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MG TD TF 1500 - Keep original or make changes?

As posted on my first ever message on this site, I am a "newby" in the restoration of a '54 MG TF. As I have now gotten well into the dismantling phase, I have to make the decision to restore as original or make changes, like: swap out for a larger cc engine; change to the 5-speed gear box as advertized in Moss; change rear suspension to tube shock conversion (also in Moss catalog), and the like.

Comments/suggestions from those who have had to make such decision and gone either way?



JL Brickell

My opinion:

The closer to stock/numbers matching/period accessories you can stay, the more valuable the restoration.

In lieu of the change in gearbox, you may wish to go with a raised rear end ratio. The basic bits of the car are pretty sound, and are easy to maintain, with all the info in one place.

The only time I would start mixing and matching things is if I had a basket case with no engine, etc. Then I might go crazy on mods, figuring that the car was not meant to be a survivor.

I know what you are going through, I considered many different options in paint, interior, drivetrain etc. until I realized that the amount of effort I was expending deserved an 'Abingdon' result. But as they say "It's your car, you should do what you want!"

Oh, and by the second post, you're no longer a newbie.

warmly,
dave
Dave Braun

Dave -- Good to get your message and to make contact again. You've been very helpful in the past. Your points are well taken. And it reminded me that I left one important fact out of my question: this TF was a one-owner (except for the first 6 months of its life), and the only mod that was made was for a manifold that accomodated twin mufflers/pipes. As they say, "all numbers" match and in looking over the engine compartment the only thing that appears to be new/newer is the fuel pump. I believe that all else is original. For those of you who didn't read my first post, you can view this TF at: www.mgtf54.jeepaw.com

John
JL Brickell

I second Dave. Within reason keep original if the car is that nice and intact. The factory lever shocks work nicely, the fronts are part of the suspention and have to be there, and having the rears rebuilt is likley less than the tube conversion. No way for the engine swap, unless the car was a real mess missing the motor, etc. You may go as far as electronic ignition, radial tires, spin-on oil filter, and a few things like that. Those are readily reversible, and really add to driving reliability and pleasure (ie no points to fiddle with, etc.) George
George Butz

John, I am interested in seeing the TF but when I went to "www.mgtf54.jeepaw.com", there were no documents found. Could you please confirm the website.
George Raham
TD 4224
G. L. Raham

George -- I'm not anywhere near computer literate, but it may be that you need to add the "http://" in the address so that the entire URL reads:
http://www.mgtf54.jeepaw.com

Hope this helps -- John
JL Brickell

John, I guess my question would be " what do you want when your done?" You do have a few things that aren't stock, but could be replaced or you can just build it the way you want. Wasn't much of a question on mine as it had been butchered before. Yours on the other hand has a documented history which would push me to take it to 100% bone stock.

LaVerne
LaVerne

Nice car to restore, nice web site. Looks like it is all there, I would keep the cool exhaust manifold. As resourses go, this site is the best. Some of the people on here have been into T-series cars since new. Virtually all of the 'factory manual' type info is of no use (ie you can't take your starter down to the Lucas service depot, etc.), and everyone here has likely already been there/done that with whatever you need. All kinds of parts sources, etc. known. No question too small or silly. Hope you have a lot of $$$ however! George
George Butz

George and all -- thanks for the helpful responses, and I am quickly finding out that there is, and is going to be, a wealth of helpful information from those who contribute to this site as I proceed with this restoration. As you can see from the pics on my web-site, I plan to take this down to the bare frame and then work my way back up.

And for LaVerne and others, I am leaning towards the "keep original", except for possibly the suggestions that were made by earlier in this post by George: electronic ignition, etc.

I seem to be saying this a lot lately, but thank you all for your input -- John

JL Brickell

John - I notice that you have started to disassemble the actual body tub and wooden framework. I wanted to caution you against a total teardown of that as replacing the wood and replacing the panels is not as easy as it might look. It may be that your wood and panels are in good shap and will go back with little problem. I hope so. If you are replacing wood, be very careful about replacing it in stages - rather than just taking everything apart.

Since the tub is still on the chassis, I would take the time now to repair that tub before taking it completely apart and stripping things much further.

