1967 MGB GT – Body Restoration

Following on from my last post about deciding to get the MG restored the first task was to tackle the corroded and tatty bodywork. I don’t have any skill in this area so I had always planned to get a specialist body repairer/restorer to do it.
Before taking it to the body shop I had decided to strip the interior since it would need replacing and I didn’t want the body shop to have to take it out and put it back in again as this would add even more cost.
Stripping the interior is a simple enough process and you don’t need any specialist tools, just a set of screwdrivers for trim panels etc and a socket set or some spanners for the seats. The carpets came out relatively easily on mine but the hessian sound-proofing was stuck fast in places to such an extent that it wasn’t worth the trouble to remove! The strip of the interior shouldn’t take more than half a day but I wish I had taken a bit longer to label all the screws/bolts as now a few months later I have no idea what went where!
Once the interior was gone I put the driver’s seat (and the driver’s seatbelt) back in and drove the car to the body shop where it would remain for a few weeks.
The work wasn’t actually too extensive as the structure of the car including floors and sills were in decent shape, what did need doing was a good going over all the rusty bits to get back to decent metal and filling in an ugly hole where the radio aerial once was. I did need a couple of new panels however, both door skins had had it and I also needed new front wings (£450 a piece, ouch!) but this was better than repairing the existing items which may start corroding in other places in a year or two. Finally the car was re-sprayed in original ‘Old English White’, I’m really happy with the result but has highlighted some more areas of the car that will need to be sorted out in due course, such as the brightwork (pitted), windows (scratched) and wheels
(corroded)! The gallery below shows the car in various stages of the body restoration.


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1967 MGB GT – Time for restoration

It’s been a while since posting anything on here but having a child will do that to your free time! A number of months ago I realised that the MG was in dire need of some TLC, whilst perfectly usable it was getting a bit tatty inside and out and I decided that it was better to address things now before any serious rot took hold. As you can see from the video in the gallery pretty much every panel needs work and the interior needs freshening up, over the next few months (year?!?) I’ll try and log restoration progress on here. Whilst MGB restoration is pretty well documented already I’ll add anything I’ve learned that might help the fellow enthusiast!

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1967 MGB GT – Electronic Ignition

With a view to putting an end to my ignition problems I’ve decided to take the plunge with electronic ignition for my MGB GT. Having looked at a few electronic ignition systems I found some of the neatest (and by far the cheapest) systems are those on offer by Powerspark and Accuspark. Both seem to be identical to one another and claim to have an easy installation process and for approximately £30 delivered there wasn’t much to lose! I went for the Powerspark branded item which I bought from Simon Best British Classics (http://www.simonbbc.com) at his eBay shop. The promptly delivered package contained a small blister pack with everything I needed included and a full set of instructions was listed on the back (I also referred to the Accuspark instructions on youtube to make sure I understood the process before starting).
The instructions are fairly straight-forward, essentially you whip off the dizzy cap, pull out the distributor then replace the points/condensor with the electronic module before putting the thing back together, the only telltale sign being an extra wire going to the coil for a positive feed. By far the most difficult things for me were the removal of the distributor and setting the timing. The distributor was well and truly stuck after undoing the retaining clamp, it took liberal application of WD40 over several days (plus running the engine to warm/cool the area) before I could finally twist/pull it free, don’t rush this, I’ve read a few stories online of folks damaging the distributor casing trying to force it out! Setting the timing was the other tricky thing, my car doesn’t have vacuum advance so standard timing settings don’t work for me, my rev counter is wild so cannot reliably tell what the idle speed is and I don’t have a timing gun even if I had the other two! Without adjustment (i.e. putting the distributor back in the same orientation I pulled it out) the car started fine but would stutter when revved, twisting the dizzy body I could get a nice idle and a free revving engine, no more rough running! To dial it in I went for a drive with the distributor clamp loosened and listened for any pinking, it took a while of going up hills, part throttle, full throttle to find a setting I was happy with before I tightened the clamp back up, the whole process including fitting (once the distributor was out!) Was less than an hour.
So far it has been reliable, I’ve not done many miles and I keep the original points/condenser in the boot if I need to revert back but so far so good and well worth thirty quid, I’ll update this post with any issues I encounter!

