An M.G. Locost Build

October 12, 2017

We have recently been reminded that we're not very good at having more than one fun car at a time. We learned this lesson a long time ago, back when we first had enough money to own more than one fun car at a time, the lesson being that if you have only one fun car, you can focus all of your attention on it, give it whatever it needs, wash it all the time, fix it when it breaks, and drive it whenever you want. If you have two fun cars, one of them will get neglected. It'll get only enough attention to keep it running, if that. It's not intentional, it's just the way it works. We're not sure why.

  Parts car taking over the commute duties
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When we bought the parts car last June, we were just looking for a good daily driver. We didn't realize at the time it was going to be another fun car. Now that it is, we find ourselves working on it more than the Locost. Not that the Locost needs a lot of work, just the occasional repair when parts fall off, or the occasional oil check. We have a couple of winter jobs in mind for the Locost, basically the same jobs we had last winter and the winter before that, but of course we didn't do them back then and it's unlikely we'll do them this year, so not much to do on the Locost.

The parts car, on the other hand, needs a ton of work. It runs well enough and we enjoy driving it, but it has electrical issues, steering issues, cosmetic issues, and a couple of noises emanating from the suspension whenever we push it in the turns. The body is in good shape but the paint has a few chips, although we have no hope of finding even an approximate color match so we'll live with that. The back seat is pretty torn up, the choke cable sticks, the rear axle bearing seals leak, and the gear shift lever is still way too tall. Those are the minor issues.

Unknown parts car ignition with too many wires  
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The biggest problem with the parts car is the ignition system. It's bogus. Not M.G. parts at all. It works okay, but not well, and we don't know anything about it, so we have no way of fixing it or even adjusting it. Above 2500 RPMs it's fine, but below that it's hit or miss, emphasis on the miss. So we decided we had to do something, and what we did was order a new all-M.G. ignition system, a rebuilt 25D distributor along with new wires and coil from M.G. ignition systems guru Jeff Schlemmer. Once we get the new distributor installed, we're sure the parts car will run great.

There's just one problem with this. The Locost needs a new distributor, too. It runs well enough up to about 3800 RPMs, but above that a vibration starts to set in. You can feel it in the throttle pedal. A minute later the engine begins to miss, badly, and you have to slow everything down to get it going again. One evening last June the vibration got so bad that the points block broke in half, stranding us on the side of the road. We also think the vibration could've had something to do with the carbon brush that disappeared earlier this year from the distributor cap. We know the distributor is old and worn, the center shaft loose in its bearings. It could die at any moment.

  Locost distributor in pre-failure mode
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So you can see the dilemma. New ignition systems, as you might imagine, don't grow on trees. One was all we could afford. So which car gets the new distributor and which car gets neglected? We could always argue that the Locost is the oldest in the fleet and should therefore have priority, on the other hand you can't use that argument when you're talking about your kids. Fortunately the new parts haven't yet arrived so we don't have to decide right away, and other factors may come into play that'll sway the decision, like for example wrapping one car or the other around a lamp post.

In the meantime, we fixed one of the problems with the parts car. We changed the oil for the first time, which normally wouldn't be a fix, or even a problem, but in this case we were unable to remove the old filter by ordinary means, or extraordinary means, and had to remove the entire filter adapter unit from the car so we could hammer the old filter off with a chisel. Apparently, some previous owner of the car cross-threaded the filter mount, then managed to torque a filter past the bad threads with enough force to get a decent seal, and obviously no one had ever removed the filter since.

After hammering away for a good half an hour, we finally did get the filter off, and then chased the threads with a 3/4"-16 die, which of course we didn't have but were able to buy from our local hardware store for about the cost of a new adapter unit. Once we could spin the new filter on easily, we bolted the adapter to the engine using the old gaskets, installed the new oil filter, and also remembered to change the oil. So that was one for the parts car, and of course we had to even things out, so we also fixed the exhaust clearance issue on the Locost, something we didn't anticipate doing any time this year, if ever.

Paint sort of protected from grinding exhaust peg  
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We did have to unbolt the exhaust again, but this time we didn't have to remove the seats and side panels, because we ground away most of the body mount with the part still attached to the car. Some tape and cardboard kept most of the paint intact, and by grinding only a little bit at a time we avoided melting the aluminum body panels. Afterwards we repainted a couple of spots on the exhaust that we missed last time, but the spots were small so we didn't have to waste any time waiting for the paint to dry. So a few quality hours spent tinkering with the Locost.

  Locost exhaust finally free to move around
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Right now we don't think we're neglecting either car, although that could change at any minute. We certainly drive them both. Most of the time we still prefer to drive the Locost, except when it's raining, in which case it's a toss-up. The Locost totally out-handles the parts car, most cars actually, and it's quicker from A to B than the parts car, so long as A and B are dry. On the other hand, if you're not in a big hurry and also not up for bracing yourself for impact at the sight of every pavement change or pothole in the road, the parts car would be more comfortable. And it carries more.

But we have to be careful. Besides just working on the parts car more than the Locost, we also wash it more. To be fair, a garden hose is a lot easier to work with than a spray bottle, and we can roll up the windows on the parts car while the Locost doesn't have windows. Plus, the parts car doesn't look so good when it's dirty, and the Locost always looks stunning. So we think we're finding a pretty good balance on average, not really favoring one car over the other, but of course all that will change when the new ignition system arrives. That's when we'll know. Not sure we're looking forward to it.


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