Dave's Cars

1956 MGA


 click to enlarge  
I really should have known better. I've been following MGA's on eBay, just to keep up with the prices and to see if a really great deal was available. I saw this car, and no one bid on it. So I emailed him to ask him whether he was going to sell it at a lower price or relist it. He emailed back and asked for my phone number. I probably should not have replied. Then he actually did call me. I told him I could go a certain number, and no more. I really did not have any more. I expected him to offer some resistance, and that would be that. Instead he said "OK, I can sell it for that."

Uh, oh. What do I do now?
We talked for a little more, and I agreed to buy it. Double Uh Oh.
Curiously enough, the car is in northern Sussex County, New Jersey. Our family cemetary is in Sussex County, just a little south of there. I was actually there just a couple of weeks ago!
So I wrote a contract and emailed it to him. He signed it and emailed it back. I sent him a check. So now we wait . . .
Here it is, out in the sun. Body is pretty straight. its had a few encounters.
the sides look quite straight.
Dashboard is nice
again, a few encounters but pretty good.
rear window of the top is gone, but other than that the top is ok.
wood under the car is in great shape
lots of bits need to be replaced
exhaust is there. rusted, but there and not rusted away. surface rust??? hahaha
nothing looks rotted. rusty, yes.
all these soft items will need to be replaced.
battery trays are suffering
slight damage to the grill
seats definitely need to be redone. actually, there aren't even any seat slides. they are just sitting on the wood
dash is good; steering wheel is very fixable
nothing bad here
tires good; wheels ok
tires are all new. that's a very good thing!
in the past few months, after the car sat for several months before that, I had the carbs rebuilt. I attempted it, got them apart and cleaned them all up, but never could get the new bearings in and correct for the throttle shafts. So I sent them off to Bob Johnson
He did a great job, and the engine ran great. But now
Remove wire wheel, then remove six nuts and pull the brake drum. No need to remove the bearing hub.

Before you do that, open the bleed nipple to relieve hydraulic pressure. If that allows the drum to turn freely, then you have a clogged hydraulic hose, and need to install a new hose.
Before you do the drum adjustment/removal; unless the flex hose has recently been replaced, with the car SAFELY jacked and braced at the front, pump the pedal a few times and see if the "binding" wheel is dragging. Release the pressure on the wheel cylinder(s) by undoing the bleed nipple a bit. If you get a spurt of fluid under some pressure, snug it down and see if the wheel then comes "unbound". If that happens, the flex line is your culprit. If not, try the adjusters.
Was trying to figure out why the gas gage was not working. So I pulled the gas gage, tested it, cleaned it up, and put it back. Tested OK.
Then I started following wires. Everything looked ok under the dash, except I could not figure out where those two green wires were supposed to go. Actually, I was looking for the voltage regulator. Figured it must be in the engine compartment. and it was. Right next to the fuse box, which, actually, is a very logical place for it. And guess what - the fuse was missing!

