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MG Magnette V8

Two years after acquiring the car and it was easy to see why some projects take many years...  Bearing in mind that I certainly haven't spent every waking hour, nor even all my spare time on it, at least there was steady progress and with no important target date, it was important that I didn't rush and that gave me the luxury to bin something if I wasn't too keen on it, and so it was that something relatively minor like the dashboard consumed many hours but also provided the opportunity to try different slants on methods. Overall, the dashboard was to swallow far too many hours... 

JUNE 2006

The original interior, once the dash was removed, wasn't a pretty sight at all but picture shows the original Magnette steering wheel, pedals etc. and the usual under-dash workings. One of the first decisions made was to use an MG Montego wheel and column, but this had to be married not only to the BMW power rack, but also had to be mounted to the interior.  The logical place was to the bar of the roll cage, as that also has to house the pedal box.  The Wilwood pedal box already purchased wasn't a comfortable fit once the transmission tunnel was in place, so Farnie decided to fabricate his own - complete with pedals...   This may not have been a cheap option, but...

JULY 2006

During July, Farnie happened across a freelance panel beater who had impressed him with his work, so Bruce brought his skills to the project, starting on the rather tatty left rear wing.  Photo shows that it had been bodged in the past - and very badly too.  Bruce replicated the inner panel to perfection  - until it was pointed out to him that I wasn't after a concours car, just one that was sound and looked good from the outside...  By the time Bruce heard this, he had already spent a couple of days on it.  Perfect shape though and his hourly rate was a real bargain...



Farnie was busy during the month, trying to finish the ex WW2 US troop carrier, so not much progress was made during the first two weeks. I fiddled around with bits of wood and made a cover for the battery box/fuel pump in the boot, and also started a tool box to fill in the lower part of the boot floor.  Farnie widened the spare wheel well and also adapted an Allegro tow bar I had lying around, and made a tow bar for the Magnette, using the same mountings as the previous bumper irons. The tow bar is gently curved and as Farnie was working in the area, he had to remove about 1kg of lead that had been used to bog the rear panel!  On my job list is to manufacture a fibreglass rear bumper, using the original MG bumper as a pattern.  The original is a bit pitted, rusted and dented, hence the fibreglass option. 

Once the troop carrier was almost out of the way, Farnie welded in tubes to link the cage to the front suspension to strengthen the whole structure.  He also managed to install the fuel and brake lines through the interior and mounted the brake bias lever alongside the driver's seat.  He also put a strengthening bracket from the horizontal roll bar to the bulkhead.


At last, a great leap forwards, though it did hit the wallet extremely hard.  With the troop carrier out of the way, Farnie spent two solid weeks of work on the car and also managed to source and fit up the calipers and rotors. With the requirement of a mechanical handbrake rather than a hydraulic one, the rear brakes were a problem.  Farnie spent fair bit of time trying to find Nissan Skyline brakes on the auction sites, but these are VERY sought after items, due to the alloy rather than iron construction.  Rear discs are Peugeot 406 and front's, (Australian) Ford Falcon. 


Whilst concentrating effort underneath, Farnie also fabricated a Panhard rod arrangement for the rear end, in an effort to better locate the rear axle.

The original Magnette handbrake lever was retained, although it was shortened (possibly a mistake..) and the rear part of the transmission tunnel patched and strengthened.  Previously, over excitable use of the handbrake had ripped the floor. 

The four brand new alloy wheels I had purchased way back in February had been carefully stored indoors, complete with their protective covers. Just one cover had been removed to photograph it. When Farnie asked for a wheel so that he could sort out spacers for the rear, we found that the wheel was out of true so much, it was visible to the naked eye.  So, the other three were taken out of storage, and to our horror, we found that three out of the 4 were the same.

A close examination showed small rips to the three covers and our conclusion was that they had been either hit, or a pile had toppled over at a warehouse. 

Certainly, they hadn't been damaged at our end.  They were returned to the manufacturers for replacement.

