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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
don't want to make your own side curtain bags,
Moss Motors has them for sale. Item
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
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
tip that explains how to remove the hinge pins without marking them up or
damaging the hood.
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.
All of you who have been around me for any length of time have heard me preach about keeping the fan belt on the T series cars loose. A tight belt will do really bad things to the generator (kind of like what over tight underwear does to a person, but that is a subject for other publications), like causing excessive wear on the rear generator bushing and in severe cases, actually wearing through the bushing and into the housing. It also causes sloppy water pump bearings and water leaks according to Stuart Locke, who has rebuilt numerous generators and water pumps for people that keep their belts too tight. The same thing is true for the MGA and the early MGBs that use generators rather than alternators. I have always followed my own advice and kept the fan belt in our TD EXTREMELY loose. So you can imagine my surprise a couple of months ago when I traced the source of squeaking in the engine compartment to the generator armature rubbing on the field poles because the rear bushing was worn excessively. I pulled the generator and did a quick overhaul, cleaning it up, replacing the rear bushing and brushes and repainting it. Then I started puzzling out why the rear bushing wore so quickly (if you consider 15 years to be quick). Interestingly, at the same time I was working on an article, Stuart Locke was doing the same thing some 600 miles south in Sunnyvale. His article arrived about two days after I had given mine to Liz for the Bonnet, so after consulting with Stuart, I am combining the two articles.
Since the fan belt that was originally on the car when I bought it in 1974 was a bit over sized, I had replaced it when I restored the car in the early ’80s. At that time the belts from Moss were a solid and very stiff belt, but I didn’t give that much thought at the time. In revisiting the situation after rebuilding the generator, I took a more critical look at the belt I had been using and dug around until I uncovered the original belt (the one that was too long). What I found was that the original belt was a Gates Green Stripe belt that was segmented on the inside edge and was, therefore, a very flexible belt. When installed, it could be run very loose and as a result, put very little sideways pressure on the generator pulley, which results in very little pressure being transmitted to the rear bushing through the armature. I then embarked on a search for one of these really flexible fan belts and, through trial and error and a very helpful auto parts store in Bremerton who special ordered goodness knows how many different sizes of belts for me from Seattle, found the proper size Gates Green Stripe II belt. This belt is also segmented on the inside surface. Although the segments are much wider than on the original Green Stripe belts, it still results in a much more flexible belt than what I bought from Moss. The part number on this belt is TR22392 and it is a 11/16" x 39 3/4" (17mm X 1010mm) Truck and Bus series belt made by Gates. In his article, Stuart tells us that the Goodyear 22394 belt is 22/32" x 39 1/2" (17mm x 1005mm) and that the Moss belt is not only very stiff, but is also considerably shorter at 17mm x 925mm (about three inches too short), which I found when I was special ordering all those belts trying to find the right one. Additionally, Stuart found in a 1949 book, Exploring Auto Mechanics by Harold T. Glen, that the fan belts on the TCs and TDs (and by extension, the TFs) should be adjusted to have ONE INCH of slack between the generator and the water pump (not on the longest leg as we are used to).
By the way, as I said earlier, the same problem exists on the MGAs and early MGBs, but is not so pronounced since they use the later style narrow fan belts which are much more flexible than the ones used on the T series cars. The fan belt still needs to be run quite loose (one half inch of slack between the generator and the water pump, rather than on the longest leg) on the MGAs and MGBs to prevent premature wear on the rear generator bushings.
My source for the belts over here in Kitsap County is Westbay Auto. Those of you in Seattle, Tacoma and other areas will have to check around for the Gates belts. So now you have no excuse not to loosen up and get comfortable.
Some additional sources and part numbers for the proper belts: NAPA 25-22392 UAP (Canada) 15A0995 DAYCO 22385 (15A0980) Available at a variety of auto parts stores.