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    CAR MG MAGNETTE ZB
    RUN BY Alastair Clements
    OWNED SINCE January 2010
    PREVIOUS REPORT May

    / #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.

    THANKS TO

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

    RUN BY Alastair Clements
    OWNED SINCE January 2010
    PREVIOUS REPORT March

    ‘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…

    THANKS TO
    Heritage Skills Academy: heritageskillsacademy.co.uk
    Borg & Beck: borgandbeck.com
    Peter Martin: 01580 763056; mgspecs.co.uk

    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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    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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    CAR #MG-1300 / #MG / #ADO16 / #BMC-ADO16 / #BMC
    Run by James Page
    Owned since June 2014
    Total mileage 96,319
    Miles since September
    2017 report 315
    Latest costs £550

    MUCH ADO ABOUT GEARCHANGING

    Back in August, the MG passed its MoT with flying colours. I’d given everything a quick check beforehand, which threw up a couple of things that needed doing. First was the handbrake operation on the nearside rear. Or lack of operation, I should say. I adjusted it so that it felt quite convincing and, while it wasn’t so impressive a couple of days later on the rollers at the #MoT station, it did enough to pass.

    The other job was to replace the brake-light switch. The lamps were a bit feeble, coming to life only when the pedal was some distance into its travel, but a new switch sorted it. Not that the old one gave up without a fight – as is often the case, a five-minute job turned into about 20 minutes as we tried to unscrew the stubborn b… blighter without knackering the pipework.

    With those minor tweaks sorted and a new ticket issued, the MG then had a short period of behaving itself. When a headlight failed, I took the opportunity to convert to halogen units, but time was always against me when it came to various other small annoyances.

    That being the case, I eventually gave up trying to do it myself and took the car to local specialist Autoclassico, which had Jaguar, Aston, Maserati and Lotus projects on the go when I dropped the MG off. My humble saloon still seemed to be a popular visitor, though. Everyone who drove it did the universally recognised ‘bobbing’ motion to describe their progress, bouncing down the road on Hydrolastic suspension and softly sprung seats. As well as a general service and a look at that handbrake, I asked them to investigate its embarrassingly long-standing clutch problem.
    For a while, selecting and deselecting gears had been something of a hit-and-miss affair, although predictably it behaved perfectly during their first test drive. They nonetheless rebuilt the master and slave cylinders. Apparently, the crud in the old fluid was a sight to behold. I went to pick up the car and, for 25 miles or so, it was transformed.

    As part of the thorough fettling, the timing had been checked and the carbs adjusted – even though emissions didn’t officially form part of its MoT, the ever-affable tester at Elberton Garage had remarked that it sounded rich and took a reading that confirmed it. The handbrake was much more effective, too.

    The following day, and buoyed by how well it was running, I went for a random lunchtime drive. After about 10 minutes, the pressure again started to disappear from the clutch pedal and gear selection proved stubborn. Eventually, at a T-junction, it went completely and I couldn’t find anything – the first time that it had reached that stage.

    I checked the master cylinder and it hadn’t lost any fluid, so there was nothing to do beyond calling for recovery. By the time that it arrived (which wasn’t long, despite me initially sending them to Tockington by mistake rather than Tytherington…), gear selection had been restored, but back the car went to the chaps at Autoclassico.

    This time, the diagnosis was that the piston was sticking in the master cylinder – it would be okay for the first few gearchanges, but gradually it wouldn’t return correctly. Given time, it would get there eventually, hence why it had ‘come back’ after 20 minutes or so. Mike at Autoclassico refused on general principle to order one of the plastic master cylinders that are currently on offer, but eventually we found a genuine Lockheed item on eBay. With my credit card recovering in a darkened room and what must surely have been the world’s most expensive master cylinder fitted, the MG was once again back to full health – and seemingly on a rather more permanent basis this time.

