MG Logo MONZA Ltd MG Logo

PO BOX 34-469



MG Magnette V8 - "MON ZA8"

Bearing in mind the newly built engine was collected at the end of March 2007, it was fairly obvious that I had been steady rather than spectacular and not all of that was due to financial considerations. My days of working in the garage until bedtime are long gone.  Taking this more measured approach had allowed a certain amount of essential thinking time, but even then, if I did another Magnette, I know that there were one or two areas that I was not happy with.  I had some concerns over the major controls in relation to the seating position, namely the pedal box and steering column.  The steering column was lined up at 90 degrees to the dash and the pedal box built alongside it, and should have been lined up with the seat, and the dash angled slightly so that it would still look OK  from the front, but sitting in the race seat, the wheel was a little to the left.  I also had a small doubt on the clutch pedal action on the master cylinder as it was not totally straight and the amount of space for my feet has been a little on the tight side.  A modern, smaller starter motor might just give that precious extra inch or two and even moving the whole engine forwards by 20mm might help, but hey, it was too late, so, on with reporting the next stage...


Although the early year's weather was dry and warm, it wasn't too long before I had to move on from the fibreglassing which is much better being done in warm weather, to sorting out the wiring.  I know that automotive wiring is far more complicated than house wiring, but some needed doing before the engine could be fired up.  Rather than set up a temporary wiring system just to fire up the motor, I worked on doing it properly.

Starting point was running the cables from the engine bay, including the wires from the radiator thermo switch and the fan, the oil pressure warning light at the bottom right of the engine bay; the water temperature sender and alternator/charge warning light; screen washer and horn from the top right; the main feed from the alternator to the starter to meet the battery cable and the starter solenoid wire back to the ignition switch.

At this point, I wasn't very happy to find that a main terminal on the the starter had a weak thread, so hopefully, the extra washer will be tight enough.  The starter solenoid was re-routed close to the battery cable and the wire from the alternator/feed to the killswitch, to a dash switch. At the time of writing, using a spring loaded dash switch rather than the ignition switch was a preferred option, simply because I had a spare switch location - and I accidentally bought a couple of spring loaded switches!

It wasn't too long before I changed tack and reverted to working from the inside out!  Until the fuse blocks could be located, it was difficult to terminate the various wires.

The other batch of wires from each side of the car are those for lighting.  The only cables not laid so far are for the coil as at this stage, I hadn't finalised its location.  Stupid really, as the first wire required after the starter solenoid is for the coil!

Returning to the centre dash containing the supplementary instruments, warning lights and switches was straightforward, as the layout had already been finalised, but the physical layout of the wires was another story.

The soldering was straightforward but the wholesalers had run out of the clear terminal insulators - in fact, they had run out of all types of insulators.  This  was a blessing in disguise as I turned to the much cheaper option of heatshrink tubing instead.  Using heatshrink also means that the terminals can be coloured for easier identification.  Bearing in mind most cars use a single colour for the accessory feed (green on Lucas wiring) I had already tagged all accessories with a colour anyway. The next decision was the location of the relays and accessory fuses.  I bought the Hella relay connectors as these are very neat, connect together and also make relay replacement quicker. 

After several options were explored, I finally fixed 4 to the right side of the dash panel.  These were for the two fuel pumps (only one pump is fitted at the moment but wiring is installed for two, as for some reason, I see a failed electronic fuel pump as one of those items that cannot be fixed, and sooner or later may fail at an inconvenient time).  Once the finances have settled down, the extra pump will be fitted.  The other two relays in this block were for the rear screen heater and the radiator fan.  All four are therefore accessible from the driving seat and easily replaced if they fail.  They may need some form of easily removed cover, but that is for a later day.

The first 10 way accessory fuse block was mounted on the opposite side of this centre panel.  At this point I had another senior moment.  You can probably see from the picture that the fuse block  is mounted onto a couple of pieces of steel channel.  When tidying up the cut end on the bench grinder, I wasn't wearing the gloves and made an elementary error, and the grinding wheel sucked the channel in and it ripped into the thumb and third finger of my right hand.  Whoops...   The idea is that the channel bolts onto the centre panel (the temporary bolt in the picture is a bit too long...) and the top screws into the dash top, making the whole thing quite solid.  At this point, I still needed another fuse block or two... All accessories are individually fused so that faults in one unit do not affect others - one of my pet hates.  Starting off in Minis with only about three fuses covering the whole car was a salutary lesson in economy versus common sense.  The Mini was a cheap car and quite brilliant but things have moved on since those days.  Even the Marcos originally only had 3 fuses, so it wasn't until well after the 1970s that manufacturers started putting in more fuses.

