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MG TD TF 1500 - Automatic in a TD

I knew that might grab some people's attention but don't hate me. I've been quite busy the past year or so, working on other peoples cars which is why you have not heard much from me. A few months ago I posted a few times letting y'all know some of what I've been doing but here is the bulk of what has been keeping me away from my own projects. I might get some flack about it but I really enjoyed the challenge and engineering. There are some here that also would have loved to do some of this.

Here is my letter to to the owner.

Janes 1952 MG TD Resurrection

By Dave Blackwell and Vince Pia

We first met Jane in August of 2010 at the Vanderbilt. She asked around as to who could work on her car and initially made contact with Dave. Jane explained that she had owned the car for a very long time and that it was a gift to her on her 16th birthday from her dad. It had been sitting for some time and she had not driven it. She longed to drive the car but was a little leery of driving a four speed again. We were impressed at the specifics she knew about the car and then she asked if there was a way to make it an automatic.

She explained she wanted to be more comfortable driving her car especially without the fear of stalling on hills. We did not know of an automatic that would bolt up to a stock MG TD engine so it was decided this required the removal of the stock MG TD engine. We then needed to replace the entire drivetrain and replace it with an Automatic and matching engine. Since MGB/Austin Marina had a similar set up, we decided to use an MGB engine. Some of the parameters were that all stock parts were to be returned to the Jane, and as many parts had to be MG in origin - to the best of our ability. Lastly the body and frame could not be modified so that somewhere in time, the car could be returned to its original #s matching condition.

We went to look at the car in early September 2010. Unknowing what kind of condition the car was going to be in, we were quite surprised to find a dusty but very solid car. Other than 4 flats and frozen brakes, most of the car was still intact. The engine, still retaining a fresh coat of paint, turned over by hand. The leather interior, canvas top and side curtains, were dusty, slightly stained but held up well from sitting. With a lick of my thumb and a rub on some brightwork, I could see it still glistened and would shine up nicely. The only problems I saw were the paint. There were several areas where the paint had flaked off, showing bare metal underneath. The rust had not set in which was also a plus. No real body work being performed on the car except for paint was evident. Lastly, the wheels surfaces were badly pitted, inside and out from leaky brake cylinders.

After we left Janes that day we decided to use my 1952 TD as a mock up car. Since I had a shop with heat, AC, all the tools we needed and an engine gantry, we decided to do the conversion over at my place. With tight quarters and a few other projects going on, it was the perfect place to do the work. Over the next few months we were miraculously able to acquire not one but two Borg Warner T-35 transmissions and many of the other parts needed for the conversion. Having more than a few MGB 1800 blocks in my shop, bolting engine and transmission together gave us the perfect mock up to drop into my now bare engine bay. It was now mid October 2010, and we had a somewhat of a grand plan but more importantly a mock up in place to start taking measurements.

With all of our pre-planning out of the way we finally picked up the car on November 13th of 2010. Tires filled, and tow straps hooked up we used Janes Jeep to drag the car from a 21 year slumber and garage of over 50 years. Jane watched in relief and dismay as these strangers were there to take away her beloved car all the while snapping pictures of the removal. The car gave us some trouble getting up the ramps but with some persuasion and coaxing we finally got it up on the trailer. With one last look and a final snapshot with Jane, we took it away.

The project really did not get underway until about December 2010/January 2011.First step was to get the original TDs engine running. I took the carbs apart thoroughly cleaned them inside and out to removed all the old varnish. Cleaned all the linkages and then cleaned the points in the distributor and fuel pump. She fired up long enough for me to check the oil pressure and move the car back and forth enough to free up the brakes. The was the first time the car moved under its own power in 21 years and believe it or not, the first time Ive ever driven a TD. This was a short lived run as the Enginetransmissionectomy was about to get underway.

Not being a one to stray from the details, Ill spare you the events that followed while taking out the engine. It was a straightforward removal. We hoisted the stock engine and transmission in my truck on the morning of April 2nd 2011 and delivered it to Janes garage. By this time it had been emptied enough for us to get it on a dolly and pushed to the back of her garage. She jokingly requested that I build her a Plexiglass box for the engine, so it could be displayed to all who cared to view it. Her love of the car and things MG was amazing and shes quite a unique character.

