Home for Wayward MGBs?? (Part 1)

Ok, I could title this posting more things that push the GT project down the list, but I think you’re getting the drift of what’s happening in my life. There are always more projects to take up your time and garage space if you let them, I have have a really hard time saying NO.

As I said in my last posting, I have acquired several new “toys”, one for the shop (the aforementioned lift) and one that will need the shop. Well that number isn’t exactly correct as of this post. Depending on how you want to count things, it looks like I may be involved in up to 4 different MGBs. Yes, I said 4!

As the Club has gained in popularity and our web presence has shot up as a result in Google searches, my name an contact info has been spread far and wide. This has resulted in numerous phone calls and emails from people looking to buy, sell and just wanting advice on MGBs. This is not all bad, because by helping these people, we make more and more connections within the new England hobby community and opportunities come up that benefit the Club (growth) and expand my network.

As these connection get made, several opportunities have come up lately that have once again taken precedent over working on the GT.  In no particular order, I’ll share the stories of these “distractions”.

In October of last year, I was contacted by 15 year old James, who was extremely interested in MGs and had even gone so far as to research and locate his very own MGB out in Western , MA and had bought it for $900 of his own money. He was reaching out to see if the Club could help him fix it up and get it on the road in time for his 16th birthday?  after a lengthy conversation, I was impressed enough to make arrangements to go see the car and meet this young man in the next town. Upon examination, the car was exactly what you would expect a $900 MG to be. The good side was that it was essentially a running and driving car and had a number of upgrades (tube shocks and a Weber carb) that spoke well of its previous life. On the downside, the car was in serious need of TLC. It was missing most of it’s carpet, the roof was useless and the seat covers were in tatters. The real area of concern for me was two-fold. First, the car had signs of serious rust issues in all the typical places and the electrical wiring in the car was best described as a rat’s nest (with apologies to rats). The wiring could be sorted out, but rust was going to be a b*tch to address.

James Pic

Nothing was going to happen over the winter, but once the warm weather finally came out, we spent some serious time going over the car meticulously and coming up with a game plan. I had my welder, Brennan, go over the rust areas and get a good idea of what was going to be needed to make things right and safe. This wasn’t going to win any prizes, but we wanted to give James the best car for his money. We also took stock of the small fixes that needed to be made and we could tackle at any point. James went ahead and ordered some parts and patch panels.

When all was ready, the car made a trip over to the shop on a trailer and work began. I`d like to say it was simple and easy, but between other priorities and coordinating schedules, the car spent the better part of the summer hanging out in the shop. Fortunately, it was running and mostly drivable (once the flat tire was pumped up). While I won’t bore you with all the little details, we picked away at the car and as of this post, have achieved the following…

  • Replaced the rear axle rebound straps
  • We were donated a used truck lid to replace the badly bent one. (Thank you Ken Lamoine).
  • Bought a good used set of tires for the car (replaced one to solve the flat issue, but waiting to refinish the wheels before installing the rest)
  • Replaced one of the front wheel hubs that had a broken wheel stud and
  • Installed new front wheel bearings and checked the front brakes for wear (they are good)
  • Removed the oil-soaked air cleaner and cleaned up the carb. We will reroute the crankcase breather line so that it doesn`t vent into the carb.
  • Replaced and rewired the broken marker light.
  • Replaced and rewired the missing headlight switch. This had been so badly butchered, that we need to make a whole new pigtail and come up with new connections to the switch. The previous was so bad that it actually contained wire nuts holding it together!!
  • Replaced the broken glove box lock and it now stays closed
  • We were also able to find a nice used top boot to cover up the tatty roof. While a new roof will be needed in the future, it’s not a high priority.

The bodywork, was the biggest job and Brennan came through in spades. He worked with James to cut and fit all the patch panels. He has yet to fabricate some of the connecting floor pan pieces, but that will be next and will probably be done by the time most of you ready this. During all this work, we have tried to keep James fully involved, allowing him to do as much work as possible, even going so far as teaching him the basics of welding.

2 MGs in the shopJames under carJamed welding

Current plans call for all the seams to be sealed and the patches primed and the car will be ready to be inspected if that’s what James and his parents want to do. We will be delaying the actual bodywork and painting of the car until next spring. This will give James some more time to replenish his funds, buy needed interior pieces and free up the garage for the next project coming in…which will hopefully be one of mine (fingers crossed).


 

So this is one of the four MGs that have taken up my time this summer. The next one, is a shorter and more successful story.

Everyone knows that I’m seriously into MGs and I get lots of calls, emails and questions about them, what are the best years, what should I pay or sell for. etc.etc. Linda and I have some good friends out in the Spencer area that have been to several of our BAMG Club events over the years and they have expressed a passing interest in owning an MGB at some point. Well I guess that point arrived earlier this year when Mike wrote to me and wanted my help in finding him am MGB. Mike was very specific in what he wanted and was willing to shop far and wide and wait for just the right car to come along. I tried to convince him to be a little less rigid on what he wanted, but good for him, he stuck to his guns and wasn’t willing to compromise on his “dream” car.

