A few years back, I saw an ad in the local CraigsList for a 1933 MG-J2. This predates the TC and TD, and even the PA models. I started a dialog with the owner, who had it stored away in his shed since 1972. It looked like a good find, but before I closed the deal, it got posted on Bring-A-Trailer. All of a sudden, the owner had inquiries from around the world from interested parties, with offers more than his CraigsList asking price. Well, I was lucky to get it - he researched some of the potential buyers on-line, and from what he found about me, he thought I would be a good candidate for owning it, so he sold it to me for the listed price. I pulled it out of his storage building, which was quite a task since some of the wheels didn't roll anymore - they just dragged along, and the tires were pretty much all rotten. Fortunately, it isn't very heavy.
After I got it home, the first order of business was to make it a roller. I discovered that someone had converted the original cable-brake system to hydraulics. Where the hydraulic brakes came from, I just don't know, but some of the parts matched MG-TC, but not all of them. I rounded up some usable parts from various sources, had the original shoes relined, then put it back together. Then I sand-blasted the 19" wheels and powder-coated them. Finally, I found a new set of tires and tubes and mounted them up. At last, it could be easily rolled around. However, the park brake isn't hooked up, and the master cylinder had rusted shut years ago. But still, it rolls! So I rolled it back to my storage building, and there it has sat for a few more years - until now.
Here are a few more shots of it, as found...
In the next shot, notice how the driver's and passenger's feet are right next to a vent in the bonnet. This probably isn't a wonderful cold-weather car...
If you are a "car guy," you can probably see why I was intrigued. Just a neat classic car - from the early 30's, which was a golden age for automotive design.
So, what do you do with a car like this? One major issue is that it doesn't have the correct motor. From a little research, I believe that it's 30-HP side-valve, probably from a Prefect 4-door or Thames panel of the late 30's. These J2s were advanced cars for the time, and they originally featured overhead cam engines. Unfortunately, the basis for the engine was a two-main-bearing lower end. So back in the day, most engines failed, and were lost to history. There were only about 2,000 built in the first place, and very few made it to the USA (they were never directly exported to the US by MG), and even fewer of the motors made it through the years. Even the incorrect flathead-four in it isn't fully installed. Lacks cooling, wiring, drive-shaft connection, etc. Let's see, what else is keeping this car from being correct? I already mentioned that the brakes were non-original, the chrome is really bad, missing most of the interior (seats, gauges,etc), and even the fenders aren't quite correct for the car. By the way, those cool cycle fenders in front were superceded in the later J2s with wing-type fenders that eventually made it to the TCs, TDs, etc. An interesting thing is that the fenders don't turn with the wheels. So I suppose there's a lot of water and debris flying around when the wheels are turned.
So, one option would be to restore it. That would mean years of finding rare parts and restoring everything to original. Then, you wouldn't be inclined to use it, performance would be minimal, too valuable and fragile. Maybe a rat-rod? I guess I'm not a rat-rod person at heart, I like things a little nicer than that, and I think this car deserves better..
Finally, I thought about the idea of making it a hot-rod which might resemble something that was created in the thirties or forties. Keep it as stock as possible (so it can serve as an example of an original J2) , but make it usable, and hopefully "cool," and have some fun in the process of building it. The goal would be to preserve and restore all the parts that could be reused, so it would be more original than when I purchased it, with the exception of the different drivetrain (which isn't original now). Maybe some years down the road, a new custodian of it might take it the rest of the way back to original, but that's up to them, and they will be a lot closer to that goal once I've done my thing.
So that's what I decided. It seemed like a wonderful engine for such a rig would be an old Ford Flathead V8, like Henry Ford brought out in '32, a year before this car was born. A normal flathead V8 is too big, but they made a few "V8-60" flatheads that are considerably smaller, and would be suitable for such a small car. The "60" is because they had 60 HP, generated from only 136 cubic inches (that's a 2.2L V8 - tiny pistons). But, they would fit, be period-correct, and would look and sound good. So I set out in search of one - they are rare, just like the J2.
To make this project feasible for me, my talented brother Mark kindly volunteered to to the body work on the car. He did the same on the Pedicab project. It turned out well, and we enjoyed having the chance to work together.
The gentleman who I bought the J2 from, John, had the vision that he would love to see the buyer get the J2 back on the road, and to see it at the Seattle All British Field Meet some day. So, for him, I've set a goal of making it to that show next July. That's eight or nine months away. If you watch the reality shows on TV, you know that you have to have a goal. Thank heavens its not so quick that I will have to compromise quality, as they must have to do (if there's any reality in what you see). Eight or nine months seems like quite a lot of time, but I've never done a complete frame-off restoration, or built a classic hot-rod, so we will see how this goes. My wife gets a kick out of me coming in from the shop at night and telling her that whatever I'm working on is taking a little longer than I expected. She's heard it many times! I've been in touch with the seller about my plans, and he's supportive of the direction I'm going, which is comforting.
After looking for a long time, I came across a motor being advertised at the other end of Washington, near Spokane, about 340 miles away. The owner told me it originally powered a welder, and was in very good shape. It also included a lot of speed parts he had collected for it. So I headed out very early one morning to fetch it, trying to make the trip in one long day. I envisioned driving up and finding an engine something like this...
But instead, I found out it was mostly disassembled, in a bunch of boxes. It looked more like this...
Well, it wasn't quite this bad, but it was a lot closer to this than to the first picture. So much for the pipe-dream of the first picture, but I got it anyway. You just don't have a lot of options in cases like this, and it did include a set of Offenhauser heads and a dual-carb Edelbrock intake manifold.
So I set to cleaning up the parts and refurbishing as necessary. The bores looked really good, and the valves looked usable as-is, so I decided to not rebuild it. The oil pickup was loose and needed welding up. I ran across a box of distributor parts at a local swap meet and was able to put together a complete good one from the various parts. The one that came with the engine was tired of turning after all these years. There are no timing marks on these engines, the distributor was timed in a jig when it was off the engine, then just bolted on. I found the dimensions on-line to time it on the bench without a jig.
So, after a lot of cleaning, painting, and finding more parts, here it is, starting to come together.
It's interesting that the oil pan also serves as the bottom half of the bell-housing, so it's a structural part of things. I found a set of stainless fasteners on-line, making it fun to bolt together.
These next two pictures show the Offenhauser cylinder heads that I got with the engine. When I got them home and turned them over, I found that someone had really butchered up the combustion chambers. Maybe in an attempt to lower the compression ratio. Mark came by one day and said he would take a fling at straightening them up. He used a Dremmel tool to smooth them out, then CC'ed each one to match the volume. Turned out to be 25cc. I don't know what the stock chamber size was, but it was only 6.2:1 compression ratio, so it could probably run about any fuel around.
I found that some of the factory cylinder head studs were too long to accommodate these after-market heads, but I couldn't find any at flat-head suppliers, so ended up ordering some Dorman parts and shortening them in the lathe. And of course, like any hot-rod flat-head, it needed chrome acorn nuts, which I found on-line. Most hot-rod flat-heads are red, so I painted the motor with some Vermillion red I had left over from restoring a Ford 8N tractor. Seemed fitting, being a Ford color, a hot-rod color, and even the same color as the original MG-J2 motor.
Finally, I can bolt the heads on. This picture also shows my refurbished distributor, and you can see the two pulleys on the outside front of the motor. These are directly connected to the water pumps inside. Hope they work OK, one of the weaknesses of these motors is that they tend to overheat. Those two tubes at the top (with the red plugs) are the water outlets, and there are two inlets at the bottom of the block as well, but are hidden in this picture.
I haven't installed the carburetors yet. The V8-60 had a unique carburetor, a Stromberg 81. The 81 designation is because it is 0.81 inch venturi diameter. Likewise, a Stromberg 97 is 0.97 inches. The 81's are rare, and expensive if you can find them, and I only got one with the engine. I eventually found another at a swap meet. I still need to rebuild the one that came with the engine, but I did find a rebuild kit. For right now, I made a steel plate that fits across both carb openings and bolts down to the carb mounting studs, with a lifting hook on top. This will keep debris out of the carburetors, and provide a way of lifting this into the car. The motor and tranny together are upwards of 400 lbs.
