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MG Magnette V8 - "MON ZA8"

Up at Warkworth, Farnie was recovering from a back operation, but I added a couple of jobs to his list anyway, namely mounting an ex Mini heater matrix, and cutting the holes for the heater air pipes and sorting out the heater water pipes.  Copying an idea from Dr Neil Goodwin's well used Magnette, I opted to locate the heater matrix in the cavity at the rear of the left front wing/guard.  Heat is only required for the screen demister as I expect that in NZ's climate and the likely use of the car, the interior will be warm enough anyway.  The budget didn't run to air conditioning... Once back from Farnie, I was hoping that I could start to assemble the interior of the car and get it ready for firing up - only 16 months later than I had planned and four years after the project started...


Farnie did a brilliant job of mounting the old Mini heater radiator within an enclosed box behind the wing closer panel (I'd made that out of fibreglass as the original had rotted away at the lower end), feeding air in from the original Magnette heater blower. He managed this without cutting into the inner wing, but routed the air through the bulkhead, through the interior of the car into the box, then out again to the demisters.  I was thrilled to bits with this, as I could have cheated by using a modern Japanese heater which might have been just as tidy, but nowhere near as impressive! I wanted to use the Magnette blower as it looks so good, but this was before the blower was finally bolted up, so it doesn't really rest on the carburettor dashpot!  The pictures also show the fibreglass front wing/fender channel, ready to have the wing bonded to it.

Inside the car, the water tubes were unobtrusive enough and above, the pipes were tucked up as high as possible. Sourcing pipes proved to be a real mission and by chance, a near neighbour was clearing out his garage some months ago, and came across a box of sundry plastic hoses from his son's dabbling in modern cars.  A couple of these were able to be used by Farnie and I also managed to modify a couple of others, but the real score was the pipes for the demister.  They were acquired from the local vacuum cleaner shop!  They use two slightly different sizes of hose and were happy for me to take a couple away.

My next job was to finish off the transmission tunnel and that meant fitting the speedo cable, which remember has to link the Toyota gearbox to the British speedo.  A job for Steve at Auckland Speedometer Services, who made up a brand new cable within a day.

I was also looking to insulate the underside of the (removable) tunnel and again, by chance, luck was on my side. I went over to see a client, who manufactures various types of protective clothing.  Just before I left, someone came through with a suit worn by the fire brigade - with a cloth backing and a durable heat reflective foil outer. Perfect!  A quick transaction took place and I went home with a metre of this stuff, and picked up a can of contact adhesive on the way. An afternoon later, I had managed to cover the underside and for good measure, a few strategic rivets were also added, as the heat may just affect the adhesive.  Another hole was drilled in the tunnel support for the reversing light wiring, even though I had no intention of fitting reversing lights, but the wiring was required for the parking sensors. (Visibility rearwards is not the best, and the sensors were not expensive.)  With the cable fitted and the wiring through a grommet, it was time to bolt in the tunnel, but first, I sprayed some stone chip underseal paint into the lip.  I'd asked for the lip as I thought that maybe water (and oil?)  would otherwise get up into the interior of the car. With the tunnel in, the demister pipes sorted, the one ongoing, niggling problem, that still hadn't been resolved was the wiper wiring...

JULY 2008

Before finally sorting out the wiring of fuse blocks and the final fettling of the dashboard, I needed to address the last part of the heating/demisting system.  Farnie had effectively sorted out the heating pipes, and the last stage was the fresh air flow to the centre of the car.  The Magnette in its original form has quite a robust arrangement for operating the air vent on the scuttle top.  That is, the opening vent at the exterior base of the screen.  As I only needed the fresh air to the centre of the car, it was a case of replacing the original flap and blanking off the chamber, but well aware of the possibility of rain entering, hoses had to be fitted to the original drains, and then to the blank, I fitted just one fresh air outlet pipe straight to the lower centre console - just about seen in the picture.  A rough fit up of the full dash was then required to confirm locations and if I did this again, would probably have made the whole dash on one piece and cut it down to shape later... A few minor adjustment changes were required but it was starting to look pretty good!  One other piece of the jigsaw was required and that was sourcing a matching speedometer and tachometer (rev counter).  By chance, one of the MGCC's young stalwarts had accumulated a lot of MGB spares and had decided to head overseas for a while, so was having a massive clearout.  Oh good...  The matching 4" Smith's instruments would be ideal for what I wanted, even though the Speedometer might need recalibrating and the tachometer converting from 4cyl to 8cyl.  Anything is possible  - at a price...

The driver's seat was relocated on its brackets to give a better clearance too.  What would appear to be a ten minute job took about half an hour, and also meant that the base of the centre console might need a bit of modification on the passenger's side, as clearance was a bit too tight.  The Magnette seems to be a very narrow car when modern bucket seats are fitted! 