    THANKS TO Autoclassico: 0117 956 9115; www.autoclassico.co.uk / Elberton Garage: 01454 414670

    With everything finally sorted – after a return visit to Autoclassico – the MG is back on the road. MG ready for MoT test at Elberton Garage. Recovered, but note bright brake lights! VW rolls by as MG refuses to select gears. A fresh pair of Wipac halogen headlamps. New master solved the gearchange issues.
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    CAR #MG-1300 / #MG / #ADO16 / #BMC-ADO16 / #BMC
    Run by James Page
    Owned since June 2014
    Total mileage 94,940
    Miles since May 2016
    report none
    Latest costs nil

    MURKY COCKTAIL BUBBLES OVER


    Brown sludge isn’t what you want to see when you remove your car’s radiator cap to check its coolant level. The hope was that it was remnants of oil from its previous head-gasket failure rather than a new problem. I checked the dipstick and the oil-filler cap, but there were no signs of either water getting into the oil or of the oil level dropping. The coolant level, too, was okay.

    The obvious place to start was therefore flushing out the radiator. Removing the radiator was easy, but once it was free it was obvious that assorted rubbish and grime had collected on it. Air-flow must have been minimal, so I applied a little detergent to the muck and then poured hot water over it to loosen it all off. It cleaned up nicely, so I moved on to back-flushing the radiator itself. Not surprisingly, it took some time for the water to run clean, but I left it for a few minutes and eventually it did.

    With the exception of the time we had to wait in a queue for the ferry while en route to the 2014 Le Mans Classic, the MG has never run even remotely warm. Quite the opposite, in fact – despite its horribly bunged-up radiator, the needle never really gets beyond one-third of the way up the gauge. While it was empty of coolant, therefore, I satisfied a quick bout of curiosity and checked that it did indeed have its thermostat in place. It did, but the inspection proved that a new gasket was required.

    The area of chassis that’s usually hidden beneath the radiator was looking scruffy, with peeling underseal, so I scrubbed off the loose bits, wiped it down, and reapplied some Waxoyl to protect it.

    Space is a little tight when putting the side-mounted radiator back in, so I tried a couple of methods, but quickly realised that my ‘brilliant’ shortcuts involving the bottom hose and the fan shroud weren’t going to work. Instead, I settled for doing it the traditional way and actually it wasn’t too hard.

    The fiddly hose went back on easily enough, and the bolt that goes through the bottom of the shroud, and which you have to fit by feel alone, was remarkably faff-free. I refilled it with coolant, fired it up (which is becoming an increasingly long-winded process, but the battery seems to be coping well) and checked for leaks. Nothing from the bottom hose, a little – predictably – from around the thermostat housing, but otherwise all seemed to be as it should.

    With that done, I turned my attention to fitting the rear seatbelts that I got a while ago. The only other time I’ve done this job was on my Morris 1800, which had all the relevant mounting points. It was a doddle. On the MG, though, the central points were there, but there was no sign of the ones in the corners that are needed for the bracket coming down from the retractors. Those corners, a corrosion hot-spot on these cars, comprise metal that is noticeably more recent than 1970, so they could have been replaced without replicating the mounting points.

    It looked as if, as Martin Port put it, I’d have to be getting busy with the drill, but installing belts is obviously something that I’d rather get absolutely right. Probably better for a specialist to take care of that. While everything was out, though, I cleaned up the muck that had collected on the floor, then treated the seat itself to a thorough clean.

    Next up, though, is to get it to Phil Cottrell at Classic Jaguar Replicas to see if he can sort the rough running. Having read Graeme Hurst’s running report this month, it’s tempting to invest in a new electronic distributor and see if that has the same effect as it did on his Mustang. Perhaps it’s simply time to hand it over to someone who would no doubt be somewhat more methodical than that.

    ‘Not surprisingly, it took some time for the water to run clear, but I left it running and eventually it did’

    Underseal was peeling from chassis… …so a new coating of Waxoyl was applied Once removed, rad grime was all too clear Proof that oil and water really don’t mix Rear seats came up nicely for a quick clean Thermostat was in place; gasket crumbling
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    CAR: #MG-1300 / #MG / #ADO16 / #BMC-ADO16 / #BMC
    Run by James Page
    Owned since June 2014
    Total mileage 94,940
    Miles since October 2015
    report 512
    Latest costs nil

    SLEEPING BMC BEAUTY AWAKENS

    After being used as weekend transport to the golf club through the autumn, the MG – like my woods and irons – has been hibernating over the winter. Knowing full well that, when I did dig it out again, I would quite likely face a continuation of last year’s endless niggles, I was still unwilling to subject it to month after month of salty roads. So, when the first signs of spring appeared, out came the battery charger. Despite being started and warmed at regular intervals over the winter, the A-series took a bit of waking up this time. But wake up it did, so I headed off into the countryside to see if all was well.

