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1979 MGB

1800 cc OHV 4-cylinder
4-Speed w/Overdrive
Luggage Rack

Phooka: an animal spirit of Great Britain that takes you for a wild ride and leaves you stranded


March 19, 2019 - The weather cooperated and I was able to pressure-wash the engine bay and block.  If I can get some reasonably warm temps over the next few days, I can paint the engine block and get the manifolds installed.  I still have to pull a lot of emission system hoses and get the heater hoses hooked up without the hot water flow to the old Zenith choke.
March 17, 2019 - I went through the Weber manifolds and had one with the heater pipe that works with the later models.  It was grungy, but some time with the bead blaster and then steel wool got it looking almost new.  The Weber I picked up from an MG Club member has been on the shelf a long time and I wisely chose to open it up.  The power valve and accelerator pump were both petrified, though the inside was clean.  Happily, I have had a Weber rebuild kit for a decade that was still good, and I put in new gaskets and rubber parts.  A new stainless steel exhaust header is in the laundry room, also ready to go.  I am going to clean the block  and install new valve lifter covers.
March 16, 2019 - After one last try to get the idle down, I have stripped off the old Zenith carb and catalytic converter.  I was surprised how easily the nuts came loose - they were tight, but spun off with no trouble once broken free.  Then again, the engine was rebuilt not that long ago.  I'll clean the block and start putting things back together.  First step is going through the Weber and making sure everything is working right.  I actually have three Weber manifolds and carbs to pick and choose from, plus a rebuilt kit.  And nothing I have done is more than nuts and bolts conversion - the car can be made fully stock again with no problem.  Well, other than getting the %$#@! Zenith carb setup to work properly!
March 12, 2019 - More carb work and swapping things out has not helped - the car starts up and runs fine, but at a 2000 RPM idle. It acts like there is a bad vacuum leak, but I can't find anything.  So it is time to try the new polished stainless steel header and Weber setup I have waiting in the wings. This will dramatically change the look of the engine, but it's all nuts and bolts, and I will be keeping the original setup.  I lubed the bolts tonight in hopes of an easier removal this week.
February 24, 2019 - I pulled the start last night and was surprised to find that the local O'Reilly's Auto Parts had it on the shelf with a lifetime warranty for $89!  However, since I was not sure about the batteries, I had them test the old starter before I traded it in - turns out the starter works great!  BOTH batteries were bad!  I picked up a new 5-year warranty battery from Sam's Club last night, and Chip came over to lend a hand (literally) getting the starter back in.  I got everything hooked back up and the new battery installed, and Phooka fired right up.  It still is not idling well, and there is a metallic rattle that seems to be coming form the catalytic converter.  I am pretty close to the point of pulling the whole setup and installing the Weber and header! 
February 19, 2019 - Phooka is living up (or down) to its name - lots of annoying problems.  I decided to try swapping out carbs again (after fixing the reversed throttle plate) and got that done pretty easily.  However, when I went to start the car, the battery was almost dead.  Since it was a 2013 3-year battery, I replaced it with one I had one the shelf.  The starter just clicked, so I put the replacement battery on charge and tried again tonight - still clicking - it seems the starter solenoid has gone out.  I have a new solenoid in my parts store, but that means I have to pull the starter off.  Something for the weekend.  In the meantime, I have picked up a really nice Weber carb setup with a K&N air filter, and have a good exhaust header to go with it.  If there are still problems with the Zenith setup once I get the car cranking again, I am going to swap it all out.
January 15, 2019 - I was able to get a good Airtex inline fuel pump through Amazon for $21, and replaced the fuel lines minus the fuel filter.  The new fuel pump did fill the front fuel filter, but the real issue turned out to be the automatic choke - the plugs were fouling out with gas.  I ended up going back to the manual choke setup, which I left in place when I was swapping out carbs.  This has the car running better, but I still need to work out the timing and mixture adjustments to get it smoothed out.