I received a V8-60 transmission with the engine, and it appeared to be in good condition. The linkage was tight and all three gears worked smoothly. So I took the transmission he gave me...
and gussied it up a little. I was happy to have this transmission since like a lot of other things about the V8-60, it is unique and not shared with the "big" flatheads. The unique part is the starter location and how far it protrudes.
Unfortunately, when I had the cover off, I could see some chipped parts - someone might have been doing some of the shifting while forgetting to double-clutch. Then I made some measurements, and found that the shifter would be too far forward in the J2. Time to find a different transmission for this car.
The MG has a 5.37:1 differential, so I decided I needed something with an overdrive. When building hot-rods, most folks use a T5 from an S-10 Chevy since the shifter is further forward, and closer to the stock location compared to modern transmissions. In fact, if you've wasted your time reading about my Model-A, you will find that this is what I used for that. It was still further back than the original. However, the MG had a shifter with rear linkage so was much further back.
Most adapters are made for the Chevy style T5's, but I found that "Flathead Jack" sold a bell-housing for the larger flathead V8s that was made for the Ford style transmission, so I purchased that. He wasn't sure it would fit a V8-60, but guessed that it might work. I found a T5 from a V6 Mustang at the local Pick-N-Pull, and brought it home. Sure enough, it bolted together, although the starter hole in the bell-housing was too small. I also noticed that the pilot bearing area at the front of the input shaft was too small on this T5, and wasn't quite long enough. All outside dimensions were the same, though. Good enough for prototyping the motor installation. Since then, I've found a T5 from a Mustang 5.0 which will be the permanent transmission. Right length and size of input shaft, and has a higher overdrive ratio than the 6-cylinder T5. 0.68:1 compared to 0.79:1. According to my spreadsheet, it will be 2,540 RPMs at 60 MPH - should be fine since the V8-60 HP is rated at 3500 RPM. I don't think anybody will want to go a lot faster than 60 in this car, considering the chassis and brakes.
Here it is, ready for a trial fit into the car. Notice that the starter hole, while in the correct place, is too small.
The problem with the original V8-60 starter fitment is that it extends way past the bell-housing. I could have machined out the bell-housing, but instead I found a starter that pushed the pinion towards the flywheel, rather than pulling in from the back. That way, its way shorter, and the hole in the bell-housing and transmission cutout isn't even necessary. It's a gear-reduction starter, and designed for 12V, unlike the original 6V unit. Here are the two starters for comparison...
The new starter was from Automotive Electric in Michigan. Meanwhile, at the local parts store I found a clutch disk (from 6-cyl Mustang, circa 1980), and a pressure plate with the correct bolt pattern came from Speedway Motors. The original V8-60 pilot bearing will work as is.
Unfortunately, I couldn't get the right angle from any of the screw holes provided in the adapter that came with the starter. And the place I needed the holes was right between existing holes, too close to redrill. So I made a new adapter with only the holes I needed. Here's the old (front) and new (rear).
I decided to use an internal clutch slave cylinder. I had a Tilton unit "in stock" from my racing days, but it needed a little adapting. To make it fit the V8-T5's input shaft, I needed to machine a spacer, it was a fun project, took some turning, threading, installation of O-ring slots and chamfering. Here's the new adapter.
And this is what it looks like with the throw-out bearing all installed in the bell-housing. Took a few tries to get the correct clearance, but thankfully this bell-housing has an inspection plate up high to allow viewing the clearance when installed on the engine.
Now that we have the engine/transmission unit together, it's time to hoist it into the car and see what kind of fitment issues we will have. I decided to use stock V8-60 engine mounts, and a stock T5 transmission mount - those engineers knew what they were doing. In order to fit the unit into the car, I needed to cut a bar that went across the frame near the rear of the transmission. I hated to do any cutting on the chassis, but it was necessary, and I saved the cut-out part in case somebody wants to weld it back in someday. Fortunately, when I cut it, it only "sprung" about 1/16", so evidently it wasn't stressed much and the frame didn't move. The new transmission mount should restore any strength lost. I fitted the engine as low as possible while maintaining good road clearance, and as for forward as I could, still allowing clearance in front of the motor to be able to change a fan belt without removing the engine. Here is one of the front mounts that I fabricated from a thick piece of angle-iron...
This is what it looks like with the motor sitting in place. I'm glad I made the lifting plate, makes it easier to get the engine/trans in and out - of which there have been plenty of sequences, and many more to come, I'm sure.
And here's a side view. Looks good enough to keep me excited about the project. The transmission is still on a jack for support.
I fabricated a transmission cross-member that looks like this...
I said it "looks like this" because when I was almost done welding it together, I found that I had welded the bar in upside down, so had to start over. If you are putting a flat-head V8 into your J2, and want to mount the transmission upside down, I have just the piece for you!
Here's what it looks like, refabricated and installed...
At last, the car is sitting there supporting the engine and transmission with no jacks and no engine hoist. Joy! It's sitting in there dead level and with clearance all around.
The original steering isn't even close to clearing the engine. In addition, the old worm and sector steering has a fair amount of play, and the car is right-hand-drive. It's quaint to have a right-hand-drive car, but after driving my Morris woody that way, it is awkward in this left-hand-drive country. So I decided to convert to rack-and-pinion steering and to left-hand-drive.
A trip to the local Pick-N-Pull yielded a steering rack from an '89 Subaru Justy. It was the narrowest rack that I could find. It also accommodated the steering arms being behind the king-pins, many cars have the steering arms in the front of the axle line. Small as the Justy rack is, it was still about 7" too wide for the J2. The Justy ball-ends fit into the J2 steering arms - how's that for luck? I shortened each end by threading another few inches and cutting off the ends. There's a lot of turns of the die with these fine threads while doing this, but it worked out in the end. Here's what the shortened rack looks like...
Then I pulled out my calculator (well, my beloved CAD program - DeltaCAD), and calculated how much bump-steer I would have with these short arm-ends. Even with the limited travel of the old leaf-spring suspension (+/- 1.5" approximately), it looks like at full suspension travel, the steering would change by 1.8 degrees. That's too much, so I decided that I would need to mount the steering rack to the axle so that it moved up and down with the suspension, that way there is no bump-steer. However, I will need some sort of slider assembly in the steering system to accommodate that. It will only need to slide in and out about 1/8".
So I set about designing a bracket to hold the steering rack. I started with a big piece of 1/4"-thick angle iron, and after a lot of chips went flying, here's the before and after shots. Not really before and after since they are in the same shot, but I usually get extra metal for re-do's just in case. For example, after the screw-up while welding the transmission mount.
Then I needed to fabricate some blocks to hold the rack to the bracket. This was complicated because of the odd shape of the rubber isolators and the unusual angle I was putting it at. Thanks to my trusty Delta-CAD, I was able to draw it up, print out the result 1:1 on my printer, cut it out, then hold it up to the rack to fine-tune the fit. I'd hate to try to do this by other means, although I'm sure similar parts have been fabricated many times before without means of CAD. Here are the blocks I made out of aluminum. I feel so lucky to have a milling machine for making parts like this. As you can see, they split in the middle. Later on I put a step where the bolt-heads are - makes for better cosmetics if you happen to be laying under the car looking up - but even though they are mostly hidden, I want things to be nice.
And here's the steering rack secured in the J2...
I can spin the input shaft and the wheels move together, and in the right direction! The next step is to see if I can come up with a compact steering shaft coupler the slides in and out. I've got an inquiry off, but we'll see what happens. I'd fabricate something myself, but I'm a little overly careful about steering parts, and if I can find the right commercial product, I'll use that rather than a home-made part. The steering shaft will be 3/4" steel, but I'll need parts and pieces to mount it and connect both ends, but we're getting there, slow but sure. I want to get the steering and pedals worked out before I remove and turn over the tub to brother Mark for his magic.
Meanwhile, Mark is working on fabricating new front fenders from scratch that are similar to the original J2 parts that we've found pictures of on the web. The front fenders on the car now are from a trailer or something. He also is working on the gas tank and head lamps while waiting for the tub. Every part is in rough shape and taking a lot of work. He's already tackled the bonnet and the front valence. My hat is off to folks who are good at body and paint work - lots of skill, knowledge, patience and hard work are required, and I'm short in most of those categories.
