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MG Magnette V8 - "MON ZA8"

Well, what a historic day November 26th 2008 was.  Almost exactly four and a half years to the day that Don Bell towed the dead car to home, and 23 years since the car was last on the road, it moved again under its own steam! Not far maybe, but it did move with its rebuilt new heart sounding quite potent but I was unable to exploit it...


I trailered the car down to Mal and he got stuck into setting the distributor and pointed out that I had left half the components at home! So I nipped back for the rotor arm and the plastic sleeve for the distributor shaft as part of the Pertronix electronic ignition....

Turning the engine over, the rocker covers were moving! So, off they came and there was evidence of the rockers touching the flame guards.  Remember that I had swapped the original rocker covers that had ROVER engraved on them, for a plain set.  Mal removed the flame traps and we tried again.  They were still touching in a  couple of places so out came the grinder.  The photograph shows the nick on the raised ridge before the grinder attack.  The covers were replaced, the engine turned over until the oil pressure gauge registered.  Fuel pump on, HT lead to coil connected and fingers crossed.  Yeeha!  It fired.... The engine clattered a little as it warmed up and Mal set the tick-over to a fast idle.  There was a trace of water on the left  of the vee but other than that, all seemed OK, but Mal advised blocking off a couple of pipes into the carb, fitting the vacuum advance tube and extending the carb overflow pipe to somewhere a bit safer. 

No water or oil temperature gauge though! I thought that maybe I hadn't put in the fuse for the voltage stabiliser - but I had.

Back home, the multi-meter showed no power coming out of the voltage stabiliser, so this was returned and replaced. Mal had also advise fitting the later thicker rubber rocker gaskets to give more clearance, so that was also done.   However, at this point I had a niggling feeling that maybe oil wasn't getting up to the top of the engine but Mal assured me that these engines do not have a lot of oil at the top.  Having also asked previously whether or not I needed an engine stabiliser bar, and been told - NO, I am not so sure... I think that maybe it does need one... (see below...)

I fitted a temporary tube to the right hand rocker breather/filter but this needs looking at for a permanent solution.  These engines do need to breathe so I am told. Mal also suggested using a braided Aeroquip hose for the oil pressure.  The main thing is that it runs!

So, still a few  minor niggles to sort out straightaway before I am satisfied that the car is in fact running OK, but at least it has been in and out of the garage under its own power.  Seems that I should probably have had the handbrake moved a bit further forwards too, but maybe it needs a bit of adjustment, so that it bites earlier.

The wiring has had a bit of modification, with a plug and socket at the radiator end and longer wires to the dash, so that the centre dash can be swivelled forwards without disconnecting any wires. It probably won't be so easy when the lower console is in place.

Wiper System

Earlier I stated several times that I couldn't really confirm the MG Montego sourced wiper wiring, and was reluctant to gamble on connecting the wrong wires, just in case it blew the Pektron delay unit.  I contacted Ben Field of the UK Practical Classics magazine, and he in turn passed my request on to Australian based Land Rover expert, Steve Jones.  Steve patiently worked through  photographs and the wiring diagrams and thanks to him, the delay unit now performs brilliantly.  All we have to do do now is sort out the motor to stop the wipers from parking vertically!  (Not a difficult job.)

DECEMBER 2008  - Hiccups already...

Oh dear.  on firing up the car for the second or third time, it sounded decidedly less than smooth.  A quick check confirmed that it was definitely not running on its full 8 cylinders.  An uneven exhaust beat being the clue.  Plug leads and sparks were checked but cylinders 5 & 7 were not performing, so off came the left rocker again.  Neither cylinder had a visible pushrod for the inlets...  When I first saw this engine in the P6 Rover it arrived in, the car was misfiring and that also turned out to be a couple of floating pushrods, but as the original valve springs were stuffed, I certainly assumed that was the problem.  So even with new rods and valve springs, it seems that there is still a problem. Maybe the roller rockers need a longer push rod?  As Mal had given me the required measurements and the new rods were close to that and that we checked by telephone from the suppliers, if they are wrong, I will not be very pleased.  Also not funny after paying out several thousand dollars for an engine rebuild.  As the workshop was closed for the Christmas holidays, I had to wait a couple of weeks before anything could be done, so attention returned to fibreglass.


