Wednesday, January 1, 2025

[Sticky] The Beck TD Story Starts Here!

If you have found your way to this blog via the Internet or the article in Classic Motorsports magazine about the Beck's Brewery MG TD, welcome to the Grant Street Garage! I was thrilled to have a full-page article printed in the November, 2017 issue of Classic Motorsports about my MG project. If you would like to read the whole story so far, start at this link, which will lead you through multiple blog posts:


Friday, December 27, 2019

A Special Transmission Tool

I've been enjoying this project to rebuild an antique Volvo M41 transmission - it has been quite the learning experience. The M41 is an overdrive transmission, and that is a very different beast from the M40 trans that I recently rebuilt. One of the interesting aspects is that the overdrive shift action is done with hydraulics at very high pressure (over 500 PSI), using an oil pump built into the overdrive unit.

Of course, when you're rebuilding, you want to inspect and repair that high-pressure pump, and it turns out it has a part that requires a special tool to remove. It's called the "non-return body" and it's down in the bottom of a hole. This photo is a bit hard to read, but you can see the non-return body at the bottom of the hole, and the part itself is shown in the inset at the top right. It's not a normal hex head. Instead, it is sort of an oval with flat sides:


Friday, December 20, 2019

More on the "Very Specific Jack"

In my last post (link) I detailed the creation of a "very specific jack" to use with my new ER32 Spin Indexer (link). Its mission in life is to support the far end of stock mounted in the indexer, far above the milling machine's table. Here's a photo:


Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Very Specific Jack

I recently posted about an addition to the machine shop equipment at the Grant Street Garage: an ER32 Spin Indexer (link). In response to that post, my friend Jake pointed out that I should have something at the far end of the work in the indexer to keep it from flexing, lest I get inaccurate or inconsistent results. Even a large rod can flex a few thousandths of an inch with just fingertip pressure. This photo makes the issue clear:


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Beck TD, Part 53: Saving a Switch

Here's the second post in a row about extraordinary efforts to try to save a part that is basically junk! The photo below shows two switches removed from the broken shifter in the M41 transmission I'm trying to resurrect (see Part 51 and Part 52 for more details):


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The ER32 Spin Indexer

Wow, if you even made it past the title of this geeky machinist post, you must be pretty interested in machine work! A spin indexer is a useful tool that lets you precisely locate round stock in a milling machine, and rotate it very accurately in one degree increments.  This photo shows the indexing wheel that has holes every 10 degrees, and the 10 offset holes that bring it down to one-degree increments. There's a pin, not shown, that locks the rotation at the desired setting.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Beck TD, Part 52: Waste Not, Want Not

In Part 51, I told about the start of a big experiment: rebuilding a locked-up, rusty M41 overdrive transmission. That is progressing pretty well, but I took an interesting side trip the past couple of days. In the last post, I didn't mention that in addition to the rust and bad bearings, the M41 transmission had taken a hard hit at some point - so hard that the "remote shifter" had broken in two! In the photo below, the top part shows the remote shifter currently in Beck TD, and the lower part the pieces of the broken shifter tail from the M41. The hit was so hard that the heavy shaft inside was bent as well, and the top of the shifter plate was bowed.

Monday, December 2, 2019

A Mildly Embarrassing Repair

It was back in 2016 when I received a used Sherline lathe for Christmas. Click here for the post announcing that addition to the shop. Here's a photo from that post:

Friday, November 22, 2019

Beck TD, Part 51: An Overdrive Experiment, Part 1

In Part 48 and Part 49, I detailed the successful rebuild of the Volvo M40 transmission in Beck TD. It was so interesting, I decided I wanted to do another! This time, an M41 overdrive trans. Charlie Baldwin has one in his Volvo/TD, and loves it. I asked Joe Lazenby if he had a cheap one I could rebuild, and he said, "I have one that's locked up that might work for you." Feeling brave, I bought it.

Getting that trans apart was a long, hard trial, because it was a rusty mess inside. Here was my first view:

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Beck TD, Part 50: New Shoes, and Two Shows

At the end of Part 49, in which I successfully completed a transmission rebuild, I mentioned that I could only test-drive Beck's new trans on the lift, because the wheels had no tires. That was because I had decided to replace all five tires, and there's no better time to strip and paint the wheels than when the tires are not in the way.

Beck's wheels sported probably a dozen coats of paint in various colors, and worse yet, the wheels had not been prepped properly, so the finish was rough, uneven and flaky. I had the old tires removed and properly recycled, and got to work in the sandblast cabinet. After blasting the first wheel and priming it, things were looking pretty good:


Friday, September 13, 2019

Beck TD, Part 49: Transmission Rebuild

"I'll always remember my first transmission rebuild..." said no romantic songwriter ever. But I suspect it's true, for the same reason you remember your first true love. The joys, the sorrows, and most of all the memory of your boneheaded mistakes stay with you.