January 8, 2019 - As you can see in the picture above left, the original SU fuel pump has been replaced by one of the cheap aftermarket block pumps.  I replaced the fuel lines and removed the inline filter that had been installed between the tank and pump. However, as shown in the picture above right, the fuel pump is only producing a trickle.  The diaphragm must be bad, as the pump clicks away merrily.  Replacing the pump with a proper SU unit is an expensive prospect - I need to get the mounting bracket, banjo fittings, and pump shield for inside the trunk.  If I can find a block pump cheap, I may just replace the one I have. 
January 5, 2019 - The gasket worked well, and I was able to make the mounting hardware by cutting down a 'J' bolt from the local hardware store (see inset).  The top tightened down to a great fit and solid feel.  Unfortunately, I discovered there was a difference between driving the 1977 MGB I last had with a hardtop and this 1979.  The 1977 was nice looking, but had tired seats.  Everything is new in the 1979, especially in the interior - which meant new padding and diaphragms that have me sitting higher.  The end result is that my head brushes the top even without a hat, which means the hard top is a no-go.  To add insult to injury, the drive I took was to a gas station, as I had run the car out of fuel working on the carbs.  It started up great, ran fine - until I went to restart it at after fillup.  The car cranked but refused to start.  After letting it sit for about an hour, it fired back up and drove home fine.  Investigation turned up an empty fuel filter - the pump ticks but doesn't push fuel.  Either the pump is going bad or the suction hose is cracked and losing pull after it is run.  More investigation to come!
January 1, 2019 - I was able to cut and fit the gasket (from a 1984 Buick Electra trunk), and it looks like it will be perfect.  Getting it attached was a bit of a trial.  I tried using 3M heavy-duty double -sided tape and let it sit overnight.  However, the gasket fell off when I flipped it over to put it on. The tape did not stick to the gasket for some reason, though it took 30 minutes to get it all off the top itself.  So I went ahead and did what I should have done to start with - glued and clamped the seal in place.  I had to go back and redo one small section, but the gasket is now solidly attached.  I have the top on the car ready to cinch down with the j-bolts. 
December 29, 2018 - The hardtop is in excellent condition, but the outside vinyl had faded and gotten mottled.   To refinish it I cleaned it and then wiped down the vinyl with brake cleaner.  Then I taped everything up very carefully, and used Gloss Black Vinyl Paint (available in various colors at your local auto parts store).  I have used this before on vinyl tops and it holds up well.  As you can see by the image at right, the top came out like new!  A visit to Pick-N-Pull netted a gasket for the bottom that should work well - I just have to gather some clamps and glue it in place.
December 27, 2018 - I discovered why the car was fouling out and running badly - that is, best bud Chip discovered the problem.  I decided to swap back to the original carburetor, and as we compared the two Chip noticed the throttle plate on the 'new' carb had been installed backwards. (The round brass plate in the middle).  The spring-loaded air valve was being sucked closed instead of open, which caused the engine to choke out at low idle speeds, and put a lot of unburned gas out of the tailpipe.  The carb looks like it had been recently rebuilt - just assembled incorrectly.   Swapping back to the original and a few adjustments have Phooka running pretty decent.  The last big 'fix' was setting up the new relay for the cooling fans instead of the on/off switch.  The original setup routed all power for the cooling fans through the temperature sensor switch, which would burn out.  A prior owner installed a manual toggle switch for the fans - I added a 30-amp relay which is activated by a new thermo switch.  It keeps the engine cooled as needed, turning the fans on and off automatically the way they were supposed to work.
December 26, 2018 - A lot of work has been going on  in the background.  Chip came over and we ran a compressions test - all good and all slightly different, which means the head and gasket are in good shape.  The miss was solved early on - plug wires hooked up wrong - I can't imagine who did that!  The timing mark seems to be dead on, so the rough running is more an issue of timing and carb adjustments.  Possibly a rebuild is in the works - I am going to swap out carbs again with the emissions all pulled.   In the meantime, I have been eying a Snugtop Hardtop for the MGB that I saw on Marketplace.  A few messages back and forth, and I made the trip up to Northern VA today.  The top is in great shape, and the style I prefer. The price and rarity made it worth 8-hours on the road!
