Slow Car Fast
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
December 1, 2010 - Alignment time!
I took the car down to the local alignment shop where they know me pretty well. It's the sort of place where they're not really surprised when I show up with a V8 MGB. The car was a big hit, though. The guys there are the sort who can see past thinks like chopped up fenders and exposed wiring to see the coolness underneath.
So how did it fare? Well, we discovered that if I want less than 1.5 degrees of negative camber on the right front, the shock will hit the control arm. That can be fixed with a bit of grinding on the arm or a relocated bracket, so it's not a big deal. Besides, 1.5 degrees might be about right. When the car drove in, it had -3 degrees on one wheel! The only other problem report was that the Panhard bar is set to the minimum length and it needs to be very slightly shorter to center the axle. Right now, it's 0.27 degrees off. Interesting measurement, that, it's the angle from the center of the rear axle to the centerpoint of the two front wheels. Odd.
The final result is -1.5 degrees of camber, 5 degrees of caster and 0.04" of toe-in. I might remove the latter but that's easy to do at home. The rear, of course, is a solid axle so the alignment numbers are pretty boring. It had 0.27 degrees of thrust angle from my eyeball setup, not bad at all.
One nice thing to see what that my wheelbase is within 0.1" side to side. Looks like I managed to get those control arm brackets in the right place!
And of course, then there was a Lucas moment. The car refused to start. A bit of troubleshooting revealed that the PCM wasn't getting power but other switched circuits were. That's a fairly straightforward problem, as it's very simple wiring. A bit of poking and wiggling and I woke it up again. I suspect it was a bad crimp in one of the spade connectors, so when I got home I cut it off and installed another. This particular wire had been an early installation, and it's been yanked and pulled multiple times at a sharp angle over the course of the build. No harm done, that's the sort of thing you expect on a shakedown like this.

So, how does it feel? Well, I was mostly thinking "I'd better get home before that connection give me more trouble", but it does feel better. The steering still doesn't self-center very hard, so I'm going to check for friction in the column. But it does feel more planted. I'll get it on the highway tomorrow for some higher speeds to see.
entry 490 - tags: alignment, wiring
December 1, 2010 - So, with the wheels all properly located in the wheel wells, it's time to remove some of the redneck and install the fender flares.
These flares are from an original Rabbit. I have a set off some front fenders cut off a junkyard car, and a set of rear "rust repair" panels that are brand new. After trying the various flares on different corners of the car, I decided the best fit in the back was to use the Rabbit rear flares on the same side they'd be fitted to the Rabbit.
First, I cut the flares off the rest of the patch panel. Then I played with placement to get it to sit just right over the wheel, and finally marked the position.
entry 491 - tags: flares, body
December 1, 2010 - After the paint was removed from the fender area, the Rabbit part was tack-welded on.
I then reinstalled the wheel, dropped the car back down and double-checked placement.
Just look at how that fender fits the MG body. It's perfect.
entry 492 - tags: fender, body
December 1, 2010 - There's one problem with the flares, though.
They sit high enough on the body that they cross over the line where the stainless steel strakes run. This leaves a gap at the top of the flare where the body steps inwards. These fenders have a little curve where they meet up with the body, so before installing them I used a body hammer to remove the curve and flatten the profile of the flare in this area.
I am mounting these flares higher on the body than I've seen on another car - the only other car I've seen with the Rabbit flares. It could be that my ride height is lower, but aesthetically I'm happy with the placement.
entry 493 - tags: body, fender
December 1, 2010 - With the fender properly placed, I welded it on.
Lots of small spot welds to keep the heat under control. I'm really happy with how this turned out.
entry 494 - tags: fenders, flares, body
December 1, 2010 - The solution to the gap was a patch panel.
It's shown here on the other side, because that's where I managed to get a better picture! I used card stock to work out the shape, cut a carefully shaped patch out of the leftover patch panel sheetmetal and welded it in. A bit more attention with the flapper wheel on the grinder and a bit of prep work and it'll look nice and smooth. It also makes the fender flares look much bigger than before!
entry 495 - tags: fender, flares, body
December 1, 2010 - The new flares have a fairly big lip on the inside edge, typical for production cars.
Unfortunately, it means that my tires hit at full compression. So this lip has to go.
entry 496 - tags: body, flares, fenders
December 1, 2010 - The solution?
A fender roller. Now, I often get accused of having access to special tools due to the fact that I work at Flyin' Miata. And I have to admit that this is one of those situations. Not that a fender roller is all that exotic, but it's easy to just grab the one off the shelf at work instead of having to borrow it from someone.
The low-tech way to do this would involve a baseball bat or jack handle, of course. I've done that in the past, so I think I've paid my dues!
entry 497 - tags: fenders, flares, body, fender roller
December 1, 2010 - The roller is a pretty nice tool.
It allows you to slowly and carefully shape the fender, rolling that flat flange upwards so it gives more room without any visible changes. It's easier on an unpainted panel like this, of course, but I've made some fairly spectacular alterations to a couple of Miatas. In extreme cases, you can stretch the fender outwards for more space. I didn't have to do that here.
It might seem a little odd to build a custom fender and them immediately modify it like this, but it's part of getting the best fit.
So how's it look? Pictures will be forthcoming once I get the car out of the garage. Basically, the car's gone from looking pretty cool to just plain badass.
entry 498 - tags: fender roller, flares, fenders, body