Trouble in River City

Mike Drew was headed back up the grade toward Rutland on Rte. 103 over the weekend when, as he described it, “something went bang” and the Elva lost power.  We hauled it back down Monday morning .  The coolant was low and the engine oil was gray.  I poured two gallons of water in the radiator and on a whim I pulled out the dipstick again.  The results can be seen on this short video.

We don’t know what went bang, but we know it went bang in a big way.  Details next week.

An MGA engine comes out

An MGA engine comes out

There is a famous stretch of U.S. Interstate 5  between Los Angeles and Bakersfield, California  loosely known as the Grape Vine with its infamous “Five Mile Grade” where many, many motorists have come to grief boiling away their engines.  One successful strategy for going up it is to turn off your air conditioner and roll down your windows.  Another is to do it at night.  I did it a couple of times in my E-type with the A/C off and the top down.

A rebuilt transmission goes into an MGA

A rebuilt transmission goes back in

Wednesday was hot & sunny so I took the white MGA, momentarily glimpsed in the video clip, down to Post Office in Westminster in order to thrash it back up our own ‘five mile grade’ to Westminster West.  In a much smaller way it’s an excellent proving ground for cooling systems.

It rated a ‘pass':  Good steering, brakes & suspension.  The temperature never got past 185, an excellent reading on an MGA which doesn’t have an oil cooler.

Jag on the Grapevine

Big Jaguar Mk9 on the Grapevine

Even an MGA with a good cooling system will get pretty warm on a hot day if you keep your right foot in it long enough, but that tendency can be completely overcome by the addition of an oil cooler.  MGA 1600 MkII’s had ’em.  Consult us if you’re thinking about installing one in your earlier car.

Tuesday afternoon I put the big Jaguar Mk IX sedan thru the same paces.  We had it’s radiator reconditioned with a serpentine core which imparts about 30% more surface area for cooling .  You can see the results above at the left.  The whirly-thing in the lower right corner just above the blue wire is our speedometer cable counter.  We used it to calculate the correction factor to recalibrate the speedometer for the  3.54 LSD rear end we recently installed.  The speedo & tach are out at Nisonger Instrument now.

The Elva marks its teritory

The Elva marks its territory

There are five different variations of the 3-synchro transmission for MGA’s & early MGB’s (plus two overdrive configurations).  After a while they all suffer from weak to non-existant 2nd gear synchromesh and moderate to extreme wear on the 1st/reverse end of the countershaft and needle roller bearing assembly.

Since we seemed to be doing one every other week at one point, my solution to the problem was to have Patrick build up all five gearboxes so that the entire job, with clutch work,  was an overnight affair.

Somewhat ironically, the British Motor Corporation completely solved the problem for the 1967 model year with a sixth variant which had a larger countershaft supported on four (instead of three) needle bearing clusters, and an improved 2nd gear and properly heat treated 2nd gear steel baulk ring.  The irony, of course, is that in 1968 BMC went with the absolutely bullet-proof  four synchro transmission designed to take the torque load of the six cylinder MGC.

In order to make the numbers work, that TX was also used in all subsequent MGB’s, all that redesign work on the old tranny going for naught.  And that is how the British Motor Industry ultimately lost the war…

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