Thursday, September 29, 2011

First Gas Run and Turning Heads

I now know what my wife has known for years: what it's like to be a hot girl. With only two gallons of gas in the tank and a questionable gas gauge, I decided it was excusable to venture a little farther for a gas run since I can't even make it to an inspection station without more gas.  It's a 10 minute drive from our house to the nearest gas station, so while this would not be the longest trip by length of time, it would definitely be the farthest from home, and therefore the longest walk home if something went wrong.  So I double check for my cell phone, and put on a jacket as it's a cold day.  The floor boards probably put out enough heat to keep me warm, but you never know.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gas gauge and battery - my first stranding

We decided to go out for a little night time drive around the neighborhood.  You know, to "inspect" the lighting system.  This car is even more fun to drive at night.  The lights are not as bright as modern halogens, but are a beautiful warm yellow color that just feels right.  The high beams work fine too, and definitely make it easier to see.  The high beams are the old style with a foot switch. Luckily my first car was a 1976 Dodge (before that was "vintage") and had the same type of foot switch or I would have had to google to figure out the high beams.  I wore flip flops and quickly regretted it as hot air from the engine bay streamed in and made it uncomfortable to keep my foot on the accelerator.  That's a cheap and easy fix: wear shoes from now on.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Seat Belts and the First Sticker Shock

Did I mention that this car has no seat belts?  As it turns out, cars prior to 1960 were not required to even have the mount points to connect seat belts, and though they were offered as a factory option apparently no MGAs prior to that point were ordered with that option.  Kind of incredible. 

Not wanting to become an airborne projectile, I bought 3-point harness brackets from Clarke Spares and Restorations (CSR) ($87.50 including shipping - part number M70A).  I purchased the matching belts from JC Whitney ($89.22 including tax and shipping, part number BEACH300BLACK).  The Clarke Spares installation instructions include information at the end about options for suppliers for matching seat belts.  If you wind up doing this yourself, note that the JC Whitney part number information provided differs from what I could find on JC Whitney.  The info in the instructions is actually in the form of an old ad (appears to be 60's era?) so I imagine they've just changed their numbering since then. 

Not bad prices and cheaper than increasing my life insurance, which my enterprising wife would have insisted on. In all seriousness, though I am old enough to remember a time when it was common to ride around without seat belts, having done just a little of that in this car I can't imagine driving on any big roads around town much less commuting without them now, and the thought of taking my kids or wife around in it except on small local back roads is crazy.  Also crazy is the idea of going with just a lap belt. The three point mount is apparently a real pain because it has to be unhooked to close or open the top, but I am looking at this as a mandatory inconvenience.

Would you want these kids unrestrained in the car?
So far so good, but since these mounts require welding and this Great Experiment is not nearly far enough along for me to want to get into welding my own safety devices, I called the local British Classic Car specialist. I was lucky enough to find one 20 minutes away that I'll work with this time, but there is another an hour away that might be cheaper (based on location) and specializes in MGs that I may try out later.  Surprise #1: There will be a 2 week wait for an appointment. Modern cars can take advantage of the automobile version of the "walk-in clinic". An old classic needs to see a "specialist", and I should have assumed there would be a wait.  Surprise #2: The cheap option is the cost of 4 hours welding labor, about $400, but involves cutting massive holes in the carpet at the weld sites to avoid fires, and leaving them un-repaired: an eyesore.  The upgraded option is to pay about twice that for the extra labor to try to peel the old carpet back without ripping it to shreds, do the work, and re-glue the carpet.  The right option is 5-6 times more to rip the old carpet out, scrape out the glue, weld the mounts on, install a heat/sound barrier, and replace the whole carpet (and that maybe didn't include materials - I was sobbing too hard to fully understand the option).

For now, I've set the appointment and told him to expect the more affordable "peel the old carpet back" upgrade option but we'd talk again before the appointment for my final decision.  We've definitely realized the carpet will have to come out eventually because it really is pretty musty, but I don't want to do that before figuring out what major engine problems might be lurking.  I also didn't want to leave the car with him for 2 weeks to wait for that to be done.  It's been excruciating waiting this long to really use it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

First Trips, Second Impressions

So within 15 or 20 seconds after the car was delivered we took it out for its first spin, the rain clouds having miraculously parted and the sun shining through.  The only driving I had done in it before this was a very brief test drive in which I was mostly on grass at the previous owner's farm, and never got above 2nd gear.  The title was not yet in my name.  We have no registration, no license plates, no inspection sticker, no county tax sticker, and no seat belts.  We somehow managed to put a in few miles and got into all four gears (plus reverse) circling the 2 block radius around our house, honking and waving at the neighbors while grinning from ear to ear.  My long suffering and patient wife (who had to drive across town in a rain storm to pick up the cash and cashier's check to pay for it) got the first ride, then each of the kids, then back to long suffering and patient wife, who got a turn behind the wheel herself.  Satisfied we had tempted fate too long with the police, our safety, and the car demons we fear are lurking we pulled it into the garage, having banished the Civic to the curb where it sits, sulking. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Great MGA Experiment Begins

1958 MGA - The Subject

Well, I did it. I bought a classic British Sports car, an MGA. You can chalk it up to mid-life crisis, but this I will deny.  Though the car arrived coincidentally on my forty-somethingth birthday, I have no other symptoms of that illness.  I am calling it a mid-life "opportunity". As I get ready in the Spring to turn my current car over to my about-to-drive son to get myself and my wife out of chauffeur duty, I need a replacement.  When I was a teenager, I scoured the classifieds for a month or so looking for an old British convertible before finally settling in to a long series of hand-me-downs and practical low-end imports that I drove until they were ready for the junk yard. But now I found myself with an opportunity to try something new, and I've gone and done it.