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MG Magnette V8 - "MON ZA8"

As we headed for the end of 2007, the major mechanical work and fabrication was complete and most of the pressure was heading my way.  The fibreglass work was all started, but very little was finished. The same applied to several other major tasks including the wiring and the dashboard.  Gary still had the front wings and I suspected that much of the next month would involve me sanding down the fibreglass - not a favourite job at the best of times...


One of the first tasks was to rescue the car from Farnie who had been quick in doing his last job list that also included routing the front kill switch to starter cable, fitting up the  pedals, fitting the fuel tank bungs and putting in a bypass for the steering rack (I decided that we would do without power steering as I like a fairly solid feel to the steering and the overall weight at the front would not be too dissimilar to the original.  At least the rack can revert to power steering later if required.)  Little did I know that the BMW rack would eventually have to be junked...

I was investigating the fitment of a Pertronix electronic ignition system on the recommendation of Mal Clark, but initially, I was thwarted by not knowing the distributor details.  Eventually, Philspeed down in Christchurch managed to supply the tiny magnetic sensor unit and also an appropriate coil.  Its quite baffling at times, that the modern electronics are so cheap in some items and still so expensive in others.  I suppose it must be down to volume. When it came to fitting the Pertronix unit to the distributor, I found that the supplied unit was for a Range Rover and obviously the distributor plate differs from mine, which is probably ex Rover P6. I had to put that aside for a while, whilst debating whether to modify the distributor plate or the Pertronix unit!

As usual, I had been working occasionally on items of no importance whatever, including the design of a built in tool box to sit in the rear of the car under the boot floor... This was designed to store a trolley jack, wheel-brace, set of screwdrivers etc so that it could be removed trackside in one lift, rather than heaving out a random collection of tools and bits and pieces.  Using plywood with a bit of fibreglass reinforcing, this was one of those jobs that took a few minutes now and again.

I collected the coated exhausts from HPC and as in many things in life, the final finish is what makes the item look so good. I suppose I could have just used a spray can of VHT paint, but having spent so much on the car so far, that wasn't an option.  Common practice is to use a gasket sealant rather than the traditional gasket on the manifolds/headers so that is what I did. Farnie had warned me that I would need to slacken off the right hand engine mount and jack up the engine to get the one piece header in. No problem.  Clearance was tight, but it went in easily enough.  Farnie had already worked out that the rear bolt would be inaccessible, so he had cut out an access panel in the footwell, and this made the job so much easier. (Picture above shows the view from inside the car looking to the rear of the engine.)

The left side was in two parts and joined with a small bridge that bolts through to the secondary pipes.  With these attached, all of a sudden, the engine bay started to look a lot more workmanlike and the air filters followed but only after I'd attacked the carb inlets with a wire brush.  The SU carbs may have had new jets and a mechanical tidy, but the overall scruffiness made them look strangely out of place.  The fuel system needed completing so the tank gauge sender unit was attached/inserted and the only 3/16" bolts I could get had to be cut down to length.  Farnie had put a 3/8" fuel line through the car and from the tank.  However, at the front end was a carb with a 5/16"  fitting, and in the boot, the fuel pump and fuel filter also had 5/16" fittings. 

Murray at Weber Specialties advised that the fuel filter should be under the bonnet and not in the boot and the plastic fuel pump inlet and outlet pipes could be swapped for brass 3/8" items, but not the filter. By the time I'd sourced both sizes of fuel line, the new pump outlets, the clips and a reducer for the connection from under bonnet pipe to fuel filter, I had wasted an afternoon... 

I made up a simple aluminium bracket for the fuel filter and drilled the front bulkhead and attached 6mm Rivnuts.  When attaching the Rivnuts to the aluminium bracket, the mandrill broke...  The Bolt Shop replaced it and I carried on.

Four days before Christmas, Allan had the radiator finished and a bush inserted for the temperature sender for the electric fan

Three days before Christmas, Gary dropped off the front wings and refused to accept any payment for them! Thanks Gary... Yes, a lot of fibreglass work to do for me, but there was nothing then stopping me cracking on.  The propshaft gained a nice coat of red paint and was ready for fitting, along with the secondary exhausts, so as the year drew to a close, at long last, I could at least see major progress, though the engine still hadn't been fired up, but that could wait until Mal was back from his Christmas break - but I had a few bits to do first. 

The 2007 Summary

Well, some progress for the year and another hefty dent to the wallet and bank balance.  Sitting in the local cafe in mid December, a brand new dealer Holden Commodore trundled past covered in advertising.  "$49,000 only - buy now".  When I totted up what I had spent so far on this project, it would have bought a higher spec Commodore than the one passing the cafe. In fact, I could have probably bought a nice Jaguar Mk2, a realistic E Type Jaguar or a very nice TVR - or both! 

Mal completed the engine rebuild (it was supposed to be an engine that had only done a few miles, but when it was stripped, it was obvious that several jobs hadn't been done, when the engine had previously been hastily assembled) so what should have been a relatively modest bill was treble what I was expecting.  The engine effectively needed reconditioning.  This obviously severely dented the budget - yet again. The engine purchase was also completed and the other hefty outlay was getting the engine (previously mated to an automatic gearbox) to connect to the rest of the transmission.  The clutch and flywheel were expensive and Farnie still had to source and mount the clutch slave cylinder and actuating forks.

If I did this again, I'd definitely start with a running engine connected to a working gearbox as this would have saved thousands of dollars. Removing an engine later to get it updated or modified would have made more sense.

Part way through the year, Farnie decided to move out of the local industrial unit and move his business north, so once the Magnette was on its wheels and the front suspension modified so that it worked the way it should, and with wheels that were round and not oval, I trailered the car home again with two main  objectives.  Stemming the cash outflow, which had got way out of control, and doing the bits I needed to do, that at least would slow the costs.

Most days I would only put in an hour or two and therefore progress was quite slow, but this had the advantage of slowing the expenditure and also gave me time to think and plan.  Several blind alleys were followed but once the year ended, some thinking had crystallised, especially with the fibreglass front panels. This is a time consuming method of building a car as using the original panels would have been quick and easy, but I am mindful of the rarity of good panels and the potential for future track damage, not to mention the appalling driving around  here, where people ding your car in a car park and just drive off...


A lot of head scratching was centred around the electrical side of things and designing a system from scratch raises many challenges, especially when incorporating components from different cars.  The year ended with the arrival of an electronic ignition system - that wouldn't fit the Lucas distributor, being designed for a Range Rover unit rather than the P6 Rover.  Ho Hum...

My second target for completion was for the 2008 Ellerslie Car Show in February, but there was no way in the world it could be ready in time, so then, it looked like the spring (September 2008) was a better bet.  Wrong again...