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1967 MGB GT – Ignition Woes

Having owned the MG for about two years now I’m still enjoying it every time I drive it. However, I have an issue that seems to reoccur all too frequently. It seems that whenever I take the car for a long-ish drive, say more than an hour or so I get an intermittent miss-fire that gradually gets worse until the inevitable breakdown.  On each occasion I’ve been able to replace the condenser and get going again.  Generally condensers are supposed to last a while but I hear poor quality replacements are common these days and can lead to issues like I described. Surely I haven’t had three bad ones on the trot though?!  Perhaps I have another issue in the electrical system somewhere causing this premature failure? Maybe I need to switch to electronic ignition and forget about condensers forever!

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1967 MGB GT – Introduction

When the MGB was launched in 1962 it was hardly a revolution in terms of new technology, the suspension configuration was nothing new and the engine design had pre-war origins.  However, its pretty styling, reasonable performance, predictable handling and low price meant that over its 18 year production run it had become Britain’s most popular sports car.  The GT version was launched in 1965 and with its innovative hatchback it had a berlinetta-slash-shooting brake profile adding practicality in a sleek coupé design reminiscent of a mini-DB4.  Not all was rosy though, 18 years is a long time for a car to be in production and although the MGB got better in the first decade or so with a more robust 5 bearing engine and more refined gearbox the later years seemed to echo the demise of the British motor industry.  The problem was the downfall of British Leyland and the lack of investment to replace or improve the MGB significantly enough to make it competitive with more modern machinery.  The result of this meant that for many folks the memory of the MGB is of a slow, unreliable and ubiquitous car.  So why have I got one?  Well for starters since the MGB has a certain stigma amongst the classic car community and because they are relatively numerous prices for a decent example are very reasonable, try looking for a better priced attractive sixties coupe part-styled by Pininfarina and you’ll not find anything for the same price that doesn’t need loads of work.  Second of all, if we take the MGB GT in sixties period it was just as good as similarly priced cars and it had class wins at both Le Mans and the Targa Florio.  My white 1967 MGB GT mk1 is my third MGB GT, although not the nicest condition of the cars I’ve owned (also a ’75 and an ’80) it’s certainly the prettiest and has the best interior with period features like the floor mounted main-beam switch, central speaker grill and plunger screen wash button.  It has its problems like the slightly tired paintwork, worn leather and pitted chrome but I didn’t pay top price for it and its driven regularly so perfection isn’t a practical expectation plus it gives it character!  The car isn’t completely standard but it has sympathetic modifications that could be found in period so I don’t feel guilty about leaving them there, for example, the weber carburettor and larger bore exhaust give it a great sound, the driving spot-lamps and mud-flaps add a bit of a rally look and make bad weather driving more bearable!  The tow bar I expect will have to go, I did think of getting a trailer like Mini owners have that looks like the back end of a Mini but I thought I could have the front end of an AA van for the irony…

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Ferrari Dino 246

Looking at this car today it’s strange to think that this good looking, mid-engined and Ferrari built car wasn’t originally badged as such.  A car who’s DNA is so apparent even in Ferrari’s most recent sports cars was at the time not considered worthy of the prancing horse.  The Dino brand was named after Enzo Ferrari’s son Alfredo (Dino was a nickname) who died in his twenties after designing small capacity V6 and V8 engines intended for racing.  In order to use engines for racing at the time the rules dictated that a number of road cars need to be built that use it.  Contemporary Ferrari’s all had powerful V12 engines and the firm decided that a car using a lower powered V6 shouldn’t bear the Ferrari name thus the more affordable Dino sub-brand was created.  The first production Dino was the 206 with a 2 litre V6 that wasn’t particularly quick and was only in production for a couple of years 68-69.  The mid-engined layout was a fairly new concept for road cars and  Ferrari were unsure that their customers would be able to handle a V12 in such a layout, this meant the Dino with its smaller engine was well suited as a safer implementation of this configuration.  Calls for more power meant a capacity increase to 2.4 litres and subsequently the 246 was created, by outpacing the equivalent Porsche and being only marginally more expensive the Dino was well received and was the first ‘Ferrari’ built in significant numbers.  When the 246 was replaced by the 308 in 1975 it didn’t take long for the Dino brand to make way for the traditional prancing horse of Ferrari and the mid-engined sports car has been a Ferrari staple product ever since.  The 246 GTS (S for spyder) in the pictures below was spotted outside the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara and the current market value for this model ranges from 150k to 250k which shows the Dino has come a long way since its ‘affordable’ sports car roots!

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The Audi Phenomenon

It seems that at the moment everyone I speak to has either just bought an Audi or are willing to sell their children for one! Audi cars are very ‘in’ at the moment which is a strange concept for the brand that has always seemed to play third fiddle to the likes of Mercedes and BMW. I’ve been wracking my brain about the reasons behind it and I’m still not sure I have the answer but I’ll share my theory. The obvious route to take is that Audi make superior products that are competitively priced and well marketed, but the issue I have with this is that they’ve always made good cars which have been good value for money so still leaves me thinking; why the increase in popularity recently? In fact I’d consider Audi (quite controversially for all those Audi fans) to have a fairly dull model line up of late with styling leaving me a little underwhelmed. Take the A5 for example, a car I’ve covered in a blog a year or two ago, a great car, a perfectly capable machine but coupes (for me at least) should be exciting to look at but the A5 left me emotionless, a little too understated. This I think bizarrely may be the reason behind the Audi Phenomenon, as things became more bling in the early noughties Audi’s understated approach was a safe-haven for those not wanting the ‘drug-dealer’ Merc or the ‘boy-racer-cum-M3-man’ BMW. As these stereotypes become more widely accepted the stigma-free Audi is rapidly becoming a brand that we associate with understated class but yet is not beyond the reach of those who have only a little of it (miaow…handbags…etc). It may surprise you to learn that I’m actually a fan of Audi’s wares and the prospect of Audi ownership is something that greatly tickles my fancy, this is especially true after I’d had a look at their recent display at the Frankfurt Motorshow. I’m now hopeful we’ll see some more excitement from their line up during the next couple of years, however, popularity is only good to a certain point since ubiquity can lead to being branded as ‘common’…..there’s always Volvo I suppose!

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Movie Moments – Grand Prix (1966) Monaco GP

I love this film, not because of the flakey storyline or the dodgy cameo from Graham Hill and his contemporaries rather its the camera work during the races which is most enthralling. The film was shot in Super Panavision 70 film which provides super-wide-screen footage, this was shown on special screens using three projectors. The footage from on board the cars racing at high speed and sixties Monte Carlo as a backdrop the combination must have been perfect for cinema goers at the time. The scene opens with a montage of race preparation and cinematic effects to show several shots concurrently, once the race begins the camera work is awesome at conveying the excitement and terror of being a GP driver in the sixties, the narration is a little cheesy but suits the tone of the film and gives an insight into what the racing drivers had to endure both on and off the track, definitely worth a watch.

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Movie Moments – Italian Job Opening Sequence

Possibly one of the most captivating sequences in car movie history, these 3 minutes of automotive heaven are one of my all time favourite pieces of cinema. It begins with a wide angle shot of an alpine scene with twisting roads far below. As we glimpse the car for the first time the howl of the Lamborghini Muira’s V12 sounds fairly brutal but gives way to the romantic ‘On Days Like These’ by Matt Monro . We’re treated to in-car shots of deft alpine driving close to sheer drops and oncoming traffic which the driver seems un-phased by. However, his nonchalance seems to be his undoing at the end of the scene where our sun-glassed hero enters a tunnel that the mafia had strategically parked a digger inside. Needless to say he meets his demise and so sets the scene for the plot to continue.

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Movie Moments – Le Mans Race Start

I’m particularly fond of this movie moment mainly because of its intensity. The ’24 heures du Mans’ is about to begin at 4pm sharp and the build up is incredible. All is silent save for a quickening and loundening heartbeat but the scene flicks from the race start flag, the clock and drivers’ eyes at an increasingly frantic rate that builds into a crescendo ended by the drop of the start flag and the deafening sound of the race engines of Porsches and Ferraris leaping into life!
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