When I retired in 2011 I decided that as I had a lot more spare time I needed a project to give me something interesting to do. I had always had the aspiration to do a complete rebuild on a car, but never seemed to have the time or money before to realise my dream. I have always been passionate about British sports cars having owned a 1965 Triumph Spitfire and a 1960 Austin Healey 3000 in my youth. In 2011 I already owned a 1968 MGB, which I had purchased on a whim in 1998 and have enjoyed ever since.
My initial thoughts were to buy perhaps an older pull door handle MGB or an early MK1 MGBGT. I started to scour websites, E Bay and classic car magazines for a suitable car. I saw an MGBGT for sale in Deal on E bay which looked quite good and I started to bid. I ‘won’ the car and arranged to go and pick it up. To my horror the car was not as I expected, all cars look good from a distance! The seller was not best pleased when I refused to buy it on the grounds that the description in the advertisement was misleading and I had paid too much for the car. A big lesson learnt! Always view a car BEFORE bidding NOT afterwards.
I then spotted an MGA for sale at Goudhurst, not too far away, which looked promising. At the time the bidding it had reached £4700, with about 5 days to go. I arranged to go and see the car and as it was a nice day decided to go in the MGB, which would show a definite interest in the marque.
The car was stored in a nice dry farm building and by all account was an abandoned project that had been there for about 10 years. A lot of work had already been done to the body of the car and it had been resprayed, but it had received a few bumps and knocks in the interim storage period. The chassis also looked good. I was also told that the engine had been rebuilt in the past. Everything seemed to be there, although a lot of the parts were in cardboard boxes, which made a full assessment quite difficult. The lady selling the car said that she had had lots of interest and that someone had already offered her £7500.
Checking the logbook and heritage certificate revealed that this was a British supplied car. Of the 10100 MGAs made only about 5000 were supplied to the British market, the rest being exported. I knew that I was going to have to pay good money if I wanted this car
The lady telephoned me the next day to tell me that she had taken the car off the internet and was now asking the three most interested parties what would be their highest bid. My bid got me the car by £250! The 1959 MK1 British supplied MGA 1600 was mine. I then arranged with Ray Berry, a motor club friend, to collect the car on his low loader.
All the other parts for the car, dashboard, windscreen, seats cardboard boxes etc were loaded into my estate car, which I had collected brand new the day before!
Once home the car was pushed rather unceremoniously into the garage. I was now surrounded by all the parts and what looked like a very unfinished car . My initial thoughts were ‘What have I done’ and ‘where does everything go’. No doubt time would tell.
Initial inspection revealed that very little appeared to have been done to the front and back suspension. I therefore decided that this would be my first task before removing the body from the car.
I took the front and back wings off the car, which were held on with a number of bolts to gain better access to the suspension. The wings were hung on the garage walls to get them out of the way and to be worked on at a later date.
Removal of the bottom trunnions revealed that the threads were very rusty and severely corroded with too much play. These would need replacing. To do this the steering arms needed to be removed. These were a tapered fit in the kingpins and needed a high powered press to remove them. A local engine restorer managed to do this for me. The assembly of the new king pins and new brass top and bottom trunnions was not as simple as expected, as they were too tight a fit on the threads. To relieve the thread fine valve paste was used at the same time running the trunnions up and down the threads. Eventually sufficient looseness was achieved. All parts were then thoroughly cleaned to remove all signs of paste before assembly with liberal amounts of grease. The steering arms were then inserted ensuring correct alignment before tightening the nuts
The refurbished front suspension with reconditioned lever arm dampers, springs and brake disks, together with new wire wheel hubs. Note the front disk callipers are yet to be fitted.
Front suspension showing steering track rod end and anti roll bar connection, with anti roll bar yet to be connected. The previous owner had purchased an anti roll bar kit and already installed it on the car.
Prior to spring removal the rear axle was drained and the brake drums, shoes, hydraulic cylinders and springs removed. To remove the half shafts a large box spanner was purchased, however this proved to be ineffective as the nut was very shallow and the spanner was too loose a fit on the nut. Plan B had to be adopted, the old fashioned hammer and cold chisel method. It was noted that the nut on the left hand side of the car had a left hand thread, which meant the nut had to be removed in the reverse direction. Once the half shafts had been taken out the hubs and brake back plates could be removed. The springs were then lowered down each side to remove the rear axle from the car.
