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"I'm sorry but we don't sell leaded fuel anymore!" That was the basic translation of the comments from petrol stations all over Germany on Saturday 5th October when leaded fuel cars stopped to fill up. German authorities had issued a decree overnight banning the sale of all leaded fuels. To make matters even worse, owners of vehicles with no catalytic converters will have to pay the equivalent of £2,000 extra road duty as a punishment for allegedly polluting the atmosphere and if the smog levels in a particular area are designated as poor then use of the non cat. Vehicle is forbidden. On the morning of this Saturday, German MGOC members were calling and faxing the club buying unleaded cylinder heads for their cars and within a few hours we had sold out. Whilst all this was going on we were welcoming members from Notts area MGOC who heard of the German problems as we did. Immediately the subject turned to our UK cars and the questions Notts members were asking are probably typical of those you would have asked too.
Can my MG be converted to unleaded?
Yes it can, all MGs can either run on unleaded fuel now or after modifications to the head which involve harder valve seats.
Which MGs can run on unleaded fuel now?
MGFs, MGR V8s, later MG Maestros and MG Montegos (check the car handbook for verification) and any MG which as had hardened valve seats inserted.
If I put unleaded fuel in my leaded fuel MG without converting it, what will happen?
Very shortly you'll notice overheating unless you retard the timing a couple of degrees, then it will appear to run on unleaded fuel you will notice a loss of power. You'll notice even sooner after prolonged medium to high speed motoring and the engine will appear to be worn out.
I heard of someone who changed their MGB cylinder head for an unleaded head and in no time at all they needed a new engine, is this possible?
Yes it is possible, if your engine is in good order with plenty of life in it you can change major components and not really affect the rest of the engine. But if the engine is worn and nearing the end of its useful life if you change a major component like the cylinder head and fit a new one with better compression then the rest of the unchanged engine will wear out more quickly.
My MGs engine has done well over 100,000 miles, would you recommend that I fit an unleaded head now?
If your engine hasn't had a recent bottom end overhaul and is basically original I would recommend that you didn't change the head now. There's plenty of time between now and 2003 for you to complete a few thousand more miles, then when the engine is in need of replacement, fit an exchange engine with an unleaded head.
What happens when a cylinder head is converted?
The head is removed from the car and is checked for cracks. If it is okay the engineer will remove the valves, he will then clean the head thoroughly and he will affix rings of hardened steel to the area where the valve retracts into the head when the valve is closed, this is the valve seat. The cylinder head is then replaced and the engine can run on unleaded fuel once any necessary adjustments to the timing have been carried out.
Supposing we are instructed to fit catalytic converters to our MGs just as German owners have to do?
In Germany there are specialists fitting catalytic converters to cars which didn't have them originally. We are not envisaging that we will suffer the same outrageous instruction in Britain but if we do we will protest as the benefits of catalytic converters and unleaded fuel are still doubted in some informed quarters. If however they are proved to be beneficial and we are forced to fit them then you can rest assured that the club will monitor the situation extremely closely and that we will provide a solution at reasonable cost.
If I go to Germany in my MG without converting it can I take additives to put in with the unleaded fuel?
Yes there are already additives sold in unleaded fuel only Austria and Castrol for example supply Austrian petrol stations with this. No doubt they will be supplying Germany too. With regard to other EEC countries, Italy has the largest number of leaded fuel only vehicles (I think we are second largest). The present Conservative Government has promised that we will have leaded fuel until at least 2003 and probably beyond and the Labour opposition have promised leaded fuel if they are elected. (I haven't heard of any promises from the Liberal Democrats or the Monster Raving Loony Party, if they look like winning an election we will press them for an commitment.)
We know that tin pellets, canisters, magnetic fuel converters and pills are a con and do not work because they have been exposed as being so but how would we know if someone did really make a product which could convert our engines with an easy modification or by some clever adaptation?
Any inventor who designs anything that can covert our engines to run on unleaded fuel without modifications will be suddenly and very seriously rich once the credible experts such as the RAC, AA, SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers) and other recognised bodies have tried and tested them satisfactorily. Until then, ignore agents calling at your door and anyone who has bought a franchise to sell you any new wonder product.
And lastly, one Notts member asked I bought my MGB a couple of years ago and I don't know if the previous owner had fitted an unleaded head. How can I tell?
The easiest way is to look through the bills you got with the MG when you bought it. If there's no clue, contact the seller and ask. If you cannot do that, remove the head and look at the valve seats around the valves. If hardened seats have been fitted you'll see a ring of hardened steel in a slightly lighter colour to the rest of the metal around it. Don't bother checking now though, there are still seven years to go before leaded fuel is in serious danger of disappearing in the UK.
More on petrol
GOOD ADVICE FROM THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
Fenton Brelser and 'Honest John' write regularly in the morning section of the Daily Telegraph. Recently an article appeared on uninsured drivers and the advice given was so good I feel that we should all know about it.
