I was so excited about doing an MG restoration — on my dad’s old 1967 MGB roadster! How excited? Think clouds parting and angels descending… singing hallelujah at the top of their oh, so heavenly lungs… throw in a booming orchestra for a little added umph… That’s how frikkin’ excited I was about finally getting my hands on my dad‘s MG convertible!
Also, just to clarify, dad’s alive and well – I’d be way less excited about this if he’d kicked it. Probably should classify my new (well, new to me) MG classic car as a gift as opposed to an inheritance, just to avoid confusion…
His MG roadster, though… not so alive and well. So, when I got a hold of it in early 2017 — with an impending move to California and visions of Highway 1 road trips dancing through my head — we had to rectify that, STAT.
Luckily, we were ahead of the curve because it had been garaged during the 15 years since last being driven, so it wasn’t a total rust bucket. Also luckily, my hubs-of-all-trades was an auto mechanic in his pre-Navy life… British car mechanic, specializing in MGB convertible repair? No. American car mechanic, specializing in current-model Ford repair? Yes!
What? That only makes for a teeny tiny learning curve, right?? Haha. Well, we’re cheap as hell, so he decided he’d give classic car restoration a shot. Here’s how it went down…
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My MGB Roadster… The Backstory
My dad got the MG as a gift to himself after graduating from the US Naval Academy back in ’66 (ain’t he handsome?!). Legend has it that his girlfriend at the time totaled his first car shortly after he bought it, and it was replaced with this British-racing-green beauty.
He zoomed around in it for a couple years, taking it from Maryland to California to Florida. In between, he had to report for destroyer duty and was gone for a bit – so my grandmother drove it for 6 months! Y’all this car has some generational history…
He finally ended up in Pensacola, FL, where he met my hottie mama in the summer of ’68. They made it official a few short months later, and off they went in the MG to start their life together – first in Mississippi, then Texas, then North Carolina after dad got out of the Navy.
I finally graced the world with my presence and, exactly 8 years later, declared that the MG would be mine when I grew up. Exactly 30 years after that, I got it!!! I had my own Navy man by then, and he finally helped me break dad down. So it went from one generation of officer to the next…
The hubs and I were in Virginia by then, so after driving from Norfolk, VA, to Statesville, NC, to pick up the car from my folks’ house, the MG accompanied us back to Virginia on our flatbed trailer, arriving unscathed at its new home in our little garage. It was in relatively good condition, despite not running, so the first task on our MGB restoration journey was to make it driveable. Out came Steev’s car jack, tools and Moss Motors catalog (the place to find British classic car parts, especially MG parts).
MG Restoration – Leaks, Leaks, and More Leaks
First things first… inspecting for leaks and changing fluids. Steev drained the fuel tank and out came a bunch of rusty sludge (ick). A vintage MG comes with vintage fuel, I guess! So, he dropped the fuel tank and cleaned it out, then reinstalled it. In the process, he noticed a differential pinion seal leak. He changed the pinion seal and the axle seals and refilled the differential.
While he had the drive shaft out for the pinion seal, further inspection revealed a frozen U-joint, so he sent the driveshaft off to have it balanced and new U-joints pressed in. In the meantime, he found that the rear brake cylinders were leaking, too! So, he replaced the rear brake cylinders and rear brakes… then went ahead and bled the entire brake system and replaced the fluid with this EBC Brakes DOT-5 Silicone Brake Fluid to inhibit future corrosion. So, basically everything associated with rear axle got redone.
Then, as he worked his way from the back of the car to the front, wouldn’t ya know, he found yet another leak at the clutch slave cylinder on the transmission. So, that got replaced, too, as well as its associated line. Then, it was time to tackle the battery/electrical system…
MG Restoration – More Parts!
Typically, a 1967 MG would have a twin 6-Volt battery system, but Steev decided to cheat a little and change it over to a single 12-V battery – it’s really hard to find 6 V batteries these days, and he wanted ease of maintenance. The battery wells were all corroded and rusted out, so he replaced those, then installed this new Performance Distributors 5575B DynaBatt Battery and wired the car appropriately for a single 12 V battery.
A new electric fuel pump came next (the battery needed to be in first, so we could test the pump after install). Because of what he’d found previously in the fuel tank, and because the old fuel pumps have a high failure-rate, Steev wanted a newer model for reliability-sake.
With a new pump and a power source, we turned the key on for the first time… and every single fuel line in and around the engine bay started leaking everywhere! In went some new 1/4 fuel lines and 3/8 inch fuel lines.
After that, it was time to go through the carburetors, because the fuel leaks were coming from them, too. They would likely have had some trouble from being all gummed up inside anyway, so Steev rebuilt and resealed them. Have I mentioned that my man is hot AF?? All the sweat, blood (his), and tears (mine) that he endured to rebuilding my dad’s MG for me… Swoon!!!
Now free of fuel leaks, we had a car we could crank (yay!)… but not start (ugh!)… And it was cranking really slowly, so Steev went to investigate what he thought was going to be a faulty starter. While he was looking, he inadvertently touched the choke cable… which burned the shit out of him!
That told him there was an engine ground problem. He removed the engine ground strap and put a sanding attachment on his cordless DeWalt drill to clean the mating surfaces (mating surfaces… hehe) and the strap of corrosion. Once reassembled… normal cranking speed!
But still no start… Steev did a little crank-no-start diagnosis and found there was no spark from the ignition coil. So, we ordered and installed a new ignition coil assembly – and I even got to help with this one! Okay, okay, I just held the wrench while Steev bolted the new coil in place… but still!
Hoses, Heater, Radiator
Of course, the leaks didn’t stop with fuel – the radiator had one, so it got replaced, too… While he was at it, Steev also decided to get all new cooling system hoses and drain and flush the heater core.
We got several of our replacement parts from Moss Motors, but for items where we didn’t need an exact model-year match, we turned to Amazon for cheaper alternatives. They have tens of thousands of automotive parts, including a surprising number of MGB parts. If that’s your preference, here’s just some of what they offer:
Driving My MG Convertible for the First Time!
Finally, finally… 6 weeks later… with reliable fuel delivery… and a new cooling system… and spark from the new coil… and no more leaking fuel… he managed to get it to start!
Then, not only did it start, it actually ran! As in, our lil ’67 MGB was driveable! Steev had done it!!!!!!!
Couldn’t take it farther than a quick zoom around our ‘hood, though, because my frikkin’ feet couldn’t reach the pedals! Sometime way back when, the driver’s seat took some damage and dad had it replaced. But it was replaced with a seat from a newer model that’s slightly too wide. It catches before it’s able to be moved all the way forward – and I need it all the way forward! A bunch of towels stuffed behind my back makes it doable for me, but a replacement is somewhere in our future.
Steev also needed to do a little additional work on the front brakes. They were glazed and squealy, so we replaced them with newer quieter brake pads. I helped with this one, too. MB to the rescue, repacking wheel bearings with grease! Or did I just get duped into doing something Steev didn’t wanna do??? Hmmmmm…
Okay, back to the necessary repairs. Our quick drive revealed that the old turn signal wouldn’t cancel after a turn, so the signal stalk got replaced. More importantly, the tires were no longer round after having sat for so long. The wheels needed some attention, too…
MG Restoration – Tires and Wire Wheels
The original, old-school wire wheels, like spokes on a bicycle, have to be tuned to ensure they’re exerting equal pressure on all sides of the rim. The tires also have tubes in them, so we got new tubes and rim guards.
We actually sent them away for this work because Steev didn’t have the tools for it. Much research, plus chats with our local MG owners club, had revealed that the guy everyone used for this – the top wire-wheel restorer in the country – was just a couple hours from us in Greensboro, North Carolina. So, we took them to Hendrix Wire Wheel to get them re-trued, re-tubed and repainted. The wheels looked kick-ass when we picked them up!
Highway 1 Road Trip, Here We Come!
Steev did all this between January and May, and got our little MG sports car road-worthy just in time for our move to Monterey. Have I mentioned yet that my man kicks ass?!? Afterward, we loaded it back onto our trusty trailer for our cross-country trip. We might’ve been able to drive it – after all, dad drove it on a total of 4 x-country trips in the 60s! – but we thought we’d be a little gentler to it than that. It is a bit of an old salt these days…
After settling in and kicking our kid to the curb putting our kid in daycare, we were finally able to take the old MG convertible on its inaugural drive – down Ocean Boulevard through Monterey and Pacific Grove. Dad came to visit shortly after, and took it for a spin around town, too!
We’ve since discovered that it needs a little more work before being Hwy 1 ready. I mean, it runs… Steev drives it to work at the Naval Postgraduate School, takes our friends out in it, and we enjoy our beachfront rides as often as possible. But it gets a little angry if we try to take it above 55mph. It needs a distributor, so Steev’s gonna install one as soon as things aren’t balls-to-the-wall with his postgrad schedule…
Soon after our move, we found out that the annual Monterey Car Week & Concours d’Elegance takes place every August in Monterey County, with several events a mere mile from our house! I can’t wait to display our MG alongside some of its cousins, despite it’s haggard appearance (hey, we got it running… making it pretty, though? That’s gonna have to wait!). While we don’t think it’s quite ugly enough for the Concours d’LeMons (yep, even the lemons get their day to shine), we plan on displaying it at the Classic Motorsports Kick-Off Car Show and Cruise in Pacific Grove. Can’t wait!
If You Do It
OK, I know not many of you aren’t about to restore one of the many MG car models, but I have an “If You Go” section in most of my travel posts, so I can’t help myself…
We got some generic parts from Amazon (cheap as hell, remember??), but specifically for MG and MGB parts, Moss Motors kicks ass! Sales staff is friendly, customer service issues are dealt with quickly, and their monthly specials saved us more than a few bucks. From Moss, we got our pinion seal, axle seals, rear brake cylinders, rear and front brakes, clutch slave cylinder, cooling system hoses, radiator, distributor, replacement battery wells, ignition coil, carburetor kit and turn signal stalk. Whew!
Hendirx Wire Wheel in Greensboro, North Carolina, is the only place to send wheels! They’re literally the best in the business. When we were trying to find someone local in Norfolk to repair our wheels, every single MG service garage said they’d gladly take our business, but would simply be middle-men… ‘cause they’d just be shipping the wheels to Hendrix for repair! Our local MG car club also said Hendrix is known within the community as the absolute best, and body shops all over the country send wire wheels there rather than tackling the task on their own.