The Final Curtain : MGB Sebring is No More

So, where was I last time? Ah yes! Speaking about the MGB and the chassis changes I had done. What did these changes entail? Well, the chassis setup was as follows:

-2″ 550lb lowering springs up front, with 2″ decambered leaf springs on the rear
-OEM V8 lower arm bushes up front, with Poly bushes on the upper arms. Rear was all SuperFlex Bushes
-Spax telescopic damper conversion all-round
-8Jx15″ Minilite wheels shod with Kumho 711 tyres in 225/50R15

Some would argue that such a setup would be dreadful. With mid-range tyres, big wheels, and Poly bushes, albeit good quality items, I was made to think that I wasted my cash.

How wrong I was! It drove lovely! The SuperFlex bushes worked wonders on the rear! From a solid rear-end, the back of the car was suddenly pliant, comfortable,yet very well controlled. It was a revelation! Nowhere near as bad as the scare stories made out! It was absolutely brilliant!

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It was finally spot on! The interior was near enough new, the drivetrain was very good, and I had the suspension dialled in to make it drive better than when the ‘B left the factory! It should have been peachy, right?

Well, no, was the answer. It seems crazy to think I put alot of work in and I’d be happy with the result. But I was also aware there was alot of work still left to do! What was left I hear you ask? Quite alot was the answer! The problem with striving for perfection is that the cars soon become a never-ending story. A project that is never finished. As someone who used their cars alot and was then still fairly new to the restoration game, that took me some getting used to. What exactly was outstanding?

  • Seat subframes ; I may have got the seats cheap, but the subframes would soon tot up the cost
  • Engine Transplant: I really really wanted to do a Rover V8 swap into this. I researched it enough to know what I was letting myself in for. But honestly, the days of cheap Rover V8s were ebbing away, and with that, so did my idea of one. Yes, I could K-Series it or Supercharge the factory boat anchor, but all of them entailed costs
  • The paintjob. I know, I heard all of you saying that was obvious. The truth was that I had quotes for over £2,000 to get it painted and then, I had no facilities in which to paint the car with, and considering I sunk a load of cash into it, I could not bring myself to put that much more into getting the car looking spotless from a paint perspective.

So with that, the sales pitches came out. Even from people who did Sebring conversions, I had laughable offers. I’m talking £1.4k for the car. That’s when I had it up for £2.5k. Yes, that’s all an MGB was worth back in 2011. Those who drove it loved it, and tried to haggle me very hard for a deal. One guy saw the car 3 or 4 times, but he could not drum up the cash. While I out of desperation mentioned things like the car having road tax in the sale, as cars did back in 2010, he retorted back with obtaining a tax-exempt V5. He even said there was another car just like mine for less cash ; there wasn’t. It was a waste of my time, and a waste of his time. I soon was getting ready to accept that I might just have to keep it.

So what would happen? Would I keep it? I almost did, until a restorer came to look at the car. After a drive aroung the block and a good going over, he decided to offer me £2250 for the car. A fair price I felt. He couldn’t quite understand why I was getting rid, thinking that paintjob being done would result in a higher asking price. But I didn’t really care. He offered me what I wanted, and after a tickle with the welder to get it another MOT, off I drove the car for him down to Gloucester.

 

 

 

Yes, my welding could have been tidier, but at least it was solid and welded the correct way.

And with that, I mark the end of my time with the ‘B! I sold it back in 2011, after owning it for almost a decade! At the same time, a Triumph Stag would come up for sale. Yes, I thought a £2,000 Stag would be an easy project. But would it be?

While I was pondering over the Stag, this is what became of the ‘B’d Sebring.

 

It’s funny, for years, I didn’t miss this car. In recent times however, I have come to regret not pursuing this car. Will I ever learn my lesson? We shall see.

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The MG Sees the Road!

Well, this update has been a long time coming! But, like many a BL worker, I figured I’d have a few cups of tea, and then a few more beers before I came to writing the reply! So, what did happen with my MGB?

In the first MOT the car had seen for almost 10 years, it failed. This was hardly a surprise! The failures comprised of:

  1. Both brake hoses twisting into themselves during the MOT
  2. Wiper blades being worn
  3. Handbrake having no reverse travel
  4. Headlamp aim being off

Not a terrible list but it could have been better! The biggest worry of mine was the brake hoses! Little did I know, they would be a very easy fix!

One issue with a car being a slow burner over the years is the ability to lose parts along the way! This is what had happened to the brake, in addition to my inexperience. The brakes were missing P Clips which held the hoses to the crossmember. Some self-screwing nuts and P-Clips later, and the hoses were fine! To alleviate the twisting of the hoses, I ended up adjusting the hoses so they wouldn’t twist quite so badly. With this done, the car finally had a clean ticket for the first time in years!

