56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it going?

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Fifty Six MGA
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56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it going?

Post by Fifty Six MGA » Wed Jun 29, 2011 11:39 am

I bought my car in December, 2010. My first real classic car.

I bought it as a driver, and it is that. Most of the time. It was affordable, and in one piece, though it's now clear that if I'd just bought a restored car, I'd be ahead $$ wise in short order, but I wouldn't be learning as much. I'm not really planning a restoration, so this thread will just be all the things I have to do to keep it on the road, and upgrade or improve it along the way.

As I've gotten to know the car, all the evidence points to it being a likely low-mileage original, other than a respray and a redone interior. There is rust. It has required a fair bit of sorting. My impression/best guess is that it sat for a long, long time, and the previous owner got it running again, cleaned it up, put the new interior in, then flipped it to me without driving it enough to really find all the issues.

In December, with some help from Steve, and some help over the phone, I got my electrical issues sorted and fitted a new generator. It's been all good there since.

This spring I drove it a fair bit, and fixed a lot of odds and ends. I'd never had a working temp gauge, so I replaced that.
Malcolm rebuilt the front suspension, and replaced the clutch.
My ignition coil exploded, so I replaced it, but had it wired backwards and burned up the Petronix ignition system.

I'd made a mental note that as I drove the car a fair bit, my oil pressure seemed to be dropping, and I was going through some oil, but don't really know if it'd be considered more than expected. ..

with Stewart's help I changed the distributor over to points and a condenser, and got it running in time for the Memorial day run.... ( see next post)
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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Fifty Six MGA » Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:38 pm

the memorial day drive went pretty well. I woke early, checked all the fluids, and headed over ot meet Stewart so we could caravan over to Malibu.

My car was having a bit of an issue with idling, but ran well. I took a little pride in the fact that my car was the oldest car there that day, and kept up well. I really enjoyed the day. The car ran fine....the temperature would rise on the long uphills, but drop back done. My oil pressure did seem low...

After we split from the rest of the group, we headed south on PCH. Ugh. Traffic was rough heading into Santa Monica, it was hot day, and my temperature gauge was climbing a bit, but not too bad. At some point, as we sat in traffic, I noticed some white smoke in the exhaust. Not a lot, but some. Hmmm. Not good.

We made it into Santa Monica, had some lunch, and hopped on the freeway. At some point I had to slow, and noticed a fair chunk of white steam, and resolved to take the next exit. As I was looking for an exit, the temperature gauge started to climb, a lot. As I pulled off and shut down the engine, the temperature gauge (with no water circulation or fan) went off the end.

I checked the radiator, and figured it must be low. I was able to add almost an entire jug of coolant. Doh!

Drove home, and aside from some white smoke, all appeared ok. Just to test, before draining the system, I refilled with water, and was able to get a couple quarts in.

I had a few busy weeks, so the car sat, forlorn, while I decided if this was something I wanted to tackle or not. In the end, I decided it was a good chance to learn the car, and set about fixing it. Off came the exhaust, carbs, and cylinder head. The Gasket was in rough shape, and certainly appeared to have fluid on all sides. The rockers were covered in a gnarly gunk. I'm guessing coolent and oil mixed and frothed.

Anyway, the valves on the head looked a little beat, so I ordered some new valves, springs, and guides, and went to the machinist. Dropped that off.

Since the headers were off, I decided to clean stuff up, both the headers and the engine bay a bit, while I waited for the head.

Figured I'd take a look at the exhaust too. WHOA! Big hole under my seat from the exhaust burning the floor boards. Scary. So I've constructed a heat shield, (I didn't like the hot feet anyway) and will check that everything hangs correctly when I reassemble.

Since the engine was 1/2 apart, and I was concerned about the oil trend I'd been noticing, I decided to pull the oil pan off, and replace the rod bearing and the piston rings, and check the oil pump. And that's where I am now, struggling to get the bolts off to get the oil pan off, and still hoping to have the car back together, and shook down, by Monday. We'll see... If I find something else that should be done, I likely won't be there.

In hindsight, I started the project thinking I was just going to check the cylinder head, and with a bad case of "might as wells", I will have gone through and inspected a good chunk of the engine. had I known how deep I was going to get, I would have pulled the engine. I wanted to avoid that, but overall, it clearly would have been less work.

My plan is to get into work early tomorrow and Friday to have time to work on it in the afternoon. Hopefully I've assembled the right stack of parts, or can find them locally.

I've also got a full set of rebuilt shocks to install, but that could wait.
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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Steve » Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:49 pm

You definitely have a bad case of the might as wells. I'm betting your oil burning was just valves. Did you perform a compression or leak down test before pulling the lower end apart? If the rings are a little leaky then that's ok so long as you don't mind topping it up now and then. If it's bad then that's another story of course.

Problem with doing the rod bearings is that you might as well do the mains, and if you're doing those then you might as well do cam bearings, and if you're doing those then you may as well do a timing chain, and if you're doing that then you might as well... see where I'm going? ;) It's pretty tough to do "all or nothing", but sometimes it's the best philosophy.

