CAR MG MAGNETTE ZB
RUN BY Alastair Clements
OWNED SINCE January 2010
PREVIOUS REPORT May
When I rolled the Magnette off a trailer at the Heritage Skills Academy late last year, training director Steve Beaumont asked me what I was hoping to achieve from lending the car for his apprentices to practice on. The answer was simple: “I just want to drive it home.” The only question was if it would make it, after more than three long years off the road…
But first, let’s rewind to where we left the story. The car had been test fired before I paid it a visit at the Bicester Heritage Sunday Scramble in April, and I was finally able to get behind the wheel and imagine driving it again, but I couldn’t take it for a run because the brakes were still awaiting bleeding (I hadn’t supplied sufficient bleed nipples).
A call to Magnette parts guru Peter Martin had the bits winging their way to Oxfordshire, and apprentices Jamie Bassom (whose day job is at Jim Stokes Workshops, no less) and Lewis Revell gave the brakes a bleed and full adjustment. Students from the same group also renewed the MG’s leaky water pump and thermostat gaskets with handmade replacements before mixing up fresh antifreeze then pressure-testing the system.
Unfortunately, one of the studs on the thermostat housing came out with the nut, and the threads were not in the best order, so they were refurbished and new bolts went in. Under the watchful eye of Bob Johnson, a service was next with fresh oil, a new filter and a rocker-cover gasket. During this process, Revell spotted an odd omission: the housing was missing the spacer it needs for the element to sit on – which meant that the filter wasn’t doing much. Fortunately, one of the apprentices had been working on converting the oil-filter housings on some early Talbots, and discovered that the filter element supports he had been using fitted perfectly. Problem solved!
It’s embarrassing to discover how many of the basics on my car were awry, and the carburettors were no exception – set to full rich on one, full lean on the other. Happily for me, it turns out that course tutor Johnson is something of an SU whisperer, and with the aid of his old balancing tool he had the Magnette’s B-series purring near-silently at tickover, and revving more cleanly than ever before.
After that there was an electrical inspection – the sticky trafficator improved by the discovery and rectification of a bad earth, the malfunctioning spotlight traced to, er, the switch not being pulled out properly! Good to see that even the pros can miss things sometimes… Finally, Johnson carried out the final inspection and the apprentices put some serious elbow grease into tackling the badly bloomed paint.
Various nicks were touched in, then several laps with the paint restorer had the car gleaming well enough to be part of the HSA display at the inaugural Super Scramble in June. Sadly I wasn’t on hand to see its moment of glory, as the MG had the honour of lining up behind the Napier-Railton, brought up for the day by Brooklands Museum for a run on the demonstration track.
I arrived at Bicester shortly before my birthday without a trailer or a support vehicle, and I couldn’t have wished for a better present. Not only did the car look fantastic, but it also fired on the first thumb of the starter. A few laps of the Technical Site had me grinning from ear to ear, and I was delighted to discover that the brake overhaul had made a real difference to the way the car tracked and steered, not to mention the improved pickup from the tuned motor.
After handshakes and thankyous, I set off. Beaumont had taken the car for a few shakedown runs, but it had yet to get fully up to speed or temperature – not to mention bed in the brakes – so I still had some trepidation about the near-100-mile run home.
I really needn’t have worried, because the car was remarkable. As Beaumont said in his parting words: “She rolls along beautifully, with a really nice, relaxed drive.” Once I’d reminded myself how busy it is at speed, I could settle back into enjoying its comfort and the pleasure of being behind the wheel after such a long time. Not even horror traffic on the M25 could spoil the fun, with the temperature staying the right side of hot, and the only fault being a tendency to stall when warm and sitting in traffic – a nip up on the idle should sort that.
I pulled into my driveway and was gratified to find that my family was as delighted as I was to have the car back, and we’re looking forward to enjoying the rest of the summer behind the warm timber of its dashboard. Welcome home, old friend.
All the tutors and apprentices at the Heritage Skills Academy: www.heritageskillsacademy.co.uk Peter Martin: 01580 763056; www.mgspecs.co.uk
‘A few laps of the Bicester site had me grinning from ear to ear, but I still had some trepidation about the 100-mile run home’
Steering feels as sweet as ever and the B-series pulls well. Below: plenty of elbow grease has revived the paintwork
Shakedown test around Bicester Heritage proved the MG was in rude health, but the M40 lay ahead.
Tutor Bob Johnson (far left) with the Group 2 block of apprentices, one of the teams that put in many hours bringing the Magnette back to life
Jamie Bassom sorted thermostat housing. Adam Dale/Emma Smith show off the MG Back behind the wheel at Sunday Scramble