Slow Car Fast
November 24, 2010 - A couple of hours later, here's the interior!
Okay, I got a bit carried away, but it wasn't really that much work. I've only installed the biggest pieces of carpet - there's a puzzle of oddly shaped carpet pieces that are supposed to go in the footwell, but I reshaped the footwells enough that they probably won't fit anyhow.
Happily, the carpet over the transmission tunnel fit. A year ago, I welded a brace on top of the tunnel and I was afraid it was going cause problems with my carpet. I had to relocate the holes for the seatbelt mounts, but there was enough extra carpet that it worked.
Ah, seatbelts! You can see the driver's belt in place here. They're a non-retractable design from Beams, picked up from JC Whitney. I didn't like the retractable designs available and this are more like the original belts in the car. It'll be a bit more of a hassle to adjust on a regular basis. Considering that I have two cars with race harnesses, they're not too bad!
entry 470 - tags: seatbelts, interior, carpet
November 24, 2010 - The interior looks pretty good!
Janel points out that maybe it needs a dashboard, but I'm looking at what's actually there. The center console is just sitting in place, and it will have to be modified at the rear to deal with that brace. Still, it suddenly looks like a real car. Almost...

The front bumper, front valence and grille are all installed as well. Am I dressing up the car to make it look good? Why, yes I am! Family is coming over for Thansgiving dinner tomorrow and I want to make it look good. But I'm not rushing any of this, it was actually time to install the interior. This will also make it easier to drive for shakedown purposes. The dashboard will stay out for a while so I can easily continue wiring.
entry 471 - tags: interior, wiring, assembly
November 26, 2010 - Janel wanted a dashboard, so I decided to give her a dashboard.
It didn't take long to pop it in, but then I started playing with heater controls and other doodads. Still, after a couple of hours of work it almost looks like a real car. Only three of the gauges - tach, fuel and temperature - are hooked up but I had to fill the extra holes anyhow or it would look weird.
The dash was painted before we got the car, and the paint is damaged. There's also a big giant crack in the top. I'd like to recover it, but it kinda looks good in tan. Hmm.
entry 472 - tags: interior, dashboard
November 26, 2010 - When I was messing around with the dash, I also changed the center console for the one from the 1969 parts car.
You can compare it to this picture. I think I like the older design better, it's so simple and the interior seems more spacious. The downside is that there is no more armrest. We'll see if that's an issue.
The 1969 parts car came with a radio, but I already had this "radio blanking plate" with a chrome surround and the octagon logo. Looks great. I just have to figure out how to finish up the trim around the bottom.
Take a look at the shroud around the steering column as well. It's the Miata part, and I had to trim off just the tiniest bit to make it fit. It really works with the rest of the interior.
entry 473 - tags: interior, dashboard
November 26, 2010 - Of course, with the car basically complete, it's time for a drive!
Not just a pootle up and down the street, but a real test drive. The car's never been further from home than my "around the block" test drive that totals about 6 miles, and it only did that once before being disassembled.
First, I drove down to the gas station that's almost exactly a mile down the road. Janel didn't feel I should be on my own, so she followed in a support vehicle. Luckily, support was not needed. The car did have a metal-on-metal scraping noise that was directly related to wheel speed, but I suspected that was a brake dust shield that had been bent and was making contact with the rotor. Inspection upon return to the garage showed this to be the case, so I bent both front dust shields back into their original shape and fixed a wire on the fuel gauge.
Now it was time to go a bit further afield.
entry 474 - tags: testing
November 26, 2010 - I took the car around my test loop.
Coming up to the house, I decided I hadn't had enough so I kept going to a good spot to take pictures.
How was it working? Well, it needs an alignment pretty badly. I'd guess it has a bit of toe-out and almost no caster, meaning the steering is darty and doesn't self-center very well. I need to sort out both spring rates and damping - never having set up a car with a live rear before, that's going to be interesting. The car also squeaks and rattles quite a bit. Nothing too surprising here.
How does the powerplant feel? Monstrous. After taking things easy to make sure the temperatures were good and there were no obvious problems, I started giving the car a bit of throttle. And it likes it a lot. This is a seriously fast little car. The shift pattern is very tight, the pedal effort is nicely matched between the throttle, clutch and brakes and other than the non-centering steering it feels good to drive. Engine temperatures stayed fairly low and I didn't get the chance to confirm if the fans were kicking in. The intake air temperature was only a couple of degrees above ambient.
Noise levels are reasonably high, with a big resonance at 1500 rpm. I still don't have my sound deadening in the rear yet and when I got home, I realized that the exhaust fires right into the rear valence. That's easy enough to fix and is probably causing a lot of the noise. I'll fix that tonight or tomorrow.
entry 475 - tags: testing
November 26, 2010 - I did come home from the drive with a to-do list.