    As I was checking the tyre pressures at the local garage, a chap stopped to compliment the car and how sweetly it was idling. He then noticed the wing badge: “ British Leyland ? God, they were lousy…” People clearly have long memories. I was reminded of the various non-mechanical jobs that I had intended to sort over the winter, but which I’d never got around to. First is the tear to the driver’s seat base – one of few interior blemishes and so all the more noticeable. Martin Buckley has pointed me in the direction of a local trimmer, so that should soon be sorted.

    The other problem is that the driver’s door is hung in such a way that the upper-rear corner slightly fouls the B-pillar. It’s now reached the point where it’s worn away the paint, so that’ll be another job for Cromhall Refinishing in Thornbury – as will the rust bubble that has appeared on the windscreen surround. That has the potential to be more involved than it looks, but is best sorted as soon as possible. The MG’s still not running quite right, either. Having spent almost countless evenings going through the timing, carbs, points gap and valve clearances, it may be time for a second opinion. Martin Port has suggested that Phil Cottrell at Classic Jaguar Replicas – a man who knows the A-series inside out – would get it sorted in no time. I still reckon that it’s distributorrelated in some way, but no doubt Phil will be able to tell me for sure. It would be good to have it at full strength, because it feels abusive to be driving the 1300 when it’s clearly not right. I’m sure that’s not far off, and then it can once again be loaded up with golf kit on a regular basis.

    After being laid up for the winter, the MG is gracing the roads again but poor running still needs sorting. Window frame has worn paint from pillar. Split in driver’s seat is due to be tackled.
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    This pull-handle MGB, previously 572 VOW, was restored just before the turn of the millennium using a Heritage shell, with some bills from Classic MG Services of Fareham. There’s an invoice for a new fuel tank in 2003 and some sundries in 2007. Old MoTs go back to 1995, with the mileage at 23,935, so it’s hardly been used over the past 20 years.

    Confusingly, there’s an ‘in-progress’ picture in the file showing the doors and front wings off, though this perhaps was before the decision was made to reshell the car. It’s solid and rot-free as you’d expect, with spot-weld dimples still well defined in the rear arch lips. There are a couple of dings and ripples in the back end of the left-hand sill, the door that side is slightly proud at the bottom, plus the bonnet and bootlid fits are a little variable, all consistent with Heritage output. The chrome is mostly good, with some plate flaking or wearing off the front bumper. The exhaust is fairly recent, the wheels are in good shape and the tyres almost unused 2013 Barums in the correct 165 section, with an unused Nankang on the spare and the tools still next to it. The hood is in decent condition and the tonneau is new.

    Inside, the leather upholstery is just settling in with a few creases and wear points, plus the carpets still look clean and fresh, with new overmats. The crackle finish to the dash is good except for a small scraped area where the keys have been swinging.

    The three-bearing crank engine is of attractively standard appearance, down to the Coopers stickers on the air-filter casings, plus it’s still running a dynamo and mechanical fan. The radiator is full of fresh green coolant and the oil is clean and nearly at the maximum mark.

    It starts after a churn, having been standing for a while, and the motor is mechanically quiet showing 60psi-plus from the off, which doesn’t drop when warm, suggesting that the unit is fairly fresh. It drives really nicely with a supple ride, tracking and pulling up straight and everything working as it should. Overdrive clicks in and out promptly, the brakes feel right and coolant temperature steadies at 170ºF. The MoT runs until 6 May.

