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1974 MGB-GT

'Miss Ebony'

46,000 Original Miles
1800 cc 4-cylinder
4-speed Transmission w/Overdrive
Dual SU HIF 4s/Janspeed Header

June 7, 2022 - The GT has been pretty much completed for a while but scrambling to get my 1949 TC ready for a major show delayed its initial drive. Tonight, I took 'Miss Ebony' out on the road for the first time to drive to a local MG Club meeting. The car did great with good acceleration and handling, crisp shifting and solid overdrive performance! Pretty good for the first time on the road in over 20 years!  In the background of the first image is a blue MGA roadster - if you check back on my Blasts of the Past, you'll find it used to be mine!  Of course, it was a red project back before I sold it to someone else who finished it up.
June 6, 2022 - The local MG Club meeting is tomorrow night, and of course the first thing I did was make sure the car is ready to drive...  NOT!  I have only taken the car around the block once, but I have faith in the car and she looked terrible.  Dirty and dull, showing the evidence of neglect as I got other vehicles ready for a major show.  So tonight, with several hours of daylight left, I washed and waxed the car to bring the black paint back out.  You can see the line between gray and black where I had done half the roof.  In truth, I need to really strip the old wax and compound the paint, but she came out decent with a couple of coats of Meguire's Carnuba and some clean towels.
May 13, 2022 - Miss Ebony came with a locking gas cap that looks good and works fine, and even has three keys!  But I have never liked locking gas caps, probably due to early days when I was known to lose keys.  I ordered a new cap for the car a few weeks ago only to find out the car has an early (1963-1969) gas cap with internal locking lugs instead of the cap used from 1970-1980.  Another variation for the 3-month 1974.5 rubber bumper cars.  A new early cap arrived today and I installed it.  At this point, I only need to get the headlight switch replaced (a new one is in stock) and do a good re-bleed of the brakes.  However, the car has to wait while I get the MG TC, EV Warrior, and Solex ready for  the AACA Grand Nationals show being held this week.
May 7, 2022 - One annoyance of MGBs is the battery stowage under the rear seat.  You usually have to get a flat-tipped screwdriver and twist five Druz fittings, then tug the cover free.  I just got in two battery covers from Little British Cars (LBC) and installed them today.  You leave two of the fittings locked in place and the rest of the cover swings up on a full-length hinge. Rodney's was easy, a straight exchange. However, Miss Ebony had to be 'different.'  Instead of five Druz fittings, she only has three.  I solved the issue by adding a pan-head screw to secure the hinge and relocating one of the locking fittings to the top.  So far I have not seen any further brake fluid on the floor, and the pedals both remain firm.  Also, I found out the brake lights are working. The headlights do not come on, but I think that is an issue with the light switch, for which I already have a new replacement.
May 3 2022 - I started off installing new Lucas horns in Ebony - I have had the horns in the original boxes for years, and the ones on the car were tired and rusty.  Curious issue - the horns both sound strong individually, but when I hook them both up I get just a click.  Probably a ground issue.  I'll check the wiring.  Then a big surprise early this afternoon - the fuel tank arrived from Moss!  Considering that I just ordered it late Saturday and chose the cheapest shipping ($24), getting it so quick was unexpected.  Since everything was ready to go, I installed it.  No issues, and the tank looks great.  It is the larger 16 gallon touring tank, and I also installed a new sending unit, packing, and installation nuts and bolts. With some gas added, I ran the car to the service station and then around the block with no unplanned stops for the first time!  The headlights are not working, which I think is the light switch.  Parking and turn signal lights all look good.  I need to check the brake lights, and already have a new switch in stock just in case.  Overdrive is working as well. Getting very close!
May 1, 2022 - Multiple jobs done today - I finished up the brakes and pulled the old fuel tank.  The right brake drum turned out to be difficult to remove as one of the studs was bent.  I was able to get it back into shape using an old lug nut and a hammer, and then cleaned and redid the brake assembly.  Happily, none of the fasteners or fittings, including those of the fuel tank, gave me any trouble. I also replaced the rear brake hose, so all of the perishable parts are now new. An initial bleed and adjust has been done, though I need to repeat the procedure once the new gas tank has been installed and the car is off the jack stands. The underside of the body where the fuel tank mounts was undercoated before the tank was installed and still looks as good as it did in 1974. The tank has a lot of surface rust, but is being replaced anyway.  Now to wait for the new tank to arrive from Moss!
