An M.G. Locost Build
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March 17, 2013
Back on Wheels

The M.G. Locost is rolling again. This weekend we assembled the suspension, hooked up the brakes, bolted on the wheels, and pushed the car back out into the sunshine, or what passes for sunshine this time of year. We realize it's possible we rushed things a little, so soon after painting, but it was asking a lot from us to wait even this long. It's only slightly discouraging that six months ago we were at this exact same point, rolling the car out into the sunshine, but this time it's different. This time we won't be taking it apart again.

  Carefully avoiding painted surface contact
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The other big difference is the paint, which makes the car look more finished, but also not quite real, as if we might be doing this with wood or plastic. The paint also slows us way down, because we need to minimize the number of nicks and scratches we have to touch up later on. Of course you can't eliminate nicks and scratches altogether, but we've come to realize they're not really as traumatic as we thought, and certainly less traumatic than if we were putting together a kit and we were scratching up brand new factory-painted parts.

Links and fake shocks installed again  
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One thing about putting the car together for the last time: you can't fudge. When we assembled the suspension last fall we didn't always use the proper bolts, or even all the bolts, just enough to hold things together. We used old washers for spacers if we used spacers at all. This time we used brand new AN hardware, all tightened to the proper torque. Spacers were also brand new, and carefully arranged on each suspension pickup and bushing to eliminate binding and play. Of course all this extra effort slowed us down almost as much as the paint.

But nothing slowed us down more than the rear brakes. A simple one-hour job turned into a four hour nightmare when we couldn't get the brake drums to fit over the shoes, no matter how we adjusted them. We had the brakes on and off the left side of the axle half a dozen times, until we finally noticed that the handbrake lever wasn't quite lining up. Which would only happen if we were using the handbrake lever from the right side. Which couldn't be the case because we labeled everything very carefully when we removed the brakes last fall.

  Brakes installed almost correctly
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Apparently, however, there's a distinction between "carefully" and "accurately". When we swapped handbrake levers, the brakes went together easily, and the drums fit over the shoes with room to spare. We bolted on the hubs and just like that we were done. The additional nicks and scratches incurred by all the dropped pliers, flying springs, and frustrated hammer blows from the myriad attempts to build the brakes with the wrong parts still need to be touched up, but that can wait.

One good thing to come out of the brake debacle: we discovered the left rear brake cylinder was frozen solid. You may recall that when we first took possession of our donor M.G., the left rear wheel wouldn't turn. This caused a few problems with loading and unloading the car on the trailer, but once we analyzed the situation it was easy enough to fix by backing off the brake adjustment screw. Never during our many drives with the donor did we notice that one of the rear brakes wasn't working, but of course none of the brakes worked all that well back then.

We also didn't notice anything wrong the last time we assembled the brakes, but in our defense we used the correct parts that time, and didn't have any reason to suspect it, other than the aforementioned situation with the donor, which in our minds had been resolved. We were also able to fit the handbrake and get it working on both wheels, because it's completely mechanical and doesn't use the wheel cylinders at all.

This time, during one of our many frustrating brake disassemblies, we tried compressing the cylinder to get some more clearance for the shoes, and it wouldn't budge. Even with our limited automotive knowledge we suspected that was probably wrong, so we hit it with a little shot of PB Blaster and sure enough, the pistons started moving again. We took it apart and cleaned up the cylinder and pistons as best we could without using any abrasives, and reassembled everything with plenty of LMA brake fluid. The pistons slide easily now and the rubber O-rings still look good, but we'll keep an eye on that cylinder for possible leaks in the future.

Pretty sure we know how all this goes together  
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The front suspension was a lot easier to install, and except for the bolts at the lower rear pickup brackets that barely squeeze between the frame and the engine mounts, took no time at all, and by no time of course we actually mean about four hours. We also installed our brand new brake pads from Moss Motors, something we didn't bother doing last time because we had no way to operate the brakes, so they hardly seemed necessary. But now we have brake lines which means we expect to be able to use the brakes pretty soon.

  Will look better with real shocks
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We also installed the steering rack so that the front wheels wouldn't swivel around randomly, and we can sort of steer the car now by twisting the column that sticks out of the rack. It's surprisingly easy to turn the car without the engine or any real weight on the front wheels, which I guess isn't really all that surprising. The rack will have to have to come out to install the steering column, which we'll be able to do once the paint on the scuttle is dry, which should be any day now. Probably tomorrow.

Same place as last fall, but a little different picture  
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With wheels in place we were able to attach the last of the brake lines. Everything fit, but it's all just hand tight right now, so we'll have to remember to torque all the fittings before we fill the master cylinder reservoir. Next up will be the wiring harness, and we hope that'll turn out to be just as easy as the brake and fuel lines. So we're almost back to the rolling chassis stage, and this time there won't be any debate about what constitutes an official rolling chassis, since we have all the plumbing and wiring, and even a floor.

One thing we noticed about assembling the suspension this weekend. It doesn't feel so much like we're building a new car anymore. Maybe it's the paint, or maybe the plumbing. It feels now like we've got a car, all put together, and it just needs a little work to get it running, like installing the engine and transmission. All the jobs that are left to do now are things we've done dozens of times on lots of different cars, so there's no mystery. Nothing new about it. Of course I don't think we've ever had quite as many jobs to do on the same car before, but we'll take them one at a time. Same as always.


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posted March 20, 2013 at 08:20:04  
Its looking good I am just about to embark on a similar project but I will be building the ford sierra based Haynes roadster

posted March 21, 2013 at 13:48:40  
Best of luck! That's a great way to go. -- Nick