So - the motor, transmission and steering rack are mounted now, and I've only had to drill eight small holes. The goal of minimizing changes that aren't original J2 is being realized.
Back to the steering... The Subaru Just rack had a little double-U-jointed assembly in its steering system, so I got that with the rack since it has the correct splines for the steering rack.
I've always been taught that the yokes on drive-shafts were to be clocked to be flat with one another, but Subaru did this assembly just the opposite, as you can see in the photo above. After contacting a couple suppliers about getting this sort of arrangement, but with a short slider between, I haven't had any luck. In addition, most sliders are built for long travel (like if you crash your car), but this application will have the slider be busy all the time with routine spring travel. And the commercial sliders ranged from about $150 to up into the $300-400 range. Time to improvise.
I decided to make the sliding assembly from parts that are used on the drive-shaft of cars, where it slides into the transmission. I had an output yoke from a Ford T5 that I got with the transmission at the wrecking yard. I just took it to keep fluid from running out the back, and they didn't charge extra for it. Then, I needed a mating spline shaft from the tail-shaft of a transmission - Ford 28-spline. So I went down to the local transmission shop, and he gave me one for free! Maybe it helped that I was his Cub Scout Den leader some years back. Finally, I machined the existing centers from the Subaru dual U-joint assembly, and machined lips to center the parts, and headed off to my local pro welder, Trevor, for a pro-welding job on the steering parts. He did a beautiful job, and didn't charge me. Although I owe him a machining task as a result somewhere down the road. Here's what the completed slider assembly looks like, should be smooth and strong...
Now that the slider is done (and was free!), I needed to gat the correct ends for the steering-wheel shaft. For one end, I have the splines I cut from the Subaru, and for the other end, I cut the end off of an old Spridget steering shaft that I had taken from a parts car that I had earlier hauled home to get the disk brakes or differential from. So I cut and beveled the ends of these parts, then aligned them by center-drilling, and installing a roll-pin. Then Trevor did his welding magic at the same time as the slider. Each end looked something like this...
I used 3/4" polished steel shaft, which seems to be an industry-standard size. When looking at the steering shaft angle, I decided that I better put another U-joint up by the dash so that the steering wheel would be parallel to the dashboard. The U-joint I found had a double-D shape, so I needed to put flats on the end of the shafts, and dimple them to capture the set-screws. Should be as strong as splines, and was easy to do myself.
Finally, I had to fabricate three brackets to hold the steering shaft, here's one of them that goes under the dash. I had tacked it together and Trevor finished off the welds in a manner that I only dream of when welding.
Rather than cutting my nice polished steering shaft, I did all the setup work with an old piece of 3/4" steel rod. I'm glad I did, there was a lot of changing during the process, and it's hard to calculate the lengths and angles.
Here's what the completed steering looks like from below. Down by the rack, the slider is fairly parallel with the ground, so that minimizes how much it needs to slide when the wheels go up and down. About an 1/8" is all the travel I should need.
This brace holds the lower end of the steering shaft...
And here's what it looks like, while peering up under the dash from the engine side.
We're getting there! The steering works smoothly, and I think it's pretty strong. I can chalk up one more task that was new to me. That's what makes the hobby fun.
I didn't have a vintage steering wheel with the Spridget splines, but it did have a hub. I started emailing brother Mark with shots of potential steering wheels I'd found on-line, but none seemed just right to Mark, he figured it should have a flat 4-spoke wheel like cars of the era. As Mark thinks out of the box, he suggested we make a steering wheel from scratch. Never would have crossed my mind to do that, probably not yours either. So we settled on a design, and we decided to give a shot at making a steering wheel, with me doing the aluminum base (they call that the armature), and he the wood rim. We decided that we would use the style such as early Aston Martins and the like, but with a slightly fatter rim area for improved comfort.
So I fired up the mill and started cutting away on a piece of aluminum. My mill doesn't have enough travel to do the whole thing at once, but by flipping it over mid-stream, it all worked out.
I handed it off to Mark, and he made the 16 wood segments from dark mahogany, riveted them to the armature, applied finish and polished it up. I'm really happy with the way it turned out. Another new thing learned. This is the rear view of it, somewhere down the road I'll need to machine a hub cover for the front of it. But there are more pressing things at the moment to attend to.
Meanwhile, we decided we better figure out what to do about the transmission cover, the "hump" in the car. With the engine mounted further to the rear, and the transmission being larger than the original, the factory J2 hump wasn't close. So Mark volunteered to make one from fiberglass. I wouldn't know how to even begin such a project, but Mark did. Here is how he set it up in his shop...
After setting up this base, he bent steel straps over the top in the proper shape to form a mesh, over which he laid fiberglass.
Finally, he prototyped the floorboards. That took a lot of careful measuring since everything is at one angle or another. Mark spent his career engineering fire sprinkler systems, and has learned how to measure and work in angles and 3-D better than anyone I know.
Previously, I had located some pedals that I thought would would work for the car. They are Wilwoods. It always surprises my how inexpensive Wilwood stuff is, considering the quality. Here they are mounted on an aluminum plate which attaches them to the frame. The plan is to mount the reservoirs on the firewall.
After looking at the foot-space for the driver, we could see that there just wasn't going to be enough room for all three pedals. One of the reasons some people install automatics in hot-rods. For feet my size, you need about 4 1/2" of width to operate a pedal. We figured that if we took a divot out of the hump, it would allow enough room for the gas pedal, so we cut that out, and Mark subsequently fiber glassed a concave section back in.
Now that we've done the preliminaries, it's time to pull the tub so Mark can start the bodywork. I made a framework of angle-iron to keep it from folding up once removed from the frame.
When making the braces, I found that they were shorter on one side of the car than the other. The explanation for that comes later.
Now that we have floorboards measured and cut, the hump done, and the steering figured it, it's time to remove the body and take it down to Mark's for his magic. An engine lift helped remove the body. It's not all that heavy though, three old guys could pick it up and move it without much effort.
Mark used paint remover to take off the layers of paint to get down to bare metal. And what he found wasn't pretty. Here are some shots...
In addition to routine dents, Mark found rotten wood, pop-riveted replacement panels from years ago, and evidence of a serious accident in this J2's past. The top of the cowl was pushed over about an inch compared to the bottom of the body, and the bottom was unsquare as well. All of this started to come into play as Mark fitted the doors. When I got the car, the doors seemed to open and close without much trouble, but as soon as Mark repaired the wood so that the hinges fit tightly, these suicide doors were way off in front, leaving almost a one inch gap at the top or bottom, depending on which side you were looking at. Mark's been busy since replacing panels as necessary, repairing and replacing some of the wood, fiber glassing over some rough but hidden interior areas, and torquing the body straight. Big job!
These cars are similar in construction to the '49 Taiwan Pedicab that we restored earlier. Metal formed over wood. It appears that few parts were stamped, most were hand-formed. It's interesting to think about some blokes in the early '30s building these cars. Mark reports that there are three types of metal in the body. The cowl is steel (they must have pressed it into shape), some of the panels are aluminum (and probably hammer-formed over the wood), and some are another sort of metal that is soft and ductile, but not aluminum - it's slightly magnetic, neither of us knows what that material is.
The front fenders ("wings") on the car as I got it were non-stock and in rough shape to boot. So Mark made some new ones of the correct shape from scratch, using fiberglass. Here's the male buck he made in the background, along with the female mold he made from that, and finally one of the finished fenders. It would of been a long project for me to just make the male buck, but to Mark, it's "no big deal, just having some fun." They came out really nice.
Back at my shop, I've been busy disassembling the rest of the chassis and prepping parts. This is the first time I've done a frame-off restoration, and I didn't realize how much time it would take. My goal is to have the frame sand-blasted and powder-coated. To keep on schedule, I set the goal of having the frame and brackets off to the sand-blasters on Thursday so I could get it to the powder-coaters on "Black Friday" when they do projects like this for a 20% discount. I was almost done and on schedule until I ran into a glitch on the rear spring perches. They look like this, where the spring slide through the slot.
As I removed the last one, the end of the frame snapped off. You don't just run down to Lowes to buy a big die for rethreading either, they are left-hand British pipe threads on both sides. I can't imagine what they were thinking to use left-hand pipe-threads.