April 30, 2022 - The pedal box got finished up this morning and I actually drove the GT to the corner gas station for a few gallons of high test. Then I took a triumphant spin around the neighborhood - for less than 1 block.  The rush of new fuel combined with some active driving to turn what had been slightly cloudy fuel into what looked like rusty water!  The tank filter got clogged again, but I was able to blow it out with compressed air from my CO2 bicycle inflator and drive the car home.  I had suspected that the tank would have to be replaced from the start, so this is not really a huge surprise. When I got home, I disconnected the fuel line and ran the car on an external pump drawing from a 1-gallon can to flush out the carburetors.  Then a touring (16 gallon) tank with fittings and hardware was ordered from Moss Motors.  The only casualty of Ebony's original move was the left marker lens, which got cracked when the car bounced sideways on the trip home.  Chip had a good spare, which I cleaned and polished and then installed.  Then I got a start on the rear brakes since I had to get the rear end up for the fuel tank anyway.  The rear brakes have been dragging, which might have just been an adjustment.  Looking at the left side, the shoes looked almost new and the wheel cylinder was not leaking.  However, the car has been sitting 20 years and I am not about to trust the old brake seals.  New shoes and wheel cylinder went in, which at least gives me a little less worry. 
April 29, 2022 - The order from Moss arrived this afternoon, and I took some time to install the new radiator and hood seals.  I was looking up the right radiator seal length in 'Original MGB' and realized the seal in the car was the original.  So I cut it to match.  I also have the pedal box seals, and should have the car ready to drive tomorrow. 
April 28, 2022 - Very minor upgrade today - I installed Cobalt plug wires to replace the new but basic wire set that had been a placeholder.  So far the car is starting up and running great.  Waiting on pedal box seals from Moss so I can finish getting the car together and see how she drives.
April 26, 2022 - Further examination of the leaky caliper uncovered a serious issue - the dolt who rebuilt it failed to install the main seal for one of the pistons!  I resolved to give the wretched bloke a sound thrashing.  (Ouch, ow!)  With all of the seals in place, the calipers and master cylinder came up to pressure and I was able to get Ebony back on all four wheels, complete with all of the new lug nuts.
April 25, 2022 - What should have been a simple bleed of the front brakes turns into a mess as the right caliper dumped fluid.  No idea from where, but obviously the leak mentioned by the person I bought them from wasn't the seals.  It looks like there may be a bad crack in the housing, though I didn't see one.  Happily, I have the new guts and seals that can be transferred to the original calipers.  I cleaned up both, though so far only the right side is leaking.  I'll do a final scour and install the seals and pistons and see if that cures the leak.
April 24, 2022 - The freshly blasted pedal box and cover got Appliance Gloss Black paint today. Then I cleaned and scoured the mounting area and gave it a coat of black engine enamel.  A trip to Ace Hardware netted stainless nuts and bolts to mount the master cylinders in place, and the brake lines hooked up with no trouble.  The clutch line, however... more than an hour later I went to Advance and picked up a pick set that would let me retrieve the small copper washer that kept falling off as I worked to install the banjo fitting.  No luck.  Happily, Best Bud Chip came over and we got the piece installed in just a few minutes.  The clutch came up to a full pedal right off, but the brakes have to be bled. 
April 23, 2022 - Both front wheels got a full overhaul, with repacked wheel bearings, new rotors, calipers, and pads, and new hoses. There was a brief concern over the hoses - the right side seemed to be too short as I could not turn full to the left without stretching the hose. I verified these were the longer 14" versions, then matched the length of the new to the old. Then Best Bud Chip (MG mechanic extraordinaire)  noted that the front end is in the air and hanging down much lower than usual.  Moving on the the master cylinders, I found a pretty nasty mess.  Actually, both masters are still functioning and show no signs of leakage.  However, there has been enough spillage over the years to create a pretty good mess inside the brake box.  A trip to the bead blaster cleaned off 48 years of rust and goo.  I also cleaned up and rebuilt the original clutch master cylinder, which had 46K miles on it and is generally much better quality than the aftermarket master than came with the Moss clutch hydraulics kit.  Tomorrow will possibly get the mounting area cleaned and painted.
