The MGBGTV8 was bought in September 1985 as a backwards part exchange for my MG Metro Turbo. That is, it was a private sale in which they paid me to take the V8 in exchange! Hindsight still tells me that this was a pretty good move! This was the earliest I could have owned a V8 as I could not get insurance until I was 25.
At the time, it has to be said that the Citron Yellow colour of this one was the colour which it was hoped that the one I bought would not be, as it seemed to be the worst option, other than white. As time passed though, it grew on me and to be honest, I really wouldn't change it for another colour now; it looks modern and vibrant, whereas the other original V8 colour options look extremely boring by comparison, other than Aconite (a brilliant dark purple), and Mirage, (a very interesting extremely light grey which seems to look a different colour every time it is viewed, and at different angles.) Citron yellow I think now, goes with the image of the car wonderfully well, and the car attracts much attention from young ladies, (not that this affects an old duffer like me of course)!
It was the only car I owned until 1992, and in that time, did about 50k miles all year round, over the 52k that was on the clock at the start. I can only say that it never actually let me down in that time. Since then it has been an occasional use car, summer only, and after having a family, even this has been restricted. It has been a nostalgic link with my youth which I have been very loathed to give up, and I think I have been lucky to have been able to keep hold of it rather than have to give it up in order to fund other things.
When bought, it had just had rather a dodgy superficial make over, including a cheap respray, and I knew that before too long, restoration would be needed, but that was ok, I was just too glad to get hold of it.
I can't quite remember whether the cills were repaired at an intermediate point, but some bodywork was done in the late 80's to keep it going, (I can remember soon after I had it, the cills were open to the wheel arches at both ends!)
A proper restoration was undertaken by the MG Centre Cardiff during 1992, taking a few weeks, in which both cills were completely renewed, the floor consolidated, one new door and two new front wings were fitted. Thus all structural members were completely sound and rust treated now. The only original bits were, (and still are), the back wings, which were about £350 each even then, and so they remained on the wish list. They are still holding up fairly well though even now in 2008.
Now, fifteen years later, the time has come to bite the bullet and do some conservation works to the whole vehicle before any major rust starts to get back into it, as it would be criminal to let it degrade again.
Last restored in the early 90's, the MG has not seen very much use since the arrival of the Range Rovers and a family! There have been a few close calls when I was nearing the point of having to sell it, as the least practical of all our vehicles. Happily I managed by hook or by crook, to avoid this unhappy event, and it is very pleasing that it is still with us.
Languishing mostly in the garage has not been as good for it as you might think though. Although it hasn't seen much "wet" use at all, winter times have seen much condensation on the body work, and in parts, the restored work of the early 90's has begun to degrade a bit. The alarm bells have been ringing in my head for some while now.
For quite a while I have been threatening to undertake an engine change due to the original being somewhat tired now, brought on early (now 117,000 miles), by ineffective breathing in its younger days, causing sludging up in the engine. This breathing problem was due to the flame trap pipes becoming blocked in the carburettors themselves, which had been unnoticed.
The final impetus was gained by the final failure of the starter motor in late 2007. To change the starter motor on the standard car, you have to remove the exhaust manifold because the motor won't come far enough forwards to come out with it in place, . To remove the manifold, you have to raise the engine off its mountings because you can't get to the lower row of fixing bolts with the engine sat right down. To get the engine off its mountings, you have to take the steering rack off, with its lower column, as the column goes through the engine mounting bracket right in front of the engine mounting nut.
Therefore with the engine half way out, it was always on the cards that it was going to come right out and be replaced by something a bit more beefy. Several years ago an SD1 Vitesse twin plenum engine was bought, together with its LT77 gearbox, and this was going to be put in. Time and other Land Rover projects went by though, and the engine is still in bits in the garage. Much more recently, I had the chance of a 3.9 from an MG RV8, with its injection gear, and so the eventual plan was to install this, together with the LT77. And so we come to June 2008 and the final tow start was undertaken to get the car into the garden where a nice summer could be spent working on it outside, (hopefully!)
Thus, this is the story of how the need to change a starter motor leads to a complete restoration job and how one thing just leads on to another, it being too difficult to know when to stop!
The engine and gearbox come out both together, and this is the first time they have been out since about 1986 when the clutch was changed.
This is the original engine bay layout. I just had the presence of mind to actually photograph this before taking it out, although as can be seen, work has started. It is the last picture of it in original condition.
(10th May 2008)
Lifting the vehicle one foot front and back, (two softwood railway sleeper thicknesses) gives sufficient clearance underneath for the gearbox to swing down to the ground and to be lifted out at the angle shown. I didn't even need to take the bonnet off, but detached the stay and propped it right up as far as the hinges would allow, with a length of wood. It isn't about to fall off the rear sleepers, there is an axle stand underneath too!
(All below; 12th May 2008)
It is a very tight squeeze.
My crane wouldn't quite go high enough to clear the slam panel with the overdrive, and it was about six inches short, but it could be lifted up by hand and the crane moved backwards. If I could have adjusted the levelling bar, it would have come up level by itself, but at this angle. you couldn't turn the handle. It could have been lowered down though, with the overdrive resting on the slam panel, and this would then have enabled the handle to be turned, but I didn't think at the time. The levelling bar at this adjustment meant that the engine and gearbox was hanging at just the right angle to lift it all out of the car. In this picture, the overdrive is resting on the slam panel.