To fix it, I cut the end of the frame tube off, and machined a replacements stub that fit inside the remainder of the original stub, and welded it in place. Took some challenging machining. A buddy, Randy, cut the threads for me.
After this shot was taken, I machined the "nut" on the right to look similar to the original one on the left.
After repairing that, the frame was down to this. I made a temporary aluminum bar to go across the front to make it easier to handle, and cover some areas not to be sandblasted, Not much left! It only weighs about 50 lbs at this point. On the way to the sandblasters, I took the frame to the welder to plug some non-original holes in the frame from earlier car modifications.
And this is the pile of stuff that also needed sand-blasting and powder-coating. I machined several parts to protect the sensitive areas of the lever-arm shocks to keep sand and powder-coat away.
All went well during this process, except that I didn't visit the parts between sand-blasting and powder-coating. When I got the frame back, I found a crack that must have been covered with rust previously. I'll have to weld that up before I do too much reassembly.
The original dashboard on the J2 was made of aluminum, and had a speedometer on the drivers side, and a switch-cluster on the passenger side. When I got this J2, the dash was replaced with plywood, the switch-cluster missing, and the speedometer in very rough shape. What to do about the instrument panel? Well, the car had the original aluminum dash included with the purchase (albeit with extra holes here and there), so that can be a template for the new one that I'll made down the road. Maybe I'll see if I can do some engine-turning on it. I didn't have any luck finding anyone to restore the original speedometer (Nissonger, for example, doesn't do pre-war gauges) and no telling where I'd find another switch-cluster. So I decided to find alternative gauges that would look like they could have been from the period. I ended up buying a tach and speedometer on eBay that was originally from a Jaguar XKE, or maybe MK II. Nice looking black gauges made by Smiths.
They arrived, then I found that the tachometer on these Jaguars are driven by a little dynamo in the engine, expressly for this purpose. After a little experimentation, I found that not only did it require the special dynamo, it wanted thirty some volts to make it operate. Tough to find in a 12v car. But I liked the gauges so much, I decided to design a circuit to run the tachometer from a normal car ignition coil, and switchable to allow a four, six or eight cylinder engine. It mounts in a little plastic enclosure that will be under the dash. I haven't decided yet if I'll make a few more of these and offer them for sale on the TechnoVersions web site to help others with the same problem to solve.
Here it is driving the tach. The cool little clock in the bottom of the tach has been removed while I took this picture. The speedometer is styled the same, and I got some classic Smiths water temp and oil pressure gauges to match, along with Lucas switches for the dash. Will be fun to make the new dash somewhere down the road.
The frame and associated parts came back from powder-coating looking good. They were powder-coated in Cardinal BK-08, which is a 60% gloss black. I welded up the crack in the frame, and touched up the powder-coat after that. Ready to start it's way back to being a real car - there's a long way to go! After starting to install a few parts, it's looking like this. The shiny cross-bar in the front was missing when I got the car, but it was easy to fabricate a replacement from some polished stainless rod.
The original fuel tank mount was looking tough, it had been damaged and poorly repaired through the years. In addition, the hub that holds the spare was mounted with a pile of washers underneath each mounting bolt. I decided I better make a new one from scratch, so I ordered up some steel strap with the same dimensions as the original. I machined up an aluminum mounting hub for the middle (a little nicer than a stack of washers), then fabricated the rest of the pieces, and had them welded up. Here's what it looks like prior to welding. I slotted the ends so threaded studs (that's a nice way of saying bolts with the heads cut off) could be welded in the center of the metal.
The next challenge was trying to make the large radius bend at the top of the tank. I tried cold bending some stock around a pipe with no success, then heating it a torch and bending, still didn't turn out well. So I decided to make a die-set to bend them in the vice. For the inside radius I used a big 3/4" drive socket, and for the outside part of the die, I machined a piece of PVC into the desired bend radius and angle. Here it is, ready to do a bend.
And here it is with the bend made...
This worked well, here it is, shown beside the original...
After this, I powder-coated it, and I think it will look good on the car. Some of the J2 pictures I've seen on-line also show a top brace for the spare, but that will have to wait until the body is done and the fuel tank mounted so I can get dimensions, and to see if it will be necessary.
The license plate and tail-lights mount to the spare tire. The old unit was all botched up (and with some sort of trailer lights), so I made a new plate from 3/16" aluminum and powder-coated it. I had a classic '33 Washington plate for the car, and I found some early Lucas tail-lights that were used in the 30's. One of the applications was on the famous Vincent motorcycles. Here's how it turned out...
The tail-lights are small, and not very bright, but they should suffice for the day-time driving that this car will see in the future.
The differential on the car was really a filthy mess, inside and out. This is spite of the fact that the fluid had all leaked out years before. After I spending a few hours cleaning the outside, I found quite the collection of goo inside the diff...
To prevent future leaking from the front of the differential, I machined the front plate to accept a modern seal. After filling it, it hasn't leaked a drop, so I think it will work.
On the axle ends, I installed new seals and return bushings. These bushing are on the outside end, and have a screw-type thread on the inside that theoretically returns the gear lube back to the inside of the differential. Originally they were made of cork, of which one was present, and the other is probably ground into the goo at the bottom of the differential.
The driveshaft for this car is really short, and since it runs pretty close to a cross-member, it needs to be small diameter as well. I talked to the folks at the local driveshaft shop about grafting a Ford front section onto the old J2 rear section, and they weren't interested in taking on the job. I started looking at the output shaft for the T5, and thought that maybe I could make my own driveshaft. So I located two more of the output shafts, and an unmachined flange. I machined the flange to match the J2's differential shape and bolt pattern. Then, I found some tubing with an accurate inside diameter, I believe that it's called DOM tubing, then slipped that over the two "output" shafts, and had the assembly welded together.
And this is what it looks like when welded, assembled, and installed in the car...
This car has cool lever-action shocks. They have wood disks inside that provide the friction, and adjustment bolts so that you can set the amount of dampening. I had to keep these on the car! I found some parts to rebuild them, and here's the rear of the car with the shocks and differential in place. The little pointers on the shocks help you keep track of how they are adjusted. The rear shocks won't be seen once the body is on, but the front ones will be visible, so I sent their adjustment pointers and some other parts out to be chromed to make them look even better. I'm assuming that the chrome will be back some day, but it's been months. I'm glad I got an early start on that.
This is what the rear end looks like with them installed - things are coming together!
Sometimes, on a project like this, it's easy to get discouraged and think that you are making little headway, but when I look back at how the rear chassis looked a couple of months ago, it's encouraging.
Next, I scratched my head about the alternator. I had a junk yard alternator from a Chevy Metro, which is about as small as they come. Originally, on the V8-60, the generator was mounted on top of the front of the engine, But my dual-carb manifold precluded this, the carb is just too far forward, even with this small alternator. So I decided to mount it in front of the engine, facing backwards.
I had to machine a pulley (and attachment nut) from scratch to make this work, but I think it will be OK. Oh, and if you see that ugly long mounting bolt, it was subsequently replaced after I got to my bolt supplier. Since the alternator is spinning backwards now, I hope the nut doesn't unthread itself. I gave it a healthy dose of Loc-Tite.
While I was in the bracket-making mood, I also made the coil mounting plate that bolts to the front of the motor out of some 3/16" thick aluminum.
The car is looking so good as it starts to come together, the original wheels that I earlier sand-blasted and powder-coated started to look pretty shabby compared to the rest of the restored chassis. So I decided to splurge and get new chrome wheels and knock-offs. The wheels came from MSW in England and have the correct lacing for a J2. The original wheels on the J2 were painted, so I'm taking liberty with originality, but I just think it will look a lot better, and that counts more to me than originality in some cases.
The new knock-offs are also from from England, and they are beautiful. The original ones are beat to pieces, and restoration/rechroming would have been prohibitively expensive. I was quoted prices as high as $275 each from a supplier in the US, but I was able to locate the sole knock-off manufacturer in England. Even with shipping, they worked out to be about $50 each. And they are correct for the car. If you need knock-offs for your vintage British car, go straight to Orson Products in the UK. Very nice guy, fair prices, and excellent product.