By the way, you pull that engine and you might as well do the clutch... (and then gearbox seals, and then u-joints, and then rear end seals)

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Stewart » Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:58 pm

I warned Geoff that this is the way full blown restorations start.

If my back continues to heal up I should be able to give you a hand on Friday if you need it.

If you do pull the oil pump save the gasket so you know which one to use. I don't know if the A's have the same problem as the B's with 2 different gaskets for the oil pumps.

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Fifty Six MGA » Wed Jun 29, 2011 4:11 pm

Last night, I was seriously considering just putting it all back together and see how it runs.

The low oil pressure is a concern, and it doesn't seem like the valves would cause that....
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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Steve » Wed Jun 29, 2011 4:42 pm

You're correct, valves won't cause low pressure. Guides can cause oil burning though, which relates directly to oil loss.

What do you mean by low pressure? Flow is more important than pressure anyway, in the real world. If you're talking about 50 PSI at speed instead of 70, I wouldn't personally worry about it too much.

If you put it back together and do a compression test, and then find out it's bad, all you have wasted is a head gasket and a bit of time. If you pull the engine apart and get caught up in more might-as-wells (which is more likely than not to happen) then you could end up without your car for the rest of the Summer and spend a bunch of money unnecessarily.

I don't want to talk you out of an engine refresh or anything. There's no peace of mind like knowing your engine is fresh and sound. But do be realistic about what it truly needs, and where disassembling it might take you.

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Fifty Six MGA » Wed Jun 29, 2011 5:28 pm

The low oil pressure was more in the 10 psi (hot idle) never really going above 40-45 even under sustained running. (Better when I bought it, but that's where I was at at the end)

Hmm.... Now I'm conflicted.... Last night I almost talked myself into just finishing cleaning things up, and then putting the car back together. This morning I was gung-ho to finish the job I've got the bits for. (rod bearings and rings).

Maybe I'll continue, but try hard to avoid any more "might as wells". If I find anything that looks seriously out of sorts, then perhaps it'd be for the best long term. Now I don't know....

:eek:

I really want to join you guys monday, so that'd be incentive not to replace even more.
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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Jimmy » Wed Jun 29, 2011 6:52 pm

The easy way to make the oil pressure reading more appealing is to turn the gauge a bit clockwise.
In baseball, running into someone is apparently a "collision".
But doing the same thing in a car somehow makes it an "accident".

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by olson » Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:57 pm

rings do not affect oil pressure. If you had reasonable compression could you leave the rings and just replace the rod bearings?- that is relatively easy if you already have the pan off, though I am not very familiar with the MGA engine mounting.

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Steve » Wed Jun 29, 2011 11:13 pm

If the rod bearings are bad then I would also suspect the mains. It could be just one thing causing the low pressure or it could be a normal combination of even wear throughout the engine. There have been times when a head job on a worn engine caused the bottom end to fail soon after, but it just depends on what's worn. I tend to go overboard on things like this so I would be tempted to pull the lump and go through it all. Still, I'm much better about it these days so I might also be tempted to put the head on, see how it runs, and then test the bottom end before tearing it to bits. You could find out that the rocker assembly is trashed and that's where your pressure problem is. Or even just a worn oil pump that wasn't replaced at the last rebuild. Considering it's your only classic and you don't want to be without it (and I don't blame you), I would lean more toward a methodical diagnosis rather than an all out assault on the thing. Your call of course. :)

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Jimmy » Thu Jun 30, 2011 9:47 am

Looks like you have two choices here.

A) Slap things back together and drive the wheels off of the car. Then fix things when you feel like it.
B) Take it completely apart, and hope you'll get it back together within the next few years.

Of course, there is a third alternative. You can buy a second fun car, find something wrong with that one, too, and take it apart as well. And so on.
This is the option which Steve has perfected.
In baseball, running into someone is apparently a "collision".
But doing the same thing in a car somehow makes it an "accident".

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Steve » Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:15 am

Jimmy wrote:... buy a second fun car, find something wrong with that one, too, and take it apart as well. And so on. This is the option which Steve has perfected.
:? I think you have me confused with someone else? I'm the last guy to take cars apart for no reason. Never done a ground up restoration in my life and most likely never will. Drive them and maintain as necessary, as time and money permit.

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by gorms68 » Thu Jun 30, 2011 4:17 pm

Steve Simmons wrote:
Jimmy wrote:... buy a second fun car, find something wrong with that one, too, and take it apart as well. And so on. This is the option which Steve has perfected.
:? I think you have me confused with someone else? I'm the last guy to take cars apart for no reason. Never done a ground up restoration in my life and most likely never will. Drive them and maintain as necessary, as time and money permit.

A good plan, if the car you start with is solid to start with. Some of the cars I get, OK most of the cars I find need to be torn down before they can be relied upon and be safe to give to a family member to drive. Your approach all depends with what you start with.

