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The Original MG TD Midget

Tips and Techniques

The following tips and techniques are ones that I have used over the years to restore my car and to keep it in as new a condition as I can. Although my car was restored in 1975 it still looks very new today. Mostly because it has not been driven more that about 20,000 miles since then, but also because of the following techniques that I have utilized over the years. You may find some or all of these useful to you as well.

Cleaning and Polishing

Waxing and Polishing
Here is how I clean and polish my car. My car is painted in lacquer and you may have to adjust this procedure for enamel a bit. First ensure that the car is clean by either washing with water and a mild soap (car shampoo) or wiping with a damp cloth. Next go over any fine scratches with a mild rubbing compound or a car cleaner type wax. The next step I only do yearly or when needed.
Once a year I wax my car with a mild cleaner wax such as Meguiar's Cleaner Wax. This is a cream wax in a dark red squeeze bottle. When you use it you will witness a small amount of your paint come up with the polish as it has a very mild rubbing compound in it. It also leaves a terrible amount of wax residue in crevices that you will have to pick out with a tooth brush. This is why I don't use it very often.
Next you will wax the paint once more (and more frequently with this step) with a mild oil/silicone based polish such as Turtle Wax Minute Wax or Liquid Ebony liquid waxes. In my climate there are three things that ruin the paint; sun, dryness and ozone. Keeping your car garaged or covered when not in use will help with the sun. An oily/silicone type of car polish will help with the dryness and ozone. Paste waxes are good for chrome and the yearly cleaning, otherwise I use oil based polishes such as the Minute Wax. These waxes also do not leave a residue like the paste waxes do so cleanup is much easier.
After the oil/silicone based polishing, treat the rubber goods with a product such as Armorall. Follow-up with a vinyl and/or leather treatment for the interior and lastly clean the glass with a glass cleaner such as Windex.
Polishing Engine and Chassis
To clean the engine, wheels, chassis and other hard to polish spots I use a spray on furniture polish such as Lemon Pledge. Use liberally and wipe up the excess and buff with a soft cotton cloth. This type of treatment not only cleans up small amounts of oily dirt, it also shines and protects these finishes. This would be impossible to do with car wax.
Protecting the Wire Harness During Waxing
You must protect your wire harness during waxing otherwise the wax residue will embed itself into the cloth covering and you will not be able to remove it. On those areas where the wire harness comes in contact with the body parts, pre wrap these in masking tape before applying the wax.
Cleaning Tonneau, Hood and Side Curtains
To clean the hood, tonneau and side curtains I use Woolite. Woolite is a mild cleaning solution for knits and other delicate items. It works well with the outside softgoods on your TD used with a stiff brush and lots of clean rinse water. Dry the items in place to keep their shape.

Finishing

Body Work
I will not attempt to explain body work techniques on these pages save a few recommendations. There are many other sources of body work materials in circulation. I do want to point out one tip that I think you should consider in this area though. It is one of the biggest mistakes that first time restorers and even some professional do when restoring a car. They dissasemble the car first. First and foremost it is important to remember that the MGTD, like all cars, is a collection of parts that are put together (generally bolted together in the case of the MGTD) as one unit. It is important that you realize this as you approach the restoration of the car. For this reason you should begin all body work with the car fully assembled. While all the fenders are in place you should do your rough body work and straightening. Make sure that all the parts line up with each other and there are smooth lines from part to part. You should be able to look down the fender line from front wing to rear wing and all the parts should be on an even plane. Also make sure that the radiator and hood line up evenly. Make any adjustments that you need to do now. Also check the fit of the doors and make sure the hinges are working properly and are not worn out. Once you have completed the major body work (less fillers if needed) you can then disassemble the car and proceed with the finishing of each part individually.
Fitting the Doors
The doors on the MGTD can be a bit of a hastle to get to fit correctly. First it is assumed that all the body is in sound condition (wood and metal). Next make sure that the hinges fit snugly and are not worn out at the pins. You may be able to purchase slightly thicker hinge pins with the same diameter head if your hinges are worn. Replace any hinges that need replacing. You will need to remove the door panels and floor boards for the next step. You will have to experiment with all three of the following techniques interactively until the doors fit just right. This may take some time. The doors are adjusted by the following means.