It looks like a nice car - I look forward to seeing the progress.

Jeff
Jeff

Jeff -- you and Dave Braun (via previous personal message) have essentially said the same thing. I admit that I was more than a bit anxious to get this project started, and just "dove in" after the TF arrived. I was not aware of this site early on, and it looks like that now is too my disadvantage in the early stages of dismantling, because if I had asked before starting, I would have gotten advice like you and Dave have now offered.

I will not make that mistake again and will be asking, before doing whenever I am in doubt.

I am going to replace the wood for the tub and already have all of the wood ordered from Abingdon Spares. When I get to the rebuilding of the tub, I'm sure I will have questions to raise here.

Again, thanks for your caution and assistance
-- John
JL Brickell

Hey John - what you will find, as you work on the project, is that the various components will take more time than initially anticipated to properly restore.

If you take your time and make good notes and take pictures, that will help a great deal. Also be very careful about recording the nuts and bolts and their locations - that will really slow you down on reassembly if you are not careful.

Be prepared for some fitting and shaping on the wood - they are close - but not exact.

Enjoy and take your time!

Jeff
Jeff

John

Thowing in my two cents. You are never going to make your TF as quick or smooth as a more modern car. You can get more out of the original with some reversable mods.

The 5 speed may make it a little smoother shifting. You can add a supercharger to get more power. Gear change for the differential is very helpful. All of these are reversable and the super charger could also increase the value.

It may have made sense to modify these cars in the late 50's or early 60's, but for today IMHO, modifying it just gives you another oddity.

My TD is fun to drive but Driving a 50 TD, then a 67 BGT with OD and then a 97 turbo Eclipse and a 2007 SKY. Each is a totally different car. I might modify each with equipment built to improve it, but would not try to make it a different car.
Bruce-C

I suppose a lot of what you do will depend on the use you plan for the car when it's done. If you want to cruise along with most traffic on the interstate, or need to climb mountains, or even do parades without overheating, you may need to change a few things. I think most guys here would recommend a close to factory color scheme, some gaudy paint and upholstery jobs get jabbed here often. I admire the work that goes into overrestorations (in my opinion), but think they look wierd - like a hot rod. Too much chrome and polishing and everything done much better than factory new. There is a lot to say about having a car that you can take to the store or drive on a gravel road without making your sphincter tighten up. But it really is your car, and you will have a vision that probably will change many times as work progresses.

If I had a car that looked and drove like it just left the showroom floor, I would be blissful. Being able to drive the car instead of working on it forever in the garage is priceless. I feel like a rock star everytime I drive it, people always wave and compliment me on my choice of car. It brings back memories to some, invigorates others to join in the fun. The whole experience amuses me to no end, because the only reason I own it is for the driving and the feeling I get when I see it in the driveway. Warts and all. I fix a wart now and then.
Tom

Hi John,

It looks like you have a nice project on hand. I've been away from the bulletin board for a while but am now back and about to pick up my restoration again. Since you mentioned that you are going to re-build the tub and have the new wood on order, my suggestion is to re-build the tub on the chassis. It appears you have already disassembled the wood but you can always re-assemble and do a piece by piece replacement comparing the new fit with the piece you have removed. It's the best way from my experience to keep the same geometry in the tub. Once the wood is done, you can re-use, repair, and replace metal tub panels. Dave Braun took a different approach so he may have different thoughts on the tub re-build.

Hope this helps.

Dave
D Runnings

Hi John, Thank you for your reply to my web site question. I should have triggered to it myself. Your site looks great and I wish you the best of luck with your project. I did my TD 12 years ago, and took a slightly different tack on disassembly. Each time I took something apart, I would put the bolts or fasteners back in the part where possible. I was fortunate that over the years, I had disassembled sections of the car and then reassembled it. This was a big help when it came time to do the frame off work. There were times when I could not follow this procedure, and the zip lock bags were the answer.

I don't think I could have done what you are doing. To search for, find, buy, and ship the car across country, and after a short ride, start taking it apart immediately. I would have to run it, and get to know the car a little. I admire your patience, and can tell you that what you are doing will be very rewarding for you when it is completed.

