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
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!
Labor, labor, labor.
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
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
November 2004: 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.
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!
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
And I've not even
weighed all the soundproofing and seam sealer we're removing from
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!
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
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.
February 2005 Well,
I'm still in Kansas, a friend is working on the body, getting it ready for
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
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
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
||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.
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
Lots of pop rivets!
A good view of the
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!
||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.
||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
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.
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.
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!
a good, solid rear platform, I decided to figure out how to improve it.
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.
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.
their advice and experience, I developed my 'el cheapo' plan. Here
||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.
"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.
spring bolted to the car.
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.
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.
bracket on top;
new aluminum bracket
(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
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.
|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
February 2006: Okay,
everything you ever wanted to know about MGB rear ends and some you
||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.
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.
bracket with 'puck'
casing spring perch
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.
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:
plate on the left weighs 1 pound;
the stock plate on the right weighs 2 pounds
||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.
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.
The 3.4L V6 engine I was thinking about required a huge air scoop.
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
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.
More to come shortly as we start working
on her again.