(Some) After Market Drop Arms Supplied with VW Steering Box Conversions

10 Aug

Having acquired a 1948 MG TC earlier this year with an MOT and discovering (inevitably) that it wasn’t quite as roadworthy as I’d been led to believe (How do some people acquire MOT certification?) I began to address the problems my MOT station had identified.

After replacing all the braking gear, cylinders, shoes, pipes, hoses etc and fitting a heat-shield, I felt it necessary to address the obvious cause of soggy rear shoes by contacting Roger Furneaux (roger.46tc@virgin.net) for some of his cunning half-shaft sleeves. These fitted, I began to wonder how I could improve the steering.

The problems only appeared when the testing station mechanic had the front of the car off the ground. He couldn’t move the wheels from lock-to- lock and upon further investigation found that the steering had a tendency to offer resistance, as if something were jamming in the linkage, or the box. This later turned out to be a disintegrating groove in the Bishop steering box.

The trouble was that I had to go to Australia on business, so everything came to a halt.

This proved to be a bit of a blessing in disguise because on my last weekend there, I woke in my hotel room in Geelong and on the green in front of the hotel were banners and tents being erected.

It transpired that, that morning the MG Car Club of Geelong were having a show and it gave me the opportunity to crawl over about 20 MG TCs and discuss the pros and cons of the steering box. The popular solution in Australia seems to be a VW or a Datsun conversion, so when I got back to Blighty I began my search.

There were a couple of businesses offering the VW conversion and so, after getting over the shock of the cost, I ordered one. When it arrived I was immediately taken with it and to my layman’s eye, after fitting it I think it is almost indistinguishable from the old unit.

Fitting was simplicity itself. No drilling or adapting of any original parts of the car. Just bolt on a bracket. Bolt the column onto this and connect the drop-arm between the box and the tie-bar.

With this resolved and my other MOT failures addressed – like the one headlight that dipped whilst the other went onto full beam (as I said – how do people get MOT certificates?) off I toddled for a re-test.

Now I don’t know how many of you reading this live around West Kent, but if ever in need of a garage that specialises in classic cars, go visit Sergents in Station Road, Goudhurst. There was no charge for the re-test, even though over a month had passed. They adjusted the brakes so they pulled more evenly. Something I had not been able to do with no mileage under my belt since fitting new linings and cylinders. They were complimentary about my purchase and proudly I was on my way for the long drive home – with my new MOT certificate.

The only problem was – the banging and crashing coming from somewhere around the scuttle.

What had I done?

Was something loose? Had I left a spanner somewhere? – No.

Was it coming from the steering column? I checked the fixings. I re-aligned everything. I even took it out and put it back in again; same problem. Every time I drove over anything other than a smooth surface there was a clatter from somewhere under the dash.

I contacted the supplier of the column. They had ‘never heard of this problem before’ (funny that!).

Anyway, they agreed to exchange the unit without fuss, so it was sent off and another arrived. I fitted this one. Off we went for a test-run. Bang crash!

What the heck could it be?

The following weekend I was to meet a pal at Brands Hatch, so I decided – what the hell! – and took the MG. The drive was fantastic, everything I’d wanted it to be – except the bashing about under the dash each time I hit an uneven bit of tarmac.

The next morning (after attending to my chores), determined to see if I couldn’t find the cause of this malady, I wondered into the garage. I inspected everything, twisted and turned the steering wheel and while lying beside the car and turning the steering wheel I noticed paint had been chipped from the tie-bar.

On further examination it became clear that the replacement drop-arm was only about 10mm away from the tie-bar. Obviously – every time the car’s suspension moves, so the gap between the drop- arm and the tie-bar closes and – Bingo!

I removed the offending drop-arm and photographed it alongside the original and the next day I e-mailed the supplier. Part of my comments were aimed at helping him to resolve the problem (that he’d never had before) and ensuring that, if he was selling as many of these conversions as he claimed, he could avoid future problems and address the problem I was having.

No response to my e-mail, – so I phoned.

“No”, he said. “We’ve never had this problem. All MG TCs are different and there’s no telling what improvements and amendments they have had over their lifetime”.

I then began a trawl through the few MG contacts I’d picked-up since my purchase.

The Editor of this journal, Totally T-Type 2, passed my e-mail to others and copied me in, and with a little networking I established that the original VW conversion used to come with a converted VW drop-arm (see picture).

The drop-arm I’d received was almost straight, a purpose forged piece about an inch longer than the original. (see picture)

With no help from my supplier I explored the viability of either having a shorter version made or bending my replacement drop-arm, which is ultimately what I did.

I am happy to report that, having bent the arm so that the bottom end (the one that connects to the tie-bar), is 30mm (an inch and a qtr. in old money), lower, allowing enough clearance between the two components, the problem is resolved – even over the potholed roads of Kent.

Mike James

Ed’s comments: I’m really pleased to have been of assistance with this one. To reiterate the purpose of the website and TTT 2:

The over-arching aim of this website is to help owners to rebuild, or if rebuilt, to maintain and keep their cars on the road ….

If I can’t help with a query I usually know “a man who can”.

The attitude of the supplier was not acceptable. It reminds me of the riposte which my engine builder delivers to the “never had this problem before guv” brigade – which is “well the original part fitted!”

Yes, there are rogue MoT stations – I have experienced one of these myself. More is the pity that they don’t get found out!

Finally, this article might have solved a problem for me with my friend’s L2 as he has similar (but not as severe) noises emanating from his scuttle.


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One Response to “(Some) After Market Drop Arms Supplied with VW Steering Box Conversions”

  1. Nick 27. Oct, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    I found this article really useful as I`m thinking about about a steering conversion. It would be very helpful if a short list could be published of suppliers who can supply conversions that include a cranked steering arm and which work without having to further modify the kit.

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