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Historic Racing
As of:  23 July 2008

 


      So, I'm retired twice now and getting close to the age where I can start receiving my Social Security entitlements.  That means I'm well over 50 years old.  And, you know, when you've lived more than half a century, you look at things differently.  These days, instead of judging my life from my birth date, I judge it based on how many years I think I have left.

        And I realize that, while I've done many things and accomplished more than I probably ever should have based on my humble beginnings, there are lots of things I still want to do.  Going racing is one of them.

     Let's go racing!  But first, we need a car.  What shall we build?    

 

I've got this old '68 MGB GT that I originally bought for $200 to use as a parts car.  Once I got it home and really evaluated it, I found it was on the edge of being either a parts car or a restoration project.  And, in addition, the previous owner had redone the suspension and there was a trove of parts under the rear hatch floor.  Uh-oh!  So, I never did anything with it except let it sit under one of my sheds; after all, it didn't cost anything to sit there.  Its not like I had to feed it or anything.

       Plus, I always thought that at some point it would make a neat SCCA SOLO II  or Rally car! 

12 November 2004:  Labor, labor, labor.  

The engine compartment - with exception of the pedal box area - is cleaned, sanded, and primed.  The firewall area where the heater was originally located is smoothed out, and the edges where we did some cutting is cleaned up and flattened in preparation for the aluminum blocking panel we'll make and install.  The firewall has also been massaged so there's clearance for the V6 headers.  All the unnecessary holes in the inner fenders and firewall have been identified so we can braze them shut.  As soon as the rain stops, we'll remove the pedal box to clean, sand and prime that area.  Then, we'll go around the engine compartment several more times until we get it smooth enough for paint.

        Plus, we removed all the excess seam sealer in the engine compartment, almost a pound of the stuff.  Seems when the car was built, the factory just slopped that stuff in and around the seams without concern for any excess.  Heck, in some places it was spread 6" away from the seams themselves.

        While the primer was drying, we started removing the soundproofing from the interior of the car.  Just the soundproofing from the driver floor and half the transmission tunnel and rear shelf was over 10 pounds; and there's lots more soundproofing to remove from inside of the car.  We'll also cut out all the GT-specific metal from the rear of the car.  

        You can see where we've begun that work on the passenger fender.  I really don't want to put more paint on top of the old paint: its just more weight.  And removing most of the factory paint is just labor.  So, a little work and the body can be stripped of most of its paint, at least down to the factory primer.  Remember: weight is our enemy.

        Why all the labor?  The car will have a minimalist racing interior, basically just a dash & driver's seat.  By the way, Adam has some interesting weight reduction ideas in store for us, door-wise!  So, everything in the interior has to be cleaned and smoothed in preparation for painting.  That's why we're removing all the excess seam sealer/undercoating. 

21 November 2004:  Labor, labor, labor.  

        The master cylinders and pedals are out of the car and the entire engine compartment is finally cleaned, straightened and primed in preparation for paint.  The firewall area where the heater was has been covered with 3 small  aluminum panels made from scrap aluminum and pop riveted in place.  The aluminum hood, though already light, has been lightened down to 2 pounds.  How?  We removed the center brace and everything associated with the factory latching mechanism since we're not going to use it.  Heck, we even removed the hood prop with all its brackets.  Instead of the factory locking mechanism, we're going to install lighter hood pins to the two ends of the slam panel we removed. 

       And while we're waiting for a clear, 70 day to shoot the paint in the engine compartment, we started working in the rear hatch area.  The first thing we removed was the wooden boot (trunk) floor; and, since we don't need it anymore, we removed all the metal supports that are welded to the body (Remember: weight is our enemy; and every ounce removed adds up to pounds).  While working in the hatch area, we realized we didn't need the huge MGB GT gas tank.

