An M.G. Locost Build

July 23, 2015

A couple of years ago, or maybe it was last year, we had a long list of things we wanted to do on the Locost. We can't remember most of them, and we certainly didn't write any of them down, but we've done a fair amount of tinkering on the car over the past year, in addition to all the regular repairs, and so we might've taken care of a few of the things on the list, although we'll never know for sure. Still, we thought we'd report on a few of the things we tinkered with recently, for no particular reason that we can think of right now.

  Latch reinforcement smeared with anti-seize
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From the beginning, our bonnet latches have always been suspect. McMaster-Carr had a wide variety of latches to choose from back then, although only a couple under $10, which made the choice a lot easier. So far, our $7 latches have never failed us, except for the two times we didn't completely latch them and the hood flew off the car. But that was almost as much our fault as the latches. In the meantime we've had to reinforce two of the latches, when they loosened up to the point where it didn't really matter if they were latched or not.

Since the latches are just screwed into sheet aluminum, we might've anticipated some metal creep over the years, but that kind of thinking has never been part of our skill set. As luck would have it, however, a short piece of 16-gauge steel tubing fits right behind the latch, and bottoms against the lip of the bonnet, so long as you drill the holes in the right place. Drilling holes in the right place isn't really part of our skill set either, but we did gain a lot of experience during the build drilling small holes and then moving them in the proper direction with a rat-tail file.

Boot cover snaps okay for occasional use  
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The snaps on our boot cover were obviously never designed for outdoor use. We've had to replace a few of them when they failed to unsnap in a non-destructive manner. We now try to avoid detaching the cover altogether, although we have to partly remove it to fill the car with gas, so we keep a supply of extra snaps on hand. There might've been something on the list once about installing some kind of storage container in the boot, but it wouldn't be much use if we could never remove the cover, so I think we can put that one to rest.

We've also had to do some touch-up work on the paint from time to time. Luckily, you can find touch-up paint in exactly the right color for our car at just about any hardware store. Most of the chips were in the area where the hood meets the body, but we also had a fair number of chips on the top of the driver's door, which isn't so much a door as a panel you step over and try to avoid dragging your shoes across. The worst damage to this panel occurred during a three-day span when the car was at the Maker Faire, and we're still not completely over it.

  Hobnobbing with real 7s at a recent Cars & Coffee
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There have been a couple of reports on the LocostUSA forum recently about suspension failures. They both appear to have been caused by over-stressed or under-reinforced parts, but they've encouraged us to do more thorough inspections of our suspension mounts and control arms whenever we're tinkering on the car and have the parts exposed. So far we've been unable to find a single part that looks even slightly stressed, and given our emphasis during the build on over-engineering everything, we're not too surprised. But we'll keep looking.

Somewhere along the line we replaced our gear shift knob. We always thought the old knob was too big and round. You had to wrap your whole hand around it. Some big and round things feel good in your hand, but not shift knobs. Our old knob looked good, but it was designed for people who don't like to shift so much as they like to look good. We always preferred the skinny knobs on the early MGBs, but unfortunately they don't fit the later shift lever. Threads on the early knob were 5/16", and our shift lever has 3/8" threads.

Actual sports car shift knob  
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However, as luck would have it, 3/8" turns out to be bigger than 5/16", which meant all we had to do was buy an early knob, drill out the 5/16" threads, and re-tap it to 3/8". The only flaw in this logic, which we discovered shortly after the knob was bought and paid for, is that in order to do their jobs, both the drill and tap have to impart a fair amount of torque to the knob, which has to be resisted by something, preferably something unlikely to gouge, crush, or otherwise deface the skinny wooden knob. This turned out to be our hand.

Drilling wasn't so bad, as long as we didn't slip. We used something like an 8 mm drill bit, and the insert was only brass, so it chewed through it pretty quickly. The tap was a different story. No matter how hard we gripped the knob, the tap would just spin it. We eventually perfected an impact method that involved a long crescent wrench to turn the tap and several blisters on our left hand. Using this method we managed to cut a good 8 or 9 threads, about 10 degrees at a time, and we would've cut more but we were running out of Band-Aids.

Another bit of tinkering was forced on us last week when we experienced a sudden loss of oil pressure on a drive to work. We wanted to blame the gauge, but that's never worked out for us too well in the past, and a quick check of the oil level when we reached the office confirmed that we had in fact lost several quarts of fresh 20W-50 somewhere out on the road. Which meant the oil pump had been delivering mostly air through the galleys during the last three or four miles of the drive.

  Inexplicably missing hose isolator
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The culprit turned out to be one of the hoses to our new oil cooler. We installed the braided metal hoses last year, and being fully aware that braided metal hoses love to chafe, we fitted dozens of isolating cushions all along the hose, everywhere it encountered a hard surface such as a frame tube, except where it passed by the motor mount. We missed that spot for some reason. After a time, one of the sharper edges of the motor mount sliced neatly through the braided hose, although to the hose's credit it took nearly eight months to do it.

Steel-braided hose tortured beyond its limits  
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The good news is, the engine seemed to be okay with the temporary oil shortage. After work we walked to the nearest gas station, bought six quarts of some unknown brand of motor oil, and returned to the car, dumping in four of the six quarts before heading for home. We kept an eye on the oil pressure, which was fine for the first 6 or 7 miles, and as soon as it dipped below 50 psi we stopped the car and dumped in the last two quarts. That got us the rest of the way home without incident, if you don't count the trail of oil we left in the driveway.

So we removed the oil cooler and reinstalled our Moss Motors bypass hose, and oil pressure is excellent now, or not excellent but at least adequate, or probably not adequate either, but the engine runs. More or less. We're not counting this against our otherwise-spurious M.G. Locost reliability record, because for one thing the oil cooler wasn't an original component. Which means we're good to go for the rest of the summer, possibly even into the fall, and we'll let you know if any of that happens.


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