Soon afterward, John also helped me carefully store the body and trim parts currently off the car. That was also a good time to evaluate the body, and it was all good news. No rust, no significant evidence of damage, and everything appeared to be present and accounted for. I started trying to figure out the mechanicals. This is sort of like buying a hot rod built in the 60's - back then, some guy made a bunch of decisions about what to put together, and there was no documentation. It was like the garage version of Sherlock Holmes.
I started with the motor. Researching Volvo engines led me to some great resources, and I found that the engine part number was partially cast into the block, and partially stamped on a machined flat. You can see in this photo that mine is 496816, with the 16 barely visible stamped into the flat.
According to the guide I found, that means my engine came from either a Volvo PV544 or a P120. The transmission tag let me know it was a fully synchronized four-speed, probably from the same donor car:
One of the big decisions that nameless builder had to make way back then was how to actuate the clutch. In the original MG transmission, it was done with a mechanical linkage, but the Volvo used a hydraulic clutch. He did a pretty neat job of converting the MG to hydraulic clutch with the master cylinder under the car, although it looks like I might have to remove the cylinder to add fluid to it!
Looking further, I saw that prior owner Mark had installed Koni tube shocks in the rear - a significant and expensive upgrade. Everything looks good back there. I didn't take a photo, but Mark also installed the upgrade kit to MGB shocks in the front - another significant upgrade, and seriously expensive.
Mark had told me that the Volvo shift mechanism was difficult to use and prone to select the wrong gear. It also looks like something from a tractor. The prior builder carefully welded a plate over the hole for the old shifter, and cut a new one way under the dash.
Sure enough, in testing without power, I couldn't even figure out what gear was what. Something is seriously wrong with that shifter. However, on the long drive back from Virginia, Charlie and Cor told me that what I needed was a "remote shifter" from a Volvo P1800, which puts the shifter right where it was with the MG trans - the shift boot in the carpet even lines up! They also told me that I needed to meet a man named Joe Lazenby, who has two warehouses full of classic Volvos and parts.
By wild coincidence, right after that conversation, while we were still on the road, Joe called Charlie on his cell phone and I got to talk with him. Sure enough, he had a remote shifter in stock and agreed to hold it for me. After discerning some other parts I needed, I drove to Carlisle and picked up the goods. Here's that magic shifter - I'll have to return the floor pan to stock configuration to make it work:
While there, I snapped a photo of Joe and his warehouse. It looks like total chaos, but it's really not - he knows exactly what car is under each tarp, and showed me a few of them.
At one point, we needed to decide what transmission bushing I needed, and he threaded his way among the cars, put a ladder at a certain spot, climbed up to an upper loft, reached in and retrieved a brand new transmission mount for one style of bushing. When it didn't look like what I have, we chose the other one. Once I got home, I could see we had chosen wisely. Incidentally, this makes it almost certain that my engine and trans came from a PV544.
The other big decision the original mechanic had to make was how to organize the cooling system using the MG radiator with the Volvo water pump. The MG utilizes a special hose that is much bigger on one end. He simply soldered on an extension that necked it down to 1-1/4" inch, the size of the outlet at the thermostat housing.
On the lower side, a 1-1/4" outlet was added and moved all the way to the right side of the car:
In this photo, you can also see one of two lower mounting studs, which will show up again in a minute.
The last bit of figuring was to understand how the battery was wired. See, in 1952 MG wired the car with "positive earth," which means the battery positive lead is the ground connection to the car's frame, and the negative terminal is "hot." That is different from the other 99 percent of cars in the world, and it's pretty common for folks to modify older MGs to negative ground, so that modern accessories can be used.
The battery had been out of the car for months, and was dead. I bought a new one, but before I hooked it up, I needed to be absolutely sure which terminal was ground. If I got it wrong, the probable result would be a huge short, followed by a battery explosion, fire, and painful death. Yikes!
The positive terminal of the battery is larger, and the cable that connected to ground was the larger one. That's a good hint, but I wanted more proof. I explored the electric fuel pump, and found a modern "Facet - made in USA" pump. I was delighted to lean that this pump is still available, and still made in the USA:
The pump had two wires, red and black. Usually, red means positive and black negative, but tracking wires I could see that the wires were reversed. I researched the pump, and found that it is internally isolated, and all you have to do to use it in a positive ground car is to reverse the wires. I'm convinced - the car is still positive ground.
Mark had bought a new water pump, and it looked like nothing I had ever seen. There were also some pipes and O-rings and such that didn't match a standard setup. After much research, I figured it out - here's a mock-up on the bench:
The skinny pipe heading back is for the heater plumbing, and the odd looking setup at the front is how the original builder chose to route the lower radiator hose. With that info and some other parts I purchased from Joe, I was able to reassemble the cooling system. Mark had already done a nice job of sandblasting and repainting the fan in the original Volvo yellow:
You can see that outlet peeking out below the fan belt, and my assumption was that it would match a very short lower hose that was in the box of parts. Here's the radiator, with that stub of a hose sticking up:
All I needed to do was to figure out how the radiator mounts. I spent time with the parts diagram and also with an excellent set of photos I found on the web, and realized there was an eight-part mount that I didn't seem to have. In addition, I didn't have the mounting nuts, which were BSF (British Standard Fine) threads - you ain't gonna find that at the Home Depot!
I didn't want to wait, so I made my own mount by modifying fender washers and utilizing some rubber washers from Lowes. In this photo, the left washer is as bought, and the middle one is modified to fit over the stud:
I confidently put everything back together, and... found a pretty big mismatch between the two outlets! I'm not sure that short hose would make it. In addition, the fan is so close to the radiator outlet that, once I put on a hose and clamp, it will surely hit.
It befuddles me, because this car was together and running for decades with these parts! And I was out of time - we left the next day on an extending vacation, so I won't be back to it for nearly a month. I brought the computer so I could type this up on the road, just to make sure I don't forget where I am! Not likely - I think about it all the time. I've gotta figure this out.
One more thing I did will help when I return. After spending a couple of weeks trying to peer at parts diagrams on my cell phone, I got a Moss Motors catalog and made a high-density scan of the diagrams for chassis, suspension, steering and brakes. I've got to piece all that back together too, so I needed to be able to see! I printed them on 11 X 17 paper, and then had Staples laminate them. Perfect for shop use:
Stay tuned! This story isn't over! Continue on to Part 3...