Preparing for Adventure

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RIP is the registration number of our well-exercised red 1961 MGA 1600. Why RIP? Well, I wouldn’t want to Rest in Hell, so Rest in Peace sounded like a good idea at the time. Acronyms such as Retire in Paradise and Racing in Paradise could also apply, if readers feel better with them!

“Well exercised” because RIP has traveled the British Isles and Western Europe; circumnavigated the roads of Australia, New Zealand, and Southern Africa; driven from China to Abingdon, and Cape to Cairo, then on to Abingdon – all since 2005!

…and before each marathon trip, RIP is prepared to within a hair's breadth of her life!

My advice to the other Adventurers has never changed: “It’s better to fit a new widget in the comfort of your garage than to fit the widget on the side of the road in a foreign country in heavy traffic at night on a bend in the rain!” In other words, if in doubt, fix/fit it now!

For the Pan America Highway trip, I approached the preparation of RIP from the point of view that this is a two-year trip, as our MGs will “sleep over” in Vancouver from May 2015 to May 2016, at which point we will return and drive across Canada to Louisville and Halifax before returning back across the U.S.A. to Los Angeles via the Blue Ridge Parkway and some of Route 66, totaling around 60,000 km.

So, let the work begin!

As the oil pressure of the motor was good – around 65psi when hot - the decision was taken to leave the bottom end intact. Although a compression test indicated that the top end was sound, we made the decision to check the cylinder head – specifically the exhaust valves and seats, as they take a hammering, especially when only questionable fuel octane ratings are available from time to time. This turned out to be a wise decision, as all exhaust valves were pitted! A full head service was performed, using new valves, valve guides, springs, and seals, so RIP should breathe well for another 100,000 km!

While the motor was out, we took the opportunity to replace the clutch and pressure plate, the slave cylinder, the engine front seal, the water pump, the rear main seal, and the front and rear seals of the gearbox. We also stripped the starter motor, alternator, and heater motor to replace all bearings, bushes, and brushes...just in case.

I had fitted a pair of HS6 SU carburetors some time back. They proved to be very fuel inefficient through Africa, so decided to fit the HS4s again, but only after putting a kit through them and encouraging my carburetor specialist to “do what you know best!”

Next to consider was the cooling system. RIP performed exceptionally well in Sudan in 2012 in ambient temperatures of 42C, but we did not want to leave anything to chance, so the top and bottom radiator tanks were removed and the core was cleaned professionally. All hoses were replaced, including all heater hoses and the heater radiator and heater valve. Lastly, the electric fan, being three years old, was replaced with a new one. Hearing the electric fan whirling away in heavy traffic makes me feel so confident. As RIP’s temperature gauge seldom goes above 170F, I replaced the 74C thermostat with an 82C thermostat, so that we can take advantage of the heater in the southern and northern regions of the trip, where daytime temperatures are not expected to go above 15C!

My attention then turned to the wheels, axles, suspension, and the steering.

The spokes were sealed using silicon and the highest profile tubeless “passenger” tyres I could find were fitted for maximum ground clearance – plus one on the spare wheel carrier bolted to the tow bar. The kingpins were showing a little wear, so they were overhauled totally. While on the front end, the shock absorbers were replaced – just for good measure – and the steering rack was overhauled with a new U joint and tie rod ends fitted. Lastly, the brake calipers were overhauled and new rotors and pads fitted. Let’s hope the front end and motor will last the distance.

The rear got about the same treatment. The shock absorbers were replaced – I have Spax shock absorbers on the rear – as were the axle seals replaced, along with the rear wheel brake cylinders, and brake shoes. Before standing back to consider what else should be “touched,” the differential was removed and inspected – it has a Quaiff limited-slip differential – and all was found to be healthy inside – hooray!

My attention now turned to the ancillaries – the shade cloth roof was replaced, as holes had appeared since the Africa days – as a result of foreign bugs, my friend assures me! The windscreen wipers were replaced, the spot light and fog light, taken off for the rough Africa trip, were bolted back on and a new boot rack was fitted, as the old one was cracked in various places. A comprehensive list of spares was packed into a box under the battery shelf and a special compartment I have in the boot – mainly maintenance items such as seals, gaskets, bolts/nuts, and a spare electronic distributor. Needless to say, Laurel isn’t happy with the tools I take, as one aim of our trips is to be totally self-sufficient – even so far as to repair motors, heads, and axles.

Before heading off for the 1700 km trip to the shipping yard in Melbourne, Victoria, the bash plate was bolted under the engine, a two-way radio was plumbed into the cockpit, a modern radio/CD/USB player was installed – suitably hidden from the eyes of the purists – her decals were stuck in place and RIP was treated to a thorough vacuum, wash, and polish! Isn’t she a beauty! All this work was performed on a hoist over a three month period under the watchful eye of Mark, the manager of Classic Car Clinic, so please tell Murphy that RIP does NOT deserve to break down – anywhere!

I might mention that there are seven MGBs and MGB-GTs joining RIP and some of them have undergone even more of a rebuild than RIP! When in a group of friends on adventures such as these, no one wants to be the one who spends time working on their MG while the others socialize in the bar, so the peer pressure is phenomenal, to say the least.

“What modifications have I made to RIP over the years,” I hear you ask. The short response is, “Many!” Reliability has been my main driver, with the ability to be self sufficient a close second.

RIP has a 5-bearing MGB motor attached to a 5-speed Type 9 gearbox driven through a Quaiff limited-slip differential, so that any MG in trouble can be towed to a suitable location to effect repairs, safely. She supports electronic ignition, a brake booster, a 4-core radiator, a coolant catch tank, an electric radiator fan, MGB kingpins and brake calipers, an extra leaf in the rear springs, an alternator, an emergency flasher system, a spin-on oil filter, bonnet louvers, a spare wheel bracket, high-backed seats, inertia seat belts – the list goes on! Needless to say, she is very tight on the road and drives like a limousine when under full load. She is an absolute delight to own.

Long may the MG marque live!

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Last updated on February 12, 2015.