End of The Line

Not long after Hurricane Irene did her best to land a knock out punch to Vermont, I hustled out to Hillsdale, New York to look in on an ailing MG.  I calculated the best direct route on a Columbus Day Weekend to be down Interstate 91 and across the Massachusetts Turnpike, and I took my MGC because it gobbles up distance pretty quickly without too much effort.


MGC at speed

MGC on The Boil

The rectification was a simple one, and with so much extra time on my hands I rambled up  New York Rte. 22 to Rte. 7 and  into Bennington thru Hoosac, New York.  Unfortunately, although not for me, the backflow from Irene had taken out part of the Rte. 7 bridge in Hoosac, reducing it to one lane with a stoplight.  I cleared the light in about five minutes.  Westbound traffic was stacked solid almost all the way back to Bennington.

Going up the grade out of Woodford, the engine temperature began climbing but I kept my foot in it anyway, figuring it would cool off again rolling down out of Searsburg.  It didn’t, and I ended up making an emergency stop to bale water out of the Deerfield River.

This was a fatal overheating incident, and over the winter I sent a spare engine out for machining.  That engine is still sitting on a shelf in the driveline room waiting to be put together.


SCS Crew

Full House: Patrick, Butch, David, Warner, Steve, John

In a manner of speaking, we’ve always been punching above our weight here at Sports Car Services.  This is a small space with a lot going on and most people will tell you that we do what we do very, very well.  I think that’s an accurate assessment.  We do this inspite of some of our in-built inefficencies such as the necessity of opening the overhead doors to jack up the back of a car in the service bays.  But we’ve  managed to accomplish this without tripping over ourselves, and at times there have been as many as six of us to trip over.   We’ve gotten very busy over  the last 25 years with tune ups, trouble shooting and restoration work that matches up against anyone, anywhere, any time.


the shop that wasn't

Never Never Land

Last fall it appeared that our problems were about to be solved by a 9,000 square foot facility about half a mile off the Interstate on Rte. 5 in Westminster.  Well, there was an undisclosed Right of First Refusal.  It didn’t happen, and that has led to some serious thinking about Plan “B”, and Plan “B” is Sports Car Services as we’ve known it is winding down.  That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we’re passing the baton to Gary Gammans of G&R Autoworks in Keene, N.H.  Gary and his crew, Jason, Rod and Alastair know british cars and work to our standards, maybe better sometimes.  In fact Gary’s been at it just as long as I have, and now Butch will be there, too.  Gary’s phone number is 603-357-2484

As for me, it’s my opportunity to get a move on with some long deferred projects, beginning with that MGC engine and including about 34 acres of fence which has gone neglected to the occasional consternation of the neighbors but probably not the cattle who’ve found it advantageous.  So thanks, and see you in Stowe, it’s been fun.

David Clark

The End of the Line… Traveling Willburys


David Clark

Your scribe at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, Massachusetts

M.W. photo

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Kablooey ??

Butch assembles a Diff.

Butch assembles an ENV differential

We’re tying up a few loose ends this week beginning with an ENV rear axle which in its day was common to both Lea-Francis, our application here, and also early XK 120’s.  Parts availability for these differentials has become scarce.  We were able to turn up a full set of Timken taper roller bearings without too much difficulty from E.B. Atmus who have been in business nearly as long as Timken has, but thrust washers and seals were more of a challenge, those had to come from England, and we’ll be making our own Diff gasket.  This axle uses four differential planet gears ( also referred to as a “four star”, I believe), the case for which is sitting on the differential crown wheel.

2 windage trays

Damaged windage tray & its replacement

My downstairs XPAG TD engine rebuild will be complete tomorrow following the application of final paint.  It should be back in the car next week, and then we’ll be waiting on the weather before we can run it up and take it out.

There had been some creative repairs made to the windage tray that was in the sump, and although it was better than nuthin’ I suppose, Abingdon Spares had a new one, which made the question of whether to replace it pretty simple to answer, and anyway it was also an opportunity to get out of the shop for half an hour.


Oil Strainer

Not fully supported

Oil Pick UP

Repaired Oil Pick Up

My best guess is something let go with a bang because the windage tray obviously took a pretty good hit which roughly corresponds with weld repair to the bottom of the oil pan.  On the left is the oil strainer in place, but the two weldnuts on the windage tray are a give-away that something’s not quite right.  Although a TC oil strainer is a stand-alone, the long pick up horn of this late TD needs a little extra support.

Regrettably, I marked out & welded on the support strap before I straightened the housing, which is when I discovered the filter gauze (not pictured) wouldn’t fit.  That further rectifcation is why the left hand strap hole is elongated.


Red Austin Healey

Exercising the Loud Pedal Last Spring

It was nine degrees here this morning, and I simply could not figure out the blue, yellow & red flowers on the Google search icon, so I Googled it.  Imagine my surprise to discover that it’s the first day of spring.  We still have a couple feet of snow on the ground right now, so here’s what it looked like last year at this time.