December 19, 2018 - The socket set screws showed up today, and I finished removing the smog system.  Nothing has been damaged, so it can all be bolted back up with no trouble. Several potential air leaks were discovered - the air rail nuts were very loose, and the gulp valve bracket bolt in the intake was loose enough to remove without a wrench.  Hopefully it will make diagnosing the missing and stumbling easier.
December 16, 2018 - With Rodney finished up and on the road, I moved Phooka into the garage for some serious tuning.  The first thing to go will be all of the smog equipment, which covers most of the engine.  It will all be carefully removed and stored for possible future use, but for now I want to get the car running properly.  The 40 year-old smog components are likely to be at least part of the cause of the car's rough idle and popping.  In any case, it will be easier to get the car set up with the smog system gone.
December 9, 2018 - The new carb went on pretty easily, and I was encouraged when the car fired right up and idled at a reasonable RPM. So I removed the old distributor, which turned out to be a bodged early 60s 25D with a jury-rigged power lead.  I also installed the new Lucas sport coil.  All done very neatly.  So of course, the car doesn't run properly.  The timing marks are not lining up, with #1 firing way off the mark on the harmonic balance.  Then it idled down and possibly fouled the plugs.  Chip has suggested removing the smog equipment, with is probably the best bet.  All nuts and bolts, not permanent change to the engine, and that takes a lot of potential issues out of the picture.
December 3, 2018 - I picked up another Zenith carb for Phooka off eBay and it arrived today.  It is exceptionally clean and looks like it can be bolted right on.  I pulled the bowl and was very pleased by the condition.  The only problem was that one of the automatic choke water inlets broke off in shipping. I can use the one off Phooka's carb, so that is no big deal.  I took advantage of the last reasonably warm day (60 F) to bead blast and repaint the air cleaner.  Starting tomorrow we are in the 30s and 40s for the foreseeable future!   The GT has been taking up all my time getting it back together after paint.
November 18, 2018 - Phooka has had some issue when it first starts - missing, racing, rough running.  Once it warmed up it was smooth and strong.  My initial suspect was the water-type automatic choke, a common problem with the original Zenith carbs. A good manual choke conversion kit came up on eBay and I got it in yesterday.  The conversion took a good bit of time, mostly in fitting the control cable in such a way it didn't look tacked on.  I ended up using the hole for the dash light rheostat, a never-used electronic control that was also bad.  The result looks factory and works well.  At least, it works the choke mechanism.  Phooka is living up to its name, for after all that work the start was even worse - though it was not missing, the idle was much higher and would not kick down for a bit, and it jumps back up to high idle.  I suspect something in the emissions electronics.  I also got in new lug nuts to replace the rusted ones on the car, and took time to adjust the brakes and handbrake.  That solved a weak handbrake issue and improved the braking quite a bit!
November 11, 2018 - Despite brisk temperatures, I was able to take Phooka out for a nice top-down drive to my Mom's.  The car won her over immediately - she loves the color combination and the overall look.  No more clutch issues - the makeshift clevis pin must have been the culprit.  I still need to get the carburetor sorted out.  I have a  rebuild kit and a manual choke conversion on the way. Once the car warms up it is really quick and smooth.  I'd like to keep the Zenith if I can.  I am also looking at an electronic distributor setup to replace the early points-style distributor in the car now,  It has a Lucas 25D, which is not quite right for the later cars, but seems to do OK. 
November 10, 2018 - While the weather and Daylight Savings Time have conspired to limit my tinkering time after work, I have gotten several things accomplished on Phooka.  First of all, the new hazard light switch fixed the turn signals, as expected.  Also, the personalized 'PHOOKA' plates came in, and I was able to restore the original front plate mount, which I have never seen before.  This morning I decided to replace the clutch pushrod and clevis pin, which a wise man (Yes, Chip, I am speaking about you) told me is often the cause of clutch issues due to wear and/or jury-rigs.  It seems that Phooka suffered from both.  In order to save about $2, the 'mechanic' who put in the clutch substituted a nut and bolt for the correct clevis pin, which he/she then cranked down tight enough to bend the clutch arm forks!  You can see that bolt is also deformed in the center. The new clevis seems to have cured the lag in clutch release I have sometimes encountered. I also replaced the smog pump and air filters, and installed new spark plugs.  All simple stuff so far.