With the handle on the levelling bar wound right to the other end, the whole lot would hang level, as below. Very neat I thought.
And so the work begins. That looks a real mess in there. If only Imogen would have done some work rather than just pose for the picture! By the way, that is a Range Rover roof in the back ground, which is looking for a new home!
Originally the idea was that I would just refurb and spray the engine bay. I was wondering all the time how much I could get away with not removing! Could I paint around the brake pipes and pull the loom up out of the way etc. and do under the servo. This was something to hang onto I think as a thought of a self limiting factor should I wish to not take the refurb any farther. Each stage of stripping down was accomanied by the thought that "just a bit more and that will do". Eventually it was recognised that it could only end up with going all the way in order to do a job which was only going to be possible at this stage. When the engine and gearbox are out is the only time this sort of refurb is possible, and who knows when it will be out again in the future. Therefore the bullet has been bitten and the inevitability of a full body refurb has been realised. It looks like the rest of this summer will be taken up with this body work.
Firstly it can be seen below that the engine bay has a considerable amount of surface rust on it which is the result of years of brake fluid contamination. Here are the first stages of brushing this down and removing surface under paint underseal over the seams. Happily there is very little serious corrosion, even in the apron where the front valance screws onto.
(9th June 2008)
While attending to the engine bay, as some light relief, the inner wings were started on, after removing the outer wings. It was decided that underseal should be removed in order to inspect the surface underneath. This was due to the apparent cracking of the underseal surface. In actual fact there was very little effect on the underlying metal, which was remarkably well protected. I still think it was worth it though as there were a handful of minor patches of surface rust found underneath, which can now be properly treated. The worst part found was a couple of small pin holes and pitting in the panel at the front of the foot well on this side, and one small hole on the other side. The door pillars and cills are completely intact after 15 or so years since the installation of the new cills.
Here is the laborious process of scraping underseal off with a half inch chisel (considered as being the optimum size for effectiveness and ease of use), and partial dissolving off of the rest of the remaining underseal by means of a plastic bristled stiff brush, like, but a bit bigger than, a toothbrush, and tin of petrol, which dissolves it really nicely as can be seen in the second picture below.
(All below in this paragraph; 10th June 2008)
Below is the nearside under preparation. You can see that the previous restoration work still has complete integrity and you can also see the only rust hole to be found; in the corner of the footwell where it connects to the inner wing. This was hiding under underseal.
After prepping the front end, but short of treating with rust converter for now, a decision had to be made regarding how far this restoration was going to go. Cleaning down under the front chassis legs to the cills and floor sections indicated that something had to be done underneath too, now, and leaving it would not be acceptable. While the engine and gearbox is out is the only time when any possibility of real work underneath is possible. More of the details later, but for now, a start was made at the back; something which was not on the agenda at the start at all.
The tank was installed new on 5th May 1996! It is still as good as new.
(14th June 2008)
After removing the bumper, the brackets had to be taken off the chassis. The nuts spun off the through bolts easily enough, and one of the bolts on each side came out easily. The rear most bolts on each side however were seized in the brackets and would not move. The nearside one was slightly seized in the chassis too, but judicious hammering up and down on the end of the bracket freed this off. There was only one way to get them out from the chassis, and that was to elongate the holes in the valance, through which they emerged. Elongated holes would be covered up by the bumper anyway, but in any case I did not cut it out completely, opting to just cut the horizontals and bend it out to clear the bracket and bolt as it came free. Only after doing this did something else come to light which would have obviated having to do it, but then, that is the way it goes sometimes. See below!
(22nd June 2008)
One of the offending brackets below. The bolt was hammered out on the vice.
Sack cloth and ashes followed this because above the spring hanger and bumper bracket holes in the chassis were a number of pin holes of rust, and one larger hole. Plainly, these were going to need plating. Inspection of this chassis member is very difficult as it is up underneath partly shrouded by the wing and valance. Welding upside down in very restricted access and vision was not a solution which was considered acceptable. Slightly drastic measures were decided on, which allows good access to the area without too much damage. It was decided to cut out the end of the valance from a line up from the bottom along the joint with the wing, and to a point straight down from the bumper bracket hole, adjacent to the chassis member. This can easily be repaired and is the least obtrusive area, as it doesn't cut into the wing itself at all.
(23rd June 2008)
And next is a close up of the holes which need to be patched. These have been opened up with a selection of tungsten carbide cutters, to get back to full thickness metal. It is evident how these have started from pin holes and the cutters were used to locate pits in the metal and to "test" the depth of the pits, cutting out the rust and in these cases, going right through, quickly opening out into the holes shown.
(25th June 2008)
After much thought, the holes were cut out into one, or rather two sections, as below, with the rears already plated up. The idea is to cut a plate similar in shape to the hole, but slightly larger, as an overlap for the weld to penetrate.
(28th June 2008)
Paper template below.
(28th June 2008)
This has now been plated up, but I didn't photograph the result because I hadn't quite finished with it due to running out of welding wire at an inopportune moment. Following this, the note was made to finish this off later because now we enter the most exciting stage of any restoration; that of doing the underneath. I jest not, as exciting and bizzare are good ways of describing the next stage; the spit roast. See the next page!