MG T-Series Restoration Ideas and Updates

Alan Atkins discusses thirty modifications which he has made over the years on his TD2.

In today’s hectic world it may be worth taking a little time out to consider the following points in this article which embrace modern technology. Some help to ease or improve maintenance (long term); others can be considered as driving aids etc., which can make for safer driving and control, especially on our crowded roads; some are concerned with security of the vehicle.

As I progressed with the restoration of my MG TD2 in 1990 these improvements were seldom far from my mind. Now, twenty two years later, I have been asked by many friends to list and arrange a write up of the modifications which have been carried out over this period. There are thirty in total and after listing them below I will do a small write up on each subject. So here goes…

(1) Install amber winkers.
(2) & (3) Attention to mirrors.
(4) Do I need an electric radiator fan?
(5) Is it wise to fit an alternator and change to negative earth, and purchase the dynamo look-a-like type?
(6) Fit adaptors for sat nav and charge for phone etc.
(7) Remote brake fluid container to master cylinder at bulk head level.
(8) Fit bonnet support brackets.
(9) Screen washers.
(10) Fit electronic ignition.
(11) Electronic S.U. fuel pumps.
(12) Fit five speed gearbox.
(13) Fit radial tyres.
(14) Easy removal of central instrument panel.
(15) Fit locking door handles.
(16) Fit glove box lock.
(17) Fit bonnet locks.
(18) Indicator warning lights on dash with buzzer.
(19) Do I need halogen bulbs?
(20) Oil filter conversion to canister.
(21) Rear crankshaft oil seal conversion.
(22) Unleaded cylinder head, Laystall Aluminium head and up rated distributor 43D.
(23) Up rated water pump.
(24) Fit silicon hoses.
(25) Consider Stainless Steel liner to Master Cylinder.
(26) Consider a locking petrol cap.
(27) Aluminium Tappet Cover and tappet chest cover plate with breathers.
(28) Consideration of a Touring Map Pocket.
(29) Quick Release of Bonnet MG TD.
(30) Petrol Tank Dip stick for MG TD.

Commenting on the thirty items I’ve listed, I must stress that in all cases the theme has to be “Can most of the alterations be reversed if need be to bring the car back to the original specification?”

(1) Install amber winkers
SVC Ltd. market a side-light conversion which has two bulbs one amber and one white which is a direct exchange fit with the original unit and easy to fit, so it would also be easy to revert back to its original specification if required; an alternative, but more expensive option, is to have one amber bulb in the side light and transfer the white side light within the headlight unit giving a larger white light area.

With the rear amber lights on the MG.TD it is best to purchase a pedestal type as used on motor cycles which you attach at the same height and in line with the present red light lens, I made a stainless steel square section base which held the unit close to the rear lights and attached to the rear valance.

(2) & (3) Attention to mirrors
Good vision is essential. If you go to a lot of shows and rallies both in this country and abroad, you need good vision. When you have the side screens in place your vision on the near side mirror can be limited. An improvement over certain types and designs of mirrors, is the fully flexible double joined ball oval mirror from S.V.C. which is fixed to the windscreen pillar. Then, purely as an experiment, I designed some all clear side screen panels made of poly-carbonate sheet, these were very successful – no blind spots and mirrors always in view.

Photo 2 – showing Alan’s polycarbonate sheet side screens (these were featured in Issue 5).

Having solved the problem of the side mirrors and having achieved markedly better all round vision with the poly-carbonate sheet side screens, one outstanding issue needed to be addressed. The central dash mirror is useless if you have luggage on the rear rack. I managed to pick up from an Auto-jumble an ex-BMC mirror 8 inches long which had a threaded ball joint stem at its rear. I then designed a stainless steel bracket which attached to the top windscreen rail centrally and did not interfere with the hood when in situ, so it was like driving your every-day car and excellent full vision to the rear of the car.

Photos 3 & 4 – showing wide rear view mirror affixed to top rail and stainless steel bracket.

(4) Do I need an electric radiator fan?
On MGs without a pressurised cooling system there is the possibility of over-heating when in traffic hold ups in the UK and also abroad in very hot climates, so you may consider this addition. I fitted a 12 inch thermostatically controlled fan and the thermostat bulb was put in the header tank through a unit and into the top hose aperture and works fine. It was purchased from an autojumble as a complete set up. One thing to bear in mind is that the fan takes approx. 7amps power so the dynamo output has to be checked.

