An M.G. Locost Build

September 16, 2013

Now that the Locost is almost done, it's time for some of our 40-year-old donor parts to start packing it in. First to go was the ignition switch. It started flaking out about three months ago. The ignition would switch on, but the momentary switch for the starter wouldn't do anything. It was intermittent. Pull the key out, stick it in again, and the car would start right up. So only a minor annoyance. Until last Saturday, when we tried to start the car for a short test drive in and out of the garage, and got nothing. The starter wouldn't budge, no matter what we did with the key.

We were able to jump start the car easily enough, but it was clear the momentary switch was dead. Weighing our options as we've so often had to do over the past two years, we decided that our best course of action would be to install a start button on the dash. We'd use the key to turn on the power, and hit the start button to turn over the engine. Pretty cool, actually. The only downside, engine start buttons are all the rage these days, so naturally a switch that can be made in China for about $3 U.S. is going retail for $50 and up.

  $3 momentary switch, a bargain at just $23
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Fortunately, Moss Motors had a replacement engine start button for the old Austin-Healey 3000 for only $23. So we ordered one, and roughly two seconds after we clicked the Buy button, the ignition switch on the Locost failed completely. No starter, no power, the tumbler just spinning in the barrel. So now we have a $57 ignition switch on order, a useless Austin-Healey engine start button, and a scary feeling that replacing the switch is going to involve removing the dashboard. Maybe not entirely, but enough to dislodge several hundred wires and tubes.

Working switches with matching chrome bezels  
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Among the wires we're likely to dislodge are about half a dozen that we just recently attached to our new hazard warning switch. Installing the switch involved a considerable amount of wire stripping and crimping, which makes us think we possibly did something wrong, but the switch works, and together with the headlights, panel, fan, and defrost switches we now have the complete bank of switch holes filled on the dash. And they look good with their matching chrome bezels but we still wish we'd spaced them a little farther apart.

  Tiny Locost windshield glass
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Until our new ignition switch arrives we can't drive the car, although we could hotwire it if we had to, although we shouldn't have to unless our shocks were suddenly to appear at the door. In the meantime, we picked up our windshield glass from the glass place and transported it home unscathed. The glass fits our aluminum frame well enough, and we have to admit the windshield does look better with glass in it, but it's still small so we plan to augment its wind-shielding capabilities with a set of wind wings for a Triumph TR4 we got off eBay.

Wiper boxes and realistic wiper blades  
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We also got some brand new windshield wiper gear boxes from Moss Motors, with the idea that brand new hardware might make installing windshield wipers easier. Or possible. Of course we realize having operational windshield wipers is not a realistic goal, but we think we can at least manage the first step, which is to drill holes in the scuttle and install the wiper boxes. We can then fit wiper arms and blades to the shafts in what should be a convincing simulation of a working system. Which will be okay so long as it doesn't rain.

If we could then somehow mount the wiper motor to the scuttle, and route the gear cable through the new wiper boxes, and wire up the motor to the switch on the steering column, and... okay, sorry, got carried away there for a moment. If we can just get the ignition switch replaced without disabling half of the car's electrical system, we'll be ahead of the game. No need to press our luck. In any case, with the windshield and driveshaft more or less complete we need to stay focused on our last three tasks: seats, fenders and shocks.

  Will look better stretched over foam. Honest.
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We actually have some good news to report on the seat front. We trimmed the foam with our new electric turkey knife, and even fit the foam into the car, something that could've easily gone horribly wrong and still might, but it's looking good so far. Even better, we got our sewing machine to work and sewed up our first piece of upholstery, the driver's seat bottom. Although we didn't actually sew it to anything. That comes later. But the worst part is over, the worst being figuring out how to use the sewing machine.


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