 

OK, it was far from finished, but God, it was actually on the road!

Naturally, some things did jump out at me!

  1. The paint finish was not great and not enough was on to even wet-sand it (not that I knew what wet sanding was back then!)
  2. The interior still needed doorcards and seats inside, but truth be told, it wanted a door painting too!
  3. While the car drove nice, the rear was rock hard! Were the rumors about Spax dampers ruining the ride quality true?

The biggest issue with all of the above was the cash, especially the paintjob. Back then, a very good MGB was worth about £4000 on a good day, and Sebring conversions tended to fall into two very distinctive camps. Either cars with very appalling bodykits with wheels that didn’t suit the car at all, or super-pro cars which had £10,000s spent on them, not just thousands. Maybe just under £10,000 would have got what I wanted. But back then, £2.5k was far too much for me to commit to a paintjob on a rubber bumper ‘B! Madness or reality kicking in?

What I did do, however, was source some lovely Corbeau bucket seats. At £150 for the pair secondhand they were cheap, and yes I still winced at that price, even back in 2011! As for the springs, well, I went all out, as the ass-up-in-the-air look just was not cutting it!

As a result, a further £200 went towards MG Motorsport, who sold me some SuperFlex bushes for the leaf springs, and a set of decambered springs. Yet again, people warned me about how the car would be ruined! They probably had a point there, as I almost broke my hand as I undid the leaf spring with the axle stand under the axle and not the chassis; I just didn’t trust the chassis! Stupid in hindsight I know! But we all have to learn the hard way! How I didn’t break my hand to this day is unknown!

But back to the car. How would it drive and behind on 8J x 15″ wheels on sorted, or dangerous suspension, depending on who you talk to?

The truth? I would be in for quite a surprise the next time I drove the car out.

 

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It’s hard to see but note the purple SuperFlex bushes. Believe it or not, the dampers hadn’t even done 500 miles with the powdercoating flaking off.

 

 

Final Sunday Service of the Year. Pistonheads that is!

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Last Sunday was an interesting one. For me, I somehow manage to complete all of my Christmas shopping. It was also the day I strangely had a delivery from DPD for my Citroen 2CV! It would also be strange as I wouldn’t take my M3 to a BMW event, but instead hitched a ride in a friend’s Mitsubishi 3000 GT Turbo. I know! Going along to a BMW event, not only with you not taking your own BMW, but going in a Japanese car! Which BMW was this I hear you ask? It was none other than the well renowned Pistonheads Sunday Service at BMW’s Headquarters in Farnborough.

First thing was first however. After squeezing myself into the small confines of the GTO, we’d then take a short stroll down the M40 from Leamington Spa, before inevitably, hitting the M25. Thankfully, that wasn’t as painful as expected!

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Upon getting down to the Sunday Service though, things were strange! Compared to last year’s BMW Sunday Service, this was a very quiet affair? Was it down to all of the last minute Christmas shopping, the fact that it was freezing outside, maybe people were hungover from a work’s do, or maybe simply, they were tightening their belts before Christmas. Whatever the reason was, there was still plenty to admire around the area, and that’s starting with the car park too! It certainly didn’t stop Joe Achilles coming down to show off his new toy in the form of an M2 Competition!

 

Yes, the carpark was inevitably full of BMWs, but this would not a one horse event. No sir! Alfas, a few Americans graced the place, as did some British tin! No, no the BINI tin, older than that! It was certainly great to have some variety about!

 

 

Yes, the carpark was inevitably full of BMWs, but this would not a one horse event. No sir! Alfas, a few Americans graced the place, as did some British tin! No, no the BINI tin, older than that! It was certainly great to have some variety about!

 

 

 

So, I know what you are saying. It’s a BMW meet, but there are not many BMWs? Fear not, there were plenty!

 

There were some lovely E86 Z4s about as well as a few other oddities, including a lovely 840i and even a Z3 M Coupe! Interestingly, E46 M3s were ever popular, but considering the clientele of Pistonheads is normally one for hating cars that don’t have 3 pedals a few more SMG M3s were about the place, more than I had seen before. Have they become more acceptable within the fraternity or was it just a coincidence? Who knows!

Interesting, there was a rather strange M4 about too! A DTM Champion edition! I’d neither heard or seen one before! But what are they? An M4 GTS with fancy graphics, or a true celebration of BMW claiming the DTM’s Drivers’ Champion win for 2018? For me, marketing exercise or not, I do quite like them! While being a hardcore M4, it does also have that great Jahre livery BMW has become known for!