I then had to work on trying to fit up the right side dash panel.  At this point, I had fitted the modified chrome strip from the original Magnette dashboard but a broken end on the left was missed and the jagged edge ripped a chunk out of the centre panel's veneer...   Grrrr!  The ignition switch was located to the right of this panel (hole is visible on this pic) and at all stages, my constant concern was the need to remove panels or wiring, without problems.  This means the location of wiring plugs and connectors has to be carefully considered.  It is logical tidy and convenient to make up one six way plug and socket, but practicality may mean two three way plugs instead.   This panel was attached by using two right angled brackets screwed to the back of the panel, then attached to the bodyshell with 6mm bolts through the ever useful Rivnuts.

The left side of the dash only contains the glove locker, but also has to have access to the first accessory fuse block, but before the left side could be completed, the dash top came in a for a bit of attention.  Once the basic shape had been finalised, the binnacle was covered with 10mm foam.

The left side glove locker lid was another of those important veneering jobs that needs patience.  A timely article in the UK's Practical Classics on veneer, suggested wetting the veneer and clamping it between two board to flatten it, leaving it to dry out overnight.  When I tried this last year, I was distracted and forgot to remove the veneer and it went a bit mouldy...  Not funny at $50 (£16) a small sheet...  The article suggested clamping a layer of polythene, then polystyrene foam before the wood and clamps, so that the polystyrene moulds to the shape of the panel.

The adhesion this time seemed to be OK.  Two coats of red stain were applied before the first of the shellac (French polish) to maintain the colour I wanted. If you look closely at the first picture, above, you may see that in spite of a good sanding, once the stain and first coats of shellac have been applied, the grain is raised, and it this constantly adding coats of shellac and sanding back that takes so long. Generally, I would add a couple of coats each day, so adding about 25 or 30 coats takes a long time!  Hopefully it is all worth it.

A piece of thin ply was cut and shaped to form a floor or base to the glove locker, but needs holes cutting for heater tubes etc.  The picture shows a clip just supporting the side of the base and you can probably see that the rear edge rests on the modified bulkhead.  At this stage it wasn't attached to the bodyshell.

Constantly attaching and removing the various sections of the dashboard, whilst being annoying, set in place the sequence for attaching it as a whole.  During this constant refitting, I found that the radio that I had originally attached to the upper middle section, needed to be attached to the lower console!  Easy change.

 I did manage after a long struggle, to obtain some lightweight hose for the air vents - from the local vacuum cleaner shop, but as yet, no heater had been sourced and therefore not located...  A couple of weeks later, I spent an afternoon trying to work out how to adapt the rather large original heater.  That was fun.

Whilst a lot of this was going on, in the evenings (I'm not one who spends all hours of the day and night in the garage...) I worked on an Excel spreadsheet version of the wiring system.

After several false starts, I opted to base it on four basic premises:

  1. A number for all the unit requiring connection

  2. The terminals for those units - numbered according to the above

  3. The colour coded wire from each terminal

  4. The destination of that length of wire, using the terminal number as above.

In effect, that meant that all connections were cross referenced, having both a start point and a destination.  Obviously, this means that every section of the whole wiring system is duplicated.  Sounds complicated?  Not really.  I'll post a table later.

It means that starting in the middle or the end of a system, it is possible to track in both directions.  With relays and anything else with a terminal number, the item is coded accordingly, so a relay might be unit 226.00 in the system, so 226.30, 226.85, 226.86, 226.87 would be the terminal numbers of that specific relay.

More woodwork was required to modify the fillets of timber that attached to the front screen surround.  Initially, I had yet another senior moment, having reshaped the first piece to avoid the roll cage, only to find that it was upside down... (left picture)  Fortunately, the same shaping was required for the correct way up.   (right picture)

The hardwood screen header rail snapped across a screw hole...  After repairing it, care was taken to try and make sure that there was sufficient clearance for the screen rubber.  Also visible is a stripped  Mini sun visor, mounted in the centre as due to the roll cage, the original visor mountings weren't able to be used. The rail was only lightly attached with stainless self tappers  as the headlining will be trapped beneath it.  The intention at this stage was for a headlining that partly covered the roll cage, but with a couple of zips allowing a scrutineer to check the roll cage. 

Whilst in woodwork mode, the remaining three door cappings were stripped and re-veneered, followed by the usual coat of red mahogany stain and numerous coats of French polish/shellac.  The first picture shows the insert in a lighter veneer, echoing the MG octagon shape - but also saving on the cost of veneer! The insert has been stained, but sanded off again in the second pic, trying to remove some darkening. Most cars are veneered in sets, so the rear cappings were done as a pair from the same sheets of veneer. Traditionally, the sheets of veneer are too short so they have to be joined and taped - the tape clearly shown in pic 1.

