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MG Magnette V8 - "MON ZA8"

Progress had been slow through April and May, and five years down the track from the May 24th 2004 purchase, still no completion date and still a lot of work to do.  Financial limitations now kicked in, hard, as we finally acquired the Hampton Downs trackside rental apartment!  That too had been an ongoing saga since September 2004 with both projects running later than originally planned and also costing a lot more than the original budgets...

MAY 2009

Once again, I trailered the car down to Mal and his instruction was to get the thing firing on all 8 cylinders.  It didn't take too long this time for him to identify the problem that has plagued this engine since it first appeared on the scene.  The engine was originally 'thrown together' by someone who had obviously spent a lot of money acquiring bits and pieces for it, when he needed to move house.  Quite Why he threw the engine together just to move 20kms up the road, rather than getting the P6 Rover transported, will forever remain a mystery, as the engine packed a sad before it had even completed its short journey, with two pushrods floating around inside the vee.  The car was effectively abandoned, until it found its way to Mal via Morris at Stag 4X4, as Mal needed a replacement P6 bodyshell after a crunch on the NZ Targa rally.

Mal originally managed to get the engine running and that was when I said I'd buy it...

The Crane rockers were outward signs of good money spent, but when I returned the car to By'Gone, late May 2009, it was returned to me with a set of standard rockers and pushrods!  It appears that the shape of the ends of the new rods, the length, the shape of the bucket tappets and the fact that the rockers were at the limits of their adjustment, combined to make a dysfunctional engine.  So, within a day, the car was back sounding as a V8 should - smooth but powerful! Mal also found that the holes through which the rods pass had also been opened up, quite why, we do not know.   

I got back to fibreglass work trying to get a good fit on the front right hand wing and this meant re-attaching the front valance and the bumper irons, and trying to set them up so that all were level. The last thing I wanted was a lop-sided look, so I made a couple of  timber supports for the outer edges of the valance.  I also realised that the original air scoop for the oil cooler is far too small to be of any use, and started again with a larger one that I thought I'd link to the front bumpers.

JUNE 2009


Sometimes, I just didn't feel like messing with more fibreglass and stinking out the house, so I went to the new seat back and the parcel shelf. I added some foam padding  to the rear seat back in strategic places and also made it more liquid and flame proof.  I used good old Rivnuts (what a revelation, and much better than self tapping screws) with countersunk 5mm machine screws.

Whilst I was finishing off the seat back, I decided to estimate the fuel tank capacity.  Filled to the top, it now holds about 66 litres!  Should be OK for a few short runs...

The parcel shelf was next and once again, some judicious padding and also a rubber strip across the back - needless to say, Rivnuts were used again.  As a bit of possible advice for others contemplating a project, one of the first things to buy has to be the Rivnut tool, and for me, the 5mm and 6mm Rivnuts coped with most items, though the 4mmm one could probably have been used. Buying a mix of counterrsunk, flat and hexagonal bolts of various lengths plus nuts and washers has been made most jobs straightforward, though this does mean the car now has a mix of imperial and metric attachments. 

The shelf as supplied by Farnie rattled, so I decided that I would try and eliminate as many rattles as I possibly could, so Rivnuts yet again and judicious padding made a solid fix.

Once again I was diverted as the MGB GT failed its six monthly inspection due to rust in the A pillar, so time was spent stripping bits off the car then reassembling and at the same time, my home office needed some restoration work, and with a large awards dinner to organise and MC, MG Magnette progress was compromised.     


The MGB took a fair bit longer than expected to get back on the road.  I took it to Grant Hannah and instructed him to not only fix the obvious rust, but to repaint the roof, tailgate and most of the other bits that he hadn't already painted.  This necessitated removing the front and rear screens and that is when it got a bit expensive, needing new screen rubbers and also a new chrome strip for the windscreen surround. 

Having got that all sorted, it was time to prepare the Marcos for a return to the track, so more fibreglass fettling before sending that to Grant for painting; a trip to the UK; a heavy involvement organising one of the first race meetings at the new Hampton Downs track; the successful McLaren Festival at Hampton Downs and Pukekohe; reconditioning the MGB dashboard; work and 2010 arrived...   