  • fix a bad squeak in the rear hatch
  • flatten the flanges on the headers (especially the passenger's side) and install gaskets
  • find the heater fan wiring and hook it up
  • find the cause of a groan on medium braking

  • align the car
  • try softer springs all around to see how they work out

The car's booked for an alignment on Wednesday morning. The hatch squeak should be fixed if I've found the problem. Softer springs aren't required but I want to try them out. I'll do a nut-and-bolt on the front suspension to find that groan, and put some more brake anti-squeal on the pad backs.
entry 476 - tags: testing
November 26, 2010 - I don't know why I find this angle so much fun, but I do so you're stuck with it.
After taking the pictures, I bedded the brake pads and headed home. I'm not sure I got the pads hot enough, but I'd prefer to have the alignment done properly before I go too nuts. It'll be interesting to see if the car will align, that will be a moment of truth for my suspension building skills!
entry 477 - tags: testing, brakes
November 26, 2010 - Here's where some of my exhaust noise comes from, I suspect.
Check out how those mufflers dump right into the rear valence...and doesn't the car look cool from this angle? I suspect that's reflecting the sound right back into the car.
entry 478 - tags: exhaust
November 26, 2010 - The solution: tips!
I've had these sitting on my workbench for pretty much a year, but there were always more pressing things to do. But with the prospect of more driving tomorrow and my interest piqued, I decided to stick 'em on.
Easy enough. First, I traced a rough cutout and cut it out. Then I slipped the tips on over the tubes on the mufflers and welded them on. Voila.
I think they look rather snazzy. I'll clean up the cutouts when I go to paint the car.
entry 479 - tags: exhaust
November 26, 2010 - You'd think I had plans to spend more time driving this thing.
In order to keep Janel happy, the car needs a heater. So I found the wiring for the heater fan switch (someone had helpfully placed a label on it that said "HEATER FAN"), plugged it in and...nothing.
So I stuck the switch in the bead blaster just to make sure there were no corrosion problems. Checked the power at the fan and it was getting juice and a good ground. Just for fun, I grabbed the fan out of the parts car and plugged it in.
The car had a bad heater fan. Luckily, it's possible to remove the fan without affecting anything else and there's just enough room, so I swapped them out. There was a fair bit of noise going on though. I decided I needed to move the fan outwards very slightly and give it some noise isolation, so I made a gasket out of cork. Mission accomplished, the car now blows air through the heater into the interior. I also taped up the cold air inlets that are not currently attached to anything to minimize the amount of cold air intrusion into the cab.
Speaking of gaskets, I slipped a thick composite gasket between the passenger side header and the head. That will hopefully cut down some of the noise from an exhaust leak - although I also realized that there's still a significant hole in the passenger's footwell that's used for the wiring. I have a grommet to go there but I'm still working on the wiring, so it'll stay open for now.
Just because this wasn't enough, I raised the ride height a bit to get closer to my target height. The fender cutouts make it look a bit odd but that's a temporary thing. This may improve the ride and handling as well, although the visible different camber on each front wheel will probably have some effect.
The car should be ready for more driving tomorrow. This is going to be fun.
entry 480 - tags: exhaust, suspension, HVAC
November 27, 2010 - Spent some more time driving today.
The loud exhaust drone at 1500 rpm seems to be gone, that's probably due to the exhaust tips. Excellent. It's still not a quiet car, I'm going to work a bit more with the sound insulation and see what I can do there. A lot of the noise seems to be coming through the firewall. There's still some carpet to install, maybe it'll help some.
The ride is also better with the slightly raised height. I'll spend some time tweaking the shock settings, but I suspect it's going to want a bit less rear spring. It has some 250 lb ones now, and I think the lightest I have in the garage is 225. I'll give those a try.
The heater works well. Good.
Janel was driving this time as I monitored the car through an OBD-II scanner. Can't do that with most MGs! Anyhow, she seemed a bit taken aback at the sheer number of creaks, squeaks and bangs from the car as it first started moving down the road. But once she got into the gas, she started laughing. Especially when I reported she hadn't even hit 50% throttle. She likes the car a lot.
Not over-fond of the brakes, as they don't bite too aggressively. The power booster isn't over-boosted and I'm not completely sure the R4S pads are fully bedded. They're also going to be a bit slippery in the near-freezing temperatures we used on the test drive. I am tempted to replace them with a set of Performance Friction PFC 97 pads, which is what I use on the Targa Miata race car. I'll give the R4S a bit more time, as they're usually a good setup.
entry 481 - tags: brakes, test, suspension, exhaust
November 27, 2010 - I realized today that a great name for this car would be the MGB GT-HO.
Fans of Australian Fords will get the reference. Unfortunately, the Chevrolet powerplant doesn't really fit...
entry 482
November 28, 2010 - Okay, I'm just amusing myself now.