(5) Is it wise in certain circumstances to fit an alternator?
Again this depends on how you use the car. If you attend a lot of functions here and abroad and need negative earth power for extra electrical equipment to power a fan, sat nav, phone charger, tyre inflator etc, then the answer is ‘Yes’; but whilst it is an easy operation to convert from positive to negative earth, if you have an electric clock this could need an electronic implant unit which is not cheap, also the ammeter will need attention. S.U. fuel pumps are generally dual polarity but always check any electrical equipment to be sure.

The type of alternator that I fitted was the ‘Dynolite’ purchased from which is an alternator in a dynamo body with the tacho take off. It is expensive but is a very good product. Also on the Eurolec website there is a reference to positive earth C45 conversion. Some have fitted a standard ACR alternator but the tachometer is the problem.

Ed’s Note: Malcolm Sayers covered the fitting of a Ford Transit alternator in Issue 2.

(6) Negative earth
As with previous comments it’s a case of what you require. Some electronic ignition systems only work with negative earth, but as with all items electrical always check with a qualified Auto-electrician.

(7) Brake fluid reservoir bulk head fixing canister
This requires some thought but it is a step in the right direction from a maintenance and brake bleeding point of view. It is so easy to top up without bending yourself like a question mark and risk getting dirt in the master cylinder on checking fluid levels. There is a kit available from Morris 1000 parts suppliers like Charles Ware, but I did not use the plastic fluid bottle or the plastic pipe to master cylinder; instead I purchased the Castrol metal canister (small) the pipe to the master cylinder can be either nylon or copper brake pipe.

Photo 5 – Brake fluid reservoir on bulkhead.

This pipe is connected to the master cylinder via the special adaptor to the rear of the master cylinder supplied, but I must stress this is a job for a competent engineer. All the joint fixings must be fluid proof and make sure the routing of the pipe work does not foul any objects en-route to master cylinder; also you must seal the air hole in the master cylinder filler cap – very important!! This job is best done as an extra task when fitting a 5 speed gear box or as part of a total restoration when you have a clear area to work.

Ed’s Note: Noel Lahiff covered this subject in detail in Issue 10. Keith Douglas described an alternative solution in Issue 2.

(8) Fit bonnet support brackets
This is a useful item to fit on some MG T-Types which is obtainable from the MG Octagon Car Club at a small cost, but allows you to raise the two bonnet sides at once for inspection and maintenance and can prevent paint damage at the hinge point.

(9) Fit screen Washers
This is an item that you could consider if you don’t already have them. The method I used was a small extension on the bonnet rear hinge chrome cover bracket on the top of which was placed the two jets, the fluid was piped via copper brake pipe and plastic tubing to the fluid container in the under bonnet tool box operated by switch on the dash.

Photo 6 – windscreen washer jets mounted as described in the text.

(10) Fit electronic Ignition (Photo 7)

Quite a number of owners have now fitted this upgrade and there are benefits, such as being maintenance free, efficiency at all RPM and can run at a lower tick-over rate which in turn saves petrol. Very responsive on acceleration and owners may have experienced other advantages, but as has been mentioned before, some require negative earth. However, others use positive earth and some operate on either polarity. The system I fitted was the AccuSpark unit, fitted inside the distributor in place of points and works very well so far. Some systems will require a balance resistor to coil and are more expensive.

(11) Fit electronic SU. Pumps
I fitted two SU fuel Pumps on my MG.TD. in situ both on the bulk head; one for supply, one as a spare and the electronic unit was put in by Auto-Flux of Liskeard, Cornwall. They are expensive, but I have had no problems for five years.

(12) Fit a five-speed gearbox
Two reasons why I went for a five speed gearbox, after two failures on the lay gears at great cost now was the time to consider implant of a five speed gearbox using the type 9 Ford unit. It is a more reliable and quieter gearbox, which gives better fuel economy. It’s a godsend for motorway driving.

I purchased the complete kit from Peter Gamble It is expertly engineered with good fitting instructions. Also supplied was a reconditioned Ford gearbox and at the same time I fitted this gearbox I also did the remote brake fluid canister to master cylinder whilst there was room to work on this up-grade.