The wheels and knock-offs that I got with the car have now moved on to a fellow for use on his MG-TC that went through a fire. It's nice that they will be used rather than sitting in storage somewhere.
Now that the drivetrain is in the car, I can address the exhaust system. The V8-60 used exhaust manifolds that require flanges be welded to the exhaust pipe. The opening in the exhaust manifold is only one inch in diameter, and the bolt pattern precludes making it larger than about 1 3/8", so that's the pipe size I settled on. Pretty small, but then it's only 2.2 liter (136 cubic inches), and with dual pipes, the exhaust capacity with 1 3/8" tubing is way higher than the stock engine. I also had to deal with some close chassis members that would be harder to snake through with larger pipe. I decided to run dual pipes all the way out to the rear.
Using this odd size sent me on-line to find some mandrel bends and stainless tubing. Because of the small size, I had to suffer the indignity of sourcing tractor mufflers from a tractor dealer, and the muffler clamps from a Cushman dealer. I machined the flanges from some stainless stock that I had laying around. So I started cutting these things up and hauling them down to my welder. Took several trips as I did it in stages. I miss being able to weld myself as in previous projects, but some old-people problems with my eyes (detached retina) result in the target weld area being one place, the puddle somewhere else, and Lord knows where the rod will end up. But I feel lucky that there's a good local welder, Trevor, who is fair priced, does a great job, and usually fits me in as I wait when I wander over. Nice guy!
Here's what the exhaust system looks like. Notice the hangers over on the right side, those are the next part of the exhaust project. I had to make the exhaust dip down on the right so that it would clear the starter.
Since it's close quarters, I needed to mount the exhaust close to the hangers, and not allow a lot of movement. So I took the hangers shown in the photo above and modified them. On the rubber part, I cut off the tabs and tapped a couple holes in the back of the body so they could be bolted to the car. Then I made some rods of slightly bigger diameter so that they fit more tightly into the mounts, and had them welded onto the brackets. Here are the modified mounts after I powder-coated them. If I ever run over somebody, and they look up, they will see some nice parts. Also shown in the shot is the coil bracket and the rear body mounts which I made for the car. The original body mounts were part of the battery mount, but I removed that for exhaust clearance, and also didn't want to mount the battery there, since to get to it, the fuel tank needs to be removed.
Here are some shots of the completed exhaust.
The radiator hoses are quite a challenge on this car. There are two top, and two bottom. And are odd sizes, both top and bottom. I bought some various hoses of the needed diameters on-line to cut up and modify. On my early Morris projects I had found some Gates hose clamps that are good for this purpose. They are basically short lengths of heat-shrink. With brother-Mark's excellent 3-D ability, we cut them into angled sections that, when put together, would make the right bends. I cut short lengths of metal tubing that fit inside the hoses, then heat-shrunk them together. The process looks like that following pictures. To me, they look a lot cleaner when fabricated this way than having a bunch of hose clamps.
The body on this car is quite the nightmare, but brother-Mark perseveres on it. As I mentioned earlier, the whole body was racked off to one side. So Mark made some bracing from the hump to the body to hold it straight. If you think this is an unusual way to brace a cowl, look under the dash of a 427-Cobra. In this shot, you can also see all of the wood that he has replaced in the process of his work.
We've identified a good upholstery shop to do the seats, but since the interior was gutted when I got the car, Mark set to work to make the bases for the seats. He left clearance as requested by the upholsterer for installing the foam and upholstery.
In this photo, Mark has marked the correct places for the upholstery seams, will make it easier for the upholsterer to do alignment and get the proper pattern for the J2. We decided on a tan interior called biscuit, a color used in many early British cars.
Mark decided to make all the side panels for the interior, and to cover them himself from stock we ordered from the upholsterer. In some on-line shots of restored J2's, he found that the MG logo was embossed in the inner door panels. Unlike most folks, Mark decided that he could match that by creating the shape below, and forming the upholstery over it. Here's the uncovered panel, Mark's skill and willingness to try new things never fails to impress me.
It's getting to the point where I can consider firing up that mighty 60 HP V8, but the carburetion isn't done yet. I got one of the rare Stromberg 81 carburetors along with the engine and dual-carb manifold. Later, I found a matching Stromberg 81 at a swap meet that had been professionally rebuilt, and of course this made the old carburetor look really bad. So I bought a rebuild kit (still available from Stromberg) and rebuilt the other one. I've got an old can of Berryman's carb dip so I set about the task, and it came out looking almost as good as the professionally rebuilt one. I'm not afraid of using chemicals (my standard cleaning solvent is gasoline), but this is nasty stuff, and I'm careful using it. I have an old Berryman's can (with dip basket) that I keep in the shop all the time with gasoline in it, makes for a nice mini-cleaning-tank. Here's the carburetor apart, but not yet cleaned up.
Here's what they look like installed. Speedway Motor had a linkage rod (which I needed to shorten), some banjo-style fuel line hose adaptors, and the classic "helmet" air filters. I originally tried some standard 1/4"-ball linkage-ends, but discovered that the forged balls on these carburetors are sort of oblong, and a little over 1/4" in one dimension. I'll have to get another rod for the choke linkage. I decided to go with direct rather than progressive linkage since the carbs are so far apart. Hopefully it will run OK that way.
Since the motor has been idle for many-many years, I decided I better see if it fires up. I ran a couple wires to the starter and distributor so I could spin it. I ran a compression check, and found that most of the cylinders were down in the 30-40 PSI compression range. One had a lot less than that. I spun it around without ignition looking for oil-pressure. I used my Ohmmeter on the Lucas electrical oil-pressure sender, and it never did change - stayed at infinite ohms. As a double-check, I installed a mechanical gauge, and found that it did indeed have oil pressure. I'd never seen an electrical sender that worked that way before --live and learn.
After knowing that I did have oil pressure, I hooked up a gas bottle (sort of like an IV reservoir you would see in a hospital), and enabled the spark. Success! It fired off almost immediately, and didn't have any significant smoke from the exhaust. I couldn't run it long because there isn't any coolant in it.
After firing it up, I reran a compression check and found that all the cylinders, except one, had gone up to 130-150 PSI. The rings must have become unstuck from the pistons while running it. However, one had about no compression. I pulled the head on that side, and discovered that the valve was bent. I had made a stupid mistake. When I first started the compression check, I used too long of an adapter, and the valve hit it and bent. So I pulled the valve and sourced a new one. After I installed that, I could see that there was too much valve clearance, so I pulled the valve again, and then the lifter, and discovered it was broken at the bottom, another artifact of my dumb mistake. After finding a new one, I installed that and the clearance looked pretty good. There is no adjustment in these old flat-heads. If you have too much clearance, you grind the valve some more, and if you don't have enough clearance, I don't know what you do. Maybe grind down the tip of the valve.
Another interesting thing about these engines is the tulip shape at the bottom of the valve. That precludes pulling it out through the valve guide. Instead, you undo a clip holding the valve guide, and pull it out with the valve. Then it splits in half to take it off the valve. I'd never seen anything like that before.
Mark has been busy, and has the body all roughed in, and sanded down to about the 150-grit stage. He has made the interior trim panels, and covered them with the material that will be used for the seats. Here's the interior with the seat bottoms/back and the trim panels installed. It really looks good. I'm one lucky guy to have a brother so skillful and willing to help.
Check out the cool embossed MG logo that Mark incorporated into the inner door panels...
It's time to haul all this work home to be reunited with the chassis. I loaded all the other body pieces into the truck and made the hour-long drive, and I suspect Mark used that time to clean up his shop after all this body-work. I'm glad that he can move on to another project of his own now that he's helped me out with this.
Once home, I enlisted the help of my son and son-in-law to help lift the tub back onto the chassis. A great day!
Mark came up later and helped me do the trial fit of the hood (bonnet). In a perfect world we would have the grille shell to ensure proper fitment, but we did the best estimating we could, and found that to make the hood gap correct, we had to raise the body about 1/2" from the chassis. This probably explains why the factory riser blocks were way higher on one side of the car than the other - with the body now straight, all the blocks are about equal in height, and I found some nice, thick, self-adhesive rubber strips to run between the frame and body which will help isolate the two.
