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:

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!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

John's Power Steering Pump

John Zimmerman, along with his son Bob, is in the home stretch of a long restoration of his Buick Riviera, which he has owned since the mid-60's. A couple of weeks ago, it finally returned to Bob's shop with a show-quality paint job by Horsepower Enterprises in Lancaster.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Beck TD, Part 40 - Blocking the Heater

Now that I got my throttle linkage sorted in Part 39, I am continuing to work on tasks I want to accomplish before and during an engine swap. Yesterday, I visited Joe Lazenby to check out the Volvo B18 engine I'm buying to "temporarily" replace my current one, which recent posts proved needs major work. As we stood evaluating the running engine, I asked about the plumbing for the heater.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Beck TD, Part 39 - Full Throttle

At the end of Part 38, I concluded with this photo, showing how Troy Nace and I had removed Beck's head to see why the engine had low compression and heavy oil consumption. What we found wasn't pretty - severe damage to the cylinder walls. The engine will have to come out for rebuilding.

However, there was another problem I uncovered while rebuilding the carbs, and I wanted to get straightened out before removing the engine. I had discovered that my throttle was only opening around a quarter of the way! I sent these two photos with captions to the Volvo Engined MG internet group to ask for opinions:

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Beck TD, Part 38 - Carburetor Rebuild

The past few weeks have brought a rather intense project to the fore, and one that has not had the resolution I hoped! For as long as I have had Beck running, the engine has run extremely rich, with stinky, eye-watering exhaust and various running problems. Even with the carburetors adjusted to their most lean setting, the rich mixture and bad running continued.

I was aware that Beck has internal engine problems also, with very low compression and high oil consumption, but I was hoping to get one more driving season out of the engine before rebuilding. I decided to rebuild the carbs to see if the rich mixture could be cured. And that has had a nice side benefit - a new friend from far away!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

EDC Silliness

This blog hasn't been very active lately, but not because I haven't been! We are almost finished with a pretty big remodel of our office area at home, which involved work by me and Troy Nace, and also by the local firm Nice Work Lancaster. Our very un-square space caused them a lot of headaches as they laid the Pergo flooring. Eventually there will be built-in drawers and cabinets under the worktop on the left.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Make717: Milling a Square or Hex on Round Stock

Fair warning: this post is to document a specific procedure for members of Make717. Regular subscribers don't need to feel guilty for skipping it!

MAKERS: the machine shop at Make717 has all you need to easily mill square or hexagonal shapes on round stock. This before-and-after photo shows what I mean:

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Beck TD, Part 37 - A Temporary Speedometer

Back in Part 32, I told the tale of how I installed a "temporary" Auto Meter tachometer to replace Beck's non-working unit. Now Beck has a matching "temporary" speedometer!