First the hinges determine where the door is placed in the opening. You may have to bend them slightly in a vice. Wrap them in cloth first to prevent them from being severely scratched. Next you will need to adjust the shims under the body where it attaches to the frame. There should be various pads at these locations. Experiment with different thicknesses of pads until you have just the correct opening. You may need to adjust the hinges at the same time. Generally thicker pads in the middle of the door will make the opening wider while thinner pads at that location will make the opening smaller. Lastly you can adjust the strap on the door to change the angle that it closes at. Optionally you can replace the strap with a cable and turnbuckle system that allows for more fine tuning. This will aline the top and bottom so the door fits flush with the body. When done I paint the door with the hinges on them and then afterwards bolt this assembly to the body.

Stripping Paint
Once you have decided to strip the paint from your vehicle you have a number of choices; chemical strippers, tank strippers, and abrasion strippers (sanding or blasting). I like the chemical method the best all though it is the most labor intensive. All of the other methods have the potential to damage the metalwork. Tank strippers do a wonderful job but they remove all the protective coatings, even where you can't see them. Also with tank strippers you may not get all the solution removed/neutralized so you run this risk of further problems down the road. Only use this method on parts that you have full access to all sides. Abrasion strippers are effective but can alter or ruin the underlying metal. Especially sand blasting. I would not recommended it unless you have severe rust. Plan on following up with a very aggressive body treatment after sandblasting. Chemical strippers are the most labor intensive and dangerous, but only work where you want them too. Look for new environmental friendly chemical strippers and follow the directions explicitly. You might combine these methods as needed, as each has it's own merits on different parts of the car.
Painting Wire Wheels
One of the harder things to paint on a car is wire wheels. Now if you have an original MGTD you don't have to worry about wire wheels. Just in case you have them here is a tip on how to paint them easily. Get a halfshaft with a wire wheel hub on it. Mount the wheel on the hub and have one person spin the shaft slowly as the painter with the spray gun apples the paint. In this manner the paint will be more evenly distributed on the wheel and you will be less likely to create sags, runs, or dry spots.
Painting the Radiator
The radiators main purpose is to exchange heat from the engine with the environment. This is accomplished by air passing over a set of narrow tubes that are connected by fins of thin copper material. If you put a heavy coat of paint on these fins you are severely reducing the cooling effect that is desired. The paint will act as a thermal blanket. One way to achieve a functional but beautiful radiator is to use different paint types on the various surfaces of the radiator. First you will need to have your radiator hot tanked and cored. Make sure to mention you do not want the radiator painted. For the finned area (core) I would use a light coat of black heat paint. Do not prime the fins first. This is the same type of paint used for exhaust systems. After that has dried overnight mask the area on both sides. Now paint the remaining area with primer and then follow up with a high gloss black enamel such as Dupont Imron.
Painting the Engine and Transmission
The engine and transmission of the MGTD is predominantly painted a dark red color. You may obtain original color paints from various parts suppliers or have the paint mixed at an automotive paint supplier. Generally an automotive paint will produce a superior finish over the paint supplied in spray cans. One thing to consider though is the thickness of the paint application. The more paint you apply to the engine and transmission the less cooling that will take place convectively. While this is no where as efficient as the heat exchange of the radiator, it is non the less a source of cooling. Too thick of an application of paint could reduce this effect. Generally it is best to limit the amount of paint (especially automotive body paints) that you apply to the engine and transmission.
Finishing Lacquer Paints
There is no doubt that lacquer can provide the best looking finish. One of the ways of achieving this is to create a flawless paint job. To do this with lacquer is fairly easy but it takes a great deal of time and effort. First you must start with perfect body work. Be prepared to paint the piece of your car many times if necessary. Get at least one or two extra gallons of paint over and above what you think it will take. Apply a number of coats of lacquer (14 to 24) especially on the edges. After the paint has dried for a few days (weeks is better) take 1200 to 1500 grit wet or dry sand paper and a sanding block and lightly sand the entire painted surface using water liberally. Use rubber sanding pads for rounded areas. Everywhere on the surface should now be a uniform, smooth, dull finish. If you discover dimples or bumps during this process it's back to the bodywork and refinish stages. Now you can polish the lacquer to a high gloss with a buffer and/or by hand. Do the edges by hand and don't sand too near these as they are susceptible to paint loss. I even go as far as applying masking tape to the edges when polishing these areas by machine in order to preserve the paint. If you use this sanding technique you will be assured of an amazingly shinny and mirror like finish.
