Frans Sitton tells the story of his TC restoration which, in his own words, he describes as “The ultimate barn find”.
“Throughout my life I have been busy with cars, especially MGs, as a hobby.
In spite of liking my work as a graphic designer for a newspaper very much, I had to retire at 58 1⁄2.
First in my retirement I bought a driving MG TF, imported from USA and restored it over a period of 3 years – a ‘nut-and-bolt’ restoration. Then I decided I wanted to restore an MG TC, which I think is the most beautiful model of MG, and the ultimate sports car. I had already owned 2 TCs in my life, but I had never restored one.
Some 5 years ago I placed an advert via the T-Register, “Wanted a TC for restoration, barn find preferred”.
A couple of weeks later I got an answer from a guy, (whose name I shall not mention) who knew of such a car for sale. For this information he would like me to pay the sum of 500 GBP! Well, it’s not my way of doing business, but after some haggling he grudgingly accepted the sum of 100 GBP and pointed me to an advertisement in the Lincolnshire Car Club website.
It was TC2634, built on 24th April 1947. The owner, Mr Heron, then posted with the RAF, bought it in 1966, drove it till 1969 and than stored it in his shed, with the intention of restoring it.
Well, I agreed a fair price with him over the phone and we discussed arrangements for collection. As he had to do a welding job on a pipe-line somewhere in Africa, I could either come in three weeks time, or wait for about 4 months. Keen to collect my purchase I opted to come sooner rather than later.
Just at this time it began to snow heavily in England. I had my doubts about going, but didn’t want to wait for 4 months, so, on 20 December I hired a double-axle trailer, and booked for the Zeebrugge-Hull ferry. Fortunately, from Hull to where the MG was situated in Lincolnshire, was not so far – about 110 km.
I arrived in Hull the next day and had to find a village called West Torrington. Everywhere there were mountains of snow around me. To make matters worse, I found out my navigation system was not working! Fortunately I had also printed out the route on paper.
The snow was becoming thicker and thicker. Every time I saw someone on the road I jumped out to ask for the right direction! However, about 15 miles from my destination I got stuck in a snowy corner of a road. I had intended to phone Mr. Heron to ask him if he could possibly come and meet me for those last few miles to Torrington, but noticed my phone was also not working!
Once again I was ‘saved by the bell’, for in one of the gardens I noticed a man busy clearing his pathway. He was so friendly to make the phone call, and after half an hour I met Mr Heron and went to his home, after freeing my stuck car from the snow.
Well, Mr Heron was certainly living in the middle of nowhere! At his estate I stopped after a little hill in the road. I needed to turn the car trailer around and then drive the car back to re-connect it, in order to be able to face the right way for the return journey.
We had a quick tea and showed each other some pictures; Mr Heron told me then that in early years he used to race with his friend Syd Beer, a well known name in MG circles.
Although there was enough time, I was in a hurry, because I had the suspicion that it would be a long and slow trip back to catch the ferry. We went to his shed, and there was the MG…
TC2634 awakes from its slumber after 39 years!
With the help of Mr Heron’s son, we managed to get the chassis with engine still fitted and what was left of the body onto the trailer. The rest of the remains of the TC were loaded into my car. I need not have worried about grip in the snow for the car was certainly very heavily weighed down!
Can you imagine? A Renault Clio, with the double axle trailer, carrying the remains of the MG and the Clio itself stuffed with the rest of the parts! I even had to leave some things behind; the hood, with several wee mouse holes in it, and some of the eight wheels. Afterwards, not one of the wheels I brought with me was usable. Some were side- laced and very rusty. Also, some years ago there was a burglary in the shed, and one of the headlamps and the radiator shell were missing. Fortunately the V5 was intact with the registration book.
OK, off we go! Mr. Heron was again so kind to accompany me several miles back on the road. We first had to shovel the snow away, before I could pass over the little hill. And slipping and sliding we went back on the little roads back…
After a good few miles we said goodbye to each other and I went on myself, frequently asking for confirmation that I was heading in the right direction. Then it began to snow again… I had the luck of driving always in the right direction. After a few miles the road turned into a highway and the snow into a little snowstorm. The side of the road was littered with abandoned cars; also everywhere police cars with flashing roof lights. I expected they would stop me, with this heavy slippery load and would have to spend the night in the snowstorm, but they did left me driving on! With sweaty hands, slipping and sliding I reached the Humber Bridge near Hull. There the snowstorm stopped…
Well, I believe I must have had a Guardian Angel! If I only had known this, it would have been wiser to have taken the 4 month option!
I drove to the first ferryboat I saw. Well, it was a very long steep way going up the ferry. I waited some time, ‘till everyone in front of me had gone, ignoring the waving personnel at me! At last, I accelerated the most I could, and raced up the gangway. I just made it till the last 10 cm!! Again that Guardian Angel!
On the ferry I got the key of my cabin, to find it was already occupied by a lady! Went back to the purser, to figure out I was on the wrong boat going to Zeebrugge instead of Europoort. I had arranged this in order to drive on the Dutch highway back, rather than the small roads in Belgium. Too late to get back in my car; it was surrounded now by other cars, so I had to stay, and got another cabin from the purser.
