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MGB Part 3

MGB Sting Published: 13th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MGB Part 3
MGB Part 3 Speedo drives were being chewed up in no time due to a shot drive in transmission, meaning a rebuild
MGB Part 3 Underbody inspection by Kennedy and crew revealed our car to be in fair shape albeit the usual ‘repairs’ had been carried out…
MGB Part 3 Start by cleaning the wheels and underside.
MGB Part 3 Careful with the water here as it can ruin old wiring and cause a lot of future trouble.
MGB Part 3 Sunroofs weren’t mean for full on jet washing so take it easy. Finish effect off with a good vinyl dressing
MGB Part 3 It can take an entire day to also clean the interior…
MGB Part 3 Polish quality varies, Autoglym is top stuff
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Six months after buying our budget based MGB GT we now count the cost of running a ‘cheap’ classic – and the price of a working speedo!

The last time we wrote about our old project MGB we were pretty pleased with ourselves. To recap, we bought a bargain (or banger, depending upon your point of view) MOT-less GT last autumn a princely £850. It was a real gamble as it was purchased on the spot with only basic checks (it was viewed at a local car show) but amazingly this 1971 ‘MK2’ seemed to be extremely sound (little wonder as a fair bit looked like it had been shelled out on it previously) and it earned itself a fresh MOT after a mere tenner was spent on some new wiring and a horn. It drove okay, looked respectable enough and to its credit apart from a duff starter motor (which we suspected from the outset) has never broken down in the six months and some 3000 miles we’ve travelled about in all weathers. The gaggle of MG specialists we hawked it round over the months for a collection of expert second opinions generally felt it was a half decent example too and perhaps worth around double what we paid for it.

Just our sort of classic car then! It hasn’t all been plain sailing and money in the bank since purchase though. A new sunroof (the old one ripped itself clean off at speed soon after purchase – tee-hee), batteries, engine tune up and some bits of trim to tidy and titivate the old thing up soon bumped up our overall spend to £1300, but considering it was a fair example of the breed the end result was still satisfying and gratifying enough. Surely, given all the problems old classics suffer from, a dodgy speedo (“just a new cable or head needed” we were told) and a non-working rev counter are just small fry fixes to round the job off? Now were not so sure and have some soul searching and number crunching to do now because all for the want of a working speedometer (the rev counter was just a loose wire that was simple to right) the car could effectively become uneconomic to repair! It was Warren Kennedy of Classic Restorations, based in Bedfordshire, who burst our bubble. Warren had a nose around our GT and initially thought it wasn’t half as bad as he expected it to be from what he’d read in our pages (they’ve all said that-ed). Although Warren felt it wasn’t good enough for his renowned company to retail, he praised the well performing engine, thought the handling on its ageing rear leaf springs somewhat entertaining and the interior quite nice; reckoning thatour car was well worth the money. “Seen cars like this for £2000” he commented, but was concerned about the lazy overdrive action. Sure enough there was barely a third of a pint to drain – only five pints short then! How and why the gearbox didn’t seize up we’ll never know but with copious pints of fresh oil the overdrive now works fairly instantaneous, albeit only on top gear. And the speedo? As the cable was already disconnected when we bought the car we reckon that the gearbox must have been running on empty for a long time before we bought our B… Kennedy’s mechanics replaced the nylon gear tooth but it wasn’t the cure we hoped for. As the speedo bench tested okay it only left one component as the suspect – the actual drive located in the gearbox. We now suspect that this must have damaged as a result of the longterm lack of lubricant. And Sod’s law didn’t disappoint.

Counting the cost

Warren Kennedy reckons that we could be faced with a bill of around £700 (or more) once labour and VAT are factored in to properly repair our car. True, the actual gear drive only costs around £25, but of course on a MGB, the engine and gearbox have to be removed as one unit before it is split. Then of course it’s simply false economy not to replace the clutch assembly (around £60-£70 from David Manners), isn’t it? And what about the overdrive unit that needs to be stripped to gain access to the worn driveshaft? New oil seals are the minimum rebuild requirement, but as O/D 3rd doesn’t work perhaps a fully reconditioned unit is the best option (£260 from MGBHive). And all for the want of a couple of pints of engine oil in the gearbox over the years…

What do we do next?

You tell us! Putting the legality of the speedometer to one side (although strangely it’s not an MOT requirement!) it seems almost absurd to spend big money on something that will hardly improve the car’s performance or reliability. Ironically, if the gearbox had been damaged (it’s performing fine) such a potential bill would be a lot more easy to stomach. A recon ‘box with overdrive generally costs just over £550 (don’t try to save money by opting out of overdrive – it will make the car a lot harder to sell we were warned). Of course second-hand transmissions are readily available (we noted an old engine and ‘box for sale at the Historic Motorsport Show for £250) but you could be buying just as much trouble. At the other end of the scale a five-speed conversion is said to transform the MGB as well as fixing our faults but it costs as much as the car is worth at £1500 fitted. So far we’ve chosen the wisest option of them all for now – nothing!