Plating 'Lift the Dot' Fasteners
Even when using brand new 'Lift the Dot' fasteners I have them plated first. It is amazing how much better this looks than plain stainless new ones.
Polishing Brass, White Metal and Aluminum
You can polish all of your unpainted metal parts with a buffing wheel and then spray a coat of clear gloss over the top of the polished parts. Look for special cans of paint at the paint/hardware store for this purpose. Most of the brass, aluminum, and white metal parts look great with even a little bit of buffing. By coating them afterward the finish will stay shinny for years. Don't coat items that you can easily polish such as the air cleaner manifold and carb dashpot bodies.
Restoring Bakelite Finishes
Some Bakelite items cannot be replaced. The problem is that over time they loose their shinny black look. One way to restore these parts to a near new condition is to paint them first with a black upholstery dye in spray form. Do not use the kind of dye that covers up the finish but actually dyes the finish. Follow-up with a clear acrylic high gloss coating if needed.
Some readers have also had good experience in restoring bakelite finishes to like new by polishing them. Use the white colored compound and a buffing wheel. Be careful around any cast details such as lettering. Will make the item shine but may not get rid of the brown look, some of which is inherent in older bakelite. If you want a truly black look then you will have to follow with the procedure above.
Copper Polishing
The copper fuel lines, overflow pipes, and other copper lines look very nice polished. I use a product like Brasso to polish these parts. It only lasts for a few months but once the initial polishing is done, it is easy to restore the finish. Don't forget to do items such as the engine ID plate, tappet clearance plate, and radiator drain pipe. If you have coated any of these items with the clear finish then you cannot use Brasso on them.
Instrument Panel Knobs
Some of the knobs are bakelite and some are hard rubber. They can be differentiated in that the hard rubber, when polished has a mottled, very dark brown appearance. Both respond well to a buffing wheel using a compound called stainless (white). This buffing removes all of the oxidized material from the surface and restores the original gloss. Some have then painted the hard rubber knobs with a special paint such as the product Pensbury Manor black hard rubber pen potion No.9 see www.pensburymanor.com. The white lettering can be refurbished by first making sure that all dirt and polishing compound is out of the groves, then run some thin white paint into the groves. After the paint sets up for awhile, wipe the top ot the knobs with some paint thinner to remove any paint that migrated to the top. - Dave DuBois
Flocking the Glovebox by Evan Ford
I found flocking fibers, flocking glue, and a mini flocker at the Woodcraft store. I purchased a bag of brown fibers, a matching 8oz can of brown glue, and a neat little air pump called a mini flocker. To apply, you pull the inner tube out of the pump, fill it half full of fiber and put it back together. Then you paint glue on the surface. Next, you pump the inner tube inside the outer tube. There are small holes in the end of the outer tube that shoot the powder fibers out in a cloud. You aim the tube at the glue and it quickly builds a nice felt like surface. The glue has a 10-15 minute working time to apply the fiber. The glue needs 12-15 hours to fully set, then you can shake excess material off of the surface and keep for re-use. It is recommended to not subject the newly flocked suface to hard use for 4-5 days.
Quick Black Oxide Touchup
If you find your black oxide parts are in need of a little attention but they are otherwise sound you can touch them up with a black Sharpie marker.
Finishing Fuel Tank Ends
If you want the original end panel look you will need to scuff sand any place you want to have paint. That means the rounded edges too. If you lay masking tape on the flat surfaces you can then use 400 grit paper lightly on the edges. It just needs a bit of scuffing. The tape will keep you from making a mistake.

Then when done mist coat the rolled edges and coat the center flat area heavier so you sand out any blemishes. Once that is done and you are ready for color I would remove the masking tape and then use some lacquer thinner to remove any tape residue and primer paint edge.

Now comes the tricky part: When you put on the color you have to make sure you are always painting from the center out so you don't put paint on the chrome edge. Just mist the paint on the rolled portions so it does not build up too much. Enough to cover but not to thick.