The next day I reached the coast of Belgium, and off the ferry I went. Unluckily of course there was a diversion, and I had to drive home over narrow roads with small icy cobblestones, which they call in Belgium “Kinderkopjes”. (Free translated in English “little childrens’ heads”…)
Well, after hours again I reached home, completely ‘knackered’ after this adventure, where my wife was waiting for my safe homecoming…
Very quickly, the remains of the TC were taken apart, to be followed by weeks of cleaning, de- rusting, priming, coating, etc. New brake linings, front and rear cylinders, master brake cylinder, etc. Then the missing radiator shell…… Once I bid on a shell on eBay, but stopped at 600GBP. It was then sold for 1900GBP! After some time I found the shop of Andy King, who beats the shells out of copper at a reasonable price. I ordered one – only to find out afterwards it was 11 mm too wide for my bonnet, so I had to shorten it on both sides by 5.5 mm.
A friend of Mr Heron, who was a carpenter, cut out some years ago all the ash parts of the frame, 1/3 too thick. The metal of the body tub was badly rusted. Very luckily, I managed to buy a complete body tub in eastern Belgium for a reasonable price. Panelling was very good, but the ash frame was unusable! So I had to adjust the ash frame to fit the panelling.
There was a new frame for the tub body with the car, but the measurements were so bad, I decided to use still the old frame sides.
I had to weld in a new battery compartment, and finally mounted the tub to the chassis, which fitted miraculously well!
Next came the restoration of the carbs with rebuild kits, cleaning, polishing, and adjusting the jets. In the filter housing I replaced a K & N filter, to the specifications of Ray McCrary in the resources section of MG T-ABC’s online.
Ed’s note: The reference is http://www.mg-tabc.org/library/T-airfilter-2-K&N.htm
There is also the following: http://www.mg-tabc.org/library/T-air-cleaner2.htm
Carburettor restoration from this to this!
A firm in USA modified the old non-functioning coils of my regulator RF95/2 to modern electronics. Unfortunately, the case got broken in the post. Ed’s note: Classic Dynamo and Regulator Conversions in the UK also do this work.
Both the starter and the dynamo were overhauled.
The engine, complete with head, oil pump and distributor, was sent to a well known MG-specialist for rebuilding. New pistons, 0.060 thou, New shaft, con rod bearings, timing chain tensioner, starter ring gear, cam followers, etc. etc.
The radiator was leaking badly so it was re-cored. To aid cooling, a plastic MGB fan was fitted – much lighter, with 6 blades. A heat shield of my own design was also fitted.
In the back axle I used the well known seals of Roger Furneaux, so I am sure now that no drop of oil is allowed to leave the back axle without my permission!
I replaced the rather floppy Bishop Cam for the VW conversion rack. Also, mounted castor taper shims between the front axle and the springs, but decided to remove them again, because I didn’t like the steering adjustment afterwards. After resetting the toe-in with half an inch, the steering is perfect now.
An important stage in the restoration was the first start of the rolling chassis. You can watch this on YouTube:
The task of re-wiring the car with a new loom was initially a bit daunting but all went well, and everything worked OK in the end. I used the well known Lucas DB10 conversion for the indicators/stop signs.
On eBay I succeeded in buying the correct headlights, early type, with the U-glasses. Adapted the bulbs to halogen ones. For the tail-lights I used the right D-lights.
After having arranged for my MG TF to be professionally re-sprayed, I decided that I would love to do the painting myself this time. Well, it lasted a whole summer to finish it. After restoring the badly worn front wings I had to weld reinforcing sections on the lamp brackets, and did a lot of tinning in several places. I started with several layers of primer, always sanding with paper grain 280, and the last layer with 500, only using dry paper.
I sprayed the colour with 4 layers, then about 5 layers of clear coat. The temperature has to be at least 24 degrees Celsius, for a good result. So this limits the spraying to about 3 or 4 suitable months of the year. I used ordinary spray cans, from the paint shop. Well, quite a lot of them!
If the colour is just thick and equal enough then you can build it up with the clear coat. The more layers the deeper the shine. Always go in one strike from one to the other side. Not too quick, and not too slow. After spraying, leave the garage, close the door, and return after half an hour, to carry on. And hope that no winged insects have landed on your job!
Well, I think I did a nice job for an amateur. (You certainly did!) – Ed.
The hood, side screens and seat trimming I bought at a very reasonable price at PJM-Motors.
To complete the rebuild I ordered new tyres and wheels from Moss (made in India…).
Finally, I had to go to the Dutch equivalent of the DVLA for a registration number, which was obtained without any problems. I could now start to do a few first little trips in TC2634. Now it was back on the road and in use after sleeping for 44 years in a shed. At first I drove very cautiously; as confidence grew I tried some longer trips. (always hoping that I tightened all the nuts and bolts well!).
Above: TC2634 when last on the road in 1969 just before it went for a ‘little sleep’ in Mr Heron’s shed. Below: TC2634 as she is now in front of the channel of Terneuzen.
OK, that’s my story. Needless to say, I am very proud to bring back this beautiful car on the road. From all the restorations in my life this is the most beautiful and joyful, and I think also the last one. Hope, I will be able to travel for many years again with much joy with my TC!”