Alpine Challenge

Summit Meeting

Summit Meeting

Every year we have a job that’s a straggler.  It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact cause, but it seems there’s always one we can’t quite pull the trigger on.  The Sunbeam Alpine Mk V which has  been with us for almost a year is our current poster child.  While it would be highly inaccurate to say there’s been a lull in the actionaround here, for the last two weeks Butch has been working assiduously to turn the corner with the Alpine.

A spark plug makes a good fround

A spark plug makes a good fround

It’s an undertaking which has been exacerbated by some exceptionally creative repairing by previous unknown technicians, which we suspect had taken place in somewhere in the deep South like Alabama or Mississippi.  An exceptionally wonderful example of this is the 1/2″ electrical ring terminal around #4 sparkplug.  At first we believed this was simply a convenient means of grounding some obscure electrical function, but closer examination revealed that it was actually a temperature sensor wire leading to a supplementary instrument with a Harley-Davidson legend on the face.

More creative repairing with an MGB brake cable

More creative repairing with an MGB brake cable

We strongly suspect that the same fitter-installer was likely responsible for replacing the driver’s and passenger side floors.  In the course of executing this task in an expeditious manner, the handbrake assembly, which is mounted on the driver’s side inner sill was R&TA’d  (removed & thrown away) !    A used one was sourced from the San Diego area and a suitable mounting arranged, although we were also short a brake cable.  Butch spent the better part of a day trying to make a good cable out of two used ones, finally abandoning the effort in favor of suitibly modifying a late MGB brake cable which utilizes a rod arrangement between the wheels similar to the Alpine’s.


Unusual sight amid the foliage

Oh yes, about that summit.  Just after Mike Savage delivered  the gunmetal grey E-type last week, Tom Rymes arrived with a couple of surplus Girling Mk2B brake servos, and hard on his heels was Dennis Pettit, who keeps his TR6 up here, there being no room at the Inn, aka  the Hickory Ridge House B&B in Putney, Dennis & Gillian Pettit proprietors.  So the photo is of Messrs’ Howe, Rymes, Rowbottom, Savage & Pettit.

The best of the bright red & orange foliage is pretty much gone now, however I did happen to catch a glimpse of some while headed south through Massachusetts on Interstate 91 earlier in the week.  But perhaps even rarer around here is this TR7.  In more than 25 years we’ve had a sum total of one in the shop.  This must be the other.

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Shiver Me Timbers

Lea Francis Estate Car

I hear you knocking

Over the summer I took a ride down to Connecticut to have a listen to an engine knock emanating from deep within the crankcase of Al Ridinger’s Lea Francis Estate Car, and we decided that the best strategy was to start putting another engine together.  When the British Invasion rolled around Al made arrangements to have Mike Savage trailer it up to Stowe while he drove his 14 HP (RAC rating) Sports to the event.

Well miracles do happen, and a scant few days before the ‘off’  Al called me to say he’d changed the electric fuel pump in the car and the knock had gone away !   It was true, I heard it, or more accurately, didn’t hear it Saturday at the show, and on the return leg he stuffed the sportscar in Mike’s trailer instead and started driving the wagon back.  Sunday around noon the phone rang, the knock had returned and the car was at the Maplefield’s convenience store in Bethel, Vermont just off the Interstate, and would I come get it ?   Which of course I did.  So he headed off in his chase car, and once I got on the highway I called him back to see where he’d hidden the keys and he said “In the ignition”, which tells you about all you need to know about our crime problems here in Vermont.

Austin A 95

Austin A 95

If you’re wondering, Butch and I think it might be related to the babbited (aka “Poured”) connecting rod bearing material then in use circa 1948.