Once everything has dried (overnight?) then take a rag with lacquer thinner on it and lightly wipe any overspray off of the chrome edge. Don't bother with the edge that rests against the body. The factory didn't.

Driving

Windshield Rubber Strip
When driving my car in mild climates I always remove the windshield rubber from between the body and windscreen. If you don't, the natural movement of the windscreen and collected dirt and dust will work together to sand away your car as you drive.
Bug Screen for Radiator Grill
One of the most frustrating things about keeping your paint job looking new is all the paint chips that flat radiator grill will get. One easy way to protect the grill is to obtain a nylon widow screen material that is a few inches wider than the width of the grill and shell. Open the bonnet and tuck the screen in between the shell and bonnet on both sides. Now you can drive about without bugs and rocks impinging on your shinny radiator grill slats.

General

Silicone Brake Fluid
Whenever you get the chance you should convert your braking system to silicone based or DOT 5 brake fluid. It is more expensive than regular brake fluid but it will not harm the finish on your car. Regular brake fluid will soften and remove all types of paints, even Dupont Imron. Sooner or later one of your brakes parts will leak, ruining anything in the path of the fluid. You must replace all of your rubber parts and completely flush out all the old brake fluid during the change over. You also cannot mix the fluid types so a label near your master cylinder filler should indicate that DOT 5 fluid only be used.
Storing for Long Periods
There are many procedures that people take when storing their cars for an extended period such as draining the fuel, disconnecting the battery, putting the car on blocks etc. Most people forget to take care of the finishes with the same amount of attention.
The finishes of your car need just as much attention, if not more. First thing on my list would be to give the car a thorough cleaning, followed by a good polishing. A treatment of the leather with a leather conditioner as well as a vinyl treatment is in order. Once you have the car all clean, polished and conditioned it is time to store it away. What is needed is a dust proof but breathable container (unless you have a humidity controlled environment to store your car in). The easiest way I have found to do this is the following:
1. Obtain a large plastic sheet about 10' x 12'.
2. Lay the sheet on the garage floor over the area you will be placing the car
3. Drive the car onto the center of the plastic sheet
4. Take care of any remaining mechanical needs for storage at this time such as putting the car on blocks etc.
5. Be sure to remove or turn in any items that stick out and can be bumped such as mirrors
6. Cover the car with a breathable car cover. Do not use a water proof or plastic cover
7. Now roll the car cover into the plastic sheet at the edges creating a cocoon for your car
8. Secure the rolled edges with clips or clothespins.
Installing 'Lift the Dot' Fasteners on Body
Many people complain that when installing the 'Lift the Dot' fasteners on their cars bodies, the paint is chipped. While this does happen there are ways to minimize or avoid this. First of all do not tighten the studs down all the way to the body surface. Watch very carefully as the stud approaches the body and stop just before it meets the body finish. Another option is to get some clear #8 nylon washers and put them onto the studs first. Get them small enough so they will not show when the stud is screwed all the way down.

If the stud seems loose at this point you will need to do some repair work first. You may try to add a bit of epoxy to the hole before you install the stud.
For holes that are still loose then you will need to fill them first and then redrill new holes. The easiest way to do this is to drill out the hole with a drill the size of the metal opening. Do not use a larger drill or the hole may show later. Obtain a piece of hardwood doweling the same size as the hole. Fill the hole with epoxy and insert a short piece of doweling flush with the body. Drill the hole out the correct size for the stud and insert the stud as above using epoxy.
Side Curtain Bags
Side curtains are easily scratched and gotten dirty even when you are as careful as you can be. The side curtain container is a real pain to work with and it's impossible to get the curtains in and out with causing real damage. To prevent damage to your side curtains you might do what I have down. Create a set of side curtain bags to protect them. I obtained a soft cotton material that was the same color as the side curtains. I traced out the shape of the curtains as they would be stored in the side curtain box on two pieces of material allowing a few inches extra material for joining the pieces. Next I decided where there should be an opening like a pillow case in each bag. You may either close the opening with zippers or Velcro. Finally stitch together the other three sides just like a pillow case. Put each side curtain in it's own bag before storing per the instructions in the manual.