One of the essential jobs was relocating the fuel filler from the rear left wing, as the new tank is so much taller than the original, and the original filler cap was set in the left rear wing, lower than the top of the new tank.  Farnie had adapted the neck of an old Mini fuel tank and cut a circular hole in the centre of the rear.  Although this would have been effective, I wasn't too sure that aesthetically, it was what I wanted.  One of our race series drivers donated a lockable fuel filler flip cap from his Jaguar XJ6 that had been buried in his garage since he fitted a fuel cell. I stripped, cleaned and lubricated this unit and even managed to modify the lock to accept an old style key, by throwing away one of the tumblers!   

However, my problem was that the Jaguar was 60mm diameter and the tank pipe was 50mm.  I worked on this problem for a while and decided that Scottie at Fraser Cars would be able to convert it.  At the same time, I had decided that the fuel filler would be hidden behind a hinged flap that would also contain a modern LED hi-stop brake light. This gave the added advantage of modern visibility for the brake light, in a position that many motorists now expect to see it and also hides the fuel filler from those intent on either corrupting or stealing the contents of the tank.

Scotties team converted the filler - at a cost of course, and work started on sorting out the fitting. The Jaguar cap sits fairly high and I could have just recessed it, but having the hi-stop brake-light dictates the overall height.  Attacking the rear panel with a cutting disc, it wasn't too difficult to create a recess.  A support panel was riveted into the front edge, to be smoothed with filler afterwards - but the picture shows the general idea. Constructing the hinged cover proved to be a bit of a challenge, with a combination of flat, convex and concave surfaces to deal with. I started by soaking a piece of fibreglass  woven cloth in resin onto a waxed flat board. Once dry, it was easily removed and easy to cut and bend, so getting the central shape correct was easy enough, and the hinge was no more than a simple brass affair, but the lid was reinforced with a small strip of thin ply at the rear and balsa wood at the front.


  I carved the end pieces out of high density foam (so easy to work with...) and then covered them with resin soaked woven mat. Joining them to the centre flap wasn't too difficult, and then an extra layer of woven mat was added to the underside for strength and a skim of filler over the top to make it all even and flat. As can be seen in the first pic of the set above, metal plates were also attached to the recess to support the lid or at least provide a positive location for it. To help keep it sitting flat, I considered putting small strong cupboard magnets into the lid... After painting, rubber strips will help it sit and it has been designed to allow fuel spills and rain to escape via the boot lid recess.


Gary had made up the basic front wings and I noticed that when he came around for a trial fit, that they appeared to be about 4mm too short on the rear edge.  That a seemed a bit odd at the time, as the skin was taken directly from the original metal.  I had also noticed that the  driver's door fitted well - until I trial fitted the door catch to the B pillar.  It was obviously too tight and I just put it aside until a later date.  Now, on thinking about it, maybe the extensive repairs to the sills and A pillar and all the lower metalwork, were done well, but panels were accidentally moved back that 4mm or so, as Alan didn't have a door there to check against...  A simple oversight perhaps.  

Lengthening fibreglass wings is not too difficult, but shouldn't have been necessary, so maybe I need to refit the door and the  original wing, and confirm what the problem is.  Stretching the door opening 4mm is not within my capability, so maybe I'll need to call Alan back...  How do you gain that amount, as a big hammer certainly won't do it!

Meanwhile, I carried on with my least favourite task anyway, trying to construct the front wings that are not only strong enough, but fit well and look good before painting. The picture on the left shows a small strip of triangular timber screwed into place.  The original moulding strip is too badly damaged to be used so I opted to incorporate the shape into the panel for strength and also a possible join line. 

I once again laid a single layer of woven cloth over the original wing and added the resin.  This makes a very pliable and very thin panel.  Afterwards, I tried to bond it to a section of the wing manufactured by Gary.  This was easier said than done...  I wasn't very happy with the way it was looking nor the overall fit, so I cut the lower rear wing off under the moulding and bonded that lower wing only to the inner support panel in the correct position. Bonding the top part had to come later.

  The original fuel filler flap was also bolted into place and may be used to store something, quite what, I am not too sure, but it will need the original drain, as inevitably, water will seep in.  The boot (trunk) lid panel is a skin only and has still to be strengthened.  Current debate is whether to make this a totally lift off panel or a hinged panel.  Either way, I will probably extend the recess for the rear number plate and may have to mount the number-plate lamp below, rather than above, as this is easier to wire. 

Both rear light units have been modified to incorporate a flasher/turn indicator by removing the terminals from a trailer rear lamp, and riveting them to the original lamp unit. The tow bar can be seen and this will be hidden behind the fibreglass rear bumper, which will incorporate the parking sensors.  The parking sensor was mounted in the boot at the same time as extending the wiring, by soldering on the correct colour coded cables to the five core trailer wire that goes from the dash through to the boot.  This is to reduce confusion in the future.