Two iconic cars made during British Leyland’s legacy. Both were superb cars in their own right with many innovative and genuinely great attributes. However, due to many factors including industrial unrest, a foolish attitude towards expenditure from the powers of be in addition to too much internal rivalry would condemn these cars to becoming relics of a bygone era.
But my story of venturing deep into the classic car world did not start from here. Oh no. That fateful day was quite some time ago. Many years and cars ago my humble beginnings started much further back. Back when times seemed alot simpler, when I could barely think forwards at all. The world was my oyster and I was starting out as a bit of a hobbying spanner monkey.
If I had to pick a point in time that sparked this interest it was probably when my dad owned a number of hot hatches. These included 2 Ford Escort XR3is, A Metro Turbo as well as a hotted up Mini 1275GT, which was more of a 1380GT! There were other cars including MkII Fiestas and even a MkIII Orion of all things!
So where did my story start? That will soon arrive in the next post.
So, the first thread gave an indicator of what one of my many interests is. I guess the time has come to give this blog more of an introduction.
Where did my interest begin? Was from my vague recollection of remembering my father tinkering with a then unloved but tweaked Mini 1275GT? Was it from seeing these old cars wafting about and with the ubiquitous Flame Red paintwork really coming alive upon the car being used, regardless of weather conditions? One thing is for sure ; it would seem that I was destined to go through a period of time with some BL rust in my blood, quite literally! Below you will find out about how I got into this game, the joys, the pitfalls of owning a car. The good, the bad and the ugly of what can come your way. However, it was a superb learning curve, and it has given me an idea of how better to go from doing tasks in terms of from A to B instead of going via C, Y and Z! Hopefully some of you may find my tales enlightening! Otherwise I apologise for wasting your time.
I guess if a tangible point had to be specified as to when my interested was sparked it would have to be on my 16th birthday, yup a fateful day. This was in the form of my birthday present; a fairly cheap MGB GT in brown. If I had any sense back then you could say that I should have run for the hills, especially if I told you that the car only had one month’s MOT and tax! However, like any naive classic car owner I could only see the positives ; an 8,000 mile Ivor Searle engine with new ancillaries, a refurbished gearbox along with new rear leaf springs.
Naturally, the photos flatter the car. They say a photo speaks a thousand words ; that is always the issue with photos:
That is the problem. A photo does only speak 1,000 words! What this photo shows is that the wings were slightly rusty at the front (nothing much), the door was iffy on the left hand side in addition to the fact that the overdrive was slipping upon the gearbox disengaging.
I could of course cut the car loose and look for something else. But what fun would that be?
The plan then was simple, or so it seemed at the time. Repaint the car, redo some of the suspension, acquire some new panels in addition to getting to grips with other areas of the car? Was it that simple? It never is, as you shall come to see in future updates.
For those of you who read my last blog you would have realised that my fateful journey into the world of BLs started back in 2002. Little did I know, it would not be an easy path to go down. Here is a tale of how a simple plan went massively out of hand.
So, I had a brown MGB, with rubber bumpers and no real class about it. To top it all off the car felt like a boat on motorways with even a ferry going across the channel rocking less, in addition to an overdrive unit which would disengage most of the time the clutch was disengage, leaving one with no overdrive. Oh, and the exhaust was blowing.
After a polish however, the brown did not look quite so bad. It would not pass an MOT however if it looked shiny! Some would say at this point we should have given up and got a better car. But was is the fun in that? The car was £600 after all…
Overdrives were not cheap units back then either. However, with some luck we did manage to locate a working overdrive rebuilt by an ex-Laycock fitter for £195 ; not too bad I guess when most wanted over £300. Being in Bolton however did make things awkward. Simultaneously, an exhaust was ordered up in the form of a Falcon single box item, for £110. With these two items it went to the now gone D & S Classics garage based down in Stratford Upon Avon. After a week the car was way way better than before. It felt direct, it was safe to leave junctions and drove well! However, more problems became apparent even if the exhaust sounded great! The steering was vaguer than a vague thing. When the garage quoted us £140 to change the rack we figured why not.