George Raham
TD 4224
G. L. Raham

Actually, I believe you can rebuild the tub on the chassis or off the chassis... the important and essential parts are:

Keeping the doors intact until the openings in the tub fit the 'old' door and then redo the door if necessary (my door wood was rotting on the inside, but looked good on the outside).

Making sure that the front wood on the tub fits the bonnet and the firewall, and that the firewall interfaces with the A towers on the frame properly.

Assure that the spacing on the rear matches the center panel between the rear quarters and isn't too wide.

Assure that the metal tie brackets under the sub dash and cowl are installed at the correct angles so the instrument panel mounts at the correct angle (possibly for the TD only).


Therefore, regardless of the method to rebuild the tub, the interior of the panels should be reworked for rust and smoothness before fitting the wood, and then ease the panels into place for test fittings without bending the flanges, reworking the wood as needed.


I wish I had most of this figured out before I consigned my tub for it's three year waste of time at the body guy's. I think I would have been better served to invest in the wood working and welding equipment. I probably would have wrecked some wood, but it would have been cheaper and faster to do it myself. And it would have turned out better with the great advice I've received here and from my MG buddies locally.

warmly,
dave
Dave Braun

I have been away from this thread for at least a day due to work (yes, I am still working although thinking about retiriing and then having uninterrupted time for my TF sounds better each day).

Given the feedback of the most recent posts, as well as those that have preceeded, I am relieved to read that I have not screwed up too much at this point in the restoration of this TF, especially in the area of the tub restoration.

I have decided to put on hold any more work on this project for a few days while I do a bit more reading of the material that I have accumulated on the restoration of these "T" cars.

Again, although sounding like a broken record, but in all sincerity, I appreciate the informative and helpful responses I have received.

John
JL Brickell

John:
I'm one of those people who is going the 5-sp, tube shock, heater, supercharger, alternator, electronic ignition, overbore, header, sway bar, rollbar, two-tone paint, big brake, different diff, hard top - route.

When I'm done, I hope my car will be able to run at 80 mph all day, provide reliable electrics and on a twisty road, corner and accelerate quickly enough to keep within sight of my wife's Miata. With a hard top and a heater, I hope I can use my T as a real car - in central Alberta our season is really only from April - October.

I've wanted a T-series car since I was 12, and when I found a basket case, I thought that this was the perfect one to personalize - it would have been a parts car, otherwise.

Financially, this project has been just about the dumbest thing I've ever done, but I never plan to sell it [my two daughters are already arguing about who gets what portions of the automotive estate,] and I'll have the pleasure of having a TD exactly the way I want it.

Silly? Absolutely. But I can't wait until next April.

Good luck on your project,
Dave Jorgensen
Leduc, Alberta, Canada
Dave Jorgensen

I've just finished my restoration on my 53 TD. When I stripped my body tub I found it was held together with filler, all the wood joints had rotted away. I opted to purchase a complete new body tub from Hutson motor company LTD in Bradford UK, that speeded up my restoration.

I have carried out 2 mods to make the car more user friendly on the highways. I fitted a 5 speed conversion using a ford type 9 gearbox and kit supplied from high-gearengineering.co.uk and fitted a remote servo under the dash to improve braking performance. Both these mods have been very sucessfull I can stop as quick as a modern car and cruise quite happily at 60-65 mph at 3000-3500 rpm. I've attached a photo of my now pride and joy.

regards Chris


C A Pick

Beautiful car Chris.... well done!
gblawson(gordon)

I also opted for a Hutson body for the TF we are restoring.
We ordered the full body with doors installed. All new parts. It is magnificent!!!

The only TF body I have ever seen in which the doors are evenly spaced from the body all the way around,

The wood in our TF was completely dry rotted, so needed a complete rebuild. Hutson delivered to US in 9 weeks (Instead of 1 to 2 years other builders were quoting)

I would recommend that anyone with a bad body look a Hutson before proceeding. They also sell all the body parts, wood, metal, and including the body parts no one else has (scuttle, rear body tie bar, interior frame, etc)
And they have these parts for all T's from TA to TF.