This decal is from the old BMC Special Tuning program, as you can see. Janel will probably not see the humor in it and will find it gaudy, but for the time being it's making me smile!
entry 483 - tags: special tuning
November 28, 2010 - An advantage to having a parts car.
The mirrors that came on the car wouldn't allow the vent windows to work. This is annoying. I am still considering what to do for mirrors on the final product post-paint (I'm tempted by a set of bullet mirrors) but in the meantime, this stock 1969 part does the job nicely and screws right in.
entry 484 - tags: mirror
November 28, 2010 - The rear fenders have a double wall on them.
When I cut out the fenders for the new wheels, this left a gap of up to 3/4" or so. I had it covered with black duct tape for the early drives, but that was a poor solution at best. Since I didn't really want to fill the inner fender with road debris, it was time to do something better.
I used the section of cut out fender to trace out the shape required, cut it out of 1/8" steel and bent it into shape. It didn't take long to fit it into place, and I'm quite happy with the result. A shot of black paint finished it off. This section will eventually be hidden under the new fender flares.
I'm feeling a lot better about the upcoming metalwork. This went pretty well - the welds behaved themselves nicely.
entry 485 - tags: body
November 28, 2010 - I've always felt that all cars should have chrome bumpers.
Not from an aesthetic standpoint, but because bumpers are there to take abuse. Painted bumpers are vulnerable and will easily take damage from a little scuff. If you do have to replace it, it has to be carefully color-matched to the car. That's just plain backwards.
A chrome bumper is strong enough to withstand little scuffs and bumps without scarring. If it does get scarred, you can sometimes polish it out - especially in the case of stainless steel bumpers like those on my Mini. Plus they're all the same color, so if you have to replace it you know it's the right color.
Bring back the chrome bumper! Or at least unpainted plastic. My new Dodge truck has chrome bumpers, and I applaud this. My old Toyota truck had chrome bumpers.
But there's an added bonus to chrome bumpers I'd never thought of before. They make excellent grounding points for welding.
entry 486 - tags: bumpers
November 28, 2010 - I changed out the rear springs to 225s earlier and took the car for a bit of a drive.
Good, although they're 8" long and don't have quite enough travel for my 5" rear shock travel. It's possible they could coil bind on a really hard hit. I'll keep them in for a bit of testing first, and if they get the nod I'll pick up some 10" ones.
I just swapped out the front springs from 375 to 300, because that's what I have in the garage! I'll drive the car tomorrow (weather permitting) and see how they feel.
I have to say, changing springs on this car is ridiculously easy. It only took 5 minutes to change both front springs. All I have to do is lift the car, pull the wheel, remove the external shock boot (attached by velcro), spin the perch down, unclip the upper perch, unbolt the top of the shock, pull the old spring off, drop the new one in and just reassemble. It sounds like a lot of steps when laid out like that, but it's very fast. No need for a spring compressor and only one bolt.
entry 487 - tags: suspension, springs
November 29, 2010 - The MG has caught some people's attention.
Specifically, it was featured as an LSx Oddity on LSX TV. That's pretty cool, and the car is making the rounds of various forums who normally wouldn't see it.
Unfortunately, it's also getting stripped of any context and so people seem to think they're looking at the final result. The chopped-up wheel arches, the wheels sticking out of the body, the battered paint - the term "redneck" has been flung. You know, if I thought this was the final result, I'd agree. But the car's made some huge strides even in the past two weeks, and when I start on the bodywork I think all will become clear.
entry 488
November 30, 2010 - A big adventure for the MG!
I drove the car to work today. Intake air temperatures of 25F tells me two things: the air filter location is picking up nice cold air and, and baby it's cold outside. The heater works but there are a few holes in the firewall for wiring and the like that let in a cool breeze.
The suspension is working quite nicely from a ride standpoint. The car is now absorbing bumps well and shows good composure. No word on how it handles yet, I'm withholding judgment there until all the wheels are pointing in the correct direction. But the car feels right. It has 300 lb front and 225 lb rear springs at the moment.
I took the interstate on the way in to see how the car deals with highway speeds. Answer: pretty darn well. No evil habits showed themselves at high velocities, up to 75 mph based on other traffic. There are a few rumbles through the body that I suspect might be the exhaust leaning up against the frame - there's one point where the piping is really, really close. A cleverly placed dent will solve that problem. I'll check the bottom of the car to see if there are any rub marks. I'm hoping that's what I was feeling, it didn't quite feel like mechanical vibration. The near-solid motor mounts were certainly adding a bit of buzz.
This was the first chance a number of my coworkers had to check out the car. Bill, my boss at Flyin' Miata, was impressed with the exhaust packaging and can't wait to drive the car. I asked him to wait until I had the alignment done. Lots of commenting on the packaging to make the engine fit. Adam stood to one side, looked at the wheel well and said "I can see the headers!"
So far, so good. Now, how will the drive home in the dark work out?
entry 489 - tags: testing