I will agree that you are the last one to do a full restoration as your passion is truly in driving them, despite the fact that you are a darn good mechanic!
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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Steve » Thu Jun 30, 2011 5:18 pm

Flattery will get you everywhere, especially when it isn't true. ;)

My other philosophy is to always buy a solid car. The '39 was my one exception. Never bought a non-runner before that and god willing I never will again! :D

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Fifty Six MGA » Thu Jun 30, 2011 5:45 pm

Hindsight being 20/20, I probably should have shopped longer and spent a little more to get a better sorted car. But these cars will never be decisions we make with 100% logic, or we'd all be driving new hondas, right?

I make myself feel better by thinking about how much I'm learning in the process.
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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Fifty Six MGA » Sat Jul 02, 2011 3:52 am

argh!

Well, I did take oil pan off, but upon inspection, decided to forgo doing the rod bearings and rings. Stewart came by this afternoon, and we got the head back on and torqued. So the cylinder head is all redone. The block is just tided up, with new gaskets on the oil pan and side plates, not much else.

After he left, I set about finishing the insulation I was adding to the undercarriage, and putting things back together. Put the exhaust manifold back on, and intake. I had a new gasket for the exhaust manifold/exhaust pipe junction, and the old one was toast, so I set about getting it off. Not easy, it was on there. b

Went to put the new gasket on. MF'er. It's too small. I have two, and both appear to be about a 1/4 inch too small, unless I'm not understanding something. I seem to need something with an ID of 1 3/4 inch, and it's a fair chunk smaller than that. Does that seem normal?

Dammit. I went to autozone, but they didn't seem to have anything I could use.

Dammit. I really wanted to do the drive monday. My cars has been off the road FAR too long. Any ideas?

Any ideas? Is there part from another car type I could use.
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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Steve » Sat Jul 02, 2011 8:03 am

Sounds like you got MGB gaskets. I should have a spare MGA gasket here somewhere that you can use. I might even be heading that way this afternoon.

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Fifty Six MGA » Sat Jul 02, 2011 8:33 am

Steve, upon further investigation, I think I have the right gasket, but the wrong exhaust?

According to Barney's site, the MGA had 1.5 inch pipes, which the gasket I have would fit. Is it your understanding that the MGA would have a bigger ID gasket than the B?

I'm calmer today, I was pretty frustrated when I wrote that last night.

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Steve » Sat Jul 02, 2011 8:37 am

Yes, the MGA uses a larger gasket than MGB. It uses a single down pipe instead of dual pipes like the MGB does, so the diameter has to be larger to allow the same flow.

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Stewart » Sat Jul 02, 2011 9:55 pm

It lives

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Fifty Six MGA » Sun Jul 03, 2011 1:37 am

Steve, thanks for the part. Watch your mail box.

Stewart. You help was awesome and generous and much appreciated. Kim and I took it for a drive, and it ran strong. Once it had been running a while, it was stumbling a little, and the idle was getting really low. I turned the screws on the carb a bit, and that took care of it.

For the record, in the end I did not rebuild the bottom end, but I did take of the oil pan and inspect, replace the gasket, and clean things up.

Stewart and I put the head back on, re-torqued it, and generally cleaned things up a bit. Still more I'd like to do.

I also built a heat shield, and started insulating things better....
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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Fifty Six MGA » Tue Aug 30, 2011 10:05 pm

More recent work-

I put a radio in, and installed a new side mirror. I was enjoying tinkering, and not fixing, just for a bit.

Then I drove to Santa Barbara with the gang. As we exited the freeway, I noticed a loud, noticable "not right" noise from the engine compartment. My generator was shot. Luckily, someone in the crowd had a lotus belt that fit perfect and allowed me to get home, following Steve and Stewart on a spirited drive.

So I replaced the generator, for the second time in the 9-10 months I've owned the car. :? I also replaced the control box, and it seems to be working.

I ordered a set of rebuilt shocks months and months ago. They've been sitting in my garage, waiting to go on, and I've just not been able to get to it. with the new baby, and a busy work schedule, I decided to have malcolm do it. Got the car done yesterday. It drove great. Somehow the whole car just felt tighter and more buttoned down. I look forward to really driving it. I'm looking forward to driving on labor day, but I'm almost afraid to drive the car between now and then, in case I break something. :|
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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Steve » Tue Aug 30, 2011 10:26 pm

Good show! Every little thing you do to that car will be another improvement just like the shocks made. It will just get better and better!

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Jimmy » Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:08 am

Oops.
If putting a radio in a sportscar makes it better, I've been doing it all wrong.
Now I gotta figure out which radio came out of what car and start reinstalling them.
Oh well, at least that's an easier job than replacing pesky U-joints or setting the toe-in and such.
In baseball, running into someone is apparently a "collision".
But doing the same thing in a car somehow makes it an "accident".

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Re: 56 MGA -Rolling restoration/sorting/just keeping it goin

Post by Fifty Six MGA » Sun Sep 04, 2011 8:39 pm

I find it amusing how many people seem offended by a radio in a vintage car. There is a reason MG put a speaker grill and radio cutout in the dash!

I'm not asking anyone to install one in their car, but if I enjoy some tunes while driving my car, what harm is it? I promise, I can still hear the engine. Have you guys heard my car? ;)
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