When dry, the excess is sanded off carefully, then the overall veneer sanded down smooth - supposedly...  I was unable to source any grain filler, so patiently added more and more French polish and flatted it back regularly to fill up the grain.

The original rear door cappings are also shown as a comparison. The top capping in the picture is the first one done some months ago.  The lack of gloss on the second capping is obvious from this picture and it is only after about ten coats that the gloss has any depth, as the wood absorbs the polish slowly and each coat is very thin.  Two pot varnish is quicker and thicker... and probably more durable.

In spite of all my care and patience, the veneer was frustratingly difficult to get a really smooth finish and if I did it again, using a grain filler would be mandatory!  Constant sanding back with 400 grade dry sand paper maintained a smooth finish, but the various grain marks were often quite deep.  As a great follower of the 80/20 rule, I quickly reached a stage where it was 80% perfect, and struggled on to get it about 95%.  That was enough...  The final sanding was first of all the dry 400, then wet and dry used wet, at 600, 800 and finally 1200. This knocks off all the gloss of course so I was left with woodwork that was smooth but dull.  I tried several methods of getting the gloss back, and resorted eventually to Brasso! Two or three applications with fairly vigorous rubbing soon brought up an acceptable and clear gloss, but as usual, it wasn't always perfect.  Occasionally, there appeared to be a bloom of some sort, so it was wiped over with methylated spirit then another thin coat of French polish, before trying again. French polish is quite fragile as a final finish, but I'm hoping that a wax polish will suffice.  Attaching the chrome strips underneath and the brackets on the rear was straightforward - once I'd unearthed them from the parts scattered in boxes all over the garage. 

Next stage was back to the door panels which had been cut to shape some time ago.  The Ados spray adhesive I'd used on the vinyl door pocket cover wasn't holding too well, so several staples had to be added.  Above the padded arm rest, I changed my mind from the original silver grey vinyl, and opted for a more thickly padded black anticipating grubby hand prints would be better on the black.  By adding a thicker foam and with the door capping tacked in place, the panel was too big!  So, I peeled off the top of the vinyl and trimmed about 5mm off the panel. the door panel had a single layer of fibreglass on the back, ostensibly to act as a damp proof barrier, and sound deadening needed applying to the door.

As with several aspects of a project like this, changes happened all the way through and the remaining part of the door panel (showing plain plywood above) was planned to be covered in silver grey vinyl, but I decided that the lower part should be black as I have a tendency to kick the door on exit, so grey wouldn't last long.  To divide the grey from the black caused some head scratching, and I opted for a thin wooden strip, veneered in grey, with a red edge just to lift it a bit.  The MG Montego and MG Metro door panels I always found to be very attractive in grey with red highlights, and I was anxious to break up the trim to echo the grey and red in the front seats. When initially fixed, I found that the window winder was in the way, so I had to move it down, but it didn't upset the balance of the door.  When sealing the grey veneer, I wanted a totally clear finish and found that my tin of acrylic clear varnish had gone off, so opted to try WD 40 - which seemed to work OK!  Not the perfect finish for veneer maybe, but as a fish oil based product, it will partially protect the wood but not from scratches.  Picture above is obviously without the inner door pocket and without the radio speaker.  The door was still in bare metal but with the basic design decided, work could commence on the other doors.




Even at this stage, without the glass or the speaker, the door is exceptionally heavy, so no wonder Andrew drilled his beautifully presented V8 Magnette doors extensively to save weight.  

 Andrew's car looks perfect in every respect and shows what can be done if you set high standards - and also have the skills.


The interior of the B pillar was originally covered by a thin strip of plywood with the lower part in maroon or deep red and the upper part in an uninspiring pale grubby beige.  (see pic on the right)

I stripped off the old vinyl and covered the lower part in black and shifted the join line to line up with the door panels, covering the top with the silver grey vinyl.  When looking at this with the seat in place, I decided to cover the join with some grey suede to match the line of the seat.  Its a tight fit as the seat touches this panel.



Whilst trying to sort out a speedo drive, I decided to trial fit the secondary exhaust and the propshaft.  The speedo drive needed either a right angle drive or a hole cutting in the side of the transmission tunnel support.  Jobs I would rather not do...The propshaft fitted OK and was just held in temporarily whilst I had a go at the exhaust.

Farnie had made up the exhaust system and I had taken it away to be HPC coated before Christmas, and it looked great.  However, the clutch slave cylinder heat shroud was fitted up without due regard to the exhaust clearance, so once again, I had a small problem.  The left hand exhaust fouled the shroud and the main and right exhaust had a bracket that seemed to be a fraction forward of where it should have been.  When it comes to this type of problem, the car has is best returned to the person who did the fabrication... So, the car was once more, loaded on the trailer for the journey one hour north to sunny Warkworth.