’t pretty! Ah. the joys of fixing a car on a shoestring!  Somehow, my perseverance did eventually pay off!

I finally had something that began to look like a car at least!  Being in a cash strapped situation after graduating from university in 2008 and looking around for jobs during a recession I had a bit of a brainwave!  Get a donor car!  That way, that will have all of the parts that I need to complete things!

And this would be it!

Yup, I got my hands on a very sorry looking, but complete MOT failure of a 1973 MGB GT during Christmas 2008!  Surely with all of its spare parts it would provide all of the pieces of the puzzle!  After all, it was £400 for an automotive wreck!  Well, yes it would, but simply not in a manner that anyone expected.

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?

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.

All Good Things…

You know how the tale goes.  You find the right person, they come recommended,  and so you send it to them.  Within a few months your car comes back.  In some ways I wish I could tell you that!  But we are all too wise to know that dealing with classic cars is like being in a fairy tale world.

I left the last blog on this car with me handing over the keys to a bloke in Coventry in 2002.  Over the months my dad kept calling up the bloke .  He would often say “yeah, the second coat of primer is on”.  To cut a long story short this saga lasted a few years!  Why?  There were many things going on away from the car.  In that time businesses were sold, people lost jobs, other classic cars were bought and sold, people got jobs again, other people went to university, we somehow got a sheddy MkII Astra as a courtesy car to drive around in while the MG was being repaired; yes really!   Yes, it was a little convoluted at times.

 

The MGB GT being at the bodyshop for all that time sat like a beacon of hope even though we hadn’t seen the car for two years!  In 2004 my nagging with my father had come to an end.  He decided to call the garage who were the custodians of the MGB.  We were simply told “Come on down to us”.  It sounded ominous to say the least.  After all, it’s not like I had been ridiculed for this car not being roadworthy and taking seemingly an eternity to fix.

When we went to the garage the owner appeared to have disappeared, with only the foreman left to run the place!  I saw no MGB there either!  And so off we went on a convoy to see the MGB.  I was looking forward to seeing the car semi-complete.  What I would see however would shock me to the core.

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Err, yeah, the coats of primer are on fella.  Yeah, it looks it.

The car was not at all how I pictured it.  Previously solid areas of the car that I knew were solid had been subject to a trigger happy shotblaster. Worse still it had patches in places that would really throw a spanner in the works.  Inside patch welding on a floorpan anyone?  Another patch slapped onto rust on a window aperture?  The car looked like an abandoned shell without any running gear.  Everything of the car was all in boxes.  Not in any real order but it was just there.  Would I even have all of the fixings there?  I guess at least the good running gear was present right?

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Yes, it was not in a good state of repair

This unfortunately left us with a problem.  Here we had an MGB that we had sunk roughly £2,000 into ; bear in mind a good rubber bumper MGB was around £3,000 back then.  It looked like all we were left with was a running and rolling MGB shell ready for the scrap heap.  What looked like an ideal father and son project was now looking like its future was bleak.

At that moment in time we didn’t know what to do.  It couldn’t be driven in that state and it was clearly going to take alot to get it right again.  It’s amazing how £600 cars start out isn’t it?  Scrapping the entire car was something I suggested.  My dad vehemently went against that idea; I was 18 at the time.  I don’t think he truly estimated the scale of the work ahead of us.  Maybe it would have been the wise idea ultimately despite the pain.  But that is not the point of such projects.

We had some quality time in and on the car.  And we hate to lose.  It would also be a shame to have a project dissappear purely due to one person.  Did I mention that I really hate losing?

Is there a moral to this story?  Yes.  Always check up on the progress on the car in the flesh.  Yes the guy may appear trustworthy, and he may be saying all of the right things.  But people lie, pinch things from cars and generally don’t care about you.  I hope that no one else has the above happen to them.

With weeks to go for the car to be dropped off to us its fate would be decided.

 

 

Then Came the Return, Back to England

With the end of the holiday coming up we knew the drill. Wake up, clean up, followed by your typical continental breakfast before starting on the final leg. Oh, and admiring the receptionist while you are at it. The routine will sound familiar to many of you. Of course, it would have been nice if this was the case. It would be a case of being so close but so far.

Before we left however, I did come across this rarity!  You have to love the old Renaults:

 

 

But there was no time to waste.  We had to get a move on!  The train would not wait for us after all!

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After travelling over 900 miles in the superb Citroen the stress of being dormant for so long was beginning to show. Yup, that clonking from the driveshafts off load was showing no signs of getting quieter. Although the car was actually fine at motorway speeds on the smooth French toll roads.   If you ask me you wonder if the car didn’t want to leave France! After all, this example had been imported to the UK in 2012 with it now being back on home soil.  However, it didn’t stop the car getting plenty of attention.

It certainly was getting a lot of attention in France! At petrol stations the car was a superstar. If people were not looking at it they were videoing the car! I was only hoping to go on a wine trip in an old French car, not to feel like some Z-list celebrity!  However, one bloke did admire our car quite a bit.  A Belgian.  It’s fair to say that we admired his motor too.  Seeing as it was a Jaguar Mk2 it’s not hard to see why.  With some great modifications made including better brakes and larger wheels it was lovely to admire the car.  With him speaking a little bit of English and us a little bit of French we somehow managed to chat for ages and ages.  I guess old cars do that, they have their own language!  It certainly was a great time!

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But we were not foolish.  With the car begging not to be coasted the return journey was going to be interesting.    Somehow we managed to make the boat back to the UK.  Hurrah, we could relax.

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Upon leaving Felixstowe and heading onto the M20 all was looking well. We could keep the speed up to motorway speeds and the traffic was minimal. Unsurprisingly this would all change as soon as we hit the M25, heading towards the Dartford tunnel. The traffic went from being minimal to being surrounded by slow cars everywhere! It’s not an ideal situation in a car that you can’t coast in. With the car knocking more than Katie Price’s assets on a binge fuelled night it was getting tense. We attempted to coast the car but as we failed more and more to do it in the traffic the knocking simply got worse and worse. Eventually we were driving so erratically that motorists behind us must have hated us.

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Despite stopping at two services the traffic showed no signs of slowing down. The car decided it would protest even more. Pulling into South Mimms we heard a metallic banging sound followed by the wheel trim overtaking us. As soon as it hit the kerb we heard a gong! While the car was trying to humour us we were far from impressed. The car was having enough, we were having enough and at this point an RAC truck was not yet an option ; with the traffic we would have been waiting hours for the truck to arrive.   Not what you want after a drive from Cambrai.

 

As the knocking got worse I soon had visions of us ending up in the Herts Tribune, with imagery of the wheel falling off and us going under a truck. Going past Daventry things got worse on the A-roads. The interior of the car got very hot, ideal in a car without a temperature gauge. What’s more, it looked like the Chinese Voltage regulator was having enough with the voltage slow dropping closer and closer to 12V.

 

By some miracle we arrived back home. A feeling of relief, joy and accomplishment all culminated into banter towards the car, towards us and towards future trips with such brilliant planning.  When we got back we soon had an idea of why the car was getting so hot.  The answer stared us in the face when we opened the bonnet:

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Yup, those belts were destroyed!  But let’s be honest, the breakdown was part of the trip!  It made it different, it made it tense.  Dare I say it the trip was possibly a bit more fun!  It’s something to talk about down the pub after all!

So, here is to the next trip!