The “why not” soon turned to cursing when we had a phone call to say that it took Dave (the prop of D & S Classics) over 3 hours to remove the rack due to the bolts being seized within the steering rack ; I recall him saying that it was one of the worst racks he had ever seen on the car. The price also went up to £300. From not spending alot on cars we decided to begrudgingly spend the cash and drive the car. So even though we were poorer the car did drive far better. With the Spax damper conversion on the back it really improved matters. If we really had any sense the car would have simply have had a little a paintwork here and there and simply enjoyed.
I left the last blog by leaving a few ideas in my head. A great idea was to upgrade parts of the car but to keep it looking original. While this was a project between my dad and I he had tinkered with cars previously. Forgive me if this tale sounds familiar!
Like any retro this MGB was not without its faults. The car may as well have been a boat for the video of the Hues Corperation “Rock the Boat” with the amount it swayed from side to side on the motorway. Is that the “charm” of a classic car that many talk about or just bad design? The other issue? The overdrive would not stop slipping once the clutch was disengaged. And what would a classic car be if there was no welding required on a sub £1000 purchase, even back in 2002?
Like all great intentions, thing seemed to go well. I went away and ordered the following:
-Spax Rear Damper kit
-Falcon Single Exhaust ‘Box system
-Replacement Overdrive from an Ex-Laycock fitter.
From being a foldout chair mechanic (that is part way between someone who has a vague clue of what they are doing, and someone who simply watches a car restoration show and thinks he can do it all) I went away and read some manuals on the procedure. It was clear that the exhaust would have to come out to change the overdrive. With that in mind I figured the overdrive may as well be changed as those jobs could be combined into one. So began the search for a suitable mechanic to do the job. After all, I didn’t even really have a trolley jack back then! I was silly enough to depend on car jacks. Yes, I know. Fortune favours the brave, I think
Like any wannabe mechanic I rang around for the cheapest price, considering many avenues. It’s fair to say that the prices varied. The garages quoted us around £300 back in 2002, even with specialists being around that ballpark. Out of the blue a specialist on my doorstep quoted me £200. What? Was this real? I’m biting his hand off! With that price it was not worth quibbling!
So off I went to go and took the car to him. After which I ended up fitting the damper kit!
Finally? I had a car that drove spot on and actually did what it was meant to do! Be driven!
But as always there is always a sting in the tail. On further inspection the steering rack was found to have excessive play. Not a problem we thought. Just get another one fitted! To be fair it had a bit of play in it after fitting the rear dampers and seeing how things were! What we did not bank on was the bill. We were quoted £120. Not for long it wasn’t.
Almost every car owner comes across this. This ended up becoming £220. The issue? The bolts had become seized in the rack. Thus he ended up cutting the steering rack apart just to change it. It was either that or the crossmember according to him. He also said it was one of the worst steering racks he had ever taken off a car. It is fair to say that the conversation was not a pleasant one! But at least the car drove well once more eh?
With the car kitty looking battered and not much bodywork required it should have been rosy right? We shall see.
I left the last post with me having spent a small fortune on parts to sort the MGB out yet being present with a large bill for a steering rack swap.
But what benefits did I feel? For starts the car felt like it was no longer required the force to be steered in any direction. The Spax dampers made a surprising difference to the handling of the car and the exhaust really sounded lovely!
But there was an elephant in the room. That would be any MGB’s Achilles Heel. The bodywork. To summarise:
-The front wings looked fine but they were bubbling beneath the swage lines at the front
-The front valance was in one piece but it did have alot of surface rust present
-Rear valance was not very different and was very thin in places.
-The driver’s side floor had a thin hole in place where it met the gearbox tunnel.
We originally planned to take it down to a painter who was said to be good. Upon initially meeting him this certainly seemed to be the case. He was a very down to earth guy. Unfortunately, fate would intervene. He was due to go in for an operation which would have him out of action for months on end. Cue painter two.
Alot was said about this painter and I had even seen a few cars he had done which looked to be half decent. Thus the stripdown began.
With this done the car was dropped off to him. Little did I know I would not see the car again for a good few years, with it not really resembling what I had dropped off to him.