A 1938 MG TA Midget arrived at the garage; it was overdue on some service items and its owner was concerned about it’s excessive smoking. We understood that the car’s engine was rebuilt only a few hundred miles ago, but as it turned out this was also 30 years ago. We were unsure quite what to expect.
In fact, the car was in lovely overall condition, but it did need an engine overhaul as well as some attention to its steering. It had a steering box conversion using a modified unit from a VW Beetle, plus we knew that the kingpins were worn and required replacement.
We agreed to rebuild the engine. After a full strip the engine was inspected and then sent to Saunders Engineering in the New Forest in order to check and clean the white metal bearings. Whilst there we had the valve guides re-sleeved and valve seat inserts fitted. The idea was to reduce one potential source of exhaust excessive smoke plus enable the car to run on unleaded fuel in future. The very good news was a clean bill of health for the white metal components. So a good start.
Finding replacement piston rings was another matter completely. In theory the existing rings should all be fine as they were renewed only a few hundred miles earlier, but there had been a passage of time. Although on inspection the condition looked ok. Our suppliers could only supply a set of rings together with a new set of pistons which were not inexpensive, so the decision was made to go with the original set. Not ideal. For the later T-type cars it was not a problem to get replacement piston rings, but not so for the MG TA.
The engine went back together very well, but the water pump was clearly on its last legs and had begun to leak coolant. Fortunately NTG Motor Services, which provided most of the parts to us, also offer a pump rebuild service option. The pump itself is another rare part so this was really the only game in town. Apart from a complication involving the manufacture of new impellers in the USA which delayed us for a couple of weeks, the pump was returned in excellent order.
We’ve had a fair amount of recent experience of replacing kingpin bushes, so this was undertaken in no time at all and made an enormous difference. The steering box was stripped, rebuilt and adjusted. It had a previous amusing fix which involved the creative use of a 2p coin. It was doing its job well enough, so will stay in place to put a smile on the face of the next mechanic working on this part of the car.
There were a few other jobs that needed sorting out from adjustment of the steering arms to provide even steering lock on both sides to fabricating a new woodruff key of the correct size for the clutch shaft. Once all of these were completed we were able to assemble the car and give it a road test.
This MG TA was far nicer to drive with the kingpins and steering box improvements and the vast clouds of smoke that it was leaving in its wake were a thing of the past. Good to know that the Penrite Oil will be staying in the car for longer now and be put to better use.