April 21, 2022 - A bit of free time from work allowed me to get the calipers put back together today.  I also have the parts in from Moss - new brake master cylinder, hoses, copper seals, rear cylinders and shoes, as well as a complete clutch hydraulics set.  This joins the rebuilt calipers and new rotors to allow a total hydraulics rebuild.  I may substitute a rebuilt original clutch master cylinder, as the new one looks different (plastic reservoir).  In any case, should be making progress this weekend.
April 17, 2022 - After blowing out the lines, the car is getting fuel again.  I suspect the filter sock on the pickup got clogged with old ethanol.  I have a bunch of filters I can go through, and can also use the other tank Chip.  In the meantime, the car is running great!  You can see a video of it by clicking here. Now that it is running well, I need to make sure it will stop well.  The front brakes are hanging up, so I pulled out some 'new' calipers I picked up recently.  They leaked when installed by the previous owner, which means a bad seal or two.  I got a complete rebuild kit and will replace the seals, and also have new rotors and brake pads.  New hoses are on the way, along with new rear cylinders and shoes.
April 15, 2022 - A big day today - I actually got to drive the GT after sorting out a bad carburetor.  OK, I only made it a block away, but that was due to a blocked fuel line.  The car has been stumbling and we couldn't balance the carbs.  I checked the timing and readjusted the valves with no improvement. Turns out the rear jet was locked in place and had to be worked out with pliers.  Once that was cleaned up and reinstalled, the jets were adjusted  and the car started and ran great.  My first run ended halfway around the neighborhood when the engine died.  Fuel starvation. With Chip's help, I used the external pump and a gas can to drive the car home.  Having a bad tank/clogged fuel line is really no surprise, given the long time the car was sitting.  I am mostly just very happy to have a strong engine!  Some other issues - front brakes feel like they are hanging up, but I have new rotors and calipers  and will order some other hydraulic components so I can go through the systems.
April 4, 2022 - One of the personal touches that SSGT Edmead added was a wooden 'T-handle' shifter that didn't work for me.  I was able to order a correct factory-style leather shifter knob that came in today.  The engine starts and idles great, but appears to starve for fuel at higher RPM.  Very likely the fuel tank and sending unit need to be cleaned or replaced.  Chip has offered a late model fuel tank that is clean and ready to go.  Looks like that will be the next big job.
April 2, 2022 - A busy day today - first and foremost, the GT is running again!  I got the radiator topped off and the valves adjusted to .015" clearance as specified in the manual. The cylinder head transplant appears to have been successful, as was the repair to the thermostat stud.  No leaks evident even after letting the car idle up to full operating temperature, which still maintained about 60 PSI oil pressure at 900 RPM.  You can see it running on a YouTube video here.  Next, the right side steering rack bellows was toast, so I replaced it, as well as the chrome lug nuts.
April 1, 2022 - No April Fools here!  I ended up with part of the day free and attacked the snapped-off stud.  I have been soaking the hole with the remnant with penetrating oil all week, and went over to O'Reilly's to get some stud extractors.  A small bit of aluminum tubing was used to protect the head as I drilled the stud with increasingly larger bits.  The various extractors really didn't do much, and I ended up drilling out to the edge of the threads.  Then I used a tap and was able to recut the threads without needed a Helicoil.  I used a magnet to get the filings out of the head cooling passage, and put a little sealer on both sides of the gasket so I wouldn't have to torque down too tight.  It feels solid, but I do not want to push my luck.  Anyway, a new thermostat and temperature sending unit are installed as well.  All that is left is to adjust the valves, and then Ebony should be ready to run.