Back in the late 1950’s, Langley’s Garage of Concord,  New Hampshire sold a very early production MGA Twin Cam to a lady owner who immediately complained of high oil consumption, as all early Twin Cam owners did.  Upon consultation with the District Service Manager, Langley’s pulled the engine down and had it bored 1st oversize.  That took care of the problem, which was that you can’t seat chrome piston rings in chrome-flashed cylinder bores, but the owner was still unhappy with it  so Langley’s gave her a liberal trade-in allowance on a new pushrod-engined car, and the Twin Cam sat under a dust sheet for many, many years until Frank Cangiano bought it in the 80’s with about 8,400 miles on the clock.


mystery car

What is this car ?

I heard this story directly from Marley Langley around the time he parked this Austin A 95 wagon in my barn in 1992.  The A 95  was something the British Motor Corporation never imported into the U.S.   Marley special ordered this one for his sister when she took the family to Europe for vacation one summer.  It’s got an Austin Healey 100-6 engine under the hood, and as I recall, ‘four on the ‘tree.  I sold it on Marley’s behalf to David Deutsch an active L.I. MG Car Club member, and he in turn sent it up to Canada where it received the beautiful restoration seen here.


off loading an E-type

George Rowbottom & Mike Savage give it a mighty heave

We’re using up some recent archival material because my digital camera died Tuesday just short of its 7,000th picture,  shortly after we imported the S1 E-type pictured here.  BTW:  The first five people who correctly identify the car attached to the open bonnet seen here will win a free oil filter of their choice if we stock it.

Monday was moving day for the Gunmetal Opalescent Metallic Grey series 1 E-type.  After much effort Jay & Nate at Windham Coach & Carriage in Brattleboro pronounced themselves satisfied enough to release it for our further ministrations with the proviso that we return it to them when we’re finished for a final buffing.  We think they did a pretty good job.  Enlarge the picture and give us your opinion.  That’s all for now.

Grey E-type

The common & ubiquitous Jaguar E

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Just in From Texas

Spitfire from Texas

Spitfire from Texas

Rick the Grabel Van Lines driver  called last Saturday afternoon to arrange for the delivery of Sean Austin’s long dormant Spitfire on Sunday, because he needed to be back in Texas by the following Friday.  His plans went a little askew when shortly after he hung up, his trailer unit calved its air suspension on Interstate 91 just outside of Springfield, Massachusetts.  As a result, Sean’s Spitfire was showing up in Westminster, Vermont, about the time Rick had originally planned to be showing up in Texas.  The vintage Oklahoma plates would suggest that this Spit’s been off the road for a while.


Butch runs up a long dormant MGB

Butch runs up a long dormant MGB

Is a pattern developing here ?  About a month ago I hiked down to Rumson, New Jersey to retrieve an MGB that had been sitting in a heated garage for about 30 years.  Butch checked the point gap and cleaned up the carburetors a little bit.  We set up a soda bottle fuel feed to the rear float bowl, and with your scribe manning the choke & starting fluid while Butch ran the controls, Et Voila !   She rumbled back to life with good oil pressure and everything.  Now we’ll try to get the brake & clutch hydraulics going again so we can get it out on the road and see what we’ve got.

V12 intercooler & oil filter

V12 intercooler & oil filter

In another millenial development, my E-type has received it’s first oil change of the new century.  It too had been in hibernation for a decade or so as the press of business proved too great to chase a couple of mundane cam cover oil leaks, which on the V12 engine involve dismantling the ‘over the mountain top’ intake manifolds to get to.  A Wise Man also changes the 12 exhaust manifold gaskets while he’s so close, and time-wise it adds up to a great deal of work.

Castrol 4T (was GP Cycle)

Castrol 4T (was GP Cycle)

There has been much loud noise about zinc, or the lack thereof, in contemporary motor oils, the concern being that the zinc necessary for adequate lubrication of flat tappet  (a.k.a. solid lifter) engines, which encompasses everything we work with.  Regretably that zinc is basically history because it also clogs catalytic converters once an engine starts using oil, admittedly not so much of a problem for us.  So upon consultation about five years ago with our late, lamented Castrol distributor Roland Derosiers, who also drove the truck until he was nearly 90, we reluctantly abandoned Castrol GTX with it’s American Petroleum Institute rating of SL/SM in favor of what was at the time Castrol GP Motorcycle oil which carries the A.P.I. rating, so sought after by us, of SG, which means it’s got the zinc.

Road test after a bad condensor was detected

Road test after a bad condensor was detected

Because we pay more than the $4.90 a quart we install it for, we actually lose money on every quart of motor oil we sell, making it back, fortunately, on the oil filter.  You probably won’t find it at NAPA, but it appears that you’re probably O.K. with SG rated Valvolene Racing oil instead.

Pictured on the left is the MG TD wot’ dropped the #8 exhaust valve a month or so ago.  The owner had reported very poor running characteristics, as in he could barely limp it back up his driveway, and last Monday I retrieved it after work.  The condition traced back to the new condensor Butch had installed at the time we made those repairs.  It was bad out of the box, apparently, and had been on our shelf since the era when all the Lucas and Intermotor branded condensors (and rotors) were junk.  We compensated for this by buying NAPA condensors under the part number EP 29, and it was one of these which restored this TD to robust good health.  Take a look at those speedo and tach readings going up the hill.

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Three to Two, Jags

gunmetal grey E-type

Almost ready for assembly

Lots going on this week, not all of which will get covered here right now.

Jay from Windham Coach & Carriage called up this morning for an on-site consultation about the series 1 OTS which is pictured here.  Luckily I had the camera in my pocket, even if the lighting was less than ideal.  The color, in Spies Hecker, is enough to take your breath away.  This is a car which we’ll have delivered to the shop via enclosed transport, and the next-up item on the Agenda was a telephone consultation with our man Mike Savage about how to tie down a car with no suspension in it.

Rod's Towing of Putney, Vermont

Derek from Rods Towing ties down an MGB

Here’s an atypical scene: Rod’s Towing & Repair of Putney making ready to take a car out of here.  Usually they’re busy bringing them in.  Derek Winchester has just gotten done loading  the car, and if you enlarge the picture you can see that he’s used his nylon tie downs around the wheels, which is why we love them so much.  Every time a towing service shows up her with the “J” hooks over the rear axle we cringe because we know we’re gonna have to replace the rear brake pipes as well as fix whatever went wrong with the car.  A little extra attention, as seen here, goes a long way.

Clutch Hoses

Two MGB clutch hoses

Rod’s brought this MGB in on Tuesday after the clutch hydraulics stopped working, which was attributable to clutch master cylinder failure.  At first Butch and I tried to just bleed it off, unsuccessfully, and the large amount of black debris coming thru the bleed hose was quite remarkable.

So I changed out the clutch master & hose, and also re-kitted the slave cylinder.  Access to the clamping nut on the clutch hose on later MGB’s is gained by removing the starter,

MGB Starter

Starter In

MGB starter removed

Starter out

and access to get the starter out of the car is gained by removing the distributor.  It’s somewhat time consuming, which is why 40 years later it was still the original clutch hose.  Enlarge these pictures for a better view.

Back to the picture of the clutch hoses, those small black chunks in the foreground are the inner lining of the clutch hose in the lower part of the picture.  The other hose came out of another MGB a couple of weeks ago because pushing in the clutch pedal caused it to blow up like a balloon !

red series 2 E-type

Using the sun to stretch a top

The top on this red series 2 E-type hadn’t been up in years and it was a little reluctant to unfurl itself, which is why it’s parked outside on a sunny day.  Because Butch spent part of the afternoon putting a gear reduction starter in a series 1 3.8 car we can safely say we’ve had more contact this week with the mighty E-type than the immortal MGB.

Still sitting on the trailer, and lined up for next week, is something really interesting that those of you who were at the British Invasion of Stowe last weekend probably spent some time admiring.  Stay tuned !

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