Classic MGB Restoration

TEL: (513) 793-0434 SAM SMYTH IMPORTED CAR SERVICE, INC. INDEPENDENT Specialist

SMYTH IMPORTS IS AN INDEPENDENT SERVICE FACILITY THAT PROVIDES COST EFFECTIVE RESTORATION, SERVICE, MAINTENANCE, REPAIR, AND HISTORY

A wise man once said that British sports cars are never completely repaired -they're just resting. Mine is resting again, but how long it will stay happy is a mystery known only to the dark magic of Lucas electrics and English engineers whose designs are more crooked than their teeth. My latest bout with the '77 MGB roadster went several rounds. First, I had a leaky head gasket that blew a breach in the dike between two cylinders. Mayhem ensued. It was a mechanical Katrina in the engine bay. I tore it down at Smyth Imported Cars - coached and counseled by my mechanic sensei, Sam Smyth. ("Clean up your bleeping mess, grasshopper. And what did you do with my %&*#-ing nine-sixteenths socket?") Sam is Beethoven with a screwdriver, Mozart with a wrench. He conducts a symphony of Rolls Royces, Land Rovers and BMWs that come in with smokers' cough and leave singing like Pavarotti. But when it comes to tuning up a shade-tree greasemonkey like me, he is b-b-b-bad to the bone. So back to the project. The Bee lost its sting. It's timing was gone, and timing is everything. Ditto for the dual-points distributor and sparkplug wires because some shade-tree greasemonkey like me left the key on. Doh. So I opened my toolbox and dove in. There is nothing sweeter than the snickety snick of a ratchet doing its job properly. It's almost worth all the skinned knuckles and oil tattoos. I pulled off the supercharger and exhaust manifold and pulled the head. After a few phone calls to Moss Motors, I discovered that their supercharger set-up had an authentically British design flaw that caused the whole (literal) meltdown. One little screw lacked the backbone to withstand the pulley torque. It sheared, causing the drive-belt to fly off, causing the engine to overheat, blowing a hole in the head gasket. Short version: Bleeping bloody bleep. "You should weld that piece and eliminate the screw," they told me. They could have done so, but that would have been too expensive they said - as I ordered a small fortune in parts. I had it welded and replaced it, rebuilt the head with an alloy intake manifold (nice!) and put on a dozen or so other new parts just for good measure. Fixed? No, just resting. A week later I noticed an oil leak like a dripping faucet. Three days later, I finally found it, in the worst possible place - back corner of the head gasket, under the supercharger. Bleeping bleepity bleep bleeper. I pulled the head again - getting good at that now - put in a new gasket, and discovered the problem: the exhaust-manifold bolts were too long, pushing the head studs off line and raising the intake manifold off the block. So now the Bee is back on the road. Resting. I'm sure some are scratching their heads, wondering what kind of fool who is not suffering from gasoline-fume brain damage would spend all that effort on a little British car that was almost an antique the day it was poorly built. It's for the love of sports cars. There is nothing like it on the road, nothing like it being built today - and that means you Mr. Miata. The charm of the old British cars was that they are like the women we love - beautiful to look at, high maintenance, and so incredibly complex they keep us humble. British car repair could be a ministry for the way it brings us to our knees. This is probably more than anyone wants to know about mechanical surgery on British sports cars. But I have a point buried here somewhere behind the back corner of the head gasket. When you think your mechanic is taking you for a ride, sometimes you could be right. But most of the time, it's because the automobile in your garage is a chorus of moving parts - if one little screw misses a note, the concert that gets you from here to there can sound like karaoke at the home for the terminally tone deaf, or a landslide of cymbals. So have some patience and respect for the man with the wrench. All that labor and repairs really can be caused by a 28-cent screw. Sooper B said so. -Peter Bronson

This content is for informational purposes only. Any opinions and representations expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sam Smyth individually or his company and or his employees. You are encouraged to seek any advise from your own sources. Sam is an independent service specialist, if you would like, please call him for his opinion.