Here is a less storylike and more technical sounding list of everything the we did to Janes care over the next 8 months. The list just another detail what Jane wanted us to provided to her. She was very excited about the conversion and wanted to show it off to everyone. If asked what something was, like whats that shiny metal thing Jane wanted to sound like a pro and have the correct answer at the ready for them.

Here is the list all the work we performed on Janes car:


This particular engine is an 1800cc from a 1972 MGB. It was rebuilt using all new parts, gaskets, bearings, camshaft, timing chain. It was repainted a non-stock color but a brilliant red. The front engine plate was waterjet cut .188" steel and is lower than a stock front engine plate to allow for a custom front engine mount. The engine mount is a two piece fabricated steel mount cut from .188" steel cut on a waterjet. The rubber mount was fabricated from modified MGB muffler brackets trimmed, fitted and welded to bolt to the stock MG TD front cross member stock mount. There is a left side engine mount that is an early stock MGB rubber but the bracket that mounts it to the frame is a custom, waterjet cut, fabricated and welded from .188" steel. We topped off the engines head with a MOSS aluminum valve cover painted with crinkle black paint. The port for the heater valve has been blocked off with a new waterjet cut .188" aluminum plate and can be easily removed in the eventuality that a heater wants to be added. The oil filer is a early canister style and needs Classic Gold replaceable filters. The oil line is a custom fabricated Stainless steel braided line. The waterpump and pulley are both from a late MGB. All external and mounting hardware is stainless steel.


The Carburetor/Air cleaner is a rebuilt, re-jetted Weber DGV downdraft with a matching Weber manifold with manual choke. This was originally on the 1972 MGB engine we used for the car. Hey I know its not MG but it fit. The intake is a modified late MGB manifold for a Zenith Stromberg that has been altered, ground and smoothed to fit the Weber setup. It was painted with high heat resistant charcoal black paint. The heatshield, throttle/kickdown mounting plate and kickdown bracket are all custom aluminum and steel components we fabricated on the waterjet and from various metal forming tools.

The throttle cable is a stock MGB cable and attaches to a modified stock MG TD accelerator pedal. I needed to cut off the left side where it came out of the firewall and add it to the left side pointing up. It was notched, welded and attaches like that of an MGB pedal but operates and resembles like that of the stock wooden roller. Since the clutch pedal is no longer needed, we purchased a wider brake pedal from the Help section at my local Autozone, cut a steel plate to fit inside and then welded it to the stock MG TD pedal extensions. The extensions were then bolted to the stock pedals and both clutch and brake pedal move as one.

The choke cable is an MGB Bonnet release cable covered in red shrink tubing. The cable runs to the original hole in the dash fascia but has a custom aluminum lock nut to hold it to the dashboards fascia panel. I still need to create a new insert that shows a "C" for choke. This will be created from acrylic and my laser at work. We removed the stock pull start and added an easier push start button which needed to tie into the neutral safety switch on the shifter, so I made small wiring harness to run under the dash and down to the new shifter. We also added a spiffy new MGB octagonal key and MG key ring to complete the modified fascia. Under the dash is a polished aluminum, custom bracketed 1972 MGB temperature gauge tied into the new harness under the hood. I think at one point when Jane came to look at the progress and take some pictures, she was overwhelmed. I guess seeing her baby taken apart and all over her garage was a bit much. As she left that day she commented how nice the key ring was. I got a kick out of this but knew she was excited about the progress.


The exhaust header is custom fabricated from multiple pieces of exhaust pipe to fit down and under the engine and transmission. Matching diameter exhaust tubing was purchased and I cut small portions of bends and straights to meet up with the original. Everything was MIG welded together and smoothed. I will use this as a pattern to create new pipes if we are ever asked to do this conversion again. It is then connected to the stock muffler and tailpipe. All new clamps are stainless steel and any new brackets were also custom fabricated. It was painted with high heat resistant silver.


