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MG Magnette V8

Mal's brother in law Alan, stripped off the outer sills and the expected rusty horrors were exposed. Then my dear mum passed away so a long trip to the UK had to be undertaken at short notice... I was hopeful that by the time I returned, six or seven weeks later, the car would be well advanced - again. Wrong...  Bitter disappointment set in and festered, as the progress to date didn't seem to equate to 6 months worth of work, even at just a few hours a week, and already, my own deadlines would not be met.

JUNE 2005

 Alan had made a good start on reconstructing the rotten floor/sill areas though and had transformed the front underside of the car.  This had previously been quite a worry as when I first purchased the car, it looked from the outside to be quite sound, when in fact, there was very little strength to the underside, and I was concerned that maybe I had bought a wreck rather than a project.

Some progress on the cage, bodywork, rack mounting and suspension design - but not too much  fabrication.  Disappointment and frustration with the lack of progress was really starting to set in at this point, as I still couldn't really see 6 months worth of work or progress.


The right side body/sills, were 90% done on the structural areas.  The left side floor and sill commenced. Decisions were finalised on front the  suspension structure following advice from Neil Fraser a local car manufacturer/builder (Fraser Cars) and our local certifier.   The car has to be certified on completion before it can go on the road, which means using an engineer to approve all major modifications and meets the required safety standards, otherwise the car can't be road registered.  


September 1st - 2 Racetech 4009 seats were ordered  - via Chicane.  I had tried several seats and was seriously considering a pair of MG 'X Power' seats from the UK, but as at that time I owned 50% of Chicane, and they were agents for RaceTech seats, it seemed rather dumb to use anything else.   RaceTech sent the covers up to Chicane for embroidery - so that we could add 'Chicane' and MON ZA8 plus MG logo to the covers.  Racetech is a top FIA approved seat manufacturer - fitted as standard to the sport version of the Viper V10 and a first choice for many drivers in the Australian V8 series as well as a good support from NZ drivers.  A great Kiwi export success.  Seats were required so that the seating and pedal position could be established, and this had to be done before the steering column could be positioned.

Overall progress had been even slower as Mal had a track accident with his Rover, demolishing the right front, (of the car) and so he had been diverted from the MG...  However, he had worked on the temporary and permanent front subframe modifications to take the (BMW) power steering rack.  I was using an MG Montego steering wheel and column at the top end as I used to own Montegos and the wheel was comfortable and the correct colour.  It also had the MG logo of course.  The bottom end was initially a problem as we needed to connect the MG column to a BMW rack.  Splines obviously didn't match  and the first option was a Ford Falcon unit we think - we are not too sure what its origins are...  Merv at Wairau Alignment gave us access to their massive stock of used parts to ferret through, but matching splines was a headache. 

I rescued part of the front wiring loom from a Rover 3500S that was being scrapped, as this gave a good source of "Lucas" colour coded wire, so I started translating the Rover wiring diagram before starting my own. I planned to put in a 6 disc CD player into the car as the intention was that it would be a nice road car and would be used to tow the Marcos...  Anyway, I had a spare Pioneer system that we removed from our previous Freelander before trading it in.   Mal was suitably horrified...  A CD player in a race car???  Not really.  First and foremost it had to be a road car.  Time marches on and a CD player is probably now old hat anyway.


Mal was now well into the front suspension fabrication, using Triumph 2.5 ball joints, which are a press fit into a casing.  The Casing was welded to the fabricated suspension arms - as below.   MiG tacked initially and then TiG welded later.  Rose joints at the top inner - give top adjustment, and adjustable bottom arms make an infinite number of adjustment options available.  Just above is the engine mount before it was reinforced.


Mal's original bottom arm proposal had a short tube and long arm end, but this was rejected by the certifier in favour of a short rod end and a longer tube.  The tube has a threaded bush welded inside of course, but you engineering types would know that...  Right pic shows the two ends - original above and the one actually used below. (Yet another area that wasn't deemed up to standard - much later.)

At this point, it was beginning to get on track again with Alan making good progress on turning the  pile of rust underneath into solid panels.               


Alan had done a bit of exterior bodywork - fabricated a new lower rear right guard/wing and a bit of rust patching to the door opening. Then he too got dragged into repairing the Rover...

MG Magnette V8      Mal then fabricated shock absorber supports with brackets and machined bushes.  Pic below is just before the old suspension tower was cut back a bit more for spring clearance and before tack welding the upper supports to the tower. (Shocks and springs were not a cheap item...)  Wheels do protrude about 10mm more than first envisaged, but should still be within the original wings.  Now I am after Rose joints to fit the rack ends, so that the steering can connect the rack to the hub.   Size required by Mal is not available off the shelf... Oh dear...

205_1006_07.JPG (36007 bytes)    

I originally ordered a pair of seats that were not FIA approved, but then opted for two FIA approved seats.  Chicane were very busy but did find time to make a new race suit for Mal.  It didn't do him much good, as he put the Rover off the road on the Targa Rally and mangled the left front...  Gave himself and co-driver Rod a bit of a shake too.  The P6 Rover shell was a write off...  Oh dear.  The joys of motorsport.