Bruce completed his work on the bodyshell, with only the doors still to repair, but there was not too much of a rush at that time (I eventually did them myself anyway).   


After the massive blow to the wallet late September, I asked Farnie to back off a bit for October! I had already commissioned a new stainless steel fuel tank and Steve at Goldsworthy was entrusted to do the work.  I supplied a new fuel tank sender unit (that and  a new fuel gauge also hit the wallet hard) so that the baffles could be accurately located.  I supplied a drawing  based on Farnie's requirements plus the old Magnette tank for reference as the location tabs are critical - and the intention was to use the existing fixing.  I was fortunate enough to call part way through the process and was able to photograph the insides before the baffles and ends were attached.  On the advice of the tank builder, the tabs were not welded to the side and he suggested using a strap to locate it.  

 The tank didn't just slide in however, as the two drains that protrude below the tank weren't accounted for in our measurements!!!  A dumb mistake but Farnie cut two access panels into the floor and the tank went in - though with a bit of panel bending at the rear of the seat support. 

Meanwhile, I was in stinky and messy mode at home. An hour or so was spent grinding and cleaning up the welds on the first of the exhaust headers (it turned out that I was a bit too aggressive with the angle grinder and went right through...) and a start was made on the fibreglass work.  The rear bumper has to clear the tow bar, so I moulded off the original bumper in three sections, then cut the centre section along its length, and added enough glass to deepen it to cover the bar. 

Maybe I should explain my short cut theory of moulding.  Waxing the original bumper or metal panel, then laying one thick layer of resin and 600 gram mat or cloth over it, enables it to be sprung free fairly easily. This naturally enough means that the outside is a bit rough and traditionally, this would form the female part of the mould. The moulded panel is normally strengthened on the outside and a rigid mould produced.  This is normally polished and waxed and a new panel formed from the mould.  Now being a cheapskate plus being a bit lazy, I decided that manufacturing a mould for a one off was not only time consuming and expensive, but the already crowded garage would be hard pushed to absorb a pile of moulds for bonnet, boot, two front wings, two bumpers and two sill covers.

The cheat's way is to take that first one ply mould and preferably try and get a really good finish on the outside, then reinforce the panel on the inside.  Easier said than done but there is a product called locally - Peel Ply.  Although I haven't used it as yet, it is a smooth cloth that is laid over the wet panel and smoothed as much as possible.  When the glass resin is dry, the cloth is peeled off to leave a smooth surface. The first comment is that the new panel will be slightly bigger, but I am sure that the panel gaps on a project like this will not be adversely affected by a couple of millimetres here and there...   


I also made a more determined start to the wiring complexities, namely, marrying up the Montego column switch wiring to the rest of the system.  I purchased a secondhand Montego wiper motor from Strongs - Mini wreckers, but then realised that I also needed the wiper control box.  I could have skipped that option, but having been used to wiper delays or intermittent wipes, it seems rather pointless to go backwards.  Strongs had a new, still boxed, Lucas control unit and Farnie converted the Montego wiper motor to drive the wiper rack... (which later was found to park at 90 degrees to the screen...)

I needed then to source the intermediate loom from the wiper control...  There are no terminal markings on the unit and common sense dictates that using the correct plugs will be more logical than lashing anything up.  Graeme Collett to the rescue once again...  eventually, but this has proved to be one of the most frustrating jobs in the rebuild to date.  Had I been able to strip a Montego myself, I could have saved a lot of money and effort and should I ever decide to do another Magnette conversion,  the purchase of a MG Montego for spares could yield all sorts of useful spares, maybe even the front seats, that I remember being extremely comfortable.  They may not be to race standard, but are attractive in grey with red logos.  Certainly, using steering column, wheels, wiper motor, control box and maybe even a pile of wiring plus heaps of other bits, makes sense.  Drat, why didn't I think of that before....   Even the Montego alloy wheels and some running gear could have been adapted?

Later, I also came to the conclusion that buying a Rover 3500S (manual) might also have been cheaper than doing what I did, but I am getting ahead of myself here as I update the website.