Good buy or good-bye?

Classic Cars For Sale promised to tell you our dear readers all about our banger buy and how it stood up to ownership – warts and all. And now you have the SP, the question has to be do we regret buying our ‘bargain’ B and what lessons have been learned? Nobody likes any sort of repair bill, big or small, and it’s even more galling when a minor, cheap fault calls the shots. But that’s life and as Warren Kennedy wryly commented it could have happened on any car re g a rdless of its price. Overall we’ve still happy with our BGT. The idea of running MHK 7J wasn’t to produce a show-winner on a shoestring but more to prove that you don’t have to spend a fortune on a classic to enjoy some safe, reliable, presentable fun. On that score we reckon we’ve succeeded. Of course there’s still a fair bit to do to the car and you have to be careful that you don’t waste good money on a wreck that may not pass the next MOT let alone make the concours arena, but you can hardly say that our banger B has been a bad buy. Indeed after a trip to car valeting specialists Autoglym (see separate story) it looks as pretty as a picture, especially now it’s wearing nice new period number plates care of Polar Automotive (01892 519933), and the original interior is on par with most show cars. So what do we do with it? Repair it for as little as possible has to be the only sensible answer. We reckon that, unless we were considering a full on restoration (which isn’t worth it in this case), our MGB GT has a real world ‘financial life’ of around £2000; anything more may be a waste of money and Peter Edney of leading Essex-based specialists Classic and Sportscars largely agreed when he examined it. On the other hand Edney says he has seen similar Bs in similar condition selling for up to four grand which is fairly encouraging. Or worring depending upon your point of view.
Apart from needing the transmission fixed, MHK 7J ideally requires a new front wiring loom (it was a mess when we bought it and is little better now) as a matter or some urgency and a small patch repair to the driver’s footwell before it spreads. After some attention to the front trunnions (although it’s surprising how an overdue grease up can take out a lot of the wear!) and perhaps new rear springs to complement the new dampers already fitted, our MGB GT would make a pretty nice car and something that you’d be hard pushed to match on the open market even if you spent another £1000 or so. What we have learned from the experience is that, by and large, you get what you pay for. MGBs in particular seem to vary greatly in condition that bears little relation to their prices and the £3-5000 bracket is a real dangerfield. We’ve driven several B’s of late and there’s no doubt that one of the nicest was Kennedy’s lovely 1973 BGT. Recently sold to the first buyer and running on a new suspension, it felt good and tight (although the engine didn’t seem to go notably quicker than our banger B). A better car than ours? Yes of course it was but there again it easily sold for £7500… so you pays your money and takes your choice in the classic car game. And if you give us £1500 what we’ve spent on it so far) you can have ours to make good. But do fix that speedo!

More Info

So You Think You Can

Initially it sounds like teaching your grandma to suck eggs but watch a professional valeter at work and you realise that your technique is all washed up!
We took our ‘tidy’ MGB to leading carspecialists Autoglym who run dedicated training courses for people who want to become professionals and make a living out of it. All too often when magazines run such features, they turn up in a filthy mud-laden car so to emphasise the transformation – which is hardly difficult, is it? As classic car owners keep their cars in far better shape, here at Classic Cars For Sale we thought it a better test to see if Autoglym could improve upon an already fairly clean motor. They certainly did! As our sequence of pictures show, the trick to cleaning a car to show levels is to really go to town on it. According to Autoglym the biggest mistake is to not do it in some form of order. underside first and the engine bay, if necessary. Only use proper car care products (household alternatives are far too harsh) and use plenty of fresh water and clean polishing cloths (far too many people polish their cars with dirty rags and dank water when they are the cheapest commodities you have).

Although a jet wash is very useful, take great care on an older classic as the force of water can easily dislodge suspect metalwork! Similarly, jet washing the engine bay has to be done with extreme caution because it is all too easy to damage aged and failing wiring looms. What impressed us most was the time taken by Conrad Lennon (who runs the training school) and attention to detail he emphasised to do the job properly. Autoglym reckons it can take a whole weekend to really clean a car from top to bottom and to do it properly you have to look at removing the likes of the bumpers, number plates and so on; it just depends how clean you want your car to be – and the interior is just as demanding! Overall, even though our MGB appeared fairly clean it really was transformed and now looks good enough to display at any car show.


Autoglym produces a comprehensive booklet to car cleaning; call 01462 677766 for more details

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