I have been interested in cars from when my dad used to enlist my help to fix his car when I was a child. I have happy memories of playing in cars stacked in the scrap yard whilst he was looking for parts (very little regard for health and safety in those days), to a slightly more nervous memory of sitting with my legs straddling the transmission tunnel in a Cortina straining on a bit of rope that was holding up the gear box whilst he was under the car trying to bolt it back into place!
Roll forward to 5 years ago and I eventually decided to do more than just tinkering by building a low cost ‘7’ style kit car. Whilst I have always been mechanically minded, this was a significant challenge and I learnt an awful lot as I went along (with no little thanks to the kit car community). I finished building it in the early part of 2014 and managed to get it through the very comprehensive VOSA Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) test last spring. The car that I ended up with has donor parts from a Sierra, a London taxi, a VW Golf and a BMW (it has a 2.8l straight 6 BMW engine in it), and is by far the fasted thing that I have ever driven.
I then realised that I had a ‘problem’ – I had been bitten by the car building bug so I needed to start work on another one. For a while, I considered building an AC Cobra replica but then remembered that had always liked early British sports cars and that restoring an original would be an entirely different challenge to building another new kit.
So, in August last year I took delivery of TC8485 from Steve Baker who had recently imported it from Canada. As far as I understand, the Canadian owner bought it from an estate sale in California as a pile of parts and then reassembled it to sell on. The registration number that came with it is KGE 250, but this might not be the original as I have been told that it corresponds to a 1952 Glasgow registration, whereas the original build date is 21 April 1949. According to the production records, the engine is the original one. I would be grateful if anyone could shed any further light on its history.
The car itself is very original with virtually all of the bits that usually go missing still in place, including the headlights, fog light and horn and even the brake pipe brackets. The instruments are reported to have been tested and to be in working order. The bolt-on body work is mostly solid although covered in surface rust as the paint had been stripped off by a previous owner. Most of the bright work has been re-chromed relatively recently, which should prove to be a big saving in the restoration costs, as long as I can carefully get the minor dents out of a couple of bits. For example, one of the headlamp bowls has a small dent in it from the bonnet latch, which I understand is a common injury. The wood frame needs to be replaced as do the inner rear wings, and I’m not sure if any of the quarter panels that skin the frame can be saved. These are rusted away along the bottom edges, although the complex curves, particularly on upper edges of the rear quarter panels are in good condition. As these are reportedly difficult to get right from scratch, as a first option I may see if I can weld new bottom edges to the existing panels, although this will be tricky as the metal is so thin.
Mechanically, the car seems to be quite good. A previous owner had started a restoration and it appears that the hubs, including the brakes and the wheel bearings have been rebuilt, with just a bit of surface rust evident from storage. The springs are not original, but are generally in good condition, with light surface rust between the leafs (I am told that it is ‘leafs’ and not ‘leaves’). Rough measurement would suggest that the chassis is square, although I need to measure it more accurately to be sure. It would appear that restoration had started on the engine, but only partially done before reassembly for sale. Taking this apart for inspection and rebuilding will happen much later in my project.
Progress so Far
My first job was to strip the entire car down, both to get a better idea of condition and to create working space in the garage. I have taken photos of every part, both on the car and disassembled, as I have gone along in order to help when it comes to rebuilding and to provide a record of what I have done. Most of the car is now in the roof beams of the garage or in the loft in the house and if it wasn’t for the chassis leaning against the wall and a set of wheels in the corner, it would be easy to forget that there is a car there at all.
I have taken delivery of a new ash wood frame as a set of parts made by a contact that Steve Baker gave me, and I have made a new rear dashboard using an old one as a template. I decided to restore most of the suspension and associated parts, including the leaf springs before starting on the chassis. This seems to have gone fairly well, with around 60 separate parts cleaned and prepped so far. The front leaf springs are now reassembled with a mixture of silicone grease and graphite between the leafs. The rear ones are drying in the garage as I write. My aim is to get back to a rolling chassis by the end of the summer.
Front leaf springs disassembled for cleaning and now ready for coating with a mixture of silicone grease and graphite powder.
I’m gradually creating a list of parts that I need to buy, these range from small things like the front suspension bump stops, to larger items like the rear inner wings (if anyone has any spare, please let me know). Later in the build I will need new seat covers, trim and weather hood, but it’s much too early to think about things like that yet. It remains to be seen as to what I need to buy to restore the engine.
New dashboard made by Steve, using the old one as a pattern.
One of the enjoyable things about building the kit car was getting to know the community. Fellow builders were an invaluable source of advice and, as I became more experienced, it was nice to be able to offer help as well as ask for it. From what I have seen so far, MG owners are equally friendly and helpful. I am based in Nottingham (just of J26 of the M1), so if there is anyone local or passing through who would like to chat about such things over a cup of tea or a beer, please get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) – I will need all the advice I can get and the occasional look at a finished one will help to keep me motiviated!
I’m happy to provide further updates here as the restoration progresses, but this may be sporadic as things tend to slow down a bit during university term time as I am also doing a part time degree in astronomy, as well as paid work.