Buz R

Miles of Smiles

Ok, here we go...my story of the MGB I told my wife I was buying for her.

Been hanging out with some guys who drive British cars. We meet on Wednesday evenings at the Proper Shop (my friend Jim's shop) in Asheboro N.C. , we call it BNO, i.e. boys night out. We turn wrenches, tell lies, fabricate, weld , grind, eat and whatever else needs doing. These guys had been after me for years to get off my metric bike and into a British classic (btw I'm 67 yrs.old). My good friend Jim and I were on a road trip in 2011 to purchase me a chrome bumper MGB, however after a 4.5 hr. drive to see the car, it was nothing close to what was advertised. So we headed home to try another day. As we were approaching home Jim says he knows a guy who is a local that has been threatening to sell his 1977 MGB. I said give him a call and see if he had made up his mind. This guy says he's ready to sell and that $3500.00 would get the car. He had at some point signed it over to his son who drove it briefly, then parked it. He told his dad to come get it back after many years. This is where Jim got involved and put the car back in running order after those years of sitting, Jim says that price was a steal. So we headed to see the car and I was amazed at the condition. This car had sat in a warehouse for close to 17 years undriven. Completely rust free with the only mod being a weber carb conversion. Needless to say I bought the car on the spot, the gent who owned it was the original owner. I picked it up several days later and drove it home. The odo showed around 100K miles, so apparently it had been well driven. It ran ok but sounded like a cement mixer going down the road. I spent a lot of time cleaning, shining, rubbing and buffing to get the paint and chrome looking good once again. Gave it a complete tuneup and started driving it. Anyone who has owned/driven an MGB for any length of time knows how finicky the wiring can be on these cars. Mine was no different in this respect. The upside to the wiring issues forced me to learn every circuit in the car and the idiosyncrasies of said wiring. Occasional wiring issues still pop up but I see them as challenges rather than a pita. So after driving the car for close to several years and approx. 20K miles it was time for an engine rebuild, brakes and suspension makeover. I purchased a used long block from a fellow enthusiast and went to work ordering all the requisite parts to accomplish the tasks. I had a local machine shop do the required engine work (and this didn't go without it's own issues). I had several mates helping with the engine/trans R&R, specifically Jack and Jim, without whose expertise the job would have been exponentially more difficult. Whilst the machine shop was doing their job, I set about to source a set of HS4 SU carbs and manifold. Having procured all the parts needed for the SU changeover I began with a poor mans carb rebuild. Fortunately one of the chaps in our BNO group who is a Brit named Barry and actually has a business rebuilding these carbs, he pitched in with his time and expertise, many thanks to Barry. Barry also supplied the intake manifold, which I promptly set to gasket matching intake ports and doing some mild port/polishing on the runners....just couldn't help myself, this is a carryover from my drag racing days. That task done and on the shelf until engine assembly time, I moved on to next project. As most know, an MGB must be distant relatives with the older Harley Davidson's. As these motorcycles and MGB's are very territorial, they mark their spot if left parked for any length of time. With that in mind I undertook degreasing the engine bay and undercarriage all the way to rear bumper. This was a monumental task trying to clean up 30+ years of gunk. With that mostly unpleasant job behind me it was time to move on. Next inline was undertaking a complete front suspension upgrade. With all the parts in hand I dove in and began with replacing tie rod ends, all bushings and components required for the suspension overhaul. Here again my friend Jack pitched in and helped with this project. Jack is one of those highly skilled individuals with whom you never have to go back and check his work, thanks again Jack. I wanted to lower the car so I purchased a set of used early model front coil springs and installed them. Suspension completed and on to brake work. Not much to do here as Jim had previously put on front pads, so I pulled the hubs and inspected brake cylinders, rotors and greased the bearings. On to the rear brakes to inspect brake cylinders, drums and replace the shoes. I then checked the differential fluid and all well there.

