Project MGF – Part 2 – the clean up
Perhaps surprisingly, given the circumstances of new family and busy job, the project MGF has come along some way. The current working title seems to be "Project Shed" – which seems appropriate in two ways. First, the key project objective is very much focused on shedding weight – but in truth this wasn’t where the name actually originated. Fact is the car is a complete shed. An engineless immobile shed. Still, as Yazz’s 1988 dance anthem goes, "the only way is up!"
The plan for the project
I confess that, as I write this, the exact end objectives for this build remain somewhat fluid – which isn’t very sensible because this kind of woolly thinking in the context of renovating and building cars inevitably results in dreadful over-spend beyond the original budget expectations. (If Kevin McCloud did a show on Car Grand Designs, he’d be sucking in through his teeth right now, and predicting doom and gloom.) When Tim Morris, your erstwhile editor asked me what the project budget was, I replied "as little as possible, £1000 on the road without racing safety equipment or tyres." I think this is achievable despite not yet having set in stone the final specification of the sheddy-MG. Why not include tyres and safety equipment in that definitive budget? Well decent track tyres (lets say Toyo R888s on 15" rims, 205/50) and a bolt-in roll cage (OMP sell them, as do Safety Devices) would together likely cost over a grand before even thinking about a plumbed in fire extinguisher. Even the FIA-approved electrical isolator switch cost the best part of 30 quid…!!!
The prevarication on the project actually centres on whether to go down the 1998 Geneva "Supersport" show-car route and lop off the windscreen frame (see above). Think about the weight that would save! No windscreen frame or windscreen for a start. But better still, no side windows, their motors, the associated wiring loom or switches. No windscreen wipers or mechanism/motor either come to that. All brilliant for weight saving. All bad news for slotting into an existing race championship, however. So I’ve done a little digging, and found that the MGCC Cockshoot Cup (class C) does accept cars without windscreen frames. Unfortunately it is based in the north west of England whereas I am based down in the south east. Oo-er! So while the idea of a windscreenless Supersports ‘replica’ does hold some water insofar as the idea is practical, doable, and the car would be able to run in an existing race series so modified, I remain in two minds on the matter, not least because the aforementioned race series is geographically on the opposite end of the country and the resulting vehicle would be extremely and singularly focused to potentially prevent it being driven to events. I would be interested to hear your views on the matter. Write into FTF and let me know what you think: windscreen or no windscreen?
The clean up
The first task was to really strip out all the rubbish and what other debris remained of what appeared to have been a fully-functional interior. I am happy to say that I am now 5 pence richer, and there is now a growing pile of rubbish to take down to the council refuse centre!
To remind ourselves as to what the interior looked like before the clean up
started, here’s the picture once again (right):
It took the best part of an afternoon to clear out everything I wanted to –
which also included the boot compartment and front bonnet area (although,
irritatingly, the spare wheel retaining bolt appears corroded into place – argh!).
The process also yielded a couple of surprises… But before I come to those,
here’s a picture of the interior with all remaining interior removed. Much
cleaner don’t you think?
Annoyingly, no steering column, as you can no doubt see. But interestingly, you can see the mounting brackets on the dashboard support tube (essentially a great bit of pipe not unlike a scaffold pole running from one side of the car to the other – visible here under the windscreen and above the pedals).
[Picture right: quick guide to driving controls probably a rather thin tome for this car; it doesn’t even have a steering wheel – so why two copies???]
Talking of surprises, this is where things became interesting as I found a
few things that tell us quite a lot about this car’s history. The first picture
is perhaps the least revealing in many ways, but you can see the car’s original
Guernsey registration plate – 18890. I also found a Guernsey tax disc dating
from 1999. Which was nice. What is also quite interesting in this picture is the
fact that the rear bulk head carpet has a little ‘F’ cut into it. Andy Phillips
was the first to notice this during the strip down of Scarlet (read more on
http://www.sfforever.co.uk/) – and this is interesting insofar as the apparent
enthusiasm someone had for identifying the car in a bit of trim that is forever
hidden from view unless the whole interior is removed. I wonder whether later
TFs have this ‘feature’ cut from their rear bulkhead carpet?
The next pictures are perhaps not so much of a surprise to anyone who has
owned an early MGF since new. When I looked inside the doors – and I mean both
doors – I found these bits of orange plastic lodged inside the bottom of the
Which, when combined with the obvious window misalignment on both sides, as pictured below…
… means only one thing: broken window stops. These went through three separate designs – eventually ending with as a metal bolt arrangement in their third and final design iteration. However, it is clear that this car never got these – and indeed what I found were Mk1 window stops. Curiously, on the passenger side, it was evident that the window stop had failed not just once on this side, but at least twice, as there were the remnants of at least two window stops rattling around inside the passenger door. Who knows how many times the driver’s side had failed before the owner gave up getting it replaced; the driver’s side usually fails more frequently simply because this window tends to get used more often.
I mentioned that I found an original tax disc in the car. I also found the glove box, stowed neatly in the boot. And inside the glove box was the original owner’s binder (leather bound, as they were for early cars, before the ‘Phoenix Four’ buy-out and the content-cutting ‘Project drive’ kicked in).
