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MGB Rebuild On The Road! (long)

Subject: MGB Rebuild On The Road! (long)
From: "John M. Trindle" <>
Date: Mon, 20 Feb 1995 23:30:37 +0000
Oh boy, another britcar list to follow!  Here's the story of my first
engine rebuild, recently "completed": 

After 2 months of hard labor and overheated credit cards, Trouble is back 
on the road...

I only started working on cars about 18 months ago, so tearing down and 
rebuilding an engine was an enlightening experience! (En it lightened my 
wallet considerably).

Basically, my '73 B ingested a hose clamp in November.  It had been 
getting 75 miles to a quart of oil up to this point, and was impossible 
to tune... 

After the Christmas expenses were taken care of, I started the rebuild. 
We had a problem of garage space... the garage is 50 miles away from the
storage spot... So: 

Weekend 0:  Remove head.  Valves are surprisingly undamaged by ingestion 
of metal... lots of carbon.

Weekend 1:  Tow the car to garage, remove engine.  Dismantle engine and 
note that cylinders 3 and 4 have "high-tech segmented rings"... which 
disintegrate when we pull the pistons.  Bearings are really bad and crank 
is out of round...  (We did try to replace just bearings about 2 months 
previous to fix oil pressure problem).  Clutch is covered in oil from a 
leaking transmission front seal.  Camshaft has noticeable wear.  Tow body 
back 50 miles to home.

Weekend 2: Block, head, and crank go to the machine shop.  Prices keep 
mounting as "oops, need new seats", "oops, exhaust valves need 
replacing", etc.  Initial price quoted was very low so final result was 
close to our private estimate.  And:  Seven Enterprises gets big grin as 
I buy exhaust, clutch, valves, cam kit, 0.030 over pistons, 0.010 over rod 
bearings, and 0.020 over main bearings.  Naturally, the main bearings are on

Weekend 3:  Clean parts.... whooo what a mess.  Pick up block, head, and 
crank from shop and transport all to yet another garage, this one only 30 
miles from home base.

Weekend 4:  assemble crank and pistons into block, cam, and front 
plate...  We have to keep searching for just the right nut and bolt since 
everything was cleaned in 3 batches... all mixed up...  This was the key 
element which made life miserable..  ONE MORE TRIP to the parts/hardware 

Weekend 5:  Assemble head, lifters, rods, rockers, timing chain / gears, 
rebuild distributor etc. etc.  (hey man, we're rolling now!)  O-ring seal 
for oil filter adapter on back order.

Wednesday:  Unibody "frame" must be welded where PPPO stuck a new front 
section on with brazing, wood, and metal bondo (aarrrghhh!!)  A known 
problem.  Anyway, 1) tow body 30 miles,  2) clean out the inside of the 
engine compartment after work in 21 degree temperatures... the hot water 
freezes within 10 seconds on the sheet metal... not to mention the 
concrete "floor".

Thursday:  Tow body another 25 miles to welding shop (nowhere near the 
final assembly point, mind you!)  "It'll be ready Saturday Afternoon".

Saturday Afternoon.  O-Ring has arrived, so assemble filter adapter, rear 
plate, and flywheel onto engine.  Paint engine.  Carry engine 25 miles to 
welding shop... "Oh, I guess you didn't get my message.  I ran out of gas 
halfway through your job".  Arrrggghghghghh!  Cut losses and take engine 
another 25 miles to final assembly point.  Welder borrows a bottle of gas 
to complete job, as the next weekend is tied up completely with a 2 day 

Saturday Evening:  Welder calls "the borrowed bottle was empty.  It'll 
be ready Monday evening."

Monday Evening:  By the time we drive 50 miles to welding shop, and tow 
car 25 more miles to final assembly point, it is far and away too late to 

Tuesday Evening:  Valentine's Day / Anniversary, and NObody messes with that.

Wednesday:  It's driving me nuts.  The car and the engine are within 50 
feet of each other.  I can think of nothing but how great it will be to 
have my MG back.  

I leave work early and drive 50 miles to final assembly point.  Only have
1 person who can help, and he is in-and-out (he WORKS for a living, even).
It's raining continuously. We assemble the whole schmeer and fire it up!! 
Engine sounds wonderful!  Yee Hah!!!  One problem............... 

When I put the new seal on the front of the gearbox, I put the throwout 
bearing fork in backwards... NO CLUTCH!!!  12:30 in the morning we give 
up and I drive 50 miles back home.

Thursday:  Since the Boss didn't want to face crowded restaurants on 
Valentine's, it's dinner and a play.

Friday:  I take the whole day off.  I have to get this done so I can 
concentrate on being O. D. for the weekend's autocross.  I drive 50 miles 
to the final "assembly is the reverse of disassembly which is the reverse 
of...." site.

Despite dumping coolant all over the workspace right away... trying to 
clean it up with sand... then having to work in coolant and sand the rest 
of the day... and the fact that I spend MORE TIME going to 3 auto parts 
stores to find a top hose for the radiator than it takes to put on 
the alternator, manifolds, and radiator...  We get the thing back 
together.  Clutch works, oil pressure 50-70, engine idles (1500 rpm, but 
in a very basic tune).

The drive home is marked by billowing clouds of oil smoke behind the car 
(but it's travelling under its own power!), power loss and gain (but 
nothing has been tuned beyond initial conditions, and the half tank of gas 
is 3 months old, and the car has been stored outside...)... but Trouble 
makes it 50 miles to its own parking space.

There really is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you get when 
something you >built with your own hands< can take you 50 miles in an 
hour (including stops for sodas and to see if anything really is on fire).

Weekend 6:  Autocross, autocross.  I do a rough tune on the carbs Sunday 
Evening... still experiencing power loss and smoke.

Monday (today):  Retorque head, Adjust valves, use dry-gas and fill with 
premium.  Still have billowing smoke when travelling above 45 mph, but no 
power loss (feels reaally good).  As the sun sets we determine the oil 
smoke is coming from oil dripping on the exhaust... We suspect the 
breather tappet cover dripping onto the downpipe when air is flowing fast 
enough to blow the oil back...  To the parts store for RTV and tomorrow, 
I'll be out early trying to R&RTV&R that tappet cover.

The goal here, folks, is to get Trouble into shape for the 200+ mile trip 
to Carlisle (and BACK!).  Well, we have a couple months.  Look for Virginia 
Plate SAFT FST in the parking lot.

(Thanks to Mike Kimball, Bill and Craig Conkling, Byron and Alan Pebworth,
and Gene Baker, without whom I would have been unable to enjoy today's 60+
degree temperature with the top down {and oil smoke billowing out behind}). 

John M. Trindle     | | Tidewater Sports Car Club
'73 MGB E Stock     | '69 Spitfire E Stock | '88 RX-7 C Stock

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