For as long as I dare, I am going to try and not do so many drawn out articles on the cars I own. The M3 will be the exception to the rule, mainly as I still own it. The previous motors however? Nope. I am going to aim for a 2 pager, as a means to keep the interest and see where it goes. Maybe that will make things more succinct and easier to read. Otherwise, let’s roll on.
This story will sound very familiar to many of you. Buy a cheap car, fix up a few things, and then sell it on, hopefully without too much of a loss. Forgive me if this sounds familiar, or even like a TV show. No, I am talking about Wheeler Dealers, but more about how the second car I bought was not all it seemed.
Hark your mind back to 2004. There was no recession, cars of all types were still cheap, even if we as people didn’t know it. So, as a young and fresh person out of doing his A-Levels, not with the best of grades, needing a bit of cheering up. Yes, some drink involved on the odd occasion, but it was nothing short of a car could fix.
And there it was. Out on eBay, where not everyone had it, popped up a 1977 MG Midget 1500 in what I thought was Rover Nightfire Red, with photos taken from a camera that would these days make a smartphone photo look like a Mona Lisa painting.
Since this was prior to the days of eBay stopping any communications with the sellers, I went to call him about it. From what he said, it wanted an ignition barrel, and that was about it, and the fact that the body wasn’t as great as the photos look. With a vague description, there I went and placed my bid of £340, only to win it. Great, I was halfway there! Little did I know, this is where my problems would begin.
Firstly, we needed a trailer to bring it back. That was an easy thing to sort out. Even if we did hire a deathtrap of a trailer for £40 from Ryton. We would then go and get the car.
When I saw the car, he was sort of right. The bodywork wasn’t as great as the description made it. But it wasn’t miles off. What was miles off however was just how bad the car was. The interior was a state and the steering wheel splines had completely given way. But, I bid and so I had to buy, or so eBay sellers tell you, making out you are a “messer”. So £300 later, off I left with the car. I would not know just how bad the car was.
For one, the interior was a state. But this was nothing that an interior stripdown and repainting the dash in Satin Black wouldn’t fix. It did make quite a transformation inside! But my problems were far from over with this heap.
Firstly I put in the ignition barrel. Only to had my dad wailing his hands about to not start it ; the last owned shorted the starter motor out to the body with a spanner. Was this deliberate or an accident? Maybe this is why the steering barrel was ‘broken’. Once we removed that, we realised the internal part of the starter motor was well and truly broken. This car was never going to start. And so the money started rolling in, where we allowed in. A new starter motor joined the ranks. Only then did we realise that the engine had a head gasket gone. So we went about changing that, only to find the threads in the block were history. Yup, this really was a turd of a car. Any sane person would have admitted defeat and walked away. But I couldn’t! I didn’t want to lose £300 on a car at a time where I was a student! So of course, I bought a bargain of an engine from an old contact up in Bishop Auckland, who came in handy on the MGB. For £50 along with the fuel to go up North and back I was now the owner of a 10,000 mile Ivor Searle engine. What’s more, it came complete alternator and also a better set of carbs than mine had, along with a fresher clutch. Did it feel like a score? It certainly did!
Since cost was the name of the game with this engine, it proved hard to find someone who could fit the engine for me. I did debate doing it but a few things stopped me. The principle one was a lack of an engine crane. The others? Appearing be a purveyor of classic cars to most neighbours, I knew doing an engine swap on the driveway would go down as well as Paris Hilton going into a Gay bar. The problem? Most places wanted £250+. This seemed crazy for a car like an MG Midget. But it seems BL’s way of doing things like a non-removeable crossmember would not help! With this, I found a banger racer by the name of Jimmy O’Brien to change the engine for me in Coventry, for the princely sum of £160. Great! It should have been fine!
It almost was. The engine clearly had not run for some time, thus the piston rings had stuck. My God, that engine chucked out some smoke! But that was fine, As the rings were freeing up, and the engine settling in, I realised the syncros were gone of the ‘box; which I would later find out was a common issue on Single-Rail Triumph ‘boxes. There were other issues too.
The fuel pumps on both engines were chucking fuel into the engine. Not a problem, a knock-off SU electric pump along with an engine blanking plate installed where a fuel pump once was overcame this issue. What’s more, I even put a new roof on the car! A cheap vinyl one from the MG Owners’ Club.