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Red Paint Hides A Multitude of Sins

Red TD

Under Car view

This has got to be one of my all time favorite shades of red, and I’m not a red paint guy.  It also has red upholstery and I have to admit I like that, too.

MG TD front suspension

Kingpin seal gone missing

Underneath the MG, well things were a little different.  We had already relined the brakes and replaced the brake pipes & hoses, taken the prodigious amount of wobble out of the brake pedal by the not so simple expedient of R&R clutch pedal shaft & bushings, replaced the broken front engine mount and shipped the fuel tank to B&R’s Garage in Lebanon, N.H. to dredge the bottom three inches of muck out of it.  We overhauled the carburetors, repaired the dashboard wiring & installed instrument lighting.  Ayuh, we thought we were about done.


TD front suspension

New shocks, but no trunnion seals

So maybe we should have looked a little closer at the reconditioned front shocks a little sooner, but that’s the new red paint effect.   It was with a great deal of anguish that we realized the upper trunnion seals, replacements seen here draped over the upper trunnion, were completely missing in action, as was the lower swivel pin seal (a.k.a. king pin seal)  from the thumbnail photo above.  The upper trunnion seals are easily replaceable when you’re changing the shock absorbers, so why not?   A strictly rhetorical question in this case, but to do the lower swivel pin seals the brake back plates have to come off.  Because these conditions were discovered in the process of refilling and bleeding off the brake hydraulic system, some small cotortions were necessary to R&R brake back plates without opening up the hydraulics again.  Our bad, I suppose, so we changed them all.

in Wray Schelin's shop

Wray Schelin, Butch Howe & Mark Goyette

If you tried calling us on Friday you might have  been puzzled as to why the shop phone was rolling over on to my cell.  That’s because a field trip had been declared earlier in the week, and Butch and I, chauffeured by Mark Goyette, traveled down to Stafford Springs, Connecticut to look in on Wray Schelin (access thru his  his webtile over on the right) to assess progress on my XK 140 OTS, a genuine California car with a few Eastern ski trips too many on the odometer.  Wray has attached the new sills to the frame and soon, the bulkhead as well.  Once that’s done then the rest of the rebodying ensues working from the bulkhead forward, and from the bulkhead back.

Much technical discussion ensued about topics such as tig vs. gas vs. wire feed welding, work hardening, annealing and the significance of the heat affected zone.  This is pretty heady stuff.  I snapped this picture over by the English wheel, and you can actually catch a glimpse of the XK 140 frame just behind Mark Goyette’s left elbow.  If you’re wondering, this was and will be a red car, about the same shade as the TD and I can live with that.

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The Winter Doldrums Draw Towards A Close

runaway truck ramp

Conditions normal

We’re near Brattleboro in the southeastern corner of  Vermont and the principal road to Bennington in the southwest corner is Rte. 9  up over Searsburg Mountain and down the other side.  I dislike this road, not because it’s always snowing on top of the mountain this time of year, but because it brings the down country ski traffic which for the most part is woefully unprepared for winter driving.

ice sculpture

Ice Sculpture

Real men (and women) don’t need four wheel drive, they need snow tires.  Yes, we have a couple of four wheel drives, one plows the driveway, the other hauls firewood, and when it snows we put chains on them.

Sunday morning early I hiked over the mountain to see Mark Goyette and pick up some polishing work he’d put the finishing touches on for us.  Way up on Searsburg I came across this quite incredible ice flow, possibly created by the by-product of a New England Power hydro plant, or maybe just the terminus of a spring line to supply water to a series of homes.


Jaguar cylinder head

4.2 E-type cylinder head

You can be the Judge, but I don’t think Mark’s work hurts your eyes any.  We added the paint.  Soon Patrick will add the valves & springs which were already clearanced before we pulled them down for painting & polishing, and they’re going back together with late XJ6 intake spring retainers so we can run a set of proper valve stem seals.   The early stuff didn’t use ’em.

There’s a wonderful expression in auto parts I’ve always liked,

2nd gear

N.O.S. 2nd gear

which is “If it’s automotive, it’s somewhere in L.A.”.  Maybe, but there are still a few pieces left in England.  Barry Price had a brand new Armstrong-Siddley second gear, Cor’ Blimey, it’s older than I am !   We’ll be  putting this ‘box back together soon.

Click on the picture for a better look at this magnificent piece (take a closer look at that ice flow, too).  Also in this week is the repaired MG TD oil pan.


MGA Twin Cam

Overhead Cam MG Engine

Searching for something else in the picture archives I came across this photo of an MGA Twin Cam engine after its teardown for the purpose of staunching the constant hemmoraging of oil, both thru leakage and combustion.

The leakage was the by-product of a quick tart-up to flog the car thru an Arizona January auction, but the oil burning was caused by the classic Twin Cam problem of the use of chrome plated piston rings which never seated in the chrome-flashed cylinder bores.  We solved it with a liberal application of the Flex Hone tool to impart some cross-hatch to the the cylinder walls and then put in a set of standard Hasting rings and , Et Voila !   Problem solved.

BTW: The paint on the crankshaft is factory.


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