A lorry driver turned carelessly at a junction and hit a car waiting at traffic lights and then failed to stop. The car driver noticed that the lorry had been held up in traffic and he ran up to the cab only to be told that he was just the driver and couldn't help. The car driver took the lorry's number and contacted the police who advised him that they weren't allowed to get involved as it was a civil matter and no one was injured. The officer relented and agreed to trace the owner but on the basis that the information was strictly off record. It turned out the plates were false. The car owner demanded action but the officer shrugged even when a description of the lorry and driver were offered.
Another driver was hit by another car who stopped but the offending driver refused point blank to give insurance details. The police were called but refused to come as no one had been injured. It turned out that the driver's insurance wasn't valid and the innocent car driver couldn't claim against the guilty party, worse still, the police would not get involved, again because no one was injured. The advice of the Daily Telegraph therefore became clear. If we are involved in an accident and the guilty party is unwilling to satisfy us with the verification of name and address and insurance details then don't bother calling the police unless you are injured. Now that injury might not be very severe, a slightly cricked neck, a sprained wrist, a twinge in the knee? You get the picture? If an injury is reported, the policeman will be your loyal and faithful servant and will insist on the guilty party presenting all the right information. If it's a villain who is possibly lying then he or she can be arrested and your chances of nailing the guilty party are better though if they have no insurance and no money you'll probably end up with you or your insurer paying anyway.
It's out this month, the latest MG Owners' Club Catalogue. Titled 'Club Collection' it brings details of lots of wonderful new products for you and your family and friends to buy for you. To ensure delivery for Christmas, please order as early as you can but we will be working hard right up to the last dates for posting.
Now answer honestly, do you read Insight, the newspaper publication we send you each quarter? Umm, that's about fifty per cent of you who say you read it, what about the other fifty per sent? It turns out that some of you didn't even know what it was and didn't open it. A change is therefore being considered. The next issue, Number 4 will be the last in the series. We've covered most of the main points of the pitfalls of arranging classic car insurance in the first three and the last will contain a step by step guide to pursuing a claim with all the potential minefields. Then when the last issue is posted we'll condense all the insurance related information into one booklet which will be available to new policyholders and a claims section which can be posted to anyone unlucky enough to suffer a loss.
Again another true tale and I can vouch for this one cause it happened to me. I used to have a super alsation called Boxa. He was big and black and looked fierce but was a playful as a pussycat. Boxa loved MGs and went everywhere with his head enjoying the breeze, he also loved sheep, he didn't kill them, he didn't eat them, he just loved chasing them as you can appreciate, this didn't go down too well with John, our local friendly farmer. Once John caught Boxa with his sheep, chased him off and warned me. I kept Boxa indoors. A second time, Boxa ran off and again John brought him back with a final warning. Another attempt at amateur sheep dog trials and Boxa would be shot! I kept Boxa under proper control and for months there were no problems. Then at Christmas there was a black tie dinner at the village pub and it ended around two in the morning. The sky was crystal clear with a marvellous moon and the frost cracked underfoot. I opened the back door, called Boxa for a walk and we set off across a field. I didn't see the sheep but Boxa did, he stopped, his ears pricked up and before I had chance to grab him he was off. In the clear moonlight I could see the sheep being herded one way and then the other and I called to a neighbour also in a dinner suit to help me catch the dog. We ran across the field to find Boxa barking, madly at a ewe which had jumped into a pond breaking the ice. It was floundering. I seized the dog, ran home and immediately telephoned John and blurted out that one of his sheep was in the pond and would he come quickly? I left the dog at home, ran back to the pond where my friend had taken off his dinner jacket and was trying to pull the sheep up the bank. Of course the sheep's coat was full of water, the ice glistened in the moonlight and the animal was too heavy. I tugged at it too but it wouldn't budge. I then had an idea. I took off my shoes and trousers and tip toed into the freezing water wearing not much more than socks, my long tailed white shirt and a black tie. I wasn't cold, I'd had two brandies and the adrenaline was flowing. I felt my way deeper into the pond got behind the sheep and pushed it hard towards the bank. My friend leaned over and pulled and I got behind the sheep and shoved again. He pulled, I shoved, he pulled again and I shoved again. The John arrived fresh from his bed and wearing his overcoat. He took one look at the sheep, a second one at me and said If I had a camera, you'll never be Mayor of Cambridge.
As far as John was concerned that was that and I agreed. Either the dog went to a new home or it was shot. A good friend took Boxa and he and his wife loved him. He would sleep in their bedroom, eat a full breakfast each morning and chocolate biscuits and a bowl of cocoa every evening. After a few months, I visited Boxa as he'd had enough time to settle. He hid from me and I was very upset until his new owners explained his lifestyle and diet. Once I had assured Boxa that I hadn't come to take him back he welcomed me like a long lost friend. Six years after that sheep episode Boxa died of cancer peacefully in his owner's arms and I never did make Mayor of Cambridge.
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