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MG Magnette V8

Eight years down the track from when this project started and I really thought that I was on the short  home straight.   Wrong...  yet again.

I called down on the certifier just before he'd finished his full audit and got part one of the bad news.  One or two items he'd found were relatively easily fixed and he'd already warned me that the lower steering column wouldn't now be acceptable, but the main objections were to do with the front suspension and steering.  Remember that way back in 2005, the car received a purpose built suspension, so here is a pic to remind you of what was on the car as certified.

You'll note the sturdy Cortina Mk 4 hubs, selected by Mal presumably for their strength and also to give us the correct wheel location. You'll also note the drop link from those hubs, down to the steering rack, as most of us understand that the rack needs to be straight. Apparently this isn't acceptable as the length of any drop link can not be longer than the width of the securing nut. So straightaway, there is a discrepancy between the rack and the steering arm. This was the crux of the problem and one suggestion discussed on site (we were at Fraser cars, who build Lotus 7 type cars) was milling off the steering arm and getting a new steering arm machined. This suggestion seemed OK (at the time anyway) but I reloaded the car onto the trailer and booked it in to Paul's place up at Silverdale, north of Auckland, Motorsport Fabrications.  Paul is another ex-pat but with a solid engineering and race background and he had already done a load of work on the Marcos whilst I was away last year.   He also understands steering and suspension geometry - somewhat better than everyone else I had dealt with it seems.

To say that he wasn't exactly impressed with what had been done previously was the understatement of the year. At this point, we hadn't had a report from the certifier so Paul would contact him whilst we were away (yes, again...) and I left him with full authority to do what had to be done as I wouldn't be back until mid September.

Whilst we were away, I received a long email from Paul.

The bad news - part 1 (from the certifier)

  • Custom front suspension needed crack test certificates
  • Spacers at tie rod ends not allowed - currently has 21mm of bump steer.  Suggest changing uprights to Holden HQ with removable arms.
  • Currently all 300BHP (I wish...) transfers to chassis through 2 rear spring eye bolts that will be undersize.  Suggest a pair of trailing arms.
  • 50mm x 5mm drive shaft safety strap required over the top of the front UJ.
  • Transmission mount too light.  Suggest another 3mm strap to existing mounts
  • Power steering rack cannot just be looped (to avoid power steering).
  • Steering column welds no longer accepted.
  • Secure front brake line to cross member
  • Excess friction in steering column.

That was just from the certifier.

To this, Paul added his own comments regarding the suspension design and construction.

The two majors were the lack of strength in the lower arm tie bars on three counts.

  1. Welding threads is not good engineering practice
  2. The half lap joint that Farnie had to put in is single shear and needed to be double shear.
  3. Tie rod used was designed for a steering column with a deliberate weak point so that the column would collapse in an accident.

The second major was the poor steering geometry/roll centres etc, so even with the certifier's demands met, Paul was far from happy that the car would handle.

At this point, I was at a very low ebb indeed, probably the worst at any time other than the lack of progress throughout 2005.

I chewed over Paul's email for a day or two and eventually told him to do whatever was required to get the car road legal and with a degree of confidence that it would work on the track. Meanwhile, I was dreading the extra costs and was inwardly fuming that those charged with building the car in the first place had let me down badly, particularly with the front suspension that was proving to be a total money pit.

Paul's comment then was that to save costs, he could fix the lower arms but it would look a bit agricultural rather than start again. I agreed to this course of action as the total waste of money spent on the front suspension was bad enough as it was without spending any more than necessary to the the car legal and safe.

Over the next few weeks - which turned into months, Paul worked his way through the certifier's requirements. The most important of which, was the uprights.  When the car was a on the hoist, the idea of milling off the steering arms and bolting on revised arms was mooted, but the final report outlawed this as a possibility, as if the uprights weren't originally designed for bolt on arms, then we couldn't modify them. Paul's search eventually unearthed the required Holden HQ uprights but at a cost of $300, rather than the $50 we'd paid for the Cortina uprights! Paul designed the revised steering arms and beefed up the lower suspension arms and mountings to get a better geometry and improved safety. He also managed to raise the rack a little as part of that project.. He also returned the previously overhauled rack to Porana Power Steering who removed the power steering components - so yet another $160 escaped from my wallet. Top and bottom arms had to be sandblasted and sent for X-Ray/crack testing as one of the LVVTA certifier's requirements. All was good - eventually, after a bit of extra welding to avoid an undercut. No extra strength, but it was a requirement...



The rack obviously had to be removed to get to the lower column where we had to mate the MG column splines to the BMW rack ($160 wasted on getting it done the first time...  welds no longer allowed) and also get that power steering avoidance loop removed - that is the blue hose, just visible in the picture) and the rack modified professionally. By now you can see how costs can escalate and this is a frustrating aspect to a project like this, when rules change mid build. Jobs that are done and paid for have to be undone, redone and paid for again are an expensive way to do a project like this. Obviously if the whole thing can be completed quickly, many of these problems never arise.

One of the requirements for X-Ray/crack testing is that the components have to be stripped back to bare metal.  My own sandblast cabinet just didn't seem powerful enough to shift the POR15 paint, which we know to have really good adhesion properties.  The lower arms Paul arranged to have blasted and I had to deal to the top arms.  I ended up using a flap wheel or various drill mounted devices to shift the paint and it still needed an extra blast.

The lower arms were returned as they needed an extra bead of weld where there was an undercut, so this added no extra strength at all, but had to be done anyway to pass the tests. 

