Finding and buying a cheap T-Type, what could possibly go wrong?

A T-Type, aren’t those a bit pricey? Well, a perusal of the Internet said otherwise and that is where the story of the recommissioning of TD2399 begins.

First, I must stress what I mean by cheap. Robert Lyell in issue 60 wrote a piece on the current state of the UK market (followed closely by Tom Lange in issue 61 for the US market). Mention was made of the concourse car at over £30k, the tidy car at £20-25k and a barn find at £10k. Mine was not quite barn find, but a lot closer to that than the lower value given for the tidy car – in fact it was the cheapest complete car that I could find on the UK market at the back end of 2018; it also had some interesting history that swayed me (as I noted in previous article in issue 60, the car was a Motor Assemblies Durban or MAD built TD that had spent its early years in Rhodesia and South Africa). Anyway, purchase made, delivered home by trailer and now to get going.

Some pictures of the car, taken after purchase

So, what could go wrong? Accepting that this TD had been off the road for the better part of its 70 years, it was obvious that key parts of the car would need to be replaced, such as the wiring loom, and going into this, eyes wide open (or should that be shut?) I thought I had a pretty good grasp on what I should expect. The beauty of this car (beauty being in the eye of the beholder) is that there was very little rust – some surface rust where the older paint had cracked, allowing moisture to permeate, being the exception and I called that patina (an excuse to put off a respray until sometime far into the future – more anon).

As the loom was due for replacement, that was the first port of call. The approach being that the amount of disassembly required to replace the loom meant that other parts of the car would come up for inspection and refurbishment or replacement as they were removed to allow for the loom change. At this stage it is probably better to switch to an itemised list in order of vehicle location (from front to rear).

  • Running gear – the tyres were as new (no wear – and possibly put on the car during a rebuild that it received in South Africa in the 80s/90s), but splitting of the rubber necessitated replacement; and at the same time, the opportunity was taken to blast and powder coat the wheels. The gearbox was checked by selecting all gears and seeing if drive was present (it was on stands at the time) and no issue was noted (fluid was also nice and clean and to the levels, so one less job I thought – see later).
  • Engine – the engine was given a service and with the new loom in place, as well as a rebuild of the fuel system, it started first time and after the obligatory carb adjustments ran sweetly (for a while at least – see later).
  • Interior – the interior and instruments were serviceable after a good clean up and replacement of damaged parts (I was really pleased to get another steering wheel for under £100 – although new old Morris Minor stock so it now has a black rim; but the old one was also black and now I wonder if that is a South Africa difference, I will have to check).
  • Bodywork – the doors required fettling and this is where the only wood replacement was required as a door pillar had ‘gone soft’ and hence the door would misalign as the hinge screws were tightened (thanks to Hutson for supplying a replacement).

So…. what, if anything, went wrong?  Remember me mentioning the gearbox and engine? After getting the car back together in the summer of 2019 and with a few miles under one’s belt I could still not get to grips with changing gear – I realised that the synchromesh may be slower on a 1950 car with what is a 30s design of gearbox, but this was unexpected. Draining the oil to see if a change would help and my heart sank (see picture).

Out with the gearbox, luckily no damage done (a miracle), and on the phone to NTG and new springs in the post (I found all the ball bearings once the casing of the box was stripped – sometimes we do have some luck). Rebuilding the box on the bench and undertaking a trial of the gear selection I was getting confused. I rebuilt the box as it came apart, but if I selected a gear, it was becoming obvious to me that the springs and bearings (those that I replaced) of the 3rd/4th hub would again make a bid for freedom if you weren’t careful (and perhaps this time I would not be so lucky and I would damage the internals of the gearbox). The realisation was that the distance tube at the end of the shaft was missing – not missing, it was never there as a quick look back at the pre-strip down photos would show! Quick call to Pete at MGOCC who did not have the tube and who then put me back in touch with NTG and all solved.

So…. I say again, what, if anything, went wrong? Remember the engine running sweetly. Well, it continued to do so and with good oil pressure I may add. The issue came in early 2020 (just prior to pandemic time) and the car was getting difficult to start with partial misfire, until it warmed up that is. Out with the compression gauge and low on cylinder 2. My heart sank (again). Removed the head and the valve on cylinder 2 had a burnt valve seat. Strange, and after it ran so well previously. Anyhow, onwards and upwards as they say. Rebuilt and put together (the reverse of taking apart as Haynes would say) and taking the torque setting from the MG TD workshop manual and then ‘crack’. What I had not realised (as I was simply doing a reverse of the strip-down) was that the spacers for the rocker shaft (the circular and d-shaped washers) were missing, not only missing, they were NEVER THERE (again the beauty of the pre-strip down photos – what did we do before iOhones?). Perhaps this was the reason for the burnt valve seat, the rocker shaft had rotated as it was not locked in place and the oil supply to the valve train became no oil supply to the valve train, as there was none, as it could not get through.

The burnt valve seat.

So…. what, if anything, could possibly go wrong? Shall I go on? The wiper motor shaft was in two pieces – should only be one I hear you say, and I would agree. Thinking the motor was a standard off the shelf Lucas, I simply took the catalogues out and then seen the price/rarity (another shock). NTG to the rescue again with a new shaft (the last one they said as the person making them was/has retired – maybe they now have another source). Four dampers on a TD, but only three held any amount of oil – my local garage who kindly pressed out the shaft were about to give up when eventually it came free (I forget the value they mentioned for the pressure reached, but it was very high and certainly well beyond the capability of the presses that Machine Mart could provide – if I decided to buy, that is). One other damper then came out in sympathy as it shed its actuating arm and it gets quite bouncy when that happens.  I think I shall stop now. Anyhow, the total bill for the car now is approaching the lower end of the tidy car. Should I have gone for the tidy-car in the first instance? Not a chance, where would the fun be in that?

Remember the earlier comment about the paint? Well, lockdown 3.0 put paid to holding out until the future. I started to strip the car in the workshop and painted it panel by panel – only the main tub was not removed and was masked and sprayed in situ. Now out of hibernation, it is pictured below enjoying the sun with a neighbour’s Alfa Romeo. The badges on the front are for the city of Salisbury in Rhodesia (where it spent the 60s) an AA Rhodesia badge and a Chester Veteran and Vintage Enthusiasts Club Badge commemorating their 60 years (my dad was one of their first members in the 60s and although no longer with us, he is the reason for my classic car passion).

Article from Huw Davies.

TD2399 is now looking good. Hopefully, nothing else to go wrong!

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