MARCH 2010

Well, back tentatively to the pressing issue of fibreglass panels. I had procrastinated a fair bit as I realised that having decided to manufacture glass panels from scratch, the car still had to look acceptable, but whilst a lot of Bristoltime was spent thinking rather than doing, eventually, I opted for a bit of radical surgery to justify the fibreglass.  I hate wasted space but the space under the bonnet was obviously at a premium.  If you look back to earlier changes, you may remember that the cavity at the rear of the left front wing/fender, contains the Mini heater radiator matrix. Whilst staring at the right front, I opted to try and locate the screen washer reservoir.  However, access was obviously required to fill it and whereas modern cars are often filled via the engine compartment, I elected to totally hide the tank. It may seem a lot of extra work, but I split the front wing/fender horizontally and worked on making the lower panel hinged, in the same way that Bristols mounted their spare wheel.  Having decided on what I wanted, a rough cut was done and a pair of brass pin hinges fitted and then I returned to try and make the front wing sit correctly at the front and rear, before smoothing the external surface and then adding a bit more rigidity to the panel. 

JULY 2010

Wow!  The end of July already... As you will probably have realised, the pace slowed quite a bit.  I did write at the beginning, that this thread would include the blind alleys, so if you were now expecting pictures of an immaculate copy of a Bristol front wing, beautifully executed, then I am sorry to disappoint you...  I started off as above, with pin hinges mounted at the top of the split, but it didn't matter how I tried, I just couldn't get a fit that I was happy with.  After yet more head scratching, I decided to hinge from the bottom instead.  Bingo! Much better.  Not perfect by any means and there is still work to do, but I think I'll get there eventually.

A lot of time was spent cutting and realigning and rebuilding the wing/fender to get a fit I was happy with - then the arduous task of getting a nice surface finish.  Gary's original glass wings as supplied, came with the comment that I'd have a fair bit of sanding to do.  That was a gross understatement and even now, the one wing I have worked on isn't quite ready for painting.  It now needs a bit of strengthening. But it also has to match the redesigned and rebuilt bonnet and front panel.

I wasn't too happy with the lie of the oil cooler pipes at the front, so I swapped them over.  The radiator grille surround is a tight fit, but it should be OK. I also took this opportunity to angle the radiator grill back a fraction, by cutting out about 10mm from the bonnet centre top.


Time to return to the rear. The fibreglass pod I had built to cover the fuel filler and house the Hi-stop rear light, didn't seem to be sitting flat.  There was slight twist to it, so I elected to straighten it up. Like many of the jobs, this took a couple of afternoons but it does look better.

The right rear wing repairs had to be built up and reshaped to retain thecurves and once again, this meant a couple of afternoons  for no real progress to the casual observer.

The tow bar bolts were fitted to check for alignment.


I have had a rethink over the indicators/trafficators.  My original idea was to fit some orange LED lights as side repeaters.  Fiddling around with the original semaphore trafficators, I cleaned them up and tested them and although one was like new, the other was a bit erratic, so I opted to refit them and add just one LED each side.

Not too sure whether they will work with flasher unit in the system though...  They may need an extra wiring circuit to bypass the flashers.

 Once in a while, I would fire up the engine just to inspire me...  The rules regarding modified cars have changed again in NZ and as the front suspension has been re-fabricated, apparently drawings now have to be submitted before it can be certified.  This is of course in addition to the inspection by the certification engineer.

DASHBOARD - yet again

Time was marching on and although the dashboard had swallowed up many many hours, parts of it needed sorting out permanently and this included the glove box innards.  Many of you reading this will have been frustrated when dealing with a car, that required a Glove box lidmassive amount of reassembly to get at a single component, so the assembly/disassembly procedure is critical and once again, the location and construction of several items was changed, yet you may not notice much difference.  The wiper motor self parks at 90 degrees and although I took it out and had a fiddle, I can't get it to park correctly, so I need to get at it again.

The glove locker base couldn't be removed with the rest of the dash in place (picture to the left with the demister hose through the middle!) so I had a go at redoing the base as it is now in two parts, just about visible in the lower left picture.  It can now be removed without a major dismantle, but I did relocate the centre instrument panel fuse block, normally located on the left of the centre panel. 

