An M.G. Locost Build
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September 23, 2015
Car Shows

There's a long hill on US Interstate 80, just south of Fairfield, CA, that takes you out of California's Central Valley and deposits you into the San Francisco Bay Area. The hill is not as high as some of the 6000-foot passes through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east, but it's just as steep. This is a stress test for our tired old 18V M.G. engine. We have to keep the pedal close to the floor and maintain at least 4500 RPMs, in order to avoid getting run over. In the past we've encountered a few problems on this hill, although nothing we couldn't fix with a good tune-up.

Last week we encountered a problem on this hill that a good tune-up was not going to fix. The #3 exhaust valve sprung a leak. In an M.G. engine, #3 is the hottest cylinder, and those soft old valves take a beating, especially with the poor lubrication qualities of modern unleaded petrol. We managed to finish the drive on three cylinders, and when we arrived home we immediately placed an order with Moss Motors for a gasket set and four exhaust valves. The next day we pulled the cylinder head, just to get a look at the offending valve.

  Bad valve. Bad.
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It looked bad, a big gaping hole on one side, and naturally you'd like to know exactly what happened, and so would we, but we'll never know. All you can do is replace it with a new one, and hope it doesn't happen again. Exhaust valves for an M.G. are fairly cheap, in the $7 range, so it made sense to replace them all while we had the head off. However, it's difficult for us to throw away perfectly good parts, especially when they're still doing their job, plus, if you'll recall the valve seal replacement we did last summer, getting four valve springs out takes all day.

Lapping the valve because you're supposed to  
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So we made short work of the job, removing only the broken valve, lapping in a new one, and reinstalling the cylinder head on a Wednesday evening after work. By replacing only one valve we now have three good spares, in case another one fails in the coming weeks. The cylinder head went back on easily enough, without breaking anything, always a good sign. So in the overall scheme of things, replacing a burnt exhaust valve turned out to be no bigger a job than, say, threading on a new shift knob. Although a little greasier.

With our engine running as well as it ever did, we decided to enter our Locost in its first official car show. We've entered the car in a couple of shows before this, like the Maker Faire, the annual classic car show at work, and several Cars & Coffee meets. But those were all free, ergo unofficial. This show cost us twenty-five dollars, which may not be as official as, for instance, the Pebble Beach Concours, which probably costs more, but still, twenty five bucks. Not exactly chicken-feed. That's about as official as we can afford.

  Car show competition
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A couple of things we learned about car shows. First, we are not car show people. We are drivers. Car show people also drive, mostly between their trailer and garage. Something we long suspected but never knew for sure is that car shows are a kind of competition. Not real competition, like where you try to get ahead of the car in front of you, but competition for whose car looks best. It turns out that if you drive your car a lot, like for example flat out on back roads, you will have a difficult time looking as good as the guy who drove his car onto a trailer.

Not an actual Lotus  
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Fortunately, car show competition is divided into classes, much the same as in real competition, except not by weight or engine displacement, but by make and model. Our car was somehow placed in the Lotus class by the organizers, probably due to our new shift knob, along with a host of Elises, Exiges, Evoras, and one very nice BRG 1967 Elan. The later model cars were nicely-polished, but being modern and expensive they failed to make the cut. This left only the Elan and our M.G.-based homebuilt in the running for best Lotus.

  Actual Lotus
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The Elan won, which seemed only right, but we did pick up a second-place trophy to add to our growing collection of misinformed awards. We actually liked the Elan a lot, almost as much as our car, since it was the same color and had a nicer interior. Our interior is okay, but we had to make quick work of it during the build because we were anxious to drive the car. So we didn't bind the carpets, we left out the piping in the seat cover seams, and we used black for everything. The Elan had a deep tan interior, with all of the extras.

Perfect interior with piping and everything  
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We went online to and found out we could completely redo our interior in tan, with piping and everything, for just under a hundred bucks. We were tempted, but three things. One, black is cool. It never looks dirty, even if you know it is. Two, recovering the seats would mean lots of sewing, and I'm pretty sure we've forgotten how to do that. Three, a hundred bucks. Someday the seats will fray and tear, and we'll be forced to figure out how to recover them, but for now they're doing every bit as well as we hoped they would.

We keep meaning to post more blogs. It shouldn't be that hard, once every two weeks or so, but for some reason it's just not working out. It might be the pictures. We don't take as many as we used to, not by a long shot, and you can't have a blog without pictures. At least I don't think you can. But no more excuses. We've got several Locost-related activities coming up, and we'll try to remember to bring our camera.


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posted May 14, 2016 at 17:47:48  
Don't give up!! Your blog really does make a dinecrffee to women out there. Even those of us who aren't infertile or trying to get pregnant yet, are inspired by you and this blog!