With this kit you get a black plastic bell housing and gearbox cover. Now you have to transfer the holes in the bulk head fire wall to the plastic cover; there is not a lot of room on the flanges of the cover, so it is important that the new floor boards are in place. Centralise the cover first by marking a white centre line between the two top bulkhead holes with a centre line on the plastic cover and central at the gear lever end in the “D” shape raised boss; then put a white chalk line round radius end to bell housing, this will give you a good idea were the all the holes will be on the flange. Transfer the bulkhead top holes first after you are happy that all the holes are in the correct place on the plastic cover.

A trick here is in transferring the holes you can warm up a 3/16” dia steel rod which has a pointed end inserted through the nuts on the engine side which in turn will melt the plastic cover in the correct spot for you to drill the holes 15/64ths dia, and with the floor boards you can drill the holes required from underneath the car, but I am sure there are other ways to achieve the same aim.
At the gear lever raised boss there is available a chrome plated “D” shape fitting with leather gaiter and fittings available which puts the finishing touches to this up-grade; this item can be purchased from me.

(13) Fit radial tyres
Only you yourself can decide on this upgrade.

Ed’s note: I doubt if those who have fitted radials would go back to cross-ply tyres.

(14) Central Instrument Panel
It may be on most MG models the central instrument panel is held in place by small screws which can be very awkward to remove in order to attend to any instrument or wiring so the answer is simple – use wing nuts! You can then remove this panel probably within ten minutes, and you have not used a light, lost a nut and twisted your body in the process!! With the TD I used six dome headed long 2BA screws that go through the complete dash panels then use wing nuts and washers, if need be you can fill the slot in the screw heads with solder and polish.

(15) Fit locking door handles
This is a matter of security and is important nowadays. These handles are from Morris register which I believe are fitted on the Morris Eight, they are an exact fit and the same profile.

(16) Fit Bonnet locks
These are to protect your engine compartment from thieves, I had the two SU carb springs stolen at a show and this is why the locks were fitted – part no. BCPCL Compartment lock (see item 17).

Photo 8 – bonnet lock

(17) Fit Glove Box Lock (Photo 9)
The glove box lock was fitted for security purposes. I purchased the locks from Part Numbers ‘BCRP lock ring’ pull and ‘BCPCL Compartment lock’.

(18) Warning lights on dash with buzzer
The reason I fitted this set up was because of traffic noise when on motorways etc., Wired into the winker switch, the lights and buzzer were purchased from SVC Ltd

Photo 10 – warning indicator lights on dash.

(19) Do I need halogen bulbs?
Perhaps not, but if you think that there is a chance of driving during hours of darkness and in bad weather then this up-grade could be ideal. Check to see if you require a relay (although this is something else that can fail!!)

(20) Oil filter conversion to canister
This up-grade is worth consideration for easy maintenance and very little loss of engine oil on change over; but there are two types of canisters one has a magnet in the body (Unipart Premium) the other has a by-pass valve which kept the oil pump primed (was Crossland no. 357 but not now available under that name as Crossland was taken over by Coopers filters – number is now Z 27A).

(21) Crankshaft rear oil seal conversion
This conversion is best carried out when engine is stripped down for overhaul – it is costly but many owners have fitted this up-grade and are pleased with the outcome.

(22) Upgrade to an unleaded cylinder head
In today’s world of additives in fuel this is something for you to consider and at the same time pay some attention to polishing the ports which can improve performance. Another option (but expensive!) is to buy an after-market Aluminium Laystall cylinder head. It is a better set up with bigger ports which can be polished. I have fitted one of these and the performance is very good with the up-rated distributor 43D.

(23) Water pump upgrade
This a water pump design of which I was involved with at the very early stages. Manufactured by Racemettle Ltd it is a six vane pump needle bearing type so it’s more reliable and has a modern sealing arrangement This type of pump was introduced on the Triumph range of cars in the first place with very good results.

On learning of the improved pump for Triumphs I asked if the same design could be introduced for the XAPG engine and the answer was ‘Yes’, I tested this pump when complete and I am very pleased with the increased water flow which is vital for non-pressurised cooling systems. As you may guess, this pump does cost more than the four vane one, but you get a quality product which will out-last the original type of pump.

Ed’s Note: The Racemettle pump was featured in Issue 11

A less expensive option is to have your existing pump rebuilt by E.P. Services of Wolverhampton E.P. offer a lifetime guarantee on their rebuilt pumps. Their rebuilding service was featured in Issue 15.