We talks several time over the spring and summer and he sent me ads for various cars he was considering. I sent him some too, but nothing really checked off all the boxes. Then finally in June, he sent me a 1971 MGB out in the middle of NY state that looked pretty nice. Lots of emails and phone calls ensued, and things were looking positive. The only real issue was Mike wanted me to go out to look at it with him and our schedules and the owner’s schedule conflicted. After a number of false starts, we finally made arrangements to go out to Apalachin, NY on the July 4th weekend.

Ever hear of Apalachin, NY? Neither had I, but I soon learned that it was strong 4 hour drive from Sturbridge, where I had to meet Mike. So I got up before dawn on Sunday, July 5th and we headed out to look at the car. It was a beautiful ride out and great weather and we arrived just after noon. The car was just as it had been presented, a nicer, older restoration with no visible signs of rust or wear. I spent the an hour or more going through the car inside and out and was impressed with most of what I saw. It was very clean and well-kept. The restoration and bodywork were mostly well done ad the interior was in excellent shape. Mechanically, the car ran well and our extended test drive was pleasant and no issues arose.

We checked out all the systems and accessories and were pleased that everything work flawlessly. The car did have a few quirks that seemed a bit strange and spoke to whoever did the restoration not being really familiar with MGs. The OEM steering wheel had been replaced with a Moto Lita one, but they didn’t get the proper hub for it, so the horn button didn’t work. Thier solution? Put a big red horn button in the center console. This certainly worked, but it was not the most convenient location, especially in a panic situation. Next came the overdrive. One reason Mike was so interested in this car was that it came with OD, a very nice option. It operated great, but like the horn switch, they decided to place to OD switch into the center console. Why? Looking under the dash didn’t give us any clues, but there were a number of “spare” wires and connection floating around. We also noticed while going over all the bodywork and especially the door fitment, that where the interior light pluggers were supposed to be had been very nicely capped and covered up. We also noticed the dash dimmer rheostat had received the same treatment along with the truck light switch. We came to the conclusion that whoever did the work, was not familiar with the various lights and switches and just decided to either delete them or come up with their own plan….nothing too serious and easily correctable…just bizarre!

In the end, we decided that this was a very nice MGB and we could not come up with any reasons not to make an offer. The owner was asking a reasonable $8200 and after some negotiating, Mike was able to purchase the car for a good number below the asking price. The owner was so happy to see the car going to an enthusiast and a good new home that he threw back $100 to us for “time and gas”. Now we had to get the car back to MA! I had brought my plates from my own MGB, but the owner kindly offered to leave the NY state plates on the car to allow us to drive is back and then we could send the plates back. That was a very generous offer and one that we were quite happy to accept. Mike thought that it would be best if I drove the car back, since I was most familiar with MGBs. I tried to get him to drive his new car, but he was pretty adamant, so with Mike leading the way, we set of towards the east.

Now I have to tell you that the weather was gorgeous, but it didn’t take long before the combination of an all black interior, long pants and a blazing sun started to take their toll. In short, IT WAS HOT! While driving at 65MPH created a nice breeze, the relentless sun was a bear. It didn’t take long to figure out that I was going to need some serious sunscreen if I didn’t want to end the trip looking like the proverbial lobster. Amazingly, it took us a number of side trips before we were able to find some industrial strength sunscreen and several bottles of water. Problem number one solved.

The beginning of the trip was uneventful and the car ran great. All systems worked fine and the ride was pleasant if not a little too hot. We thought we were doing well, until the reality of traveling back on the end of the 4th of July weekend hit us straight in the face. Our trip out took us about 4 hours. Unfortunately, everyone and their extended family were returning from the long weekend and decided to use the same road we were driving on. This didn’t become apparent until we reached the outskirts of Albany, when we ran into a sea of humanity on the highway. What was a steady 65MPH trip, turned into a crawl interspersed with long periods of dead stopped.  Now this wouldn’t be quite an issue, if I was driving a modern day, air conditioned sedan (like Mike), but I was instead driving an open-topped, manual transmission sports car that featured engineering from the early 1960’s and a black interior. The ride quickly became uncomfortable in any number of ways. First, I was driving a car that was not mine and for the first time to boot. Not a big deal, but I certainly didn’t want to end my friendship with Mike and Sherry on a bent note. Second, the traffic conditions were terrible, with people cutting in and out, stop and go traffic and no end of frayed tempers. Lastly, I really needed to stay on top of my driving to be sure I stopped and shifted properly, not to mention that I was in constant fear of the engine temperature. With all that to worry about, the car essentially performed flawlessly, only once getting hot during an overly long time standing still.

We arrived in Sturbridge, just as daylight was ending, very happy to be over the long trip and that the car performed incredibly well. Mike and Sherry now have a great car to enjoy for the rest of the summer and can now join other BAMG Club member on rides in their own car now. Another happy LBC owner.

Mike's new Toy

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