Paul's new steering arms eventually arrived, so that was another hurdle overcome and the geometry is now much closer to what Paul believes is acceptable.

Once the arms had been returned (very promptly I might add) Paul carried on and assembled the revised and strengthened suspension, raised the rack and also the lower arm inner mounting, to get that all important geometry sorted. Instead of an unacceptable 21mm of bump steer, Paul has engineered it down to no more than a couple of millimetres and he is also confident that with our 50/50 weight distribution, the car should handle and corner really well.

The new steering arms to Paul's design were bolted up  - see pic of the beautifully engineered arms, plus the finished assembled suspension.  I still have to apply some paint to the rack arms and do a bit of detail touching up but basically, as far as the suspension and the mechanical and engineering side is concerned, the car is just about complete.


The car was now to all intents and purposes, just about ready for the full certification - other than there were a couple of procedural stages to be overcome, that involved paperwork from MSNZ and another paperwork stage that I wasn't made aware of - paperwork for the LVVTA - the Low Volume body who deal with all certifiable modifications.  Scottie at Fraser cars mentioned this just before Christmas and stated that this form was a compulsory requirement.

I hadn't been made aware of this and Scottie printed out all 30 pages.  It wasn't long before I realised I was out of my depth, so I passed the paperwork on to Paul!  Then it was the battle of the roll cage - which led to my temporary incapacity.

ROLL CAGE - December 2012

A bit of history here and a few explanations.

Right from day 1, the decision was made to add a basic cage with the expectation that should a future owner want to do any intensive motorsport, then upgrading a basic cage by adding side intrusion bars and extra bracing would be possible, but adding a cage once the car was on the road wouldn't be so easy. So, a basic cage was constructed to a design as per the governing body's rule book.  As was the practice at the time, the cage was built out of approved seamless tube of 38mm diameter.  This had been the standard in NZ for many years and just about all cages then in existence would have been built out of this tube.

As per the rule book, photographs of all welds were submitted to MSNZ way back in November 2006 and authority was given to go ahead and paint. Our big mistake and I say "our" as it involves those who actually built the cage, was that we never lodged the final paperwork to get it signed off.

Then the rules changed. Cages submitted after January 1st 2012 had to have a main hoop of 44mm diameter.  Due notice was given, but we/I considered that as the cage already had provisional approval, it would be OK.  Wrong!

MSNZ (via a telephone call) were adamant that the cage didn't comply therefore would be rejected.  A flat refusal. No amount of pleading was changing their minds - even though a cage is optional and also that the car is not an out and out race car. The only way through was if an engineer passed the cage, it would be OK (or we cut it out).

The cage does in fact have an additional couple of bars, a transverse bar that acts as a safety belt attachment (and I believe that is now a requirement anyway) and a short additional bar that connected that to the main hoop diagonal. I believed then (and now!) that the cage would be acceptable but what happened next defies explanation. The pic shows a diagram of the cage as built and as far as we were concerned, more than adequate for a road car with a bit of racing now and again.  Under existing rules, I could have fitted a rollover hoop and back stays anyway, without the need for any paperwork, but it does reduce the car to a two seater. As soon as the cage extends into a passenger area, then all sorts of rules apply.


I rang MSNZ to find out the story and they were adamant that as the paperwork had not been lodged in time, as far as they were concerned, it was no longer valid and I either had to replace the main hoop with 44mm tube, or get an engineer's report. The fact that I had already lodged pre-paint paperwork with them (the employee had since left...) was deemed irrelevant. If the engineer's report was satisfactory, then the cage
could be homologated.

Paul contacted an engineer who was experienced in these matters and we waited weeks for any form of response, by which time I was understandably, getting a bit frustrated.  What is it about some people that deems it OK to take weeks to do a job instead of telling you at the outset? 

Anyway,(a few weeks later) the engineer eventually got back to Paul. He merely sent a drawing of what the cage needed to be, to pass the test required by MSNZ for a 'free form cage', as this is what it now was - even though it was OK year earlier.

Now as MSNZ requires all welds to be 360 degrees, as you can see from the diagram, this would be impossible in several areas without lifting the roof!  To say that we were stunned was the understatement of the year and those who saw the diagram were equally shocked. Remember, the only change to the rules was a 44mm main tube instead of a 38mm tube. 

We quizzed the engineer and he stated that all the extra tubes were necessary and that in his opinion, the standard cage - even with 44m tubing, would also FAIL the prescribed test!  This initiated a flurry of emails, internet message board posts and discussion.  All were horrified but MSNZ wouldn't budge.  They rather flippantly said that I either didn't need a homologated cage for Clubsport events (I race in National events) so the cage could stay un-homologated as long as the certifier passed it for road use, or, I could cut it out...

The discussion raged far and wide and having paid to get the cage put in, built the dashboard to go around it and thinking I was doing the right thing by adding safety, I was at various times, stunned, frustrated, angry, or despondent.  Not good for someone who prides himself as not being moody and always with good humour!

One or two stated that if I hid the front cage with a false ceiling or roof lining, then theoretically, it didn't exist as there was nothing on which to bang my head.  This seemed the best option, so as the year ended (yes, another year) we were still some way from getting the car on the road, legally. The few (illegal) runs up and down the street had shown that Paul's modifications to the steering may have made it a bit heavier than before, but attaching the access plate to the interior right wheel arch, (access to the rear exhaust fixings) has certainly quietened the car, but with no carpets or sound deadening in the bodyshell, it was still like driving a tin can, full of echo, but it was an essential morale booster just the same. Something that was sorely needed as 2012 closed.