An M.G. Locost Build
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April 5, 2015
Repairs

We wish we'd posted a few more blog entries last year. Like maybe a hundred. With spring upon us, we are looking forward to repeating many of the fun events we attended last year, and maybe adding a few more. It would've been nice to go back and revisit all of our blog entries from those memorable events last year, but we didn't post them. We'll try to do better this year, although it's not looking good so far. We hoped to post this entry last February, which indicates we're a little behind.

  Photo from an event last year we never posted
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The good news is, the car is in lot better shape than it was a year ago. Back then we were running on ten-year-old overinflated tires with the traction of ball bearings. We had an engine poking up out of the hood, leaky valve seals, an ampless alternator, giant steering wheel, suspect water pump, misguided tach, and a part-time fuel pump. The car was difficult to get in and out of, we went through barrels of oil, and we even broke down on occasion. And we thought the car was just about perfect.

One by one we replaced all of those items, and even added a few more, like a digital clock, clutch dead pedal, temperature sender, fuel filler, oil cooler, and a handy car cover. We thought we'd be motivated to do a lot more, and we've had a long list of upgrades for over a year now, but so far not much action. At the top of the list is a new brake master cylinder. Our old one leaks, not badly, but enough that we have to add fluid every month or so, and our pedal box support is now a flaky, wrinkly mess. We'd like to take it all apart, repaint everything, and put it back together with a new master cylinder.

Flaky, wrinkly mess  
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While we're at it, we'd like to grind some clearance between the master cylinder and the firewall. There isn't a lot of clearance right now, by which we mean none, and the vibration makes a racket around 3000 RPMs. But to get rid of the noise we'd have to disconnect the brake lines, pull the pedals, clean all the parts, paint everything, wait for the paint to dry, and then figure out how it all goes back together. Which would be a major chore. It's exhausting just writing about it. How did we ever build a whole car?

It's true we had to do a fair amount of work on the car last year, but you can't overlook all of things that didn't break. The engine ran flawlessly, more or less, the transmission shifted with abandon, and despite our best predictions the electrical system didn't burst into flames, not even once. The interior is still in pretty good shape, the chassis hasn't cracked anywhere, and the paint job we were so proud of a year and a half ago is still looking sharp, as long as we don't park it next to real cars.

A lot of the fixes we performed were experiments. We weren't sure at the time how long they'd last. It turns out some of the fixes worked well, others not so much. Crimping wire connectors under the dash with pliers, for example, seems to have permanently solved all of our electrical problems. Gluing the new water pump to the engine block in support of our 40-year old cast iron threads seems to have worked as well. Our re-welded shifter hasn't snapped in half, and the makeshift fittings for our German fuel pump have yet to spring a leak.

  Slightly dented, but still holds water
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On the other hand, hammering in a new steel intake manifold plug turned out to be only a temporary fix. Within weeks, the new plug exploded out of the end of the manifold, denting our new Moroso coolant overflow tank and leaving us stranded on the side of Highway 37 at the top of San Francisco Bay. We ended up replacing the steel unit with a rubber expansion plug, which no longer looks stock but at least it's not going anywhere, although it's probably slowly deteriorating in a petrol mist.

Slowly disintegrating expansion plug  
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All things considered, the car is in better shape than it's ever been. 8000 miles and running strong. During one weekend a few months ago, we put over 500 miles on the car in just three days. The suspension works flawlessly, with 100% predictable handling. We've had the car tail out through 80 mph turns with zero drama. If we wanted more performance we could get stickier tires, but not without scaring the bajeezus out of us. It took months to adapt to the perspective of oncoming turns, which look a lot tighter when you're only inches off the ground.

  Still shiny from the best angles
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All of the improvements over the past year and a half pale in comparison to our latest upgrade—stripes. Yes, that's right, we applied our 3M Scotchcal vinyl to the car and it's now totally transformed. In addition to improving the looks, the stripe makes the car easier to drive, faster, more comfortable, more reliable, and much more fun. The new feature debuted at the April Cars & Coffee in Novato, where it earned comments from at least three participants. Not always positive comments, but at least they noticed.

Actual stripes, not a computer simulation  
click to enlarge

The 5" wide stripe went on without much difficulty, once we reconciled our quality expectations with our semi-professional vinyl application skills, and also once we determined that the effort required to cover the front of the nose in yellow vinyl would far exceed its contribution to the overall look of the car. The stripe alone took several hours to apply, a great deal of that spent futilely trying to line it up with the center of the car. We think we're close, and as usual it's okay with us if you disagree.

Upcoming events in our Locost summer of fun include a drive with the North Bay British Car Club, a meet with the MG Owners Club, a possible drive down the coast with the Golden Gate Lotus Club, and a possible return trip to the Bay Area Maker Faire. And that's just events through May. Many more are planned. Will we post blogs after each of these events? Will we be able to attend them all? Will the car still be running? So many questions. Stay tuned.

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