Slow progress again at the beginning of the month with Mal starting fabrication of the left front suspension.  His accident had left him with a very sore shoulder, so, using my own badly damaged arm muscles,  I tapped the bushes for the top wishbones - my first involvement in the mechanical side of the actual rebuild.  So proud of myself!!! The Ford Falcon steering column wasn't ideal, but the splined universal joint at the bottom did fit the BMW steering rack, so half of the UJ was swapped over to the MG Montego column - Mal would lengthen that as required.  (That cost $160... - another total waste of money it seems as welded steering column components are no longer allowed.)

The actual wiring on the MG column didn't seem to match the colour codes in the manual, so a happy time was spent with a multi-meter working things out.  The Montego wiper arms are unlike most others, so a decision had to be made on what wiper motor to use.  The original  Magnette motor was single speed and wouldn't be self parking either, so it had to be replaced with a more modern unit.  That proved  a more complex mission than envisaged...

Whilst Mal and one of his team, Farnie, were working on exhaust headers, Alan got stuck into starting to build a transmission tunnel and to close off  the bulkhead.  Mal was very aware of the clearance required to be able to drop the engine in and this meant that clearance above the engine had to be checked before Alan could fill the gap.  The right hand exhaust headers gave Mal a real headache - and shoulder ache from all the hacksaw work.  Getting the headers to clear the starter motor and the steering column could only be confirmed when we had fixed position for the column.  This meant borrowing a RaceTech seat from Chicane and trying it out for size and setting the pedals along with the column.  As I am over 6ft tall, getting legroom and pedal angle wasn't so easy due to the slightly upright seat.  (More of that much later...) The exhaust is obviously custom made, with  4 into two headers.   As it was almost the end of November, it looked as though the car would not be finished by my preferred target date of Dec 31st...  Understatement and even more disappointment.  I was not very happy.  It is not in my nature to jump up and down when I am not too happy, but I looked back over the year and noted many other cars that had come and gone through the workshop, whilst mine sat forlornly in a corner. This problem festered in my mind and I found it difficult to address as normally I am not at all a stressed person - but...


The headers were completed to a state where clearances could be established for the bMG Magnette Racetech seatulkhead rebuild, but an inspection panel was probably required on the right hand side of the transmission tunnel, for access to the rear manifold bolts. That was option one.  As it transpired, an even better option developed.

The Racetech seats arrived very quickly, once we had embroidered the panels, so the first job for me was to buff the alloy seat mounting brackets.  They look very smart and are also comfortable! The  back support padding panels are attached by Velcro so are not only removable but able to be thickened or added to,  for a localised lower back support - which I will probably need.  Later, the diagonal which can just be seen going from top right to bottom left, was reversed to give slightly more seat back space.  At this stage, I wasn't 100% happy with the (Wilwood) pedal arrangement or placing, particularly  with the angle of my feet to pedals and also the fact that a throttle/accelerator pedal still had to be fitted into a narrow space - and the wheel arch was in the way.

I made a start on trying to replace some of the rusty metal panels with fibreglass, starting with the splash guards that fit to the leading edge of the scuttle.  These panels are normally ribbed (in metal) but the flat two thickness of 600 gram mat seems strong enough.  The originals were used as a template, but I had to guess the shape of the lower part as the originals had totally rusted away!  One layer of fibre glass mat cut to shape was laid up on a piece of flat glass - easy to remove it - then when checked for size, as it grew a bit under the roller, a second piece was cut and also laid on glass, with the first piece laid on top and weighted to make a panel with two fairly smooth surfaces.  Once dry the  edges were cleaned up and checked on the car. Later, the gap to the wing will be sealed with thin rubber or a rubber substitute, as per the originals.

Next, a slightly more ambitious major project,  (for me) was starting fibre-glassing some form of bonnet replacement.  On the last working day of the year, we sourced a V8 engine - but that was probably not to be a 100% success until a bit of work had been done on it either...


Year 1 summary...

Well, I had to confess that progress had not been what I wanted and the year (2005) ended with a feeling of intense disappointment.  The money was there, but progress (or lack of it) was generally outside my control.  On a positive note however, the work done so far was generally superb and the sills and floor panel work had proved to be less of a problem than I envisaged, but that may well be due to Alan's expertise with the grinder and the welder, and his ability to convert a ragged rusty hole into a strong panel.  The sourcing of a V8 - that I heard running, was  a story in itself, so, read on... 

The shell and the engine and the previously acquired Supra 5 speed gearbox came home for Christmas 2005, so that I could at least have a bit of a play and a clean up of one or two bits whilst the workshop was closed for the long Christmas break...  It was also time to do a bit of major project reassessment.

One thing was abundantly clear and that was that it wouldn't be ready for my 60th birthday in the February... (Little did I know, it wouldn't be ready for my 65th either...)