An M.G. Locost Build
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November 3, 2017
We Have Ignition

We got it. We received our brand new ignition system from M.G. guru Jeff Schlemmer and bolted it into the car. The entire job took less than an hour, including changing the spark plugs, setting the timing, and finding all the parts we lost in the garage. The end result is fantastic. The engine is smooth as silk and idles beautifully, better than ever. It spins all the way to redline and starts easily hot or cold. Most noticeable, though, besides all the extra torque, is the throttle response. The car totally jumps off the line now, based as usual on our own definition of jumps.

  Shiny new ignition system parts
click to enlarge

A couple of amazing things about the new ignition system. First of all, any tendency the engine had to run on after shutting it down is gone. Run-on was never terrible, but it was a problem from time to time, and we were not always kind to the clutch whenever we needed to get the engine to stop turning over when we were done using it. Now we can shut off the car in neutral and the engine just spins down to a smooth stop. On top of that, our fuel mileage shot up by a ton. We used to struggle to get twenty miles from a gallon of gas, now twenty-five is easy.

Both of these improvements seem to indicate that our old ignition system was barely managing to put out a decent spark at the right point in the combustion cycle. The first time we started the car with the new distributor, the engine idled way up at 2000 RPMs. That's how bad the old system was, that we had to run that much throttle at idle. We backed the idle screws down to 750 RPMs and the engine just purred. What a difference. It works so well, we wish we could afford another one of Jeff's kits for the other car, which must even now be feeling a little bit neglected. Oh, well, one thing at a time.

Sorry, what? We didn't mention which car got the new ignition system? Thought we did. Maybe not. We're just so happy with the way the car runs now. Absolutely smooth through the whole rev range, and all that extra torque, like five guys back there pushing. The new ignition also looks nicer in the car, bright and shiny, especially with new wires and a dazzling blue Bosch ignition coil. Jeff knows where to find the best parts, and he really does some amazing work. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend his services to anyone who needs a new distributor for their M.G., or thinks they might.

Gear shift knob at proper height  
click to enlarge

Moving on, we got a few more items fixed on the parts car. First, we finally replaced the too-tall shift lever with a shorter model, a job that was uneventful except for all of the tiny bits that fell into the gearbox mount, and of course the additional grease stains on the carpeting, dashboard, console, headliner, seats, and whatever else we happened to touch and/or drop tiny parts onto. In the end it was all worth it, though, except for the cost. Shifting is not all that much better, but at least it's easy to find the shift knob now without looking over there.

We also recovered the back seat with a vinyl cover from eBay that was only slightly too small and looks nothing like the original. But it's black with black piping, and cost only about one-fourth the price of genuine MGB GT back seat covers from Moss Motors, so it actually doesn't look too bad. Of course the Moss item probably covers the whole seat, while the eBay part only covers the front and sides, so we had to improvise with some cheap carpet material from O'Reilly Auto Parts, which also doesn't look too bad but can't possibly last more than a few months, at best.

  New back seat cover close to original color
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Another irritant of the parts car that we've tried our best to ignore is the racket produced by the rear hatch struts. This is not a simple rattle or squeak, which we could deal with, but rather a complex symphony of screeches, howls, squeals, and bangs that continue on for miles, worse at some RPMs than others. It seems almost impossible that a pair of simple spring-loaded support rods could possibly generate that much noise, and we couldn't quite believe it, but then we removed the struts from the car one day, and the whole orchestra disappeared.

But we soon found it was difficult to hold the heavy hatch up with one hand and shove things into the car with the other. The struts apparently have a job to do, and even though the engineers at M.G. did their best to come up with a device that would do this both simply and reliably, they failed to come up with one that wouldn't wear out after forty or fifty years of use. To their credit, the spring-loaded struts were still able hold the hatch safely in position, but wear and tear had loosened the mechanisms to the point where they were free to squeal at the slightest provocation.

Modern strut technology in a 47-year-old car  
click to enlarge

Fortunately, somewhere during that forty or fifty year time period, the gas strut was invented. Or possibly earlier, but you started seeing them in cars back in the early eighties, or at least we did, which was long after the last MGB GT rolled off the Abingdon assembly line. Nowadays gas struts are almost universal, and finding one in the approximate length and capacity to hold up an MGB GT hatch was an easy task, since Moss Motors had already figured it out for us. So we ordered a pair of struts from Moss, and were able to decipher the cryptic instructions well enough to get them installed.

So the parts car is getting better piece by piece, although a growing vibration in the drive train has us looking at rebuilding the propshaft, the steering rack is getting looser by the day, and we still need to get the right turn signal working. The lamps light up when you flip the lever, but they don't blink. We used to be able to signal with the hazard switch, because it only lit up the right-hand lamps, but somewhere along the line we fixed that, probably by accident, and now the only way to signal for a right turn is to flip the lever up and down at the proper cadence manually.

  Flasher somewhere under the parts car dash
click to enlarge

Someday we'll figure it out, but it'll probably mean climbing under the dash, which we learned when we replaced the speedometer is not actually possible. Maybe through some convoluted system of lights, mirrors, pliers, and clamps we can simulate climbing under the dash, although that probably won't work either. In the meantime the rainy season has started here in California, so we either have to drive the parts car or walk, which means we'll have to keep flipping the stupid turn signal lever up and down until it breaks off, which can't be long now.

But enough about the parts car. This is our Locost blog, not our parts car blog. The parts car can be useful at times, and fun to drive in its own way, but it's never going to have the same cachet as the Locost. It's a parts car. The Locost, on the other hand, is the most fun car we've ever owned, by a long shot, and when the Locost needs parts, it gets parts, including the new ignition system, which as we might've mentioned, is amazing. We can spin the engine to redline again, and throttle response is excellent. The engine is even quieter now, probaby from not having to work so hard. Obviously this is something we should've done a long time ago, and we'll likely have more to say about this after a few more test drives.


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