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MG Magnette V8 - "MON ZA8"

I moved on to the inner front radiator panel and felt that to cut up the original was pointless when it was in perfect condition, so I took Gary's advice and used the woven cloth for a first skin.  Not too sure how the cloth would adhere, I covered the panel with some self adhesive reinforcing tape normally used on plaster board (dry wall) and this worked very well. 

Initially, I only glassed three sides, with one layer, as the original top had the bonnet catch mechanism and brackets as part of it, and a mould couldn't be taken from that.  A simple length of easily bent corner steel was attached just to hold the top in place plus a temporary diagonal.  The lower attachment to the body-shell was very rotten so a short length of standard Dexion was used to make a new one and bonded into the front panel.  Work then started on the brackets that support the radiator.  Once the radiator was finally fitted, these could be glassed in.  Unfortunately, the original radiator had been modified or repaired in the past so Alan the radiator specialist had to effectively start again...  This is a shame as the original was quite impressive, so only the original outer side frames were used, this means using the same mounting points to the original radiator inner support panel on the body-shell.  As I also needed to incorporate the support for the bonnet centre spine, waiting for the completed radiator shell made sense before that was completed. 

Then I had a hiccup!  In my quest for a different bonnet, and when collecting the half built radiator, only then did it dawn on me that with a fixed radiator grille and also a central bonnet spine, the radiator filler cap would be inaccessible!  Alan claimed that this wasn't a problem and he'd put in a goose neck filler.  The new radiator also needed a bit of realignment before I could finalise the new radiator support panel.

I was advised by several people to ignore cheap after-market electric fans and ended up purchasing a fan from a local wreckers, from a Toyota Corona.  Just the right size and slim enough to fit between the rear of the radiator and the front of the engine.  The first job was of course to check that it worked.  It did!  I stripped the motor and fan off so that it weighed less whilst using it and I could tart up the fan, as it looked grubby. Fitting it to the radiator meant making up brackets, and the wider type of Dexion this time, proved an ideal starting point until I managed to develop a finished bracket.  Engineering is not my strong point... I started off using the original Magnette panel as per the picture.  Aftermarket fans don't  usually have a shroud so the Toyota shroud will be drilled for better airflow.

It was also important to make sure that the fan "sucked" the air through as simply reversing the polarity of a "blow" fan doesn't work.  The shape of the fan blades is different.

It took me a fair bit of time to get the attachment to a stage that I was confident with it and combined with the brackets to attach the radiator to the bodyshell, progress was slow and steady.  I decided that maybe if the lower part of the radiator panel and brackets were designed properly, I could also incorporate the oil cooler mounting.  It would probably then be easier to remove the whole front panel, complete with radiator and oil cooler, but the route of the cooler pipes would have an effect on this. 

Scottie at Fraser cars machined the Range Rover flywheel down from 30lbs to a more realistic figure (22lbs), using as a pattern a flywheel borrowed from Morris Turner at Stag 4x4, but Scottie needed to know the clutch details, so I had to get them from Mal.  On the shopping list was a Rover SD1 pressure plate and a clutch plate to fit the splines from the Supra gearbox, but Neil at Auto Clutch Ltd sorted out a more readily available pressure plate and suitable carbon/kevlar clutch plate. With the flywheel machining, this hit the pocket a fair bit again...), but my criteria is always reliability and as far as is possible, replacing parts that just may let me down.

All that remained to get the transmission sorted was for Farnie to sort out a clutch slave cylinder and actuating arrangement plus the propshaft (at 120cms long), connecting the MGB rear end to the Toyota 5 speed gearbox.

It would obviously have been much cheaper and easier to have purchased a complete and running Rover 3500S and simply lifted out the engine and manual gearbox unit and just dropped it in... There are times when I wondered, "Why didn't I just do that?"

There was then a bit of a lull in progress whilst I did some work on the house, banking a few Brownie points...

The part I was really dreading was the manufacture of the fibreglass panels for the front end and as this is effectively the focal point of the car, any errors would be glaringly obvious. Gary was working on the wings/fenders but the rest of it was my problem and although I had a good idea of WHAT what I wanted, as with most jobs, how to achieve it was an ongoing battle. Often, I would start down a path and then decide that I'd do it differently...


Although I started on the radiator support panel in fibreglass, with the idea of using metal support brackets, I decided that if fibreglass is strong enough to build the whole car (Lotus Elite etc), then a radiator support in glass would be no problem.  Unlike metal, you can't just form the dry fibreglass into a 90 degree bracket, it has to be moulded or made up in a different way.  I opted for laying up one layer of mat onto a sheet of plastic, then when dry, I at least had something that could be drilled and held into place by small self tapping screws or even bolts, before building up the extra strength.  Slow, but it worked for me!  To do a really good curved 90 degree bracket, I applied the resin to part of the glass mat and when it was dry, it made it easier to form the right angle, by attaching the dry part to the existing inner wing panel, then applying the resin to the second side.

This is looking from the inside of the right front wheel arch and is the inside of the front panel - the metal panel to the right is the original inner wing. 