(24) Fit Silicone Hoses
The most important hose which you should get is the very large radiator top hose. You can take this off with ease if you have to change the thermostat or radiator and leave either end in situ as the hose is completely flexible (unlike removing the existing non-flexible rubber top hose which can result in having to remove the whole housing).

Photo 11 – Finishes of silicone hoses supplied by

Ed’s note: The silicone hoses supplied by Classic Silicone Hoses Ltd were featured in Issue 4. My understanding is that these hoses are only supplied in sets and it is not normally possible to buy just a top hose. However, I have in the past persuaded the company to supply me with just the top hose and I’ll have five (5) available for sale at Stoneleigh and also one (1) complete set. Finish will be “old style wrap”. Price is not yet known but I won’t put any mark up on them for TTT 2 members. If anybody wants to reserve a top hose (plus clips if wanted) or a complete set (plus clips if wanted) please contact me through the Contact Form on this website.

(25) Consider Stainless Steel Liner to Master cylinder
When I fitted the five speed gearbox I also had the up-grade done because of the ease of fitting it and less maintenance and that is at least ten years ago.

(26) Locking petrol cap
There have been quite a number of ideas on this introduction because of petrol thieves, some are feasible using the Fiat locking petrol cap off the Uno model. I have yet to fit this worthwhile item.

Photo 12 – locking petrol cap set-up

(27) Aluminium tappet cover and tappet chest cover plate
This is a luxury item but one which looks good under the bonnet and does go some way to adding quietness of the engine in general; these items are fitted to my car!

(28) Consideration of a touring map pocket
With the large maps which are available today it was a question of where to I do keep them? The solution was to have a water-proof twin zip pocket sewn into the half tonneau cover of the correct size and depth which was easy to get at and can be locked if required but I also kept the yellow emergency vest in this pocket.

Photo 13 – map pocket sewn into half tonneau

(29) Quick release of Bonnet MG TD
A useful solution to the problem of grappling with the nuts on the end of the small screws which hold the bonnet in place, fore and aft (two at each end) is as follows:

At the front radiator end, the fixing for the chrome cap, I fitted two hexagon headed rivet nuts threaded 2BA in the radiator shell which I made myself, then all that is required is two 2BA screws ½ inch long to fix the chrome bracket in place.

Photo 14 – bonnet fixtures rear and front

For the rear bonnet chrome cap (these are the most difficult to remove because the nuts are only accessible from under the bulk head) I fitted two upholstery claw nuts with a 5mm thread which attach to the wood rail as the name suggests by the claws as you tighten the screws. Once in this position you can drift the flange of the nuts further into the wood to make sure they are permanent, so you drill the two holes right through the wood rail from the bonnet top and in line with two holes already in the chrome bracket, the diameter of this hole is about ¼ inch; then you purchase two 5mm countersunk headed screws one & half inches long, fit and the job is done and the need to remove the bonnet is made that much easier.

(30) Petrol dip stick for MG TD
Sometime ago there was an article in the Octagon Car Club magazine which gave all the measurements for a hardwood dip stick. I did make one of these and it is reasonably accurate, for different models you may have to start from scratch marking first the top of tank on the stick then add three gallons of fuel (below this your green light may come on at two gallons), then graduate the stick as you fill the tank.

Additional Comments
For greater clarification of some of these modifications see photographs which accompany this article.

Finally, bearing mind the garage cost per hour, fuel, spare parts, Insurance, it makes sense to look at all possibilities including the cost of attending shows and rallies, all of which seem to be on the increase, but I must stress whatever upgrading you do always seek professional advice if you are not certain of any outcome which you may contemplate to undertake on your car.

Alan Atkins
alan.atkins903(at) [substitute @ for (at)]

Photo 15 – the author’s TD with polycarbonate side screens in place.

Ed’s note: Thank you Alan for a thought-provoking article. I’d like to add a couple of comments as follows:

If you modify your car please bear in mind that you need to notify your insurance company that you have done so. This applies particularly to mods to steering and brakes and also any bolt on ‘goodies’ which increase the performance of the car. If in any doubt, err on the side of caution and advise your company anyhow – better to be safe than sorry!

For those who have not seen or heard of Jonathan Goddard’s book on the TD entitled Practical MG TD – Maintenance, Update and Innovation, this is a publication which covers, under the ‘Innovation’ banner, a number of modifications and improvements similar to those covered in Alan’s article.

The book is available from the T-Shop priced at £6.99 plus postage. I have just a handful of copies remaining from my bulk order of 150.