One of the ongoing problems was how to use wood fixings that work the same way as the metal Rivnuts.  As luck would have it, I found in one of my boxes of assorted fixings, some 5mm brass fittings that I had acquired when a sewing machine mechanic was having a clear out. I had no idea what they were for, but they appear to work exactly the same as 5mm Rivnuts!  This enable several massive moves forward in the whole dash department.

Apart from a disaster when I indavertently left the glove box lid on a meths soaked piece of cloth, I made a bit of progress.  Amongst other stuff acquired in the past, were several scraps of suede leather as used in gardening gloves.  Another couple of afternoons saw fake cup holder recesses cut into the inside of the locker lid and this was covered in the grey suede the same time as the glove locker base was improved and the brass wood "rivnut" inserts used to good effect.

Magnette lower console




Refitting the dash left side required fair bit of fiddly work and then my attention moved to the lower centre console and gear lever surround.  Once again, the original mock up was just that and the move was to something a bit more substantial and solid.  Lots of fiddly woodwork again and yet more use of the woody rivnuts. Whilst doing this, I was also aware of noise transmission, so the need to insulate the dash was apparent.

As an aside, the bare doors hung on to the shell create an echo... 



Time has been marching on and there was a realisation that the progress and quality of some of the fibreglass was not satisfactory.  Although there were various minor jobs progressing, albeit somewhat slowly, I rather reluctantly decided that the fastest way to get some major progress to a reasonable quality was to revert to the steel front wings and have a go at finishing the glass wings at a later date.  I did say that this report on the project would include the blind alleys and sometimes it is a tough decision to go go backwards.


Yes, six and a half years down the track and it was time to try and finish a few things off.  First job was to replace the temporary line to the oil gauge with a proper permanent braided line.  Even this apparently straightforward job turned into a two afternoon mission!  The line as made up had a threaded end that didn't match the hole in the oil take off on the block, so back down again and this time, the block fitting was retapped... Quite why there are so many different threads is mystery to me and even Mal had to take the unit over to Fraser cars as he hadn't a tap of the correct size!  This is why some jobs that should be within the scope of the average amateur, are not.   

I also had to get stuck into the 4 doors as I really needed these painting so that I could finish off the fitting up the interior panels and the windows.  Mid November, I finally managed to get the doors up to a reasonable state ready for painting having spent a bit of time on the various window trims. These also needed rustproofing and a bit of mig weld to repair splits. 

I had already decided that the rear door windows needn't open and therefore I would probably use plastic rather than the heavy glass and regulators. Fortunately, there is a local company who could do these and initially I just had the rears done. Not cheap... 

Meanwhile, the French polish on the various dash components looked as though it really needs a coat of lacquer to protect it... Close up photographs made it look as though it was a piece of antique furniture with tiny cracks in the French polish.  This would have to wait until later and would be a first stage minor restoration upgrade.


The original steel wings were fairly sound but that did not mean that they were perfect.  Far from it.   A considerable amount of patching and fibreglass was required and hopefully, the boys at Bay's painters would bring them up to their standard. I did spray some bitumen underseal into the joints and also around the headlamp area but maybe this was one of those area that needed protecting with an inner wing or wheel arch panel to keep the mud away.  

I managed to fire the car up after a few months of inactivity but not without problems.  Initially, no power to the fuel pump or the pump warning light. This was identified as  a dodgy fuse connection which was a surprise as it was a fuse block that has a main live lead into it and all fuses should therefore be OK. Swapping the wire to another of the fuses worked fine...

The car fired up and having dropped it off the trolleys, I opted to drive it around the island at the end of our small cul-de-sac.  Only first and second gear, but I couldn't resist a bit of a sprint up the road for a few yards! Wow!  It certainly has plenty of zizz, but all was still not well...

The Farnie built foot pedals were not at all comfortable and the handbrake was ineffective - then the left rear brake decided to stick on... A minor hiccup in the handbrake mechanism.  The electric fan override wasn't working either, having been fine the previous last week.  Probably in my haste to pop the centre dash back in I may have forgotten to connect the plug!  I was not convinced that the thermo switch was working either - or had ever worked.  Just teething problems really I suppose.

Taking the main car to the paint-shop was another major stage in the progress but getting it back would really put me under pressure to get it done.  By the time I had the shell and the wings there, they had already started on making a better job of skimming, priming and sanding the doors.

MG Magnette V8