November 3, 2018 - The electrical issue was easy to find - a really awful battery clamp!  Besides being worn out and having mismatched hardware, it was actually broken completely apart!  A $3.99 trip to O'Reilly's netted a nice new cable end and the electrics are back on.  I also fixed the turn signals, though I need to get a new hazard warning switch, and installed the new driver's armrest that came with the car.  Another potential issue is the battery, which dates back almost six years!  The last real issue for me is the cooling fan jury-rig.  I now have everything I need to wire in a new radiator thermostatic switch with a relay so the fans will only come on when needed. So far, it looks like Phooka's issues are just minor maintenance details.
November 2, 2018 - A couple of new bulbs got all the running lights working, and a fuse fixed the radio and the emergency flashers. I even got the courtesy light to come on with the door.  The turn signals remain unresponsive even with a new flasher - I need to track down the circuit.  Of course, with that much success, the car suddenly went completely dead.  I expect it has a loose cable or bad battery, but it was too late and a little drizzly, so I will wait until tomorrow to track down the issue.  I did locate a radio manual online - quite a fancy rig, with Bluetooth and a USB input!
November 1, 2018 - The Moss parts showed up and I had time to install the new hood bumpers and the fuse block.  The seller found the front license plate bracket, which I will pick up Saturday.
October 31, 2018 - I had a few hours of daylight after work and time before trick-or-treaters started showing up, so I decided to attack the MGB's paint.  While presentable, it was a bit dull.  A three-stage attack with clay bar, polish, and wax brought it out quite nicely.  The parts have not arrived from Moss yet - a bit disappointing as they are usually a two-day turnaround), but I did get the car registered and insured.  Personalized plates will proclaim her name as 'Phooka' - which is an animal spirit of the UK known to assume the form of a horse and then take a human on a wild ride and leave them stranded.  This is actually my second MGB with that name - the first was a 1977 that served as a daily driver for a couple of years!
October 29, 2018 - The Vespa was supposed to be my 'last' vehicle purchase for a while, BUT...  I look at the offerings on eBay, Craig's List, and Facebook Marketplace every day at least once, and am always on the lookout for MGBs to list in the e-newsletter I do for my local MG club.  When I saw a Craig's List ad at the end of July for a rust-free 1979 convertible with overdrive for $4995, I listed it and figured someone in the club would snag it.  It was advertised as having had a lot of work in the past 5 years, including upholstery, carpet, top, dashboard, wiring, rebuilt engine, and clutch! However, the car remained on sale for weeks on end, and I watched the price drop.  Then it suddenly showed up for $3400 on Marketplace in a different city!  This past Friday I let curiosity get the better of me.  I thought the seller had moved, but found out that it had been bought by someone else a few weeks earlier, and the old ad was still up.  The buyer had been looking for an MGB and done a lot of research before picking this one.  Unfortunately, his research did not include insurance requirements, and being under 25 and having his normal cars insured under a parent's policy prevented him from getting coverage on the MGB. The car appeared to be exactly as advertised, but had some rough running issues when we started it up.  Once the car warmed up, it smoothed out and had good power.  There were also some electrical issues which were mostly cured by playing with the original fuse block.  Both the Zenith carb and fuse issues are typical of late-model MGBs, and are not expensive to fix (if you can do the work, which I can).  Besides driving well, everything claimed in the ad appeared to be correct, and it even had the smog pump hooked up and working!  I couldn't resist, and picked her up tonight.  She needs a valve adjustment a new fuse block, and possibly a carb rebuild.  I also want to replace the only jury-rig - a switch for the electric fans that bypasses the radiator temperature sensor.  Another common late-model issue - I will install a new switch and have the fan power run through a relay.  The first order to Moss Motors is already made!

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