Let me digress for a moment and say something about my friend Jim. I met Jim shortly after moving to N.C. In 2000 and at that time he was in process of rebuilding a Morris Minor van. This was like Déjà vu because as a young boy, my dad had acquired a Morris Minor car. That car sat in our back yard, it never ran but in my imagination I took many road trips behind it's wheel. So this is where my relationship started with Jim. If there was one person on this planet I could take on a prolonged road trip, it's Jim. He is probably the most creative individual I know. When we first met he told me he was the president of the cheap *ss dog club because he didn't have a lot of $$ to spend on his hobby. Well we built that old moggie and installed a Toyota engine and trans. and drove many backroad miles together in it. As they say "the rest is history".

Let's get back onto the MGB tale. During this rebuild, one of my mates from BNO offered me a transmission, he had cleaned it to look like new, his name is Mike. Well the trans I took out of my car was working fine but it was a big lump of grease. After spending so much time degreasing my car previously, I decided to use the trans Mike gave me, as it was clean and pretty. More to follow later on the trans. At this juncture is was time to pick up the engine and begin attaching the requisite parts to make a complete installable assembly. Straight away upon installing the crankshaft and attempting to install the flywheel, the alignment dowel on flywheel now mysteriously doesn't match up with the crank? It is here I must interject that at the same time I was having my engine work done, my friend Jim also was having his early model MGB engine done as well at the same shop. Unbeknownst to either me or Jim, the machine shop had mixed up our crankshafts. Turns out early B cranks are forged steel while later models are cast. The counterbalance throw profiles are very different but this was my first rodeo and I didn't catch the problem in time. The solution was simple right, all Jim and I needed to do was swap our crankshafts and all would be well. Unfortunately Jim already had his engine together and in his car. The machine shop fixed my flywheel to fit the forged steel crank and I was back in business.

With the engine assembly now complete it was time to install clutch, pressure plate and throw out bearing, using the clutch alignment tool. Having done that, next is to mate the transmission to the engine. Most of my experience in the past dealt with automatics, although in my youth I had done manual trans. installs, so I wasn't a complete newbie to the procedure. The engine was sitting on the floor and the trans. was on dollies and I was attempting to insert input shaft into clutch assembly. I wrestled with this on and off for hours, even threw in a couple of expletives but to no avail, I decided to give it a go tomorrow. A new day with a new opportunity, right... well it turned into another wrestling match and I was at my wits end. Now what, well I kicked the trans. and shouted "you piece of s#it"and instantly the input shaft slide into place, go figure. I'm sure there was a lesson to be learned in all of that but somehow it escaped me. Ok so now we have an engine/trans assembly ready for reinstallation. I give my mates a shout and over they come to lend a hand. The hardest part of this procedure was getting those darn motor mounts in...whew ! It's now just a matter of buttoning her up. Got everything completed, valves adjusted, timing set and water in radiator. The initial startup of a freshly rebuilt engine is always a nail biter for me. You slide the key in the ignition switch, you offer up a little prayer, hold your breathe and turn that key. Vroom went the engine, oil pressure good, water temp good and alternator charging.... a sigh of relief.

Road test time, so off I go and upon the first shift I knew I had a problem. Grinding going into second gear indicates syncro's are shot, remember earlier I said we'd get back to the trans. Sad part about this is that Jim virtually begged me not to put this trans in, he said yours worked fine. I was just being lazy not wanting to clean mine up, instead I opted for the donor. No way I was going to pull the engine/trans as an assembly like I initially did. I chose instead to cut out the rear cross support and remove trans alone. Even doing it this way was not a cake walk. Got the bugger out, cleaned my trans up and reinstalled it. Since this rebuild my wife and I have logged around 13K miles. As with any 38 yr. old car, it occasionally begs for attention, which I loving give it. So here ends this saga but on to the next adventure. If you reread the first line of this story you will notice that I told my wife I was buying the MGB for her, however I actually do all the diving but I have placed a tag under the bonnet which reads "HER 'B' FOR ME".

Well mates it's cheers for now and happy trails to all.

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