We also discovered that the valence pieces below the hood weren't quite right. The original ones were in horrible condition, so Mark had fabricated replacements from fiberglass, using those as a pattern. With the new body position, these weren't quite right either, so Mark got out his measuring tape and somehow figured out how to make replacement ones. They have an arc in the front for the frame, a somewhat horizontal angle at the top and bottom, and yet another vertical angle when looking from the top - very tough to visualize and measure. We also discovered that the pieces he used as the original pattern had been cut off in the front from an earlier engine conversion in the J2, so the new ones he made go all the way up to the front valence, which is correct for the car. Here's Mark, and a buddy, Randy (on the left), doing some measuring on the old pieces...
With the body in place now, and the hood roughly positioned, it's time to see about the firewall. The J2 originally has a plywood firewall which is skinned with metal. The only problem is that it's too far forward to fit with this fire-breathing 60-HP power plant. Mark had made a rough guess of the size earlier on, so that served as a good working pattern. I used a highly sophisticated measuring device (it must be sophisticated, it's Delrin and wood for heaven's sake) to scribe a pencil line on the template, one inch from the inside of the hood.
Here's what the firewall looks like once I cut it out...
I made some brackets to secure the firewall to the floor and frame on each side of the car, they will be powder-coated later on.
It's going to be pretty strong with these braces, and also secured all along the front of the hump.
Topsides, I made some braces that come from the body to the firewall, with some triangulation to make it more rigid. I used the same size and thickness of tubing as the original braces on the J2.
What you see in the middle is the battery bracket that I made. I decided to use a relatively compact AGM battery which has quite a bit of juice, is fairly small and light, and is vibration resistant. There's a cross-bar that will secure the battery, and I have rubber strips to run on the inside of all of the metal where the battery resides.
Then, to connect the firewall to the radiator, I made some front braces. I used some Heim joints in the front so that I can adjust the length if I ever get the grille shell back from plating. Subsequent to this shot, I refabricated some of the brace-brackets so that they are at a more flowing angle between the body and firewall, and the firewall and engine. It's gotta look sharp in there when the hood is open! I don't know yet whether I'll have to add some bracing to keep the radiator from wanting to go left and right.
Speaking of the radiator, I made some mounts to install a 9" electric puller fan at the very top. Here it is installed. It was very close to the alternator, so I carved out a little of the shroud near the bottom.
Now that the firewall is at it's final shape, I wanted to clad it with metal, like the original. I got some 1/16" thick aluminum and contact-cemented it to each side of the wood. After putting it in place and using a roller to ensure good contact, I put some weight on the piece to ensure good adhesion in the final stages of curing...
Once each side was done, I used a router to trim the aluminum, just like installing Formica on counter-tops. I found some U-shaped rubber that will go around the outside once complete. The plan is to paint the interior side of the firewall in body-color, and the engine side in an aluminum color that will match the paint I used on the aluminum engine parts.
Meanwhile, the parts that I've recently fabricated and sand-blasted are ready for black powder-coat.
As I mentioned earlier, the body was twisted to one side by about an inch. By the time Mark straightened that, I found that the steering shaft hit the motor. I needed to add another steering U-joint, and make another brace to position it away from the motor. Any other alternative would have left the steering wheel too close to the door, or at an angle from the dashboard. Here's what the revised steering set-up looks like. It still feels silky smooth.
The original dashboard, which I got with the car, had long ago been drilled with additional holes, then it was replaced with a sloppy wood one which was in it when I got the car. After straightening the body, Mark made a temporary fiber-board one to use as a set-up template, you can see it in the photo above. I needed that to work out the final steering-wheel geometry. But it's time to get more serious about this.
I bought some 3/16" thick aluminum plate, thinking that the extra strength would be helpful. Here it is after I cut the outline and did all the holes for the controls. Only complications were the Lucas ignition switch requiring a double-D cut-out, and the choke cable requires a single-D. But I mounted it to a 2x6 so I could hold it in the milling machine, and did the cut-outs. Some of the switches couldn't be mounted in such a thick panel, so I pocketed the rear in those areas.
It's going to be exciting to install the gauges and switches, but first, I wanted to try my hand at machine-turning (some call it engine-turning) to give the dash a little bling-factor.
From rooting around the web, I found that there are many techniques, tools, and patterns for doing this finish. It is necessary to get out all the scratches first, since machine-turning only affects the surface of the metal, so I first sanded it all down with 200-grit. The turning tool that I used was a 3/4" diameter Cra-Tex rod. This is sort of like a pencil eraser with a little extra abrasive. You can chuck it into a drill-press or milling machine. The pattern that I used was 1/2" steps, both vertically and horizontally, and working left to right, top to bottom. Many patterns that can be had by altering tool size, tool type, vertical and horizontal spacing, and order of the process. Since my milling machine is too small to do it all at one time, I did each half separately. It takes a little thinking to make the halves interlace properly.
Anyway, this is the result...
In case you're wondering, there are over 1500 swirls on this dash, and you need to stop every few swirls to clean or dress the tool. It takes a while, but I didn't find it to be too big of a task, even for a low-patience person like me. Just two or three hours. But I did have the help of my milling machine to reposition each step. It would take longer if you were to do it on a drill press, but would look just the same.
I think that all of the known details that would require any body modifications are done at this point. So it's time to go off to the painter. Mark was willing to paint it, and has done some fine paint jobs in the past, but there's nothing like having a spray booth. And at the price of paint these days, it doesn't take very many problems until you've spent as much on materials as the cost of having it sprayed in a booth by a pro. I know that from experience. For some reason, the only paint jobs that I've done which turned out pretty decent are on things where it doesn't matter all that much (like tractors and implements), but everything I've tried where quality is important didn't come out very well.
It's really starting to look like a car. Maybe a rat rod, but still a car. Especially to me, after seeing it stripped down to a bare chassis for so long.
Even though it's tempting to permanently mount the body and take the whole thing down to the painter, I decided that it would be best to once more remove the body, and have the parts painted off the chassis. That way there aren't problems with overspray, and they can paint the top, bottom and inside of everything for a first class job. So, sadly, it's time to remove the body, for what I hope will be the last time...
For the paint job, I found a local paint shop that does a lot of custom work, W.B.L. Automotive. The owner, Shelby, was interested in the car and enthused about the job and contributed many good ideas about this part of the restoration, as well as other parts of the project. The painter was Jeremy, and Shelby has a super-nice office lady named Kyra, along with a sweet old Golden Lab that greets you at the door. It all makes for a good experience. He encouraged me to come by whenever I wanted to wander back to the shop and check in on the car.
He first did some touch up here and there on Mark's work, especially where I had screwed up a few things trying to fit the heavy and awkward hood to the car while it was in primer.
After the initial body clean-up and a coat of epoxy primer, he applied sprayable seam-sealer to the underside of the car, on the floor and hump, and also to the area behind the rear wheels. Doing the bottom necessitated removing the body from the buck, and hanging it from the ceiling of the paint booth. He also used seam sealer around some of the body joints, like on the firewall.
The floor and underside finish will help keep the noise down, as well as being nice cosmetically. I may be nuts worrying so much about what it looks like underneath, but I'm trying to do a good job on this car, and want it to be good top and bottom. Hope this doesn't make me reluctant to use the car once it is done.
Here's the completed body shell, with Jeremy, the proud painter, standing behind it. He sprayed red over the pebbly sprayable seam-sealer coating, and everywhere inside the car, like under the dash. He used PPG DCC single-stage epoxy paint, which we figured would be a finish more like the original than have a clear-coat finish. The color is from a Mercedes, I chose one that was very close to the original color found hidden in places behind panels and the like. I believe that it was called Carmine red. Inside the fenders, he sprayed a rubbery type undercoating (the seam-sealer is pretty hard) that will protect from rock damage when the car is driven. It looks like a bright orangy red in this shot, but is actually more of a dark red when seen in normal light. The light and camera affect what you see here.
Here's another row of parts all done. Not shown are the hood panels, which are still in progress. While the car was being painted, I sent the door hinges out to be nickle-plated after refitting new pins made from stainless steel.