The small cardboard piece was used as a template and a piece of the dried sheet cut to size and then it was easy to put a thin layer of matt and resin to hold it into place.  Once that had dried, it was a simple matter to remove the panel and reinforce.  In a couple of areas, where the above system wasn't too practical or there was no load, the cardboard template was often left in place and glassed over.

This picture shows the same panel as above, still attached to the radiator grill surround and part way through the strengthening  process.  For non panel beaters such as myself, constructing items out of fibreglass is a relatively straightforward process.  Smelly and messy, but straightforward.

Originally, the central spine of the bonnet was going to be manufactured out of metal, but once again, I opted for fibreglass.  This time, a length of dried lightweight fibreglass cloth with one layer of chopped mat added was soaked in resin and left to dry on a large curved piece of plastic.  Laying a thin layer on a curve was probably a waste of time, as there is no strength in it anyway!  When dry, it was cut to size and screwed onto a piece of 10mm plywood, jigsaw cut to the slight curve of the original bonnet.  This gave it a solid base and then the strengthening was built in, using a combination of balsa wood and ply.  Balsa?  Yes!  It absorbs the resin and when dry, retains the curve very well. A metal bracket was formed to bolt to the grille surround and act as a support to the spine, and at the rear end, Rivnuts were inserted into the scuttle, so that the spine was then  securely attached to the bodyshell at one end and at the radiator grille surround at the other, which effectively set the location points for the rest of the panels. After the picture above was taken, the plywood centre support was cut down to about 25mm deep (to the same depth as the cut out clearing the heater blower motor in the above picture) and work on shaping the bonnet panel resumed to try and get a good panel fit before working on a hinge arrangement.

This brought us up to the end of October 2007 and the need for a more focused approach to try and aim for a tentative target date of completion by February 2008.  This may or may not have been a realistic target when set, but after three and a half years, it was important to take stock on what had already been achieved and what was needed. The final transmission purchases needed addressing so that the car could go up to Farnie, who was by then, living about an hour north of Auckland.

One of the fitments to modern cars is that of parking sensors and when you have an older car with poor rearward visibility, including them into the project was a relatively easy decision to make.  For $69 (NZ) for a two sensor kit, this seemed to be a good investment.  Instructions were clear and the unit is activated from the reversing lights so incorporating that into the wiring was not too difficult.  The kit was ordered via the phone and arrived the following day.

A couple of days were wasted chasing around for various supplies.  Who would have thought that something so straightforward as some mesh for a radiator grille would be such a hassle, or getting the oil cooler and fittings...  The local speedshop quoted  $600 plus tax for a 15 row cooler.  Nice cooler, but a bit over the top for my needs.  The local  internet auction site brought up a long list of options but the quality was difficult to ascertain. Ho hum.  The joys of a project like this...   

I eventually ended up at Greenlane Speed Shop (GSS now at Station Rd Penrose) and the very helpful staff there sorted out a 16 row Mocal cooler, a sandwich plate that goes between the filter and the housing, and the appropriate hose fittings.  All up, that was a very reasonable $506.  Hoses will NOT be braided, as in this instance, I really don't think it is justified, and they'll be purchased when I have the location of the filter sorted.  Their advice was to keep it flush to the radiator for better airflow, or make sure it was ducted correctly. My original plan of suspending the cooler from the radiator support panel was abandoned, and the cooler attached to the front lower panel (as above) instead, the radiator swung back about 40mm at the bottom to create the clearance.

I spent an hour or so cleaning up a rather rough sandwich plate and even buffed it, but when it was time to attach the fittings, I found that one of the tapped holes was so far out of square that the fittings touched each other and couldn't be tightened...  See the photograph on the right.

Although GSS didn't have another complete set, they did have the sandwich plate for another car so that was checked before I left the shop and I just brought back the original thread to suit the Rover engine.

I managed to get some aluminium mesh from Mico, for the radiator grille, and that wasn't cheap either... ($50 per sheet.)

Back to glassing the radiator support panel and a redesign caused by swinging the radiator backwards! Having an aversion to tricky replacement jobs requiring several holes to be lined up at the same time, and also aware that a little bit of redesign could make the final installation faster and easier, the top support brackets were slotted, so that the upper radiator bolts could be attached and the radiator could just then drop in place, with or without the fan attached.

Farnie soon had the exhaust system sorted - and at the same time, had to repair a couple of places where I had been a bit too aggressive with the angle grinder...  According to Farnie, I may need to jack up one side of the engine to slot the exhaust in... Farnie also had to fabricate a new gearbox mount bracket to lift the system.  I collected the exhaust as soon as it had been completed and took it for coating  to HPC - who are South of Auckland and they expected to turn it around in 10 days.  Farnie had also accumulated clutch bits and pieces, some of which came from a Toyota Hi-Lux.  He had also tapped the oil temperature sender into the oil filter sandwich plate so that was another job crossed off his list.

I managed to remove the oil dipstick tube from a spare Rover engine as the one on this engine was damaged, and this was despatched north, along with the flywheel bolts. 

So ended November 2007, with a hope that maybe the engine could be fired up before Christmas - but I wouldn't be holding my breath...  Electronic ignition decisions needed making before I could even think about wiring up to fire the engine.