This revealed some more very useful snippets of information. If you are reading this Doctor Baxter, I own your old MGF! Equally interesting was reading the service record. Or rather the lack of it. For a car first registered in December 1996, it was a little surprising to find it took 6 months before being taken in for its first service at 4817 miles. Usually the first service is performed at 3 months. Still, that isn’t too bad given that it wasn’t until 2001 that the car was next serviced, at 19001 miles!!! Presumably this was undertaken by the car’s next keeper, as the service was not done in Guensey, but rather on the Isle of White. And that’s it. Two services in 11 years. Perhaps just as well someone else got to keep the engine…
Oh, and in case you were wondering about the anti-corrosion warranty – well, you know, I was thinking of claiming given the state of the front wings – not a single stamp! Darn. There goes that plan of asking BMW to cough up on body work repairs!
Overall, this single document is testament to a rather unloved and abused MGF VVC. But not everything was down beat…
… there was a pot of touch up paint in the car! Mind you, I think that I
might need a little more than this to sort out this car’s ‘modest’ body work
Spot the problem
The lack of service record is amply supported by another discovery when stripping the car, and is shown in this picture:
In case you don’t recognise what is being highlighted here, it is the seat belt eustacheon, a plastic trim around the seat belt webbing as it passes through the T-bar trim behind the seats. This is the Mk1 version, which was subject to a recall (recall number A056) in October 1998. The eustacheon was superceeded with a design that moved that slot from the side to a central slot underneath the seat belt aperture – as shown in the figure below:
The reason for this is shown in the picture to the right…
… under certain circumstances, the seat belt could get caught and indeed jam in the eustacheon, leading to ineffective occupant retention in the event of an accident.
Check out your seat belt eustacheon – particularly if your car was imported from outside the UK – as clearly there must be plenty of MGFs still out there with this original, inferior design.
The next discovery had much less of a safety impact – but is certainly very annoying, and something that many MG owners will be familiar with – burn out of the heater fan speed regulator resistor wires.
When I removed the heater from the Project Shed MGF interior, I thought it would be a good idea to remove the resistor pack. After all, if it were in good condition, it would make for an excellent spare for my own, every day MGF.
Evidently, I was out of luck.
The first image shows one of the problems associated with cooling the load
resistors in the fresh air stream into the heater box – the risk of crud
sticking to the resistor coils and subsequent burn out…
… this will have dealt a fatal blow to heater speed number one. The next picture however shows that heater position number 2 will have gone south too…
… so here we have an MGF that has had next to no servicing and missed at least one critical recall (and I suspect also the engine cam bolt recall issued in November 1998 that effected all VVC engines up to that date, instituted when it became clear that these critical bolts were becoming loose on their own in service). There is light accident damage and dents all round the body work. The car will have leaked like a sieve due to those failed window stops and consequent appalling window alignment. And to top it all off, the blooming heater only worked on the two highest speed settings! Goodness knows what else didn’t work on this car before it yielded its engine to a maniac Mini enthusiast wanting its powertrain for a mid-engine transplant project! Little wonder either that the previous owner let this car go for such a nominal sum of cash (£30 if the aforementioned Mini maniac is to be believed). I am sure that they’d have want shot in order to get something that looked rather better and was somewhat more reliable!
However, for project Shed, these are but curios – who needs a heater in a race car? Or windows come to that? And since I am going to get a ‘new’ engine, I’m not too bothered about the service history either… Onto bigger and greater things, my friends!
Starting to put in new parts
The first task was to get the front wheels steer-able again. Fortunately, given the lack of a donor car so far, ebay came to my aid with a cheap EPAS steering column.
Fitting of this is pretty simple – and could in fact make quite an
interesting short technical article in these pages, but I don’t have space for
this here unfortunately. However, in terms of ‘shedding’ weight, the EPAS column
is pretty flipping heavy! That motor, with its fixed ferrous metal magnets,
weighs a proverbial tonne! I am very much in two minds as to whether to keep
this steering column in the longer term. EPAS is brilliant around town and
manoeuvring into small parking spaces. But this is going to be a circuit car,
and besides, Project Shed will hopefully weigh usefully less than a standard
MGF. So if anyone wants to swap a non-EPAS steering column for a EPAS version,
let me know!
First body work parts
This MGF’s colour is green – and I would like to continue this car’s ‘green’ credentials by recycling as much of it as possible – but unfortunately that offside front wing had corroded far too much to be economically and usefully repaired. So a replacement was purchased from ebay. For a bit too much money unfortunately – and what’s more it’s Alumina Green!!! Not a problem if the car is to be re-sprayed, but ideally, it would be sensible to keep to BRG parts. If anyone has a pair of BRG wings, or perhaps is desparate for an Alumina Green OSF wing, let me know…
The picture right shows the original wings in situ, with the front bumper and
head lamps removed (oddly, one of the headlights had a cracked diffuser lens – a
story perhaps for another day)…
Thankfully, the front wings are bolt on affairs. You also need to remove the plastic wheel arch liner to reach the bolts hidden behind the wing in the A-pillar region. Happily all came undone easily. Well, nearly all. One sheared off (arse) – but the wing came away easily enough, as shown in the next picture…
The plan for the next steps
So the work has started in earnest. I have been busy scouring the ebay ads for useful parts – but given the number of parts and fixings required, this isn’t the most economical approach to be taking. I need a donor car, and fast!
Plus, I need to make decisions on whether to use MGF suspension or go the TF conventional spring route. And also whether to retain or remove the windscreen. Let the debate begin!
Watch this space for the next enthralling instalment!