Saturday, September 1, 2018

[Sticky] Beck TD: Welcome to Classic Motorsports readers!

If you have found your way to this blog via 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, June 15, 2018

Beck TD, Part 26: Beck Gets an Alignment

From the very first day that I saw Beck, I knew there was an "elephant in the room." Even though Beck TD is astonishingly rust-free for a 66 year old car, and had solid woodwork and other fitments, there was one place where Beck had seen a hit. It was dead center in the front crossmember, and it was quite a hit:

I would love to know exactly how that happened! It's as if somebody hit a high curb or maybe a stump. Anyway, I suspected it would have an effect on the steering, and once I drove Beck a bit, my suspicions increased. The steering is tight and precise, but it doesn't return to center on its own after a turn. That is usually a problem with the "caster" alignment, and caster is often affected with frame damage.

There are three main alignment settings for a front end. Caster is also called "kingpin inclination," and since an MG TD actually has kingpins, it's easy to visualize. it's the angle from vertical that the kingpin should make. Camber is the amount the wheels lean in at the top, and toe-in is the deviation of the wheels from "pointed straight ahead." Only toe-in is adjustable on a TD. When we rebuilt the front suspension, I set the toe-in to zero (the factory spec) using long straightedges and a tape measure, but it needed more precise equipment to get exactly right.

Today, I took Beck over to my friends at Lancaster Mitsubishi. They measured and the minimum track width (the distance between the inside of the front tires) on their equipment was 40 inches. We then measured Beck, and the distance was... 40 inches! Beck is literally the smallest car that will fit. And it did fit, tires squeaking a bit as the rubbed on the guide:

The initial alignment showed that I got the toe-in (the bottom row on the screen) pretty good - about 1/3 of a degree off on each side:

The tech was able to get it perfect:

The top row of numbers is the camber, and it's within spec also. The middle is the caster, and that is not good news. The spec is 4 degrees, plus or minus 0.5 degree. The left is a little out, and the right is waaaay out. Clearly, that big hit moved things around a bit.

I'll return Beck to the Lancaster Mitsubishi body shop in about a week for further diagnosis. The options I know about are using a frame machine to push things back into place, offset bushings to modify alignment, and slotting the mounting holes so that there is room for adjustment. We'll see how it turns out, and I look forward to a better-driving Beck TD!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Beck TD, Part 25: Improving the Interior

When Beck TD first came to live at the Grant St. Garage, the interior was definitely a mixed bag. The seats looked good, and there were reasonable door cards and panel trim in the rear. However, the floor was a different story: no carpet, bare plywood floors (that was correct - the car had plywood floors from the factory), and a balky shifter in a welded-up transmission tunnel:

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Beck TD, Part 24: Remote Brake Fluid Reservoir

This is another one of those projects that has been proceeding in fits and starts for several months. In 1952, MG chose a really dumb method for maintaining the brake fluid. The master cylinder is under the floor, and you check the fluid level by removing the carpet, then a drop-in panel, then use a 13/16" wrench (same size as the spark plugs) to remove a threaded cap, and then somehow get your head under there with a bright light to check, and if needed, top up the fluid without spilling it in the interior of the car. Dumb!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Beck TD, Part 23: Prepping for Discs

From the very first day that I owned Beck TD, I have planned to convert it to disc brakes on the front wheels. Cor Engelen, a talented engineer who also owns a Volvo-powered TD, developed the modification using MGB parts, and several people on the Volvo Engined MGs group on Yahoo have made the conversion, including Charlie Baldwin, the group administrator. Of course, long-time readers of this blog will recognize those names as the guys, along with Troy Nace, who helped me get Beck home in the first place.

To begin the conversion, you must find a good-condition MGB front suspension, and after several false leads Charlie pointed me to a guy named Bob who was selling all his stock after having a decades-long career restoring MGBs. He was bringing his remaining stock to the Carlisle Import and Performance Show in May, 2018. I contacted Bob, and he had just what I needed. We agreed on a price of $100, and he brought it to Carlisle, and Troy and I picked it up in his pickup.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Beck TD, Part 22 - Gauging the Gas

In a recent post, I mentioned that I had the gas tank out in order to treat some surface rust, and also to replace the fuel level sender in the gas tank. In 1952, MG didn't want to waste a gauge on fuel level. Instead, there was a light that illuminated when the tank had about two gallons left. Of course, my 65-year-old sender was a mass of corrosion, and didn't work at all. The light in the dash didn't work either, and the wiring had been changed. A perfect trifecta of non-working-ness!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Beck TD, Part 21: Safety Fast! (Belts and Bars)

Safety Fast! was the official MG car slogan from as early as the 1930's, and it was intended to invoke the safety of driving a nimble, agile car that could avoid danger by simply driving around it. Of course, our modern idea of safety as cruising in a heavy tank lined with airbags simply didn't exist. In 1952, Beck's birth year, even seatbelts were a thing of the future.