Yes, this car has all of two fuses. Who thought that was a good idea???? So in theory, anyway, half the car should not be working!!! Replaced the fuse and the gas gage jumped to life. It won't be until I put some more gas in it though before I will really know.
I received a newly rebuilt distributor, and i wanted to install it in place of the old one I had. So I used this guide to set it up.
    Static Timing by Eric Wilhelm of Moss Motors
  • As accurately as possible, locate the piston of the “timing cylinder” at top dead center, on the compression stroke. This is achieved by noting the position of the ignition rotor when the piston is at top dead center. If the rotor points to the contact on the distributor cap which leads to the spark plug of the “timing cylinder”, the piston is on the compression stroke. If the rotor points away from that contact, the piston is on the exhaust stroke, and the crankshaft must be rotated one full turn to bring the piston to top dead center on the compression stoke. Check that the timing marks line up correctly. (If the distributor has been removed from the engine, consult an appropriate workshop manual for proper re-installation instructions.)
  • If your vacuum advance unit has an adjuster, you may either proceed with the instructions in this paragraph, or skip it and go to paragraph 3, continuing from there.
  • If your pulley or indicator is marked with degree settings, turn the crankshaft until the single mark and the appropriate degree mark line up. If your pulley or indicator is not marked in degrees, use a timing degree wheel (Moss # 384-910) to set the crankshaft to the proper advanced or retarded setting as specified for your engine. It is essential that a reliable workshop manual be consulted for this specification. The piston of your “timing cylinder” is now in the correct firing position, and the distributor must now be adjusted to is firing position.
  • Loosen the distributor clamp to the point where the distributor may be rotated freely. Set the adjuster on the vacuum advance unit (if present) to mid-scale.
  • Connect one wire of the test light to the low tension contact on the distributor, and the other wire to a good ground. (The low tension contact is where the thin wire from one side of the ignition coil connects to the distributor.)
  • With the ignition on (but the engine not running), rotate the distributor body slowly in the opposite direction of the rotor’s rotation until the test light lights up, indicating that the points have just opened. Do this a few times until you have accurately determined the exact point at which this happens, and re-tighten the distributor clamp bolt.
  • For distributors with adjusters on the vacuum advance unit, only if paragraph #2 was skipped:
  • With the piston of the “timing cylinder” at top dead center (see 1.), the adjuster on the vacuum advance unit may be used to “dial in” the correct static advance setting. One division of the scale is equal to four degrees. Count the “clicks” on your adjuster nut between divisions, and divide by four for the number of clicks per degree (generally about ten per degree, but check your individual distributor). Multiply this by the number of degrees advance you require, and set accordingly. Refer to a reliable workshop manual for this setting. Be sure to turn the adjusting wheel in the direction of the “A” to advance, in the direction of the arrowed “R” to retard.
  • Disconnect the test light and start the engine. If it does not start, make sure that you remembered to replace the rotor after adjusting the points. Don’t feel foolish if you find it on top of your battery or wiper motor – there probably isn’t a single auto mechanic dead or alive who hasn’t had this happen.
3/6/2017 - Am wondering about the starting. I pull the starter, and you get a grunt, another grunt, then it cranks over and starts. drive it for an hour, stop for gas, and it still does it. charge the battery all day and it still does it.

First thing is to test the battery. Here are the instructions from the Your Mechanic website
    Battery voltage readings
  • 12.66 volts = 100% charged
  • 12.45 volts = 75% charged
  • 12.24 volts = 50% charged
  • 12.06 volts = 25% charged
  • 11.89 volts = 0% charged
These readings are for a battery at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Battery voltage will change .01 volts for every 10 degree change in temperature.

If your battery is greater than 12.45 volts it is sufficiently charged. Anything below that should be recharged and tested with professional test equipment.
Too much spark advance, so it kicks back before reaching TDC. Retard ignition timing a bit and it shoud be good.
It could be the starter itself. I had one go bad with similar symptoms. Since you can still drive it, I'd go to a NAPA for a battery test, then when that passes... test the starter (you'll have to pull it from the car of course).
May 2018

I had this idea that I could swap in an early MGB overdrive unit to the MGA. In retrospect, it was a TERRIBLE idea. That is why we decided to pull the engine and transmission. Took us a morning to do it.
This is my friend Dave B, who volunteered to help me pull them out. Could not have done it without him.
As you can see, these two tranmissions are not very similar in size and shape. BAD IDEA
These two are pretty dissimilar. Apparently, after doing some research (after buying the tran) I found out its major trauma to try to do this swap. I gave up.
Since its out . . .
While it was out I thought I would refurb the radiator. Some day it will go back in.
June 2020

The car has sat for 2 years with no progress. So i decided what the heck! I'm going to put the engine back in the car so at least I can enjoy driving it. maybe I'll even attempt a little rolling restoration! Stay tuned.

You will notice that I carefully masked off the valve cover since it was already repainted. Once I took of the masking I found - it's a different, NON matching red!!!! The wrong color!! So I had to mask off the metal labels on the top, clean it, and then paint it separately. Some AMATEUR painted it some wrong red. Thanks a lot!!!
July 2020

Here is the intake manifold that just needs a little cleanup.
The engine is back in, all bolted up and ready!!! I've got the manifolds and carbs roughed in but not yet tight. Soon, I hope, this car will once again be a runner!!!
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