Also great was to see this superb BMW E30 M3. This example has been owned by Mark Brown, and is a real credit to his vision and philosophy about owning BMWs. While this M3 has seen enough issues to test even the most calm BMW enthusiast with cash to burn, Mark persisted with this build and it was great to see the fruits of his labour pay off! It is a shame it is no longer his but I do understand that it is now in good hands.

So, that’s enough about the old stuff! What about what is to come for BMW? Well, those of us there would be in for a treat, or so we thought:

What’s that? The new 8 Series? No. Think again! That ladies and gentlemen is the new Z4! Yup, the very same car that will be the Supra. Despite the praise it received for its concept styling, I can’t say I was initially taken with this awkard view. Maybe things would improve inside?

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As always, as BMW has come to do recently, they have kept this simple. Simple works, simple is good and more important, simple is familiar. This, I am glad to say is the redeeming feature of the Z4. This interior design seems to have also followed on in the new 3 and 8-series cars, in addition to the X5! Simpler, cleaner and possibly better, but of course, time will tell there!

If you thought the Z4 was now a large car you’d be right! So how big can the new 8 series be? Honestly? Fairly large:

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It may not have the presence of the original E31, but you have to admit, it’s not a bad looking thing, coming from the Z4!

This however would not just be a meet showcasing BMWs, oh no! BMW would use this opportunity to show the newly released John Cooper Works, complete with the full historic lineage behind it, right from the R53 Cooper S Works GP1, the car that started off the exteme Minis game:

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Would there be a car of the meet for me? Definitely. That was simple:

This may well be a predictable choice, but speak of this quietly, most AC Cobra reps don’t really do anything for me! This one however, was very nicely finished! With careful attention to detail with the shifter, the visible oil cooler lines and even the polished fans, the whole thing certainly seem more equisite in comparison to most Cobra replicas I have seen! Now, I wonder if he will swap an E46 M3 for it…

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For some however, the day was not so good. Take this lovely 997 Carrera S

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With the right tyres, stance and dare I say spoiler, this really was a lovely car! However, despite the looks and the attention he got, he would soon be getting even more attention! Why? A flat battery would spoil his day:

Like myself, and a few friends I know, it seemed he bought a Bosch S5 battery and learned that they really don’t like going even slightly flat! Leave an S5 battery to go flat at your peril! Or better still, avoid buying one if you can!

So all in, it was a quiet, but quite a great day for it! Sure, the free sarnies were no there like last year, but we all did get more time to sit in the new cars and admire them for longer. Like all good things, every cloud has a Silver lining, and this Sunday Service was certainly no different here!

 

The M3 has a Flirtation with New Boots

So, the E46 M3. Hailed as a modern classic in the making, combining old-school thrills with newer technology to making one tempting package for many! Combined with its excellent practicality this can be a gift and a curse? How I hear you ask? Let me explain.

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It’s funny. There you are sticking to your guns about being sensible about your spend on your car. Yet somehow you go all weak and succumb to that ‘For sale’ sign? Who was that mug? Yours truly.

There I was at the Wonderful Bicester Heritage this weekend enjoying the sights at the Sunday Scramble. The only budget I bargained for that day was for buying overpriced coffees and meals. This would soon change upon stepping into the wonderful Historit Building, and boy, was it a great place to see what they do, even if everything was under covers! It’s lovely seeing a number of F40s etc. under the covers, even if one or two of them had the odd flat tyre!

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So what caught my attention there? That’s easy. A set of E46 M3 wheels but in 18″ guise, asking to look for a bloke called Ferg. Well, I did that and saw the wheels! Before I knew it I was haggling said Ferg hard! Before I knew it, I agreed a deal for a set of wheels with money I didn’t really have and with wheels I don’t really have a use for!

 

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But then people do say M3s do handle best on 18s with much-improved ride comfort. Of course, there is only one way for me to find out. Drive the car.

Looks, however, can be subjective. Just look at those 19s:

 

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So do I have a plan for those 18s? In short, yes.

I plan to drive about of them briefly over the summer to see if they are for me. Seeing as my 19s are on fresh Michelin Pilot Sport 4S and 4s I am expecting a drop in grip. However, you never know, I may well stick with these and with time, change the tyres. They can always become a set of rims for track tyres like the Federal 595RSR or AD08R. But of course, I may just think the 19s are worth sticking with! We shall see.

Talk me out of the madness! It’s about time someone did! What did someone say about “If it ain’t broke…”?

 

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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?