The generator is off of an early Bugeye Sprite with tachometer drive. A new wiring harness was fabricated from an early MGB harness and runs along the bottom of the front cross member to supply power to the newly mounted generator on the right side of the engine. Keep in mind that an MG TD has opposite components so everything had to be reversed.

An early MGB push button starter relay has been added to the firewall and attaches to the new harness. We can then start the car from the fascia push button or the starter relay. The Starter motor is a Hi-Torque MOSS starter. It seemed to be the only starter we could fit against the stock TD frame and Oil filter.


Distributor is a new Flame Thrower with electronic ignition. The coil that is mounted to the generator is also a Flame Thrower. The bracket mounting the coil is a one off, waterjet cut .060" steel, and is custom fabricated. The plug wires are MOSS and the spark plugs are NGK BPR6ES.


The new cooling system is a modified MG TD radiator. I moved the bottom port from the right to left side and the hose is a DAYCO 71679, D Code in length. The stock upper port was closed off and a new one taken from a 1958 MG Magnette radiator, was soldered into place on the right side. The upper radiator hose is the other half of the DAYCO. The hose is one of the few Non-MG parts. The thermostat housing is early MGB with a safety 160 thermostat. Both the left side and right side radiator stays have been reversed so that I had clearance for the carburetor but was still able to close the bonnet.

Fuel System

Fuel pump is a stock MG TD SU on the firewall but I hand bent new copper and steel gas lines from carburetor to fuel pump. I soldered new unions to each end of the copper lines to fit to the stock SU. There is an aftermarket chrome and glass fuel filter by the fuel pump for easy viewing of the fuel to check for cleanliness. I would have liked to add all copper lines and still might do so in the future. We also have a clear plastic fuel filter at the gas tank for added protection.


The transmission is a rebuilt Borg Warner T-35 automatic from an MGB or Austin Marina. It is held in place with a .25" thick waterjet cut steel mounting plates. The rubber mounts are two new MGB 4 speed transmission mounts, mounted horizontally which bolt to portions of the stock MG TD mounting point on the frame. An additional bracket was purchased and the ends cut off to use to mount it to the cars frame. All hardware is Stainless Steel. The Speedometer cable is an Overdrive MG cable and attaches the transmission with a drive gear and custom fabricated adapter ring to hold it to the transmission. The stock kickdown cable needed to be lengthened by about 4" so we needed to have one custom made for this application.


Since the new Transmission is wider, the passenger floorboard had to be trimmed. I purchased an additional MG TD transmission tunnel and cut it in half down the center to accommodate the wider transmission. The passenger side of the tunnel also needed to be widened. I utilized the Tunnel from a 1972 MGB and added portions of it to fit around the transmission. Frankentunnel is welded, hand hammered and ground smooth in order to fit the car and then received a new coat of primer and glossy black paint. Captive nuts were welded inside the tunnel in order to mount the additional shifter cover. I then took a shifter cover from a 1965 MGB shortened and massaged it to adapt over the modified TD cover. This allowed me to cover the much larger opening in the TD cover and then allowed me to mount the Stock automatic shifter and plastic shifter cover. The bell housing on the transmission has been powdercoated metallic silver. The stock carpets fit back into the car over the cover with a little massaging, modification and trimming.

After the fall foliage run, a request was made for seatbelts. Of course this was no easy task. We purchased a MOSS retractable seatbelt kit and took the carpets, tunnel and floor boards back out of the car. Thick steel mounting plates were added in key locations to allow the proper fitment of the belts. Everything was put back in the car and we took it on a test drive. Felt pretty good and really kept you in your seat.


We purchased an additional MG TD driveshaft and had it shortened by 1". I then replaced both sets of Universal Joints with new Hardy Spicer joints. The new joints were well greased and a fresh coat of Glossy Black paint was then applied prior to installation.

Rear Axle

The stock rear axle was rebuilt with 3.90 gears to match that of an MGB. When replacing the rear, we installed new shackles, U-bolts and all new rubber suspension parts. A topping off of 90Wt oil and she is good to go.

Brake System

A dual line master cylinder and valve from a mid year MGB was installed on custom fabricated mounts in the stock location. We needed a longer plunger in order for it to reach the stock TD pedals. All new hard brake lines were custom bent to fit where the old ones were. New supply lines were added and covered in fire resistant hose. All flexible rubber brake lines were replaced along with all new brake cylinders and brake shoes front and rear. . A remote brake fluid reservoir was mounted on a custom fabricated bracket to the firewall under the steering column. All topped off with Castrol LMA brake fluid. New rubber bearings were installed in the steering column before we put it all back together. New 165/15 tires were purchased and mounted to fresh silver powdercoated stock TD wheels.

We ran into problems on certain areas which really slowed the project down along with vacations and such. Our hopes were to present her with the car at our clubs Vanderbilt show in August of 2011. These hopes were soon dashed by Hurricane Irene which caused a cancellation of the show and unfortunately, no rain date scheduled. The car was also not ready so it was somewhat of a blessing in disguise. The tires did not come in, I had more parts on order from MOSS, the wheels powder coating was incorrect, other parts were delayed and list went on. But then again, this was not a simple project. It was not something I personally had ever seen so there were not manuals or diagrams for us to follow.

Our next event was the MGCCLICs Fall Foliage Tour scheduled for October 30th. The push was on! We were able to get the car completed enough to test drive it and get it to the tour. Well wouldnt you know it but a snow storm was headed for the Tri-State area and anywhere from 2-12 of snow were expected. When I awoke the next morning I looked outside and there was 2 of snow on my MGB. Even though we got some snow (some of you western folk are probably saying What snow) I was un-deterred and, I was going on that tour. I brushed off the MGB but the TD was safely in the shop. Even thought it was really cold that morning I was determined to get things underway to drive that car. It had already been arranged that Jane was going to meet us there to see the car so we could not let her down.

I invited another member of our club Dave Booker on the tour and he was to meet me at my house. We drove over to the tour, top down, and enjoyed every minute of it. It was about 40 and lets just say a TD with suicide door gaps, the top down and with no heat was really cold. Jane would later tell me how she would routinely drive the car to college in upstate NY. You go girl! At some point I looked over at Booker and he had spilled his coffee all down the front of his coat. We had a really good laugh over that one. We had a very memorable and funny drive. At some point I think we were cold drunk from the elements because being in this open air car made me start humming The Flight of the Valkyries I looked over at Booker and we both burst out with laughter again. Blackwell followed us in my B and the plans were that we would switch places once we got to the rendezvous point for all the clubs. The car actually performed really well, in both areas of acceleration and braking. It was a bit creaky but then again so would I after not being out in 22 years.

Once we arrived, there were about 40 cars and a lot people came over to ask questions about the car not knowing the conversion that had taken place. We propped both side of the bonnet up for everyone to see the B engine. A few noticed the shifter, some asked why? Some just shook their heads either unsure or unknowing. Its very difficult to explain this to a purist but the explanation was as easy. It was crystal clear when you saw the smile on Janes face. Priceless! The tour takes participants through the winding back country roads of Long Island. Dave and Jane did it in style - bundled up to the rafters with coats, gloves and scarves. NO side curtains and NO hood. They were a classic pair driving a classic car. I like to say the drive was uneventful but it seemed to stall every so often and really sensitive off the line. We later discovered a fuel pressure issue and the kickdown cable was too short. These were taken care of and the car was officially delivered to Jane on December 14th. Dave had her get in the driver seat and guess what, they took it on a hill!

So overall I think we accomplished what we set out to do and in the end about 98% of the parts were either new (repro) or used mg parts and the only modification that we did was cut the passenger side wooden floor board, which can be purchased again and replaced. There were no body or frame modifications performed on this conversion. All parts installed can be removed and the stock engine and transmission can be placed right back into the car.

I think that about wraps it up. It was a 13 month project that was very trying at certain points of the engineering but was a real blast and the car is fun to drive. When I look back at this list and think about the amount of labor that went into it, I'm amazed at how well it worked out and I'd do it again if I were asked to do so.


