Wednesday, May 10, 2017

MGB - an Expert Opinion

Before I started tearing into the master cylinders, it occurred to me that I should probably get some more expert advice on this MG. I figured I had a pretty decent little car, but hearing that from someone who actually knows what s/he is talking about goes a long way.

The Web
The first, obvious and free place to go looking for expert advice is the internet. Unfortunately, the advice isn't always expert, and sometimes it is simply wrong. These days there are multiple enthusiast sites for pretty much any car, so that just makes things worse. I know the VW scene, for example, has lots of forums, some are more welcoming. On the other end of the continuum, some are downright hostile to new folks.... and each other. In the VW world, it seems like the more level-headed the general discourse, the more accurate the advice. I think this stems from the originator John Muir, and his attitude that is spilled all over the pages of his Idiot books.

For the MG, I go to the MG experience ( Unlike the VW world, there aren't as many active board or forum to choose from. The MG Experience is lively with a wide array of members spanning from the ultra-purists to the full-on experimental. Above all, there are little judgments about what you want your car to be, and things get testy usually when someone is suggesting an alteration that is unsafe. I haven't witnessed religious battles over minutia either.
The MG Experience header

With all that context, there were still limits for how much a forum can advise about the condition of your car. At some point, you need someone to look at things and point out the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Local Guy
confused mechanic
If you have a local mechanic who you trust with your car(s), s/he may be perfect for looking at a new project for you. Over the years, I've had my share of mechanical screwings, so there are few that I genuinely trust. Those who I do trust don't own garages, and are kinda gypsy in their approach. The best are usually highly skilled with one kind of car, or a particular area, like my friend Justin the TDI engine man. You can roll the dice with the local Firestone (not picking on Firestone, they all do this), and see what they say. If you can filter out all the up-selling and hear what they are really saying, you might hear about some of the problems. You definitely won't hear about all of them. They have blinders on, focused on the things they do well. Firestone, for example, will do a great job of highlighting issues with your suspension, steering and alignment, but identifying rust or bog under paint? Nah. Engine issues? Probably not. It could still be a useful trip to a local shop if you already know what they can and can't see... and you already know the good the bad and the ugly about the stuff they can't see.

Car Manufacturer Expert
British Auto Works logo
Ultimately, I just jumped to the end and found a local British car specialist shop: British Auto Works in North Plains, OR (website link). I have seen air-cooled VW specialist shops all over the West Coast, and I found the similarities and differences between the VW and British shops simply fascinating. Every garage has some kind of messy going on. Whether its a pile of boxes and parts heaped around or a desperate need for a broom, every specialist garage I've walked into had similar messy. I contrast this with the Firestone's of the world which look really tidy most of the time, even in the shop area. Not sure why that phenomenon happens. By contrast, and maybe this is unique to British Auto Works, the British shop had more space for both working on cars as well as in their lobby. I've seen VW shops where you could barely walk between different vehicles getting worked on simultaneously. The British shop had room for sparks to fly between them.

The Review
The guys at British Auto Works were great. I was introduced to one of their mechanics by the owner when I arrived for my appointment. That mechanic handled my car from that point through to the ring-out at the end. He crawled all over it, test drove it, had it on the lift, used various measuring devices, etc. When he was finished examining it, we did a walk-around before putting it on the lift again so he could show me what he found. The list of bad news wasn't long, which was great to hear.

Future posts will be addressing what we listed:
Steering Rack is leaking. One gaiter is torn, causing the leak. Rack could be damaged. (See MGB - steering rack)
Front suspension is original and will need refreshing. Lower arm bushings look pretty bad.
Rear passenger wheel makes noise on turns. Wheel bearing should be examined.
Coolant pump is toast. It will fail, and fail soon. Replace before driving much more.
very little rust, but driver floor looks iffy.
Brakes are spongey, check the master cylinder (see MGB Master Cylinder(s) Started)
Possible exhaust leak causing a pop-pop-pop noise on deceleration
The interior is pretty rough, but serviceable.... and there's no convertible top

For good news, he really liked the way it drove. Lots of pep from the side-draft weber carb, solid shifting transmission and no weird noises from the drive train. The car sits well, doesn't make suspension noise, really solid. Very little rust, especially the frame.

That's it for today. Once its all written down, that list looks pretty tall, but better to know the full list from a proper shop rather than get a partial list, possibly with wrong items, from somewhere else. Thanks, as always, for following along,

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