It has become a common modification to add seatbelts to older cars, and I wanted to add some to Beck TD. I found some plans in the excellent book The Complete MG TD Restoration Manual by Horst Schach. This tome is out of print, and goes for serious money on the used market. I just checked, and Amazon has one used volume, for $997! But that's a scalper's price. I paid $85 for mine, including shipping, on eBay. I made the brackets to Schach's specifications:

Friday, May 4, 2018

Beck TD, Part 20: Seeing and Being Seen

This is a long blog post about a months-long process - going through Beck TD from stem to stern, improving the lighting. Indeed, when I bought Beck, it really didn't even have headlights. They were taped up, racer-style, with sporty British flag caps (left photo):

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Glenn's Wind Blocker

My buddy Glenn has a very nice car - an Audi A5 convertible. He bought it recently as a used, very good condition car. The top-down season is upon us, and he wanted to be able to use the wind blocker accessory that came with the car. Here's a stock photo from eBay showing what that looks like:

Unfortunately, his was broken. The upright portion rests on two rubber posts, and they were both broken off. However, he still had the pieces. He asked if I could fix it, and I said I'd try. It looked like it would be easy to drill through, insert screws, and stitch it back together.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Beck TD, Part 19: Today's Lesson, Learned by Doing

Today I learned that a sloppy M10-1.50 metric nut will also thread on a 3/8-16 UNC (American) bolt! I was trying to marry this turn signal unit:

to a piece of 3/8" diameter polished pipe I had lying around. The light was originally designed for a Harley, and is readily available on the web because it's such a popular modification for those bikes. And cheap! I got a set of two for less than $12 shipped, from Amazon Prime.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Saving Money in the Shop

In a recent post about Beck TD, I noted that some new equipment has arrived at the Grant St. Garage, including a large Index milling machine dating from the mid-50's. Here's another photo, just because I'm really proud of this acquisition. It's plenty big, standing 6' 8" tall - exactly a foot taller than I am. I have to use a ladder to reach the drawbar bolt on the top!

Any time you buy new gear, you quickly realize you need some supporting tools and fixtures.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Beck TD, Part 18: Getting Negative

Work has been slow on Beck TD for the past few weeks, because I was preoccupied with some heavy equipment that has made its way to the Grant St. Garage. On the same day, I got a mid-50's Index milling machine from the Facebook merchant Lamlor Brandt, and a 1947 Logan lathe from Phil Oles. Lamar, the Facebook merchant, had a skid loader that made it possible, if not easy, to move everything. Here are the two machines in place. Many thanks to the "muscle" who helped out: Kelly Williams, Phil Oles and Troy Nace! Of course, also a huge thanks to Lamar, who didn't stay around for the photo.

I did do a bit of work on Beck, and even drove it around on a 45 degree day (Fahrenheit), which was chilly but rewarding. I also made a "punch list" of tasks I want to accomplish by early June, and it's a great big list! I finished one of the tasks today: converting the electrical system to negative ground.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Beck TD, Part 17: A Speedometer That Actually Meters Speed

Here's a little side trip from the recent brake work - getting the speedometer to work. Beck TD came with a cable sheath, with no cable inside, that I presume was the original stock MG part. It would connect to the speedometer, but not the transmission. On the Volvo Engined MGs group on Yahoo, Charlie Baldwin posted that he had found a company in British Columbia, Vintage British Cables, that could make a custom cable to mate the Volvo transmission to the MG speedometer. Charlie ordered one, and I did too. Mine was 68.5" long to match the MG cable I had.

Of course, with Beck TD it's never straightforward - the connection point for the cable on the transmission was mangled, looking like this:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Beck TD, Part 16: Three Bushings (Better Brakes, Part 2)

This is the second of several posts about rebuilding Beck's brake system. In my last post (link) I noted that the Internet called replacing the pedal shaft bushings in the frame, "the worst job you will ever do on your T car".  I'm happy to say that I've now done it!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Beck TD, Part 15: Better Brakes, Part 1 of Several

When I blogged about my first drive of the Beck TD on this link, I wrote this: "The brakes right now are truly abysmal. I understand why former owner (and racer) Steve Fox told me that he sold the car because the brakes were so bad." Further investigation led me to understand that the wheel cylinder on the left front was seized, and the one on the right was leaking. After I freed the seized one, it started leaking too. Time to replace a bunch of stuff.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Moving the Furniture

Today's work: finishing up a multi-day project to clean up and rearrange, to make space for a big 1940's vintage Logan lathe that I'm buying from Phil Oles. Here's the new space, exactly the right size! There's even room for an additional cabinet or tool near the door.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Making a Round Thing Square

Well, actually, making a round thing rectangular. I had an idea for a way to mount hood straps on the Beck TD, but after making the first piece I decided to go a different direction. But the process of making one was instructive, and I thought someone might stumble upon this post and learn from my fumbling around. Here's the final result:

Friday, December 22, 2017

Beck TD, Part 14: A Slightly Less Suicidal Door

I've spent about 10 hours over the last three days correcting three separate problems with Beck's driver-side door, and have learned a ton about how it all works. I also learned why every web article I had read about adjusting those doors said it was a real pain! But I persevered, and had a lot of success. Here's the door after all the work:

I know it just looks like a door, but it's a lot better! Compare it with this, clipped from an older photo. You can see that the door didn't fit well at all, with an increasing gap from top to bottom.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Beck TD, Part 13: The Remote Shifter

Since Mark Harnitchek, the prior owner of the Beck TD, is an upright guy, he disclosed in our initial conversations that the shifter had a problem. It was difficult to find gears, and very balky. In addition, it was the "tractor style" shifter from the PV544 - hard to deal with.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Beck TD, Part 12: First Drive!

After several months of work, Beck TD has taken its first drive under my ownership! Cool!

There's even a brief video: