An M.G. Locost Build

July 3, 2017

We got a parts car for the Locost, another MGB, a GT this time. It's a 1970 model, but MGB parts didn't change much between 1970 and 1972, so almost everything is interchangeable with what's on the Locost. Of course the Locost doesn't need any parts right now, and actually hasn't for a while, but it's always good to be prepared. Plus, we got a smokin' deal on the parts car and it came with an awesome set of powder-coated Rostyles that would look great on the Locost if we didn't already have a set of gorgeous alloy Mustang wheels gathering dust in the garage.

  Locost parts car in almost correct color
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The car was originally midnight blue, which happens to be the hands-down best color ever for an MGB GT, based on a 1970 British Leyland ad that showed a stunning midnight blue GT parked in front of a fancy restaurant, the driver and his date dressed to the nines. So elegant. British Racing Green will always be the correct color for an MGB roadster, but a GT is a little classier than that. Ours has unfortunately been painted a somewhat lighter shade of blue, although this could easily be corrected sometime in the future, if it weren't for the fact that it's just a parts car.

We didn't pay a lot for the car because it wasn't running, but that turned out to be an easy fix, a simple head gasket replacement. So we now have a parts car that we can drive around. We'd almost forgotten how soft and cushy the ride is in a car as big as an MGB. It's also very quiet. Plus, it's a GT model, so it feels a lot more solid than the MGB convertibles we're familiar with. Being a hatchback it also carries a lot more, so it comes in handy for those trips to the grocery store. And the office. And Harbor Freight. And just about anywhere else we need to go.

Engine bay stripped down  
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The parts car doesn't handle quite as well as the Locost, but it's roomy and fun to drive in its own way, a way that could best be described as wallowy, if wallowy was an actual word. The unassisted steering is heavy at anything under 10 mph, so we try to avoid that. The unassisted brakes are likewise reluctant to stop the car unless you really lean into them. The Armstrong lever shocks need rebuilding, but that's an expense that's hard to justify when you consider the Locost doesn't use lever shocks, and is therefore unlikely to ever need the ones from the parts car.

We did fix a few things besides the engine. The gearshift lever was loose, the result of a couple of missing Thackeray washers on the turret bolts, and we had to get a working speedometer from eBay. A couple of side-marker lights were out so we replaced some bulbs. We also cleaned up a few items that seem to have been neglected for a while, like for example the engine bay. We realize it's not actually necessary to fix any of these things on a parts car, on the other hand you don't want to look ragged when you're down at the store buying groceries.

  Not original equipment radio
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The parts car is fun to tinker with, and now that the Locost is completely sorted, it's the only real opportunity we have to tinker with an M.G. We have to be careful though, because tinkering can sometimes require new parts, and new parts often cost money. So most of our tinkering involves taking parts off the car, cleaning them up, and bolting them back on, because cleaning is free, so long as you don't run out of cleaners. We've also done some lube work, repacking the wheel bearings and greasing the suspension, which is also free so long as you don't run out of grease.

The parts car came with a working radio. We've often thought about installing a radio in the Locost, and this one would no doubt work, although probably not as well as it does in the quiet confines of the GT. Also, the speakers in the parts car are big 6x9s, which are unlikely to fit anywhere in the Locost, at least where you could hear them. Plus, removing the radio from the GT would leave a big gaping hole in the dash, which admittedly isn't a big deal in a parts car, but would still be unsightly, detracting from all that work we did to clean it up.

Parts car at Cars & Coffee  
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The car still needs a few fixes, like for example the steering rack. Again, hard to justify a big ticket item like that on a parts car, on the other hand the rack on the Locost is an eBay part, and could fail at any moment. Might be nice to have a spare. The front suspension also rattles a bit and may need a rebuild, but we'd have to replace the steering rack first to make sure that's not the problem. The car does need new tires, not because the old ones are worn out but because they have a date code of 217, which according to the Internet is May of 1997. Or 1987. Either of which is bad.

Still, because we're able to drive the parts car, we had to register it, and also buy insurance for it, even though it's only a parts car. In order to get our money's worth out of those expenses, we realize we're going to have to drive the car, a lot, which isn't too much of a burden but could take away from our time behind the wheel of the Locost. Like for example on club drives. On the other hand the parts car can be driven in situations where the Locost can't, or at least shouldn't, like for instance the rain, so maybe the parts car will come in handy for more than just parts.

  They don't make 'em like this anymore
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Okay, let's be honest. We could spend this entire blog post trying to justify the needless expense of the GT, when the plain fact is we're never going to use it for parts. It's too much fun to drive, too good-looking, too classic, and far too practical. It holds more than any other car we've owned for years, it's cheap to register, good on gas, and like the Locost it's super reliable, by which we mean there isn't anything that can go wrong with it that we can't fix. So the GT's a keeper, and if we ever need parts for the Locost, we'll just have to get them off eBay like everyone else.

For all its wholesome goodness, the GT does have one downside that we hadn't anticipated. Whenever we're out driving around, we get just as many questions about the car from strangers as we do with the Locost. You'd think, being an actual production car built by someone else, that no one would care. But no. Like the Locost, everyone wants to know what year it is. The more knowledgeable want to know whether it's a Morgan or a Triumph. Given that choice, we usually say Morgan. Then we roll up the windows. No sense starting an argument in the middle of traffic.


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