With the car actually moving, I could now look into getting it an MOT! Wahey! The fact that the car had iffy indicators, a steering column that was very stiff to the point the wheels would not self centre by themselves did nothing to kerb my enthusiasm over getting a fresh MOT ticket in my hands. Naturally, it didn’t go down this way. It failed. The MOT History file says it failed as follows:
- Nearside Registration plate lamp not working (1.1.5c)
- Hazard warning switch faulty (1.4.B.1d)
- Steering system excessively rough (2.2.D.1)
- Nearside Drag link end ball joint has excessive play (2.2.B.1f)
- Offside Drag link end ball joint has excessive play (2.2.B.1f)
- Nearside Rear Leaf spring anchor bracket nut missing (2.4.B.6c)
- Exhaust emissions carbon monoxide content excessive (7.3.B.1a)
- Parking brake: efficiency below requirements (3.7.B.7)
So yes, as a first time ‘reviver’ I hadn’t done well! In a flurry of hurridness, I got a new steering rack and track-rod ends, along with a replacement steering column from a breaker’s yard. The carbs were backed off to the point that the engine didn’t really want to pull any more and the handbrake adjustment revealed just how bad it was to replace MG Midget brake adjusters as well as even more bodges.
Eventually I got the wretched thing a ticket, and knew that this car was bad! And so I put it up for sale for £1.4k, with me willing to take £1k just to get rid of the damn thing! Naturally, a couple of people saw it and walked away from it within seconds of seeing it! But then it was a £1k Midget, not a £3k one! The Practical Classics Buyer’s guide on prices certainly helped. Eventually a guy came to view and almost took pity on me after winning it on eBay! And so it went to the new owner.
He would end up doing more work on it from what I could tell of the chap’s MOT history. The lesson here? Don’t be tempted by cheap crap! Would I learn? Well, I’ll let you folks figure that out. One from seeing the MGB and M3 stories, but also with the next cars I’ll bring to the table.
In hindsight, even as poor as I was back then, I really should have put that poor turd out of its misery!
Well, let’s face it. Germany is a great place with plenty to offer. But mention Germany as a holiday destination and it doesn’t exactly evoke the soul, does it?
With quite a busy year this year I had a week of holiday to take. Of course, the thought of all-inclusives, package holidays or even a break somewhere in the UK all crossed my mind. It would have been easier too, with the weekend I left on being a friend’s wedding, leaving me with 6 days to take a holiday on. So, where did I decide? Germany! Crazy I know, but I had my reasons, for which I shall come to later ;).
My plan originally was to do the following:
-A couple of places in Germany
I soon realised this was ambitious and calmed down.
Then came the car! If I was very sensible I’d have taken the Mondeo. It’s not as dull as you think and with the Volvo 5 pot, it’s a fruity car as well. But it lacked the X-Factor. That left then the two Germans, naturally. Let’s be honest, we always knew it would be one of the two!
The Mercedes was the easiest car to dismiss! Not the RR way I admit, but considering I was driving through rush hour that day, was generally pretty shattered for what felt like a few months, and a heavy drinker @ 16MPG, that also went out. it’s a lovely cruiser, but on the busy German roads, probably not right, and definitely bankrupt worthy with its fuel economy ; France last June cost £400 in that; bear in mind this was a trip with me going it alone!
Naturally, that left the M3. It always was going to be that way. It had the look, albeit with rust breeding from the front wings, it was now working very well and ready despite the ABS saga this year, and for what I had planned, it would actually be spot on in more ways than one.
With that in mind, I booked the Eurotunnel, the Bruges hotel and left the rest as I went along on the trip. Before I knew it, months passed on by and it was holiday time!
At least the drive down to the ferry was great, with a mixture of bad traffic with the M40 closing down from Warwick, me feeling a little tired after the wedding, and some crap 80s music; a blend of Pet Shop Boys and Erasure’s Innocents album to keep me company.
Before I knew it, it was 6:30pm and I was at the docks, ready to leave for the 8pm train. Before hitting Germany, I would hit Bruges. Damn, I was tired by then!
But where would I go? No, not that silly song. What would I do? That folks, shall be announced later on in this thread.
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!
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.
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:
- Both brake hoses twisting into themselves during the MOT
- Wiper blades being worn
- Handbrake having no reverse travel
- 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!
- 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!)
- The interior still needed doorcards and seats inside, but truth be told, it wanted a door painting too!
- 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.
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!
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?
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:
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:
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…
For some however, the day was not so good. Take this lovely 997 Carrera S
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!
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.
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!
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!
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:
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…”?
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!
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!
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!
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?