March 27, 2022 - Chip had the needed gaskets, and I got the heater valve installed yesterday.  However, one of the thermostat housing studs had stripped and the others were weak.  I was able to get two out of the head, and all three out of Ebony's original head, but the last one on the engine refused to budge even with heat and penetrating oil.  I bought a stud extractor that partly worked - it removed about 95% of the stud.  Unfortunately, the remaining 5% is still stuck in the hole.  I will let it soak with penetrating out and try to drill it out later.  So close!
March 25, 2022 - Ebony is almost completely together now - I was able to get the carburetors installed, new plugs, temperature sending unit, and other parts.  Chip helped by installing a new heater valve to replace the internally gunked up original, but I am short two gaskets - temperature sending unit and heater valve.  Other than those and adjusting the valves, the car is ready to start.  I also need to replace the left steering rack bellows, but that part is in stock.
March 22, 2022 - Sometimes luck plays a big role in car tinkering.  The GT has a nice stainless steel exhaust that was connected to the old header through a collector pipe, adapters, and a jury-rigged pipe.  While looking for adapters to connect the new head up, I came across this single exhaust extension which not only fit both ends, but bridged the gap perfectly.  The stainless exhaust and header are both fully on the extension and the hanger bolts lined up exactly.  I couldn't have made a better piece if I had tried.  That leaves getting the carbs on and the valves adjusted as the major steps to getting the car running.  I also need to replace the steering rack bellows while the car is up on jack stands.
March 21, 2022 - A closer look at the original header setup turned up rust holes on both sides of the collector, plus leaks around the pipes.  Going with a stock exhaust manifold would mean having to buy a headpipe setup. So I went with the 'new' Janspeed, which took quite a bit of persuading to get installed.  Twisting around, pushing, pulling, and prying finally got the unit in place, and I got it bolted up.  It has a nice finish of ceramic aluminum manifold paint, but I expect it will burn off pretty quick.  I still need to get a 1-7/8 to 1-3/4 adapter, but those pretty common.  Not much left to get the engine back together.  I really hope it runs well!
March 20, 2022 - Some more work getting the car back together.  I cleaned and painted the engine, bead blasted and painted the intake manifold, and fixed a bent motor mount on the left front. The last big thing is to figure out what to do about the exhaust system.  The car had a two-piece header set going into a collector that was leaking at the pipe joints and also has a rust hole.  I can probably fix those, but I also have a really nice Janspeed 1-piece header that will need a collector adapter or a stock cast exhaust manifold that will need the head pipe.
March 19, 2022 - A very busy afternoon today - Chip and I pulled the head and found the issue with compression on #3 - can you spot the problem?  (Hint - valves are supposed to be perfectly round).  This was no big surprise, as I had pretty much figured on valve issues back on March 1 when I did the dollar bill test.  (A 'flapping' bill at the tailpipe indicates a burned or stuck valve). There was no other obvious damage, and a test with oil in the cylinders revealed no ring leakage.  It just so happens that I had a spare rebuilt MGB engine with a good head, and after a successful leak test with gasoline (Fuel poured into the head did not leak out past the valves), installed the replacement head.  Of course, I found my copper head gasket spray in the laundry room AFTER Chip ran home to get his. Anyway, the head is torqued down, and I will sort out an exhaust leak and cleaning and painting as I put things back together.  On the plus side, I doubt anyone else could have bought the GT and had most of what they needed to get it going already on hand!
March 15, 2022 - I ordered a NOS Lucas starter relay as soon as I knew my old one was bad.  It arrived today and I installed it at lunch.  Starter works fine with it, so the old one goes back to Chip.  I am sure I have one in a box somewhere - relays are one thing I usually snag in junkyards.
March 14, 2022 - Warm weather and a few hours between work and sunset gave me time to work on the GT tonight. Although the car only has 46K original miles, the factory door panels have gotten faded and stretched around the window crank and arm rest. I was able to order in a full set of interior panels in Autumn Leaf and got the door panels installed tonight. The doors still have their original moisture barriers and all of the plastic clips transferred over intact. The right side window crank was cracked, but I had a new one in my spares.