But my first is done, and it works well! The story is one of perseverance over setbacks, which makes the eventual success even more sweet. After all the study detailed in Part 48, I was very confident that I could reassemble the trans in a couple of hours. So much so, I asked Troy Nace to help by removing Beck's interior while I was finishing the rebuild. He did so, and then he and I removed the problematic trans in the car. I was just sure that we'd be driving around by the end of the afternoon.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Beck TD, Part 48 - Understanding My Transmission

I've undertaken a big project, one that has intimidated me forever: rebuilding a transmission. When I installed the new-to-me Volvo B18 engine in Beck TD, I installed a used trans at the same time. My existing transmission had what I considered unacceptable wear at the front bearing. As it turns out, the replacement trans also has a problem. I decided it was time to get over my fear...

Monday, August 26, 2019

Gloriously Inconsequential

Rob Siegel is an automotive writer that goes by the self-chosen appellation "The Hack Mechanic," and he is a funny guy as well as a good mechanic. In a recent column in Roundel, the magazine of the BMW Car Club of America, Siegel got philosophical for a bit, and explored the reasons that car people, as well as other hobbyists, get so passionate and consumed with their hobbies. One reason is that the decisions involved can be "gloriously inconsequential" - they can consume a lot of time and energy (all of it fun in some way) but the decisions have no real bearing on real life.

Today I got a rare full day in the shop at Grant Street, and did some work on something that certainly qualifies as inconsequential, glorious or not. In addition to the shop full of tools at Grant Street, I maintain something I've started calling The Corner Machine Shop, because it occupies a corner in our garage at home:

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Beck TD, Part 47: Back on the Road!

Great news! After nearly four months of serious effort for a total engine replacement, Beck TD is back on the road. The easy way to do that process is to buy a known-good engine, hose off the worst of the dirt, and stick it in. That takes about a weekend. I did it the hard, satisfying way: clean and paint all parts, repair and upgrade the parts that make sense, and put it back together with a lot of care. Check out the before picture (taken with the engine in the back of Joe Lazenby's pickup) with the after - quite a difference!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Beck TD, Part 46: The Grand Re-wiring!

O Lord, the MG faithful are going to throw me out over this one! Oh, wait... they already did, because Beck TD is Volvo-powered. At the end of Part 45, which was a detailed, involved exploration of  converting from generator to alternator power, I posted this photo:

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Beck TD, Part 45: Alternator Conversions

I'd like to introduce you to Jake Roulstone, my co-author for this post! Jake is a deeply knowledgeable guy I met via the Volvo Engined MG group on Yahoo. He also has a Volvo-powered TD, and his day job as a maintenance supervisor for an asphalt paving company has given him a deep respect and concern for reliability. Just imagine a broken truck, with the full load of asphalt hardening in the truck, and you'll get the idea...

Jake and I agreed to jointly write a procedure to convert from the ancient generator technology to a modern alternator, specific to the world of MG cars with Volvo engines. This is one of those collaborations that has only become possible with the Internet, because Jake lives in sight of the Pacific Ocean, and I live a couple of hours from the Atlantic! There's a lot to consider, and much of it is pretty technical. So.... my first caution is, don't start until you understand every step and implication of the process! Here's a photo collage of both conversions, Jake's to the left, and mine to the right:


While they look similar, they are actually rather different in ways that will be explored below. Let's start with all the decisions you need to make:

Monday, May 13, 2019

Beck TD, Part 44: Trimming the Ram's Horns

The Ram's Horn is an engine part in early Volvos - it vents oil fumes to the atmosphere, in those pre-emissions-controls times. I don't feel guilty for running one - it makes Beck TD look more "vintage," and I've only driven the car about 200 miles in almost two years. As the accountants say, that mileage is "not material" in terms of cleaning up the air. I think the official name of the part is "Road Tube" but Ram's Horn is a common name among enthusiasts due to its shape.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Beck TD, Part 43: Joe's Amazing Tool

Everyone who has anything to do with old Volvos knows who Joe Lazenby is. He owns Susquehanna Spares, and he has a big collection of vintage Volvo parts and complete cars. It was from Joe that I recently bought a replacement B18 engine and M40 transmission for Beck TD. In the course of three recent visits, Joe asked me to create a special tool for him. It's a special sleeve that aligns the rear main seal housing perfectly concentric to the rear of the crankshaft. He sent this picture of one owned by a friend:


Being kind of dumb and optimistic about my abilities, I said, "Sure, I can make that." Of course, I didn't consider that my hobby-grade machine tools were not even capable of doing the job, nor were my skills up to snuff. Fortunately, I know Phil Oles...

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Beck TD, Part 42: A Flat Flywheel

As part of the ongoing engine swap for Beck TD, I decided to include a new clutch. I had originally planned to reuse the better clutch of the two I had, but neither was that good, and when Joe Lazenby told me the reasonable price of a new clutch, I decided it was well worth it.

Any time you add a new clutch, you should have the flywheel resurfaced to give a clean, flat surface. After researching a few local options, I decided to try Reardon Machine Shop, just a few blocks from my house in the city of Lancaster. The result looks great!


Pat Reardon is a third-generation machinist. His grandfather started an automotive machine shop in Lancaster in 1916, just down the street from my house. He now has a single-man operation on North Concord Street in Lancaster.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Beck TD, Part 41 - Bearing Woes

When you work on a really old car, especially a highly modified one like Beck TD, you are constantly dealing with decisions and work practices of "prior meatheads." I say that with full awareness that I'm the "current meathead" because I can do dumb stuff too! But this one was unexpected and unwelcome!