It was decided once the springs had been removed that they could be refurbished rather than replaced. Dismantling was a simple matter of knocking back the clamps so that the individual leaves could be removed. The centre nut attaching them together and used for positioning them on the axle was very corroded and needed replacing so this had to be hacksawed off to remove it.
Once the springs were apart each leaf was derusted with a wire brush on a drill and rubbed down for painting. The springs were then reassembled using special grease similar to Waxoil between the springs to dispel water and allow them to move in use. Once they were reassembled they were painted with 2 coats of Hammerite paint.
The rear axle was then refurbished on the bench by wire brushing to enable the casing to have two coats of Hammerite applied. The differential was also taken apart in order to replace the planet wheel and gear thrust washers to avoid any future problems with clonking from the axle.
The engine and gearbox being lifted out of the car before being split in order to refurbish the items.
The car with engine and gearbox removed. This enabled the chassis to be painted with chassis paint.
The car body supported on axle stands prior to painting work on the underside and inside of the wings and under bonnet.
The engine block with all component parts removed. Notice this work is safer carried out on cardboard on the floor than on the workbench.
Workbench showing crankshaft, main bearing caps, oil breather, crankshaft pulley etc.
Workbench with rocker gear, engine fan, cylinder head studs, starter ring etc. The engine needed reboring, new pistons, reground crankshaft, new main bearing and big end shells, a new camshaft and new starter ring. The cylinder head was also dismantled and new valve guides installed together with unleaded valve sleeves and new valve springs.
The newly painted chassis with newly painted marine ply floorboards installed. Refurbished handbrake can be seen together with new cable. The existing fuel pump was the incorrect type and therefore had to be replaced. The new one together with new pipework can be seen in the picture.
The back of the car before the body was reinstalled. The new petrol tank can be seen together with the new stainless steel exhaust system. The rear wiring and front to back of car wiring loom has also been installed. Note where the two looms join up to the right of the petrol tank alongside the right hand rear spring mount.
Front view of car showing refurbished steering rack, but without front chassis assembly installed.
Newly painted engine and gearbox back in the car.
The paint finish inside the engine bay was unsatisfactory. Therefore all the existing paint had to be removed with paint stripper back to bare metal. There was also a certain amount of making good, before masking off the main body and spaying filler primer over the inside of the engine bay. The filler primer was then rubbed down to a smooth finish before applying cellulose final gloss finish. After sufficient drying time this was then compounded and polished to remove any imperfections to achieve a good shiny finish.
Because the car had been sitting in a farm building for about ten years and the body work had minor imperfections, it was decided at a fairly late stage in the rebuild that it would be better to have the car resprayed. As the existing finish was already 2 pack and in generally good order it was considered that a full bare metal respray was not necessary and that rubbing down and making good imperfections would suffice before applying new 2 pack paint.
The picture shows the MGA in the spray shop rubbed down, prepared and masked off ready for paint.
Filler primer applied to the back of car ready for final gloss finish.
Front of car all rubbed down touched up where required prior to final paint finish.
Final paint finish applied showing front and RHS.
Final paint applied showing car from the back and LHS.
The engine bay well on its way to completion. All wiring has been completed and tested. Cooling system is complete and filled. Air hose to heater has yet to be installed and one air filter is missing.
The heater was fully overhauled with new uprated fan blades for better airflow and seals around the heater matrix to prevent short circuiting.
The combined brake and clutch master cylinder was overhauled with new seals
To keep originality the generator was exchanged for a reconditioned one and a new coil fitted.
Carburettors were fully overhauled using new needles, seals floats and gaskets.
It was discovered that the existing wiper motor, was the incorrect type, being a two speed unit instead of single speed. This was exchanged for a reconditioned correct type single speed wiper motor.
Back of car with rear bumper installed together with rear lights, number plate light and locking petrol cap.
Inside of car showing steering column and wiring loom ready to connect to dashboard wiring.
Back of inside of car showing battery cover and rear crash rail fitted. Note seat belt mountings fitted to chassis rails and on back shroud.
Refurbished door with new panel fitted prior to installing on the car.
Dashboard installed and wired up. Radio cover plate yet to be fitted. The heater controls were missing from the car, so new ones had to be obtained at great expense.
Back of car showing tonneau fitted, new back lights, number plate and new MG badges.
Front of car in finished condition at 2015 Faversham Car Show resplendent in the