    Car #MGB / #MG / #1963-MGB / #MG / #MG-MGB
    Year of manufacture #1963
    Recorded mileage 30,134
    Asking price £22,500
    Vendor Oselli, near Buckingham, tel: 01993 849610; www.oselli.com

    WHEN IT WAS NEW
    Price £834
    Max power 95bhp
    Max torque 107lb ft
    0-60mph 11 secs
    Top speed 100mph
    Mpg 26

    SUMMARY

    EXTERIOR
    ● Heritage shell; excellent paint
    INTERIOR
    ● Almost like new; hide trim just settling in; dash almost mint
    MECHANICALS
    ● Feels sorted; drives sweetly
    VALUE ★★★★★★✩✩✩✩
    For Nicely standard; almost as if it has just left Abingdon
    Against Uneven left sill

    SHOULD I BUY IT?
    If you want what is, in effect, a nearly new example of the B in its purest form, yes. Younger models and GTs will be a little cheaper

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    Car #MGB-GT / #MGB / #MG
    Run by Greg MacLeman
    Owned since July 2013
    Total mileage 63,304
    Miles since December 2016 report 189
    Latest costs £938

    FIXED UP WITH A NEW RESIDENCE

    The second half of 2016 was never going to be easy for me due to an impending flat purchase. The difficulties were compounded by staying at my brother’s place in Sidcup, Kent until the sale was finalised. A sofa bed was less than ideal, but it was the lack of parking that really worried me – not helped by the MG’s MoT expiry date falling at precisely the same time.

    With that in mind, I took the car for an early test to ensure that it was mobile should it require any serious work. Sadly, it did.

    The passenger-side sill was the main culprit. After I climbed into the inspection pit, it became clear that the rear portion of the sill was little more than a crusty coating of underseal, feeling more like a damp Weetabix box than solid metal. I knew that there was a problem in the making from the outside, too, where the paintwork was visibly bubbling at the lower corner, covering an area roughly the same size as my open hand. The second issue was a failing wheel bearing – a factor I’ve attributed to the strange, intermittent noise that I’d heard while returning from Paris earlier in the year. On top of those woes there were a number of smaller gripes also needing attention.

    With ‘London weighting’ affecting hourly rates as well as pints, I opted to take the car back to South Lincolnshire, where a recommendation from a local garage led me to an excellent bodyshop. They don’t normally work on classics, but made a welcome exception due to me being – in spirit at least – a local.

    The MG stayed there for longer than expected, but the work was carried out to an excellent standard. Instead of just using a small repair section, a larger piece was cut from an entire lower rear wing, which was supplied by the MG Owners’ Club, while a repair panel was fabricated for the underside. The paint match is astounding, and if they’ll have the car back, I’ll definitely be putting more work their way.

    Despite sitting for weeks on end, the B burst into life at first kick for the blast back to London. A 70mph cruise was just what the doctor ordered, having been away from the car for so long. Not even the blinding low sun, salty roads and a faulty windscreen washer could dampen my mood. The car was pulling so well I’ve resolved to get it on a rolling road to see just how many ponies have been corralled by its performance mods, and to set a benchmark for future enhancements.

    I took the car straight to my usual garage to have the wheel bearing replaced, but by the next day it was clear the washer jet was the tip of an iceberg. A litany of niggling ‘fails’ followed, including an intermittent horn, brake imbalance and worn tyres, which, irritatingly, hadn’t been picked up on the MoT just 120 miles earlier. In the end it cost £398, but the B now has a clean bill of health – probably its first since the three-day week and certainly the first during my ownership.

    By the time the latest round of repairs was complete my wallet was nearly £1000 lighter, but things were looking up. The new flat has that rarest of London attributes – a garage. For the first time since moving to the capital three years ago, the car can finally be kept away from the elements. Before the paint had even dried I’d cut a piece of carpet to cover the floor, which will make working on the MG much more comfortable. There’s even a ‘spares mezzanine’ (as dubbed by Elliott), although that is currently occupied with decorating detritus. The only downside is a lack of power, which one rogue on Facebook suggested I ‘borrow’ from the ideally located security light.

    As well as keeping the GT dry and secure, I’m hoping that having a dedicated space will give me the impetus to take on greater maintenance challenges, as well as tackling a few upgrades. And if that doesn’t, getting stuck with a bill for nearly £400 certainly will. MG fanatics of South Croydon, I will at some point be needing your help…

    After three years living outside under a cover, the MG finally has a proper garage in which to shelter from the elements. Note handy ‘spares mezzanine’.

    Rear of the sill needed extensive repairs.
    With fresh metal welded in, the body is masked up and primed ready for fresh top coat.
    B is dwarfed by moderns in a local car park.
    Two new tyres were needed for the MoT.
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