Bonnet Vents

I am far from knowledgeable on the subject of under-bonnet airflow and aerodynamics generally. The under bonnet area is one that ideally needs cool air in to feed the carburettors, but as so much heat is generated from 8 primary exhaust pipes, there is also a lot of heat to disperse.  On the move, the exhaust heat can be extracted via the inner wings and also channelled under the car, but when the car is stationary, the heat rises and needs a means of escape through the top rear of the bonnet (hood).  Reading up a little, it appears that cooler air can easily be extracted from the base of the windshield via a rear facing scoop.  If I understand it correctly, that means that a rear facing scoop has a dual purpose as it can suck in cool air when on the move, yet disperse hot air when the car is stationary.

Back to the drawing board to try and design scoops that look OK and are also functional.  The louvered bonnet is one method of course, but that system does nothing for sucking in the cooler air and it not easy in a home made fibre glass panel - unless you take the easy option and go and get a couple of louvred panels from the local hardware shop...  The scoops were first carved out of high density foam, then as part of the learning curve in the method of making the panels, I first covered the foam with one layer of chopped glass, then a layer of woven cloth making a thin but strong and semi transparent skin. 

A thin layer of filler was all that was needed to fill in the imperfections, but it still took a couple of afternoons!

The underside of the scoops than had a fibreglass border and a strengthening strip, to which I inserted Rivnuts and/or a small nut and bolts after carving away the waste foam to give an airflow. 

I initially wanted to incorporate the MG octagon in several places such as the fuel filler cover, side vents, scoops etc, but unlike the MGB GT for example, or the later Farina Magnette, the ZA & ZB Magnettes are all curves, so I had to make do with the much harder to make curves and only managed the half octagon on the dashboard as per the original...

The scoop certainly worked when stationary with the electric fan working.  The picture above shows the new fibreglass/wood central bonnet spine, the top bonnet panels and a rough left wing/fender. The wing is just sitting in position and the support panel at the rear has yet to be added.  The original bonnet hinges were refitted for looks only, and bonnet pins drilled through the hinges to secure the bonnet at the rear.  At this stage, there were no strengthening ribs in the panels for rigidity and the intention was to try and run the car at speed to test out the panels before painting. Good intentions... 


Straight after the return to work, I mentioned the engine problem and then headed off to buy a new magnet.  I was able to fish the stray pushrods out.  They seemed relatively undamaged so after removing the rocker gear, I managed to refit them.  So far, so good...


Attention remained on fibreglass and bodywork for February but work commitments ate into the time a wee bit.  I moved to the front valance after finding that I couldn't really finish the bonnet properly, nor the right front wing as I really need to get the driver's door or aperture fixed, as this dictates the actual wing/fender.  I am hoping that  Grant can use the hydraulics to force  the aperture just enough to allow the door to close without binding  - it is either that or a bit of creative bashing of the door!  The oil cooler was quite a tight fit and I decided to lower and recess it, to improve airflow to the radiator and this may well entail fitting a discreet scoop under the valance.

I had purchased a really cheap MiG welder but wasn't getting on too well with it.  Most people find MiG welding far easier than gas welding, but I was still in the learning phase and my biggest problem was that I could never really see what I was doing! Running a weld I found straightforward with gas - once the settings were correct, but I hadn't got a good grasp of MiG, so even the small tacks I was doing needed a fair bit of grinding.  The original holes in the valance for the bonnet catch etc were filled in and the picture shows the valance part way through. The oil cooler needed brackets to support it and it took some time for me to construct and attach. No doubt, any competent metalworker would have done the job in 20 minutes and it took me most of another afternoon...  By lowering the cooler, the oil pipes were then not quite long enough, so an additional hole was put into the radiator support while that was out, needing a minor modification to the brackets, as the radiator was slightly on the slant... 

A small scoop was made for the cooler but this will generally be hidden behind the number-plate, so it may be too small and also ineffective, but if I take to the track and remove the number-plate, it may be a bit more effective.  If I was building a true track car, then I would have to look hard at building a full width spoiler or splitter.  Who knows, when I have finished, I might have a go at building one just to see if it has any effect as there will be too much air going under the car with the standard body.