I took the tub straight from the paint shop to the upholstery shop just a few blocks away. I'm using Ted's Upholstery for that part of the job. Brother Mark already made new side-panels and covered them in advance, but the owner of the upholstery shop, Gene, will be doing the seats and carpet work, as well as the beading around the interior panels and dashboard. Gene usually has some hot-rods or restorations in process around his shop, and I was impressed with the work he does. Gene loves to do creative work, so he is really happy doing this car. He's working from the plywood seat back and bottoms that Mark made, and a hump with several complications, but he already has some creative ideas. I got a copy of the "J2 Compendium" with the car which includes original seat dimensions, seat pleating patterns, and padding sizes, so Gene will try to match that, making alterations as necessary for the changes we've made to the J2.
I needed to make a bezel (trim ring) that goes around the shift lever for Gene. So I made an aluminum ring, then formed it into the shape of the hump. Gene would make a boot to go into this, and around the shifter with the same material as the seat upholstery..
Bending it in an even curve was quite a challenge. First time around I tried using a sand-bag and round-rod and hammer with no success, it just wasn't an even bend. So I made a new bezel, and used this set-up in the vise to bend it. I laid the bezel between the two red steel rods, then pounded on the big round piece of PVC on top of the bezel every few degrees with a hammer to form it. It worked!
Gene did a great job on the interior. Here it is, back in my shop.
Now that I have the car back in my shop, it's time to put the body back on the frame. This is an exciting time, hopefully thinking that this will be the last time that this will need to be done. I fitted a thick rubber strip over the frame rails which replicated the body mounting height necessary for good hood fit. When I bolted the body back on, though, the left door didn't fit properly, and some shimming of the body/frame intersection was necessary. And the door latches hadn't worked since it left the body shop. After fiddling with these (thanks for your assist Randy!), the doors once again closed and opened properly. I needed to custom make each bracket that connects the body to the frame, each needed a different height. The factory ones weren't all the same either.Meanwhile, the chrome is finally back from the platers, at long last, and looks terrific. They did a first-class job even though it took months and months. This is the first time that I've been able to fit the radiator with it's shell. Unfortunately, like a lot of other things, the mounting bracket needed to be modified to move it forward by about half an inch. I discovered that the bracket had broken and been rewelded in the past. This was probably when the other body damage (like the twisted body) occurred.
With the grille installed, rear fenders reinstalled with black beading, and the hood temporarily back on, it's starting to look like a real car again! This is a real boost for my morale.
I'm learning that with body-off restorations, every time the body is off and on, things change. Now that all is right again, I'm hoping there will never be another "off."
Somewhere in this car's rough life, someone cut off the original front fender-mounting stancians and crudely bolted some replacements to the side. I bought some of the original fender mounting hardware, then made new brackets to hold the top of the fender. While they were offset to the middle originally, I decided to mount them in the center for better support of the fenders. I made them with the same shape, thickness and material as used on the original rear fenders then bent them (using a torch and vise) to approximate the fender shape. With a single bolt holding each one on the existing brackets, I was a little worried about them twisting back, so I installed a roll-pin to prevent that (the little hole next to the bolt). Here's one of them prior to powder-coating and installation of the chrome bolts/cushion at the fender end.
And here it is after final assembly...
That clear covering that you see over the fender is some nice vinyl low-tac tape that I found. I used it where ever I thought damage to the paint might occur during reassembly.
Here's the front after both fenders are mounted, and the cross-bar installed. I originally made the bar from 5/8" solid stainless rod, then had it nickle plated. Unfortunately, when the radiator needed to be moved forward, it hit the bar. I used a hydraulic press to bend the bar into the necessary shape for clearance. That caused the nickle-plate to flake off at the bend-points. So I removed all of it, and Trevor (my welder) let me use the polishing equipment in his shop to polish it up again, and it almost looks like chrome. This bar is a lot like most of the parts on this project - they all need a little tweaking to make them work, sometimes more than once.
I mounted the fuel tank, and found that the spare tire didn't fit. The new rims, while correct in width and offset for the J2, are different than the ones that were on previously. There were three different styles on the car when I got it. To make the "correct" wheels fit, I needed to machine some more spacers from Delrin behind the splined hub on the mount.
Speaking of the spare tire mount, even though I made it match the original in all dimensions, it didn't bolt up properly, so it was necessary to cut the ends off, shorten them, then weld and grind them, and re-powder-coat. Like so many other parts, this one needed a few hours to fit, even after "done."
The rechromed windshield frame went together well after re-tapping the holes that were now smaller with the addition of the chrome. Earlier, I had purchased some windshield wiper parts from Barry Walker in England. He seems to have quite a few parts for these pre-war MGs. When I mounted the windshield wiper pivots, I found that the shafts didn't fit properly and had to fire up the lathe to make replacements.
When new, this car had wipers that were vacuum operated, there is still the tube inside the windshield frame. Somewhere along the line, someone replaced the motor with an electric one, and of course it no longer works. I decided that I didn't like the cosmetics of that big black blob in the middle of the windscreen, so I went about making a couple of handles so that the wipers could be operated manually by the driver and passenger.
Originally, I planned to have the wiper arms linked by a chrome bar, as was original to the car. However the original parts are in very poor condition, so my parts purchase from England included new arms and cross-bar linkage. Unfortunately, when I installed these parts, the wipers would lift off the windscreen when at the ends of it's normal travel - the linkage didn't have enough freedom of movement. I contacted Barry, and got the response that a lot of people had this problem but the manufacturer wouldn't make a new run until these were gone. So, he's selling expensive parts he knows won't work, and didn't offer to take them back. What a disappointment. I decided to let the wipers run independently instead., and here's what each side looks like now after installation...
It's time to address wiring the J2. I decided to by a wiring kit from Speedway Motors. These are reasonably priced, and include the fuse block, flasher, and lots of nice wire that is marked with it's function. I ran into a couple of things here that weren't ideal. First, the fuse box has no mounting provisions. It's evidently one from a GM car with some sort of clips on the car for mounting. I contacted Speedway, and they said to disassemble it, drill holes through the back, install it, then reassemble it. Unfortunately, if you do that, once it is reassembled, it's impossible to disassemble it since there is no access to the clips. So I came up with some angle brackets to mount it.
The other minor irritation is that there is no schematic for the harness as a whole, so it is time consuming to figure out how it works so you can rewire some things to meet your needs. I decided to wire the dashboard first, here it is spread out on my work-bench. You can see some engine-turning on the back of the dash as I had used that to practice before doing the front.
I used crimp connectors for most terminations, then soldered and used heat-shrink tubing on each connection. I also made sure to run plenty of solid ground wires everywhere. I used woven wire loom over the wirings snaking around the car. Here's a pile of wires waiting to be connected that go towards the front of the car, there are more wires running to the rear. None of this was overly complicated, but it took a few days to get the wiring done and tested. Most everything worked, but I found that the flasher unit in the wiring kit was bad. Fortunately, they had included two, one for the signals, and the other for the four-way flashers, and they were interchangable.
As you might have noticed as you looked at the back of the dashboard, there are some black boxes. Let's see, there is -
- 10V regulator for the Lucas oil pressure and water temperature gauges
- Combiner circuit for making a single filament in the tail-lights work properly with both brakes and blinkers in operation. I designed this earlier for a similar function when wiring a car with multiple tail-lights, but for use with a trailer that has single tail-lights like this. It's basically just a logic half-adder circuit so that if both the brake and blinker operate at the same time, the tail-lights don't stay on from the brake signal.
- The box I designed to run the Jaguar tachometer with a normal coil ignition
In addition, I thought that it would be fun to see if I could drive the speedometer without a cable. After all, the T5 transmission has a signal out for that purpose. So I machined an adaptor to drive the speedometer with a brushless RC motor. The motor shaft uses a modified square-drive screwdriver bit to fit into where the cable would normally go.
Then I designed a circuit board to read the sensor in the transmission, and serve as an electronic speed controller (ESC) for the motor.
This was my first attempt at trying to work with surface-mount-technology parts on one of my designs, so I got to learn about that too. And, while it works, it's not a complete success yet. I found that it's hard to get the motor to run at a slow enough speed to handle all the way to the bottom of the scale. So I set it so that it doesn't start registering until about 10 MPH. And it's still not accurate, so there is more work to do on this part of the project. I learned that properly designing an ESC circuit is more than a couple day job, but I've got a start at it, and had fun at the same time.