March 13, 2022 - Less than happy news today - a compression test revealed three cylinders at 100 PSI compression and cylinder #3 at 60 PSI, then 40 PSI once the engine had warmed up.  This indicates a burned valve or some other loss of compression.  With no blow-by detected while the engine in running and no mix of coolant, the trouble is likely in the head.  On the plus side, I have a spare rebuilt engine with a clean head I can simply swap over.  And since I already have to pull the manifold to fix an exhaust leak and have a full gasket set on hand, it is just a matter of getting time and weather to cooperate.
March 12, 2022 - Miss Ebony was serviced in her early years at Beer of Houghton - 'Beer' being the name of the proprietor and not the beverage. I found the tax disc holder from them under the seat.  In the UK, you had to display a tax disc on the windshield to indicate the vehicle had its Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) tax paid. I actually just found out that tax discs were not used after 2014, as my last trip to the UK was also in that year.  I can remember searching for a disc that blew out of its holder during a ride in an MG TC.  I saw it fly out and told the driver in time for us to find it after a long hunt along the roadside.  Anyway, the image above is of the garage itself in 2021, with many MGBs on the premises.  There is also a Morris Minor Traveller like mine!  Also, I located the syringes on Amazon and have ordered some for both of us - Chip dropped off a pair in my mailbox this morning, so given some better weather (pouring rain with snow expected later today) I will see about clearing the rear carb.
March 11, 2022 -  Between weather and work there hasn't been much time for the GT.  However, it was 60 degrees and sunny today, and we finished up with work at 11 AM - so it was out to tinker!  First thing was to mount the new wheels and tires so I could get some room back in the garage.  Looking at the photo top left, can you tell which is the new tire and repainted wheel and which is the 28 year-old tire and wheel combo?  The correct answer is the one on the left, even though the 1996 tires have 'hair' on the tread.  Next I attacked the driver's seat, which had collapsed internally.  As usual, removing the four bolts that hold the seat in took a long time, and there were some interesting items underneath.  The round item in the center of the floor is an old UK Tax Disc holder from 'Beer of Houghton' - not a pub, but a garage that did work on the GT when it lived in England.  There was also a UK 10 Pense coin, along with 91 cents in US coins. I scrubbed the rubber floor mat and side channel rubber with cleaner, and then attacked the seat itself.  As it turns out, the foam seems to be in good shape if pretty dirty, but I had ordered new foam along with the new support diaphragm.  Getting the new diaphragm in was a lot more work than expected, but the results look and sit great!  Though getting the bolts back in place for the seat mounts was even harder than getting them out. Then a couple of small jobs - the old chrome air grate (top item in bottom left photo) was corroded and pitted, so a nice shiny new one took its place.  And the interior map light was crumbling and held together with clear packing tape.  I bought the whole lamp but only replaced the lens, using the original straight-edge screws instead of the new Phillips heads. No progress on the engine, but I am looking for a syringe like Chip has to try pulling fuel through the jet and getting the cab cleaned out.  Speaking of Chip, he not only identified the starter issue as a bad relay on the fender well, but had a spare at home!  It is installed and the starter works fine.
March 3, 2022 -  Things are looking up a bit - a pulled the valve cover at lunch and rotated the crankshaft a few times.  No indication of a stuck valve, so next comes a compression check.  The starter is not kicking in, something it did the other day but began working again.  I'll have to get underneath and check all of the connections.  Chip has a starter so I am still looking forward to figuring out Ebony's woes this weekend.  And her plates arrived today, so she is official!
March 1, 2022 -  Good news and bad news on the GT.  Bad news is that after changing plugs and wires at lunch today, the car is still missing badly. I did a paper test at the tailpipe and found a bad suction that is likely to be a stuck valve. The old gas that fouled the carb may have done more harm - nothing long-term, but I will have to at least pull the valve cover and possibly the rocker arm.  On the positive side, I got the centers of the newly-painted Roistyle rims done up in satin black enamel, and they came out quite well.  It was tedious work done with an artist's brush, but the edges look good. 
