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    Richard Dredge

    Buying Guide MGA 1955-1962

    Posted in Cars on Friday, February 21 2020

    Buying Guide With plenty to choose from but surprising complexity awaiting the unwary, you need to buy an MGA with care – read our guide first. This terrific two-seater can be affordable and fun to run if you buy carefully. Words Richard Dredge. Photography John Colley.

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    RUN BY Alastair Clements
    OWNED SINCE January 2010

    / #MG-Magnette-ZB / #MG-Magnette / #MG / #Magnette

    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: Peter Martin: 01580 763056;

    ‘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
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    CAR #MG-Magnette-ZB / #MG-Magnette / #MG / #Magnette

    RUN BY Alastair Clements
    OWNED SINCE January 2010

    ‘It’s reassuring to hear that the compression check went well, though number-four cylinder was a little low’
    There have been some major milestones reached in the weeks since my previous update. The new clutch is in, as are the gearbox and propshaft. More exciting still, the engine is running again at last. It had been dormant for two years, so the apprentices at the Heritage Skills Academy pulled the plugs and checked the bores with a camera, then the inside of the fuel tank was also inspected. After turning over the engine twice on the handle to make sure it was all free, the team checked the wiring and ignition system to verify that the fuses were all intact and to prevent any potential electrical fires.

    They also did a compression check, and it was reassuring to hear that the results were good – though number-four cylinder was a little lower than the others in both the wet and dry tests. Nevertheless, the conclusion is that the bores are not badly worn and the piston rings are sealing correctly. Less good news was the discovery that the cork rocker-cover gasket is compressed, and the RTV sealant that was used last time it was removed had fallen into the top of the engine; this has all now been cleaned up, and a new gasket was ordered from Z-type Magnette specialist Peter Martin.
    After a final once-over for the leads and dizzy cap, there was a test firing – which revealed that the throttle linkage was incorrectly installed. With that sorted, the engine came to life with a bit of choke, and soon settled to a slightly fast idle – traced to the choke linkage. The car was also running very rich, so the intake manifold was removed to make adjusting the mixture and idle speed easier.

    With the going sorted, the final piece of the jigsaw is the stopping. Billy Strutt and Oliver Taylor-Lane stripped the brakes to find problems with most of the wheel cylinders. I had spares for the fronts and one rear, and ordered a genuine Lockheed item from Peter for the other side, along with some new rear shoes. The latter were needed because the drums were soaked with fluid – not particularly impressive considering that the cylinders were recent (pattern) replacements. Strutt also stripped and painted the backplates and drums.

    Next up is an electrical inspection (hopefully to include sorting the sticky trafficator) and a service. The fact that I’m getting emails talking about the ‘final road test’ is a thrilling reminder that I might actually get to drive my car again soon, and I can’t wait. All I need to do is get my other classic fixed and back together to make room in the garage for the MG’s return…

    Heritage Skills Academy:
    Borg & Beck:
    Peter Martin: 01580 763056;

    Neil Brown checks over the distributor prior to the Magnette’s first start-up in two years. Below: rear wheel cylinders have been leaking for some time Basking in the spring sunshine outside the Heritage Skills Academy, the MG is now almost ready for its road test.

    Taylor-Lane and Strutt strip the drums. Rear shoes were soaked with brake fluid. Billy Strutt cuts out a gasket for the ’box. OE-spec clutch sourced via Borg & Beck.
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    300bhp Jaguar AJ30 3.0-litre V6-engined MGB

    Posted in Cars on Saturday, March 16 2019

    A classic MGB is a portal to a bygone age of sepia-tinted simplicity. But a 300bhp MGB that’ll do 0-62mph in 4.5-seconds? That’s barmy enough to rip the very fabric of time to shreds…Words: Dan Bevis Photos: Lukasz Markowski.

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    Glut of quality MGBs heralds a downturn in prices / #MGB-RV8 / #MGB / #MG

    VALUE 2012 £10k

    VALUE NOW 2018 £13.5k

    June auctions saw MGB prices take a downward dip. Barons dispatched a red ’1978 roadster with a chrome bumper conversion, fresh MoT, 43k miles and £1600-worth of bills for a giveaway £2915.

    CCA also had mixed results, with five MGBs all knocked down for tempting money. An as-new #1970 Bronze Yellow roadster subject to a total bare bodyshell resto made only £9350 – probably half the rebuild cost. A #1980 rubber-bumper GT in Glacier White with 5200 miles made only £9k, while an as-new 1980 GT in BRG with a tiny 1540 miles didn’t sell. Neither did a completely restored 1970 roadster in red. Even a nicely mellowed ’1972 roadster with Oselli-tuned engine and 20-year ownership made just £5740. Anglia Auctions struggled too, with no fewer than 14 MGBs. The best pair, both older Heritage bodyshell total rebuilds, made only £8904 and £13,780, eight others averaged out at £4600 each and two were no-sales.

    There’s tremendous value in MGBs right now. Over-supply is putting pressure on values and even very fine ’Bs are around 40% down from 2015. MGBs may be a bit clichéd, but they’re still uncomplicated, good to drive and infinitely more interesting than an MX-5. There could also be a softening in #MGC and #MGB-GTV8 prices. CCA’s 1970 older restoration MGC GT made only £12,320, while H&H’s very original white ’1973 V8 with 84k was unsold.

    Track the market carefully – a totally rebuilt MGB complete with new Heritage bodyshell for around ten grand is cracking value. And looking at today’s market, finding one shouldn’t be hard.
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    Paul Bussey

    Tried & tested 1938 MG Q-Type Recreation

    Posted in Cars on Wednesday, August 08 2018

    It is reputed that only eight MG Q-Types were produced back in 1934; while other sources say it was nine. In any event, the cars were ostensibly solely for racing and not road use. The Q-Type incorporated components from various previous MG models, notably the P and N Types, featuring a 750cc P-Type engine, with a special crankshaft, a Zoller supercharger and a gearbox from the K3. A Q-Type set a 750cc record of 122.4mph at Brooklands, sans windscreen, wings or lights and running on a fuel alcohol mixture. Text and photography by Paul Bussey.

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