3 December 2004:  The last time I posted, the engine compartment was primed and awaiting paint.  We borrowed a friend's paint booth last night and sprayed it.  The delay was due to rain and cold weather, and waiting until he didn't need his booth.  Here's what she looks like now (see, "it" went to "she" when new paint started going on):

        Yes, that is a factory color: 1974-76 Citron.

        In the photos above, you can see several weight saving modifications.  The lip around the engine compartment has been removed along with all the captive nuts that hold the fenders to the body - except for 3 per fender.  That alone was a little over a pound.  Also, the brackets for the splash panels are gone, 1 pound for both of them plus the weight of the splash panels.  And, where we modified the firewall around the heater area: heater included, that modification resulted in 30 pounds of weight reduction!

        Now, we start putting everything back in the engine compartment.       

        Additionally, like I stated previously, we've also been working in the GT hatch area, removing all the unnecessary metal supports for the hatch floor.  These photos show some of the lightening tricks we've utilized.  Lots of weight gone from back there. 

In addition to removing all the GT floor support brackets, you can see where we're drilling the interior sail panels.

Nothing left on the battery tray.  Heck, removing the rear seat bracket & factory seat belt mounting points took 1/2 lb off the passenger inner fender.

And I've not even weighed all the soundproofing and seam sealer we're removing from the car!

        Not including the heavy wooden GT floor, the aluminum and steel we've removed from the hatch area weighed about 20 pounds!  And there's more weight to be removed from both inside and under the rear of the car!

You'd be surprised by the places on an MG where you can remove weight!

7 December 2004:  Labor, labor, labor!  We moved the car inside Sunday afternoon so we could continue to work even though its rained for more than 48 hours straight without stopping.

       Additionally, I've been busy up under the dash (which is out).  No wiper motor, no heater controls, no demisters, no radio console support brace - everything that's not needed, I'm whacking out!  In the photo to the right, you can see how much metal I've removed from behind/under the dash.  The wiring harness is also stripped and we're removing every wire that's not needed.  Plus, since we're running the rear harness inside the car along the passenger floor, we're also moving its connecter bundle inside the car where the wiper motor was located.

      As we continue to work with the wiring harness, we'll also move the ignition switch from the steering column to the dash itself.  Actually, in addition to instruments, the only switches on the dash will be a headlight switch, a horn push, a radiator fan switch, a fuel pump switch, and the ignition switch.  Its a race car!  There'll be no stalk switches on the steering column.

13 February 2005  Well, I'm still in Kansas, a friend is working on the body, getting it ready for paint. 

        Here are some of his photos:

No locks for doors all the inside of the door will be gutted; also, no outside trim.

Passenger side with no exterior door handle

Rear end smoothed

16 March 2005:  In case you've been wondering where I've been, after 5 weeks in Kansas I was home for a week before taking off for Germany.  That pretty much shot January, February, and most of March!  Well, I'm home now; and the little car is also home.   Oh, my trip to Europe was great: good German food & beer (lots of it), and good times with our wonderful young soldiers stationed over there.  

        As for the car and the magic my friend worked on it; well. I'll let the photos speak for themselves; and MG guys will find lots of things to like or hate:

Yep, that's Citron with Pewter stripes ala "Jubilee" strips, a checkerboard roof and an ST air dam.

Here's a better view of the roof.  Its what Jerri likes best about the car!  We've still got to add a 1/8" white strip around the Pewter one.

 

But here's one of the neatest things we did: we lightened the doors.  Yes, in order to do that, we did chop up a pair of perfectly good doors; but, I've got lots.  Ad they now weigh only about 5 pounds apiece! (Hey, its a race car!)  To accomplish that, wel removed all the inside metal that supported the window regulators and door latches.  Then, we cut all the door edges away leaving only enough metal to hold the latch mechanism and hinges.  To open the door, you just reach inside and push the thumb latch as if the outside handle itself were being pushed.  (We may, however, add a cable like on MGA's as we continue with body prep.)  Pretty neat, huh? 


And here's another lightening tip.  While we had the doors and hinges off the car, he cut about an inch off the hinges so there are only 2 bolts holding them to the door.  Nextwhe removed all the metal holding the hinges to the body except for the center bolt going through the "A" post.  Just by removing 5 screws, an inch of hinge and all the metal that normally holds the hinge to the car, he reduced the car's overall weight by about 7 pounds.

22 March 2005:  So, lemme see what's happened since last we published:

       The neatest thing I've accomplished over the last few days is fabricating and installing the Lexan quarter windows and making the cardboard template for the hatch's Lexan window.  Tomorrow I'll cut and install it.  

        Working with Lexan isn't as hard as I thought.  After visiting with a local EP SCCA racer who also owns a body shop, I came away with enough knowledge and confidence to tackle making them.  From his instructions, I devised a game plan:

        a.  First, I made a cardboard template of the window opening.  
        b.  Then, after ensuring the template was properly sized by fitting it in the window opening, I traced its shape onto the Lexan.  
        c.  Next, using a metal jigsaw blade (around 32 teeth per inch), I carefully cut just outside my marked line.  That allowed me a little "fudge factor" in case my pattern was off.  
        d.  After the Lexan was cut to size and test fitted with any minor adjustments in shape, I masked off and taped the inside of the window so I could spray paint its outer 3/4" edge with semi-gloss black paint.  That covers the lip of the body through which the pop rivets are installed and gives the window a nice finished look.  
        e.  I then drilled holes every 2" all around the window and installed it using  3/16" pop rivets with 1/2" flanges. I used a hardened 3/16" drill bit designed for cutting metal so I could drill through the Lexan and into the window surround of the body.

        Here are a few photos:

Close up of window installation.
Lots of pop rivets!

A good view of the Lexan windows
 and the rear spoiler.  The black edges of the windows really set off the checkerboard roof!

Here's a close-up of the aircraft-like windshield center support Adam & I made out of a scrap piece of aluminum we retrieved from the scrap bin at my local machine shop. the support keeps the LEXAN windshield from deflecting at speed; plus, its just trick!

22 April 2005:

The spring perch on the left has been lightened by drilling 4 holes in it.  The one on the right is next.  Then I'll sandblast and paint them.


Plus, if you remember, you know that I lightened the suspension cross-member by drilling a series of holes through it on 3 sides.  We're not going to remove the beam since the engine mounts are bolted to the cross-member bolts; however, while we have the suspension disassembled, we'll lighten the cross-member even more by drilling holes in its underside and places we couldn't reach while the springs were still in place.

      We'll also remove the brake dust covers and cross-drill the rotors, adding efficiency and further reducing weight.

21 December 2005: 

Since my last post, I've been working on the rear hatch.  In my metal trash bin, I found a couple of 1" wide 1/8" thick strips of aluminum.  I shaped those to fit the contours of the hatch and Lexan window and pop riveted them in place.  They'll keep the Lexan from blowing out at speed.  Additionally, I drilled a series of holes in the Lexan window to allow air to flow from the interior of the car out through the window, also helping ensure the Lexan window doesn't pop out.

     Over the past few weeks, I've also been studying rear ends and leaf springs.  Remember, my '68 MGB GT came to me from the previous owner with a rear tube shock conversion.  As I had no knowledge of the condition of them or the rear end, I dropped it for inspection.

      The tube shocks appear to be in good condition and the only thing I had to do was reverse their mounting bracket bolts so the heads were in the wheel well and the nuts were to the interior of the underside of the car.  That minor modification provided an additional inch of clearance inside the wheel well as the bolt and part of the nut that extends beyond it are now inside the 'frame rails' and not extending out to possibly rub my tires.

      The previous owner, as I've said before, had started a restoration before I acquired the car.  All the rear bushings are in excellent condition, and they are polyurethane!   

      So, with a good, solid rear platform, I decided to figure out how to improve it.

      The first thing I did was drive over to Greenville, South Carolina to visit Hap Waldrop, owner of Acme Speed Shop and restorer of the remaining factory-sponsored Huffacker MGB.  Hap was nice enough to allow me to spend some time looking the car over.  And what I learned laying on my back on a creeper sent my mind reeling.

      Next I spoke with Rick Starkweather and Max Fulton who successfully campaign an SVRA MGB.   Then, I spent some time discussing rear ends and leaf springs with Dave Headley of Fab-Tek, an icon in the SCCA.

      From their advice and experience, I developed my 'el cheapo' plan.  Here tis:

The MGB GT comes with a 7-leaf rear spring, leaf #1 being the leaf that contains the bushings and leaf #7 being the small 6" leaf farthest from the rear end.  My plan is to remove leafs #5 and #6 while putting leaf #7 up on top of the spring between it and the rear end as a lowering block.  I'll also turn leaf #1 over thereby lowering the rear end of the car approximately 1-1/2".

Disassembling the leaf springs in preparation for turning leaf #1 over, I found I had to cut 1-1/4" off the ends of leaf #2 so it would fit inside the ends of leaf #1 that hold the bushings.

Once the "restacked" spring was reassembled with only the 4 major leafs, it looks like the bottom one in the photo.  Turning leaf #1 over and clamping it to leafs #2, 3, 4 changes the arch of the entire spring as leaf #1 is forced to curve in the opposite direction in which it was arched.  In the photo the spring looks almost flat; however, when bolted under the car with the rear end resting on it, the spring will reassume most of its original arch.

      In the photos below, it is easy to see the lowering affect of turning spring #1 over.

An original spring bolted to the car.

The 'restacked' spring with leaf #1   
turned over bolted to the car.

      Plus, removing leafs # 5 and 6, reduced unsprung weight even more!

       I'll machine a couple of little 'pucks' that'll sit over the top of the spring locating bolt and fit up inside the centering hole in the metal spring perch to keep things from moving around (usually the spring pad does that).  I'll also machine a couple of washers to fit between the front spring spring bushings and the spring hangers to keep the springs from twisting sideways.

        So, when I'm finished, the restacked springs will be clamped along their front length to keep them from curling under torque; the springs will be solidly mounted to their perches and will be held tight in the front spring mounting point.  Thus, all power transferred to the rear end should be distributed directly to the tires.

        Labor, labor, labor.  And some old pieces of metal and hose clamps.

4 January 2006:  Over the last few days, I've been following Colin Chapman's "add lightness" edict.  After restacking the rear leaf springs, I spent days removing all the undercoating in the wheel wells and cutting out everything under there that's not needed: the rebound strap brackets, exhaust hangers, the single plies of body metal - if it could be cut off, it was.  Plus, I cut the rear bump stops in half.  Then, while waiting for the new gunmetal grey paint in the wheel wells to dry, I turned to the engine compartment to "add lightness".

        The radiator support just didn't do it for me.  Plus, Max Fulton, Crew Chief for #133, the yellow MGB of the B-Stingers SCCA Race Team, had recently told me I needed to add rigidity to the front body.  So, I looked to the radiator bracket to help me in that area.  Out of thin aluminum sheet, I cut a new radiator bracket.  I then welded a 1/2" diameter aluminum rod to the top of it with brackets that can be bolted through the inner and outer fenders.

Front 
Original radiator  
bracket on top;  
new aluminum bracket 
on bottom 

Back
(The 1/2" aluminum rod
 can be seen along with its
 'flap' that is bolted under
 the inner fender lip.

       Not only did I add rigidity, I also cut 1 pound of weight out of the engine compartment with this new radiator bracket.  Plus, my aluminum welding skills are improving!    

A close up of the mounting area of the new bracket.  The 5/16" bolt in the top edge of the fender goes through the 'stay' rod bolting it under the inner fender.  You'd be surprised how much rigidity that little rod adds when bolted across the engine compartment.  Plus, in the lightening vein, I'm only using 2 bolts per side to hold the radiator to the bracket and 3 bolts per side to hold the bracket to the body - plus the new bolt holding the bracket to the inner fender.

28 January 2006:  Well, the entire front suspension has now been taken apart, inspected, cleaned and painted, and reassembled.  Man, its almost too pretty to cover up.  The photo below was taken while I had the calipers on the bench for cleaning.

1 February 2006:

The photos on the left show the battery box area.  The car initially had 2 boxes that had full metal sides.  One is completely gone; the other is just a frame.  Plus, all brackets, bolts, and anything not necessary have been whacked out; no rebound straps, no park brake.  I'll move the fuel pump up where the tank is located (GT hatch area under the fake  aluminum floor that separates the tank from me).

11 February 2006:  Okay, everything you ever wanted to know about MGB rear ends and some you didn't.  

The differential casing on top is a Salisbury; it weighs 64.4 pounds.
The middle differential casing is a banjo; it weighs 23.8 pounds.
The bottom differential casing is a hybrid; it weighs 23.8 pounds.

       Dave Headley is an expert in hybrid differential casings.  He uses Salisbury wire axle ends welded to banjo wire casings much like others who've gone before him.  If its good enough for Huffacker and Headley, its good enough for me.

        So, we took our Salisbury differential casing and cut the ends of the tubes off.  Next, we took an old banjo differential casing that was laying around and measured for axle length and whacked its ends off.  Then, we welded the Salisbury ends onto the banjo casing.  Now, it wasn't as simple as that.  There was some machine work to do to turn the outside dimension of the banjo casing down after it was cut so the Salisbury ends would slid over it (the Salisbury inside dimension also had to be turned down so the banjo would fit properly).  We also built-in a little negative camber to ensure the wheels would maintain maximum rubber on the road during auto-crossing since, at the factory, they were built with 0 camber.  My hybrid casing now has 1/2 degree of negative camber at the axle end which works out to 1-1/2-degrees at the road.

        Everybody knows the Salisbury differential casing is wider than the wire differential casing: 48-1/4" to 46-1/2".  That's to make up for the difference is size of the Rostyle and wire wheel hubs.  Old racers knew they could get more room for wider wheels if they put Rostyle hubs on wire wheel axles.  Lots of people think you just switch out the axles themselves to convert from Rostyle to wire or vice versa.

        Certainly, you can put Rostyle axles in a wire wheel differential or the other way around since either hub works on either axle.  However, there are some problems with doing that.  The wire wheel axles are shorter than the Rostyle axles; so, if you put a wire wheel axle in a Rostyle differential, you'll not have as much depth where the axle spline meets the differential gear (not as much of the axle will go into the differential as if it was the correct axle going into the correct differential).  Conversely, if you put Rostyle axles in a banjo differential, the axles themselves will protrude through the differential gear and almost touch one another.

The set of axles on the left are wire wheel axles; those on the right are Rostyle axles.

The wire wheel axle measures 21-7/8" from back of bearing to end of axle

The Rostyle axle measures 22-3/4" from back of bearing to end of axle.

       Now that I've also sorted out the spring setup, I'm looking at how to continue reducing unsprung weight.  This is a purpose-built race car; thus, comfort isn't part of the plan.  With that in mind, I tossed the spring pads along with the spring locating plates and will bolt the rear end directly to the leaf springs.

        To do that, however, I had to devise some way of centering the axle on the spring using only its built in perch and the shock absorber bracket.  Again, Dave Headley came to my rescue with some of his inexpensive tips (you guys HAVE to spend some time with him!).  The hole in the differential casing spring perch is much larger than the spring locating bolt; the same holds true for the shock absorber bracket hole (it sits under the spring locating plate into which a rubber pad is inserted..  That's because the rubber spring pad usually surrounds the bolt on either end, All that was necessary was to machine a couple of small 'pucks' that fit over the bolt and secures it to the larger holes in the differential spring perch and shock absorber bracket. 

Shock absorber bracket

Shock absorber bracket with 'puck'

Hybrid differential casing spring perch

Hybrid differential casing spring perch with 'puck'

        From Dave, I also learned that, even with poly bushings, there's still some room for spring twist.  So, He's devised a simple little washer that fits over the poly bushing and strengthens the spring to spring hanger connection (& it fills up the tiny space between the poly bushing and the spring hanger.  They're not hard to make if you've some old pipe laying around, a good band saw, and a lathe (or, you can buy them from Dave).

Photo of my restacked leaf spring with the bushing in place.  You can see how the bushing extends beyond the spring.

Photo of the spring with the washer over the bushing.  If completely fills the area between the spring and spring hanger keeping the spring from twisting under hard cornering.

18 February 2006:  The rear end housing is permanently mounted under the car.  The hard brake lines are run.  And the 3rd member is clean as are the axles; tomorrow, I'll install them.

        I'm still concerned about weight - especially unsprung weight - so, today I worked on modifying the rear brake backing plates.  Those things weigh 2 pounds apiece.  First, I drilled a series of 1/2" and 5/8" holes around the circumference of the backing plate; then, I removed the lip that extends out beyond the brake drum.  The photo below shows what I did:

The modified plate on the left weighs 1 pound;
the stock plate on the right weighs 2 pounds

22 February 2006:

And here's the final version test fitted under the car; half a pound before adding all the brake components. Next, I'll build the brakes, mount them and the hubs, install the driveshaft and put her down on her tires.

8 September 2006:   It's been a bit and I've put the car on the backburner due to other projects/trips.  As most of you know, I spent 5 weeks in Hawaii during June and July.  But, this week, I got back on the car.  Here's what I accomplished this week: floors cleaned and painted and steering column reinstalled.

I removed the steering column to get rid of the safety brackets that added weight.  That meant I had to devise a new bracket for hanging the column.  I did that by attaching the column directly to the square dash support rod underneath the dash.

So, next was devising a quick disconnect steering wheel.  The wheel in the GT when I got it wasn't stock but that's okay as its also smaller than a stock MG wheel.  I went down to the local speed shop and, for $19.95, purchased the kit shown in the photos to the left.  The red part is screwed to the steering wheel; the aluminum piece is what I need to weld to the steering column itself.  And the brass rod is what locks/unlocks the wheel from the adapter.  Tomorrow I'll weld the adapter to my steering column, after I cut about 2" off the column.

  2008:

So, now, after flirting with various venues, we've decided to go historic racing.  We can now do some things the way we really wanted.  First, though, we've got to make her legal and that will entail redoing some things we've already done.

 

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The 3.4L V6 engine I was thinking about required a huge air scoop.
Working headlights
We used an ST air dam I acquired real cheap.


MGB 4 cylinder engine = no scoop!
No headlights so painted Sebring covers instead
The ST air dam had to be replaced with a Sebring air dam


        The wiring/instruments/dash are in the process of being revisited.  First, the rear wiring harness was reduced down to just tail/brake lights and fuel pump (we'll be using a Moss Competition Double-ended pump mounted in the stock location in conjunction with an ATL fuel cell mounted through the hatch floor area).  Second, the dash has been removed to be replaced with a piece of aluminum just large enough to handle an aftermarket tachometer, oil pressure gauge, temperature gauge, oil pressure warning light, fan switch, and ignition - that's it - and any unused engine compartment wiring pulled.  Oh, the instrument cluster won't be behind the steering wheel, it'll be off to the center of the car.

        The OE MGB electric cooling fan was removed to be replaced by a lighter Hayden electric fan mounted directly to the front of the radiator.        

        We also removed the GT headliner and painted the inside of the roof flat white in preparation for installing a full roll cage kit purchased from Autopower Industries out in California.  While we're installing the roll cage, we'll also weld OE motor mount brackets back in the place of those we had to cut out of the car to install the V6 engine.

         And the roll cage and fuel cell are in.

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More to come shortly as we start working on her again.




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