February 27, 2022 -  The GT is running, if badly.  Part of the issue was bad gas and crud in the carbs.  Happily, the accumulated crud came off pretty easily, and the fuel is coming through the filter clean. Most of yesterday was taken up bead blast Roistyles front and back and getting them repainted in proper wheel silver before running them over to Discount Tire for a new set of 185/70-14 radials.  The tires on the car probably have less than five miles on them, but are 26 years old. Next checks will be cleaning the plugs and replacing the park plug wires, as well as checking  out the distributor.  And I have to paint the black inserts in the Roistyles.
February 23, 2022 -  A framed picture of the GT as it was in the UK is encouraging - still original, and the car looks almost exactly the same at least 36 years later.  I don't have much information on what happened to the prior owner, but I have pieced together a lot of the car's history from receipts and other paperwork. The GT was bought new by SGT John S. Edmead in Suffolk, England on December 12, 1974 for the sum of $4750, financed for 48 months and a total of $6004.43.  He had been stationed at RAF Bentwaters outside of Ipswich.
February 22, 2022 - Some less thrilling discoveries:  the gas looks like rusty water, and the tires, while having maybe ten miles on them, are date coded for the second week of 1996.  26 year-old tires are probably less than safe, so new ones will be purchased.  I set up an electric pump to empty the tank, then used the new electric pump installed last night to draw out the last dregs.  Fresh gas will be used to flush out the lines and system, and I will have to clear the bad fuel from the carbs before I try to start it.  On the plus side, I was able to make a lunchtime trip and get the car titled and registered - she will have personalized plates reading 'EBONY 74.'  And I bought a really nice 1/18th black chrome-bumper MGB-GT V8 model at the auction and already had a light green rubber bumper version 4-cylinder from the same company.  I was able to swap out the interior, chassis, engine, and bumpers to change the car to match Miss Ebony.
February 21, 2022 - The ever-generous Jim V and son met me at the auction site and delivered the GT for me this morning!  I got the title since I paid in cash, so maybe later this week I can get her titled and tagged. First order of business, of course, was getting the car cleaned up.  Although the windshield gasket and door seals look new, the paint is original and still great looking.  And inspecting underneath I discovered that the car DOES have the very desirable overdrive transmission.  A new-in-the-box bra was a perfect fit, though it won't go on for a while.  Some other good discoveries - the hydraulics are up full and strong, and there were a lot of tools inside the car, as well as a 12-volt battery tender..  Some oddities - the car has not been driven since 2006, but was obviously started occasionally through at least 2013, when a new battery was installed.  Also, when I was poking through the DMV website trying to come up with a good license plate, I decided on EBONY 74.  When I looked through the car today, I discovered the car's name posted on a label on the dash:  Miss Ebony!  I also installed a new fuel pump, but the old gas has to be drained before she will run.
February 19, 2022 - About a month ago, my daily review of local car ads turned up a veritable unicorn being sold locally - a 1973 MGB-GT V8!  This is a very rare factory model made only two years that was powered by the Rover aluminum V8 engine.  I had fantasies of buying this valuable and desirable  motorcar for cheap, as it turned out the MG was part of a household goods auction being run by a local company.  Common sense prevailed and I told members of my MG club about the car.  However, there was also a black 1974.5 GT being sold, so best bud Chip and I rolled over for a look.  I have always liked the rubber-bumper GTs, and this first edition of the car still had dual SUs and no catalytic converter to deal with. And while the technically more desirable V8 had some minor rust, dings, and corrosion, the rubber bumper car appeared nearly perfect under 4 years of dust.  Last on the road in 2018, it was a pampered one-owner car with just 46K miles on the odometer.  Bought new and driven in the UK, the car sported numerous MG Owner's club participation plaques.  Further investigation revealed new gaskets and seals, near perfect original nylon upholstery, zero rust, and detailed records.  With focus shifted to a much more attainable target, I registered for the auction and set a budget top end of my available 'car cash'.  Which I ended up exceeding by $300 in the last minutes of the auction.  However, I had the final successful bid, and come Monday I will be bringing the car home.  It wasn't cheap, but it was still an excellent buy for what I got.  Next comes waking it up after 4 years of slumber, and a good detailing!

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