If you don't want to make your own side curtain bags, Moss Motors has them for sale. Item number 259-808.
Attaching Hood to the Body Bucket
Originally the hood was secured to the three wooden strips on the back of the body by screws and washers. This makes for a strong fastening but there is a better way. Have you ever wanted to get to something in the boot easily without climbing in the car? What about easily cleaning the boot area? How about having a nice smooth tonneau without the bulge of the hood underneath? All this and more can be achieved by replacing those washers and screws with snaps. Place the snap studs on the body mounting wood exactly where the screws would have gone or were. Install the snaps on the hood under the flap to match up with the snap studs. Snap the hood to the body. When you want access to the boot area or want to put the hood down, unsnap the hood and it is out of the way. One note. Generally the tensioner straps will have to be nailed to the wood strips in order to provide sufficient tension.
Creating Chip Proof Tools
Cars are mechanical devices and tools are required to build and maintain them. Tools are generally hard and have sharp edges. It's not a case of if you are going to drop a tool on your new paint job or scratch a component while installing it, but when. To help in this area you should always use the smallest tool that you can. Also try to use combination wrenches or box wrenches whenever possible with the free end the box end . One last tip is to coat your tools with rubber. Obtain a tool rubber dipping solution from your hardware store. Dip all your hand tools in the compound and let them dry. After they have dried take a sharp knife and cut away the rubber from the working surfaces. Now if you drop the tool or brush up against another finished component, there will be less damage done than if you were using raw tools.
Replacing the Starter Motor
The manual would suggest the you disassemble the entire front exhaust system to replace the starter. The truth is that it can fit in through the chassis from the side just in front of the 'A' member and under the frame stiffeners. The problem is you will scratch everything including the starter while doing this. To prevent this first obtain an old clean T-shirt. Insert the starter in the T-shirt and then poke it through the hole, head first. Insert the starter into the flywheel hole by pulling back the T-shirt to expose the shaft. Secure the two bolts by hand and then remove the T-shirt and tighten with wrenches.
Removing the hood?
One person who is strong can remove the hood by themselves but it is safer to do it with two persons. Take the whole hood out at one time. Simply open each side of the hood at one time and undue the machine screws at the front and wood screws at the rear. Open the hood so it is vertical on both sides and remove.

Moss Motors has a tech tip that explains how to remove the hinge pins without marking them up or damaging the hood.
Fitting Hood Rubber Strip at Body (firewall)
Start in the center and push the rubber against the metal while tacking the rubber to the wood area. Put a little tension on the rubber to the outside as you go. Put tacks about every 3 inches or so. When you get to the corner where you are having problems then you will need two persons. One person pulls a lot on the rubber while at the same time pushes it hard against the lip. The other person tacks. Space the tacks about 1 inch apart in this area and once you have cleared the turn go back to about three inch spacing.
Fastening the rubber treads into the running board strips
Cut the rubber a little longer (~½ inch) than the slot. Then take a knife and cut a V shape on both ends. Take the rubber strip to a grinder and round over the top of the V's. After that spray with Armorall or some other rubber lubricant. Push one end of the rubber strip into the slot and start working with a flat device to push the other edge into the groove. A piece of wood or plastic would be best. Make sure that it has rounded edges just in case you slip so it won't tear up the paint. Work your way down to the end, pushing the material back as you go. Tuck the end in and then the compression of the strip will tighten the fit.
Restoring the original finned oil sump
Many times the original oil sump has been damaged by misuse. Many times the fins have been broken or smashed. To repair this takes time but it is not impossible. First make sure that the sump is clean (free from oil) on the inside and out. It would be best if it is bead blasted on the areas to be repaired. Then take the sump to a talented heli-arc (aluminium) welder. They can lay a bead of metal down where the missing fin section should be. You will then have to carefully grind the correct shape into the pan. Follow up with a beadblast to give a uniform texture and then clean thoroughly. You must remove all the sand of else your engine will regret it later.
Repairing stripped out threads in cast aluminium parts.
Aluminium is very soft and it is easy to strip the threads on these parts. In addition it is not uncommon to find someone who got lazy and forced an incorrect thread into a part, rendering it useless for the original bolt. You can try to rethread these with a correct tap but many times you will need to replace the threads. Take your part to a machine shop who can insert a heli-coil into the stripped hole.

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