Now that it's wired, it time to address the throttle linkage. I found a chromed stainless generic hot-rod foot-pedal at a swap meet, and used that as the basis. I made some brackets to hold it, and use a cross-shaft across the back of the fire-wall to locate it for the rod going to the carburetors. The Delrin bushings in the brackets allow it to operate smoothly.
And here it is, installed in the car. In the background you can see the battery mounted on the firewall, and the wire loom running down from the dash and fuse-panel to the rest of the car.
On the engine end of the linkage, I added another return spring for positive return to idle. I used a choke cable originally destined for a TR-3 that I used to own, but never installed. It has the proper vintage British look, and can be turned to lock it in any position. Unfortunately, most carburetors (like these) need to be pushed and pulled, unlike SU carburetors, which have a built-in spring for the choke. But this was solved my fabricating a spring bracket and return spring on the engine.
Now that it's wired and most of the linkages done, it's time to re-install the steering. This all went well until I sat in the car, and found out that I couldn't get my foot off the clutch. I'm a little taller than average at 6'-1", so between that and the firewall being a little further back than original, it's just very tight. To solve this problem, I rounded up another splined shaft for the steering wheel, and left it longer so that the steering wheel is a little further from the dash, probably about like the original spacing, but then I made a slider-shaft under the dask to allow it to telescope out a couple more inches. It works! I can operate the controls. Here's a few of the finalized set-up with the slider. I made the slider from another T5-transmission output shaft and driveshaft splines. It works smoothly and is really strong.
Next up is to make a center hub for the steering wheel. I machined a disk for the steering wheel for holding the hub-cover, and then the hub cover out of aluminum. The hub cover attaches with a couple of set-screws.
Here's what the completed dashboard and steering looks like...
It's been a problem trying to figure out the hood latches. I've tried sourcing some Model-A hinges, but the ones I received were of poor quality, then the next set didn't fold properly. Then I ordered some SouthCo latches, even though they look a little modern for this application. It was my lucky day when I saw a set of 32'-34' MG J2 hood latches on eBay. They were in good shape, and just what the doctor ordered for this car. Hare's one of them installed...
The running lights were incorrect on the J2 when I got it, so I decided to use a pair of 1932 Ford cowl lamps for this purpose. They serve as the running lights, and also the turn signals. I mounted them on the grille bar with some nice chrome brackets from Moss Motors.
The J2 had no horns when I got it, so I found some nice chromed vintage motorcycle horns. To install them on the grille bar, I made some aluminum mounting clamps.
I'm finally to the point where I can install coolant and other liquids in the J2. I'm using Evan's coolant instead of water. If you haven't heard about Evan's Coolant, it's pretty slick stuff. It is completely non-corrosive with any metals, and lasts forever. If you disassemble the motor, you just drain it out, and put it back in. But the really nice thing about it is that not only does it work as anti-freeze and anti-corrosive agent, it goes up to 375 degrees F without boiling. That means that your system doesn't build pressure, and doesn't boil over. It's kind of expensive (about 4x normal anti-freeze), but is good stuff for your "special" cars. Jay Leno uses it in all of his cars.
I had some coolant leaking from the water pumps, and also from the three drain pet-cocks, but I replaced the gaskets on the water pumps (hard to find, and there are two on each water pump - the outer one to seal the outside, and an inner one that seals between the water jacket and the inner oil compartment), and replaced all the pet-cocks. Can't blame them for leaking after all these years.
The transmission is leaking some at a casing intersection. I'm guessing that it was apart at some time, and they didn't use the right sealant. I think I'll leave that unless I have to take the transmission out at some point. The differential has a little weeping, but is pretty oil-tight (no drips) so I'm OK with that too.
I filled the fuel tank, and it's tight, along with all the connections along the way. I installed a hard-line from the tank to under the rear luggage area, where I installed a filter and electric fuel pump. From there I ran hard-line to the front, where I installed a regulator on the fire-wall, then hose to the dual carbs.
When I put in hydraulic fluid for the brakes and clutch, there were a few leaks, but all solved by giving a little more torque to the problem connections. Someone commented that it doesn't seem safe to have a single-reservoir brake system, and there is some truth in that. But folks my age remember when all the cars had a single system, and I don't recall many problems from that. Of course my old bug-eye Sprite has a single reservoir for both the brakes and clutch. When I had a similar Sprite years ago, on occasion the clutch slave cylinder would fail, and then I would lose brakes too. Easy to get home, though, via starting it while in first gear, careful double-clutching to get through the gears, and liberal use of the hand brake.
The motor sounds good. It fires right up, needing little or no choke when cold. I've had a couple of initial short drives. Things appear to be working fine, although there is a whine from the differential while decelerating. It's plenty snappy with the new power-plant, and has a very pleasant sound.
Here are some pictures of the completed project. A project like this is never done, of course, there are always more things that you want to add or make better, but I'm happy with the outcome...
The debut of the J2 was the 2014 All-British-Field-Meet in Kenmore Washington. It was exciting to see the reaction of the crowd. It was positioned on the field such that the bonnet on the side as you approached it was closed. Folks would see it and be interested in the car. Then, as they walked around the other side (with the open bonnet), and discovering the little V8 in it, they would get a big smile as they saw what was in there. The car won first place in it's class, validating that even though it was modified, it won the hearts of many enthusiasts. The car was circled with people all day long checking it out.
The previous owner, John, came to visit it for it's debut. Here's the J2 with me on the left, and John on the right. In the background, brother Mark is on the left (leaning over) and Randy (who helped on the project) on the right. We may look like old guys, but we aren't that way on the inside!
This has been an ambitious project. When I started it late last summer, it never occurred to me that I would be working on it full time for eight or nine months. And that's not even with all the body work my brother did, and farming out the paint and seat/carpet tasks. When I look at it now, I wonder where all that time went. But I guess it's just many, many little tasks, and each one takes time if you are trying to do it right. And some of the parts I've designed and fabricated look simple now, but when you first attack the problem with nothing there but a problem and thin air, it takes time to visualize and design a solution, and sometimes it takes more than one time to come up with a solution that works and looks good. And even sourcing parts takes hours, whether done locally or on-line.
This car presented a dilemma for me, as I mentioned in the beginning. After all, this old J2 is quite rare, so I thought long and hard about what direction to go. But I think I made the right decision for me. The car was too far gone, in my opinion to cost-effectively try to bring it back to perfectly stock - too many missing pieces and bad earlier modifications. So I've restored and re-used every original part I could, adapting or making other parts for the rest, but in a fashion as was done back in the thirties, to keep the car period correct for the most part. So, while I've had the car, I've restored the body, chrome and chassis to near stock configuration. When parts were missing, I referred to the J2 Compendium to find out what would be correct. With the bonnet closed, few people in this world would look at it and realize that it's not in it's original configuration. And I've done it so that in the future, someone could bolt back in an original drive-train and interior pieces if they wished, and be way ahead of the game from where I started.
When doing a project like this, and putting progress on-line, you get feedback from various folks around the world. And, as you might suspect, this car has generated a few negative comments "He's turned it to shit!" or "you have assassinated that wonderful car" or "it's a pity." Fortunately, for each comment like that, I have received many more positive comments. The car hobby is like a religion I suppose. Some of the sects in that religion like numbers-matching only cars, others survivors, hot-rods, trailer-queens, rat-rods, and so on. The nice part is that the world is full of enough old cars that everyone can do their own thing. I enjoy modifying older cars as to make them more usable in todays world, and get them back on the road and in use. It's the problem-solving and design that I have the most fun at, and creating things that are interesting to build, see and use. It's nice to know that after all this work, the J2 is back on the road after at least 44-years of sitting unused and neglected out of its 81-year life span.
My many thanks to brother-Mark for his encouragement to embark on the job, many helpful suggestions, and all the work he did on the body and interior. And to my friend Randy for his assistance and suggestions. And to John for selling me the car in spite of higher offers from around the world, and being supportive in my efforts - as a result you got your wish, John, to see it at the All-British-Field-Meet in running condition.
This restoration has been a lot of fun for me, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it as well.