Fitting the radiator grille surround to the valance, I took a long look at it and it appeared to be slightly crooked (maybe as  a result of the trailer mishap...) so I had to spend time trying to get the side panels and the radiator as square as I could. Slowly, the fibreglass panels were coming together and I thought  that the radiator grille no longer needed to be attached to the side panels as it would be much easier for access if the grille was only attached top and bottom as the side panels were quite solid.  

As an aside, my trailer was at some stage in a crash and has needed a bit of work, but when I loaned it out, it looked decidedly dodgy with the wheels showing a decidedly negative stance! So, off to Farnie for a trailer tidy up.  The brake lines were replaced (though the new pipe is decidedly dodgy, even though it is supposed to have a high copper content, so Farnie didn't charge for the pipes).  He made the tilt mechanism more friendly, straightened the axle and added 4 extra tie down hooks.  )The trailer brake lines had to be replaced again later...)

Oil pipesThe next job was to get Grant's team to sort out the driver's door fit so that I could finish the wings.  His team had to file off excess lead and generally apply their expertise to successfully hang the door.  I had made up a fibreglass sill cover - only to find that my mould was incorrect.  I hadn't realised that the top of the cover tapered from 35mm at the rear to 50mm at the front! This necessitated a 'cut and shut' operation on the first sill and a revision to the (reversible) mould... The sill cover gave me a straight edge, but the cover needs a bit of thinning on the top edge or the reMG Magnette V8 moval of the underlying metal lip.     

Grant's team also painted the front valance, inner wings and the radiator support panel, so my bill was fairly high, but at least the beginnings of finished paintwork and some items secured in place is progress.  By dropping the oil cooler and re-routing the pipes through the support panel, (see picture) the hose was just a little too long the driver's side cooler pipe needed shortening and a 90 degree union to replace the previous angled item.  Unfortunately, this caused a slight kink in the pipe, so it needed another 90 degree union to swing it around.  They are not cheap these pipe fittings!

I measured up the height of the old bumper irons when in place, and there was a 5mm height difference which was another job to address. 

A liMG Magnette V8ttle work was carried out on the wiring, putting in a plug  to accept the transponder unit that has to do service in other cars.  I was always a fan of the early Mini headlights where the side light was incorporated into the headlamp, which meant that for the Magnette, I could replace the original rather tiny side lights with indicator lamps, rather than add an extra light to the front, but I couldn't really finalise the wiring route until I was sure I could source the appropriate Mini type units.

Fortunately, sourcing a couple of semi sealed beam units with side lights proved no problem at all, though I was staggered at the price of $120NZ including appropriate bulbs. I had several pairs of old Mini  units so I spent two afternoons refurbishing, painting and rewiring them with the extra earth and live lead for the side light, plus soldering a four way plug on each one.  At the lamp end, as there was a 3 way connector block inside the light unit, this was swapped for a 4 way, with the earth lead twinned and the extra wire for the side light.  The rubber grommet needed opening up a bit and a dab of black silicone was required on one unit as the hole had corroded a wee bit and by the time I had de-rusted it, it was a bit larger! 

When building cars like this, it is also all to easy to slap wiring plugs on, only to find out later, that you have threaded the wires through a panel and the hole is too small for the plugs - especially the 4, 6 or 8 way plugs.  I opted to butcher the top of the inner wing to run the cable through...

With the end of the financial year, consultancy work and Chicane Racewear taking up time, not to mention moving a family member's belongings, progress was slow during the remainder of April, and with the bad weather creeping in too, fibre-glassing again to get the wings manufactured was delayed.

Transferring all my picture and business files onto an external 500gb hard drive seemed like a good idea too, but the new drive packed up after just three weeks, with the loss of about 40 hours worth of work.  That didn't help at all...  I really needed  a major push to get all the panels somewhere near paint prep level.  (I seem to put this on every page...)

The engine was still not running correctly and informed opinion suggested a stuck valve due to the time the engine stood before being fired up, but I suspected that that it wasn't the real reason as the engine had a history of rods floating!  Back to By'Gone it was then...