Vince, I applaud your efforts to make the change reversible. I can't help but wonder if she had driven the car with the O'Connor clutch mode for more feel if she wouldn't have been more comfortable. At any rate, thanks for the detailed report, and congratulations on a happy client!

Dave Braun

Thanks. There are so few TD's remaining that I could bring myself to cutting this one or anyone for that matter.

I'd be interested in hearing or reading about the O'Connor clutch mode.

Vince, I also applaud how you went about the conversion. It proves that a conversion like this can be done without chopping the car up and putting it into an irreversible condition. It's a little upsetting how some people make derogatory remarks about a conversion like this, before they know all the facts. Knew of an original MGB automatic that some would say their junk, won't get out of their own way! The car in mention was owned buy a gentleman who, for love of his country, lost a leg in the war and loved MGs. Knowing the facts saves embarrassing moments.
P Jennings

Kudos for making this "reversable"!
I, for one, would love to see some pix of the finished project.
Don't think I would ever go "auto" ...but has been a dream of mine to install a "hand-clutch" in mine for some years. I quit wearing my prothiese years ago due to back problems, but I have scarred the "B-Jesus" out of a few people that have ridden with me since!
The "up-side" is increased leg-room!
David Sheward

Sorry Vince, it is Clutch Mod... darn new Garage Laptop.

Here is a link. Essentially, by moving the hole in the belcrank up 1/2 inch you decrease the mechanical leverage fo the belcrank, while increasing the amount of throw needed to move the clutch. The result is a less digital clutch with a better feel. I do this on almost every TD I service.

I rarely do the clutch rod extension as with properly sized and renewed clevis pins it isn't usually necessary.

Also pictures on my restoration website under the gearbox and clutch section.
Dave Braun

This Clutch Mod makes the requided force much, much less! (amazing what a 1/2" will do)
Made a world of differance for as much as I operate my clutch with my left hand.
David Sheward

Talking about special setups for clutch activation, VW had an electric activated clutch release in the model with a semi automatic shift. When shifting normally, a slight movement of the shift lever would release the clutch. I had one in one I owned back in the middle 70s. Quite unique. PJ
P Jennings

I was not sure if this posting would even take. It is 5 pages in word. I'll be posting pics soon.

My congratulations to you on a job well done!! It is wonderful that you were able to do it so it could be reversed. And that Jane is keeping the engine/tranny so it can be reversed.

I hope this is what most people who switch to 5 speeds are doing.

We are in a position to set the standard for these conversions, and that must be that they can be reversed with the original parts.

That must have cost a bundle, would Jane allow you to reveal, at least what ball park you are in, as far as cost is conserned?

I almost forgot to congratulate Jane for carrying on with this project. Would you please convey to her my congratulations on funding a job of this magnitude.
Bob Jeffers

Vince, please allow me to ditto Bob's remarks. Bud
Bud Krueger

David, have you ever tried running a rod from the clutch pedal to a pivot and lever possibly attached to the steering column support?

Richard Taylor TD3983

Richard ,
Yes ...but not much success with that.
Years ago had a set-up on an Austin that worked very well. The big differance was that it was a hydraulic clutch. Problem here has been to get something that is "smooth" action. Have tried a couple servos ...but that has been kind of "off or on" real "feel"...if that makes sence.
The Austin set-up had a very natural feel and because the right hand was already on the shift lever it left one hand on the wheel.
Here is a rough drawling of that system.
The other nice thing was it left the foot clutch operational ...for my left-footed friend. (wife)
When she is with me, I work the clutch with left hand and she shifts the gears.
Can't seen to get the dawg to learn how to do that...he keeps whinning something about not haveing "opposing thumbs" ....same crap he gives me every time I give him a hammer of shovel! LOL

David Sheward

One of our local shops put in a automatic and different engine in a car years ago. I have seen it and it looks fine except for that. The owner only has a left hand, so shifting was a bit of a problem. Works for him. I am not a purist but dont like most new/different engine mods but there are exceptions if folks want to enjoy one of our little cars.
TOM Maine

This thread was discussed on 28/12/2011

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