Don Harmer

I agree with Don Harmer and others who recommend a new body tub. I resurected a basket case TC a few years ago. The wood was all rotten but the metal skin was good so I decided to buy new wood and replace it. Since I don't have the facilities or the woodworking skills to do it myself I had to find someone to do it.
I found someone who claimed experience with wood body tubs. Turned out it was with a couple of American cars of the 1920s where the wood was just basically 2x2s horizontal and vertical. He had no skill with compound curves as on a T series so it took him a year and cost more than twice as much as a new tub.
So the lesson is that unless you want to do it yourself buy a new tub. Terry
Terry O'Brien

I went to the Hutson website, but there was no way to view component parts, costs, or whatever. I have e-mailed Hutson asking for a catalog, but am I missing something here, and can you view such component parts via their website? Don and Chris, how did you find the parts you wanted from Hutson?

John
JL Brickell

Hi John,

I was lucky their workshop/factory unit is only 35 miles from me so I went along and looked at their products and manufacturing process before I placed the order. The same guy has been cutting and building the wooden tub frames for many years on the same jigs. I can highly recommend the quality of their tubs. Their web site Is not to good I initially sent for their catalogue and price list. Unfortunately I can't put my hand on it at present. If you continue to have problems e mail me on chrspick@aol.com and I will get a catalogue and forward it on

regards Chris
C A Pick

John, I've now found the Hutson catalogue the prices are as follows (april 2007 prices)

ASSEMBLED BODY STEEL PANELLED TD 2557 TF 2412

AS ABOVE WITH SCUTTLE TOP TD 2742 TF 2632

AS ABOVE WITH SCUTTLE AND DOORS TD 3470 TF 3470

All items are available and individually priced in the catalogue.
contact Hutsons on (44)01274 669052 or
e mail hutsonmc@talk21.com

Hope this has helped good luck with the rebuild.

PS I have no connection with Hutson LTD I'm just a happy customer

Chris
C A Pick

Thanks Chris, this is very helpful. I have e-mailed them and asked for a catalog. With the exchange rate being what it is, one would just double the amount listed in pounds to get the price in dollars. Och!!

Cheers -- John
JL Brickell

John, It also depends on how good/bad your tub is. I have always been really, really bad with woodworking. Some of my tub wood was close to perfect (wheel arches, doors, sub-dash, around left door opening, etc.). The rest varied from local rot to totally shot (the entire area in front of the right door). The metal was very good, with only a few rust-throughs on the right rocker panel. I proceeded more or less like Dave Braun suggested- piece by piece with the tub on the chassis. Some parts fit pretty well, other took hours to fit (right main side rail, right door latch pillar- the curvature was not remotely like the door, etc.). None of the joints seemed to remotely mate. My skill level gradually ramped up, and I was actually getting pretty good by the last few pieces. The result is much more satisfying that it is still mostly my original car- in this case because it was decent to start with. If you replace the tub, then you have partly re-bodied the car, etc., etc. George
George Butz

Get the Hutson Catalog. Even if you only need parts.
Yes, the exchange rate is horrible, but it's still a a good deal!






Don Harmer

Received Hutson catalog today as an e-mail attachment. Perfect for printing. That was one day turn around.

Thanks for the suggestion -- John
JL Brickell

Actualy the exchange rate today is pretty good; posted it is $1.78 for a pound. This is 25-30 cents better than a couple of months ago and is sort of in line with what it has been over the last few years if not a little better for the US$. Hard to say how long it will last.
At a bank you will pay commission so the actual purchase price should be more like 1.82-1.83. I have on occaison taken US$ to the USA to exchange for pounds or euros; saves converting to CDN$ and then to pounds (double commission). I have noticed something a bit off the wall;
if you go to the first bank that you come to and know the exchange rate from say the Wall Street Journal you will likely be quoted a rate 10-20c higher. The answer is to search out a major national bank like Bank of America where in my experience you get an honest exchange rate.
The other answer is to use Visa or MasterCard where you get a reasonbly good rate. Never use Paypal for a foreign currency transaction. Terry
Terry O'Brien

Regarding exchange rates, we do a lot between Euro and Stirling (and sometimes CAN$ and Sterling) When paying for something in Sterling that has a decent value (TD body), there are a number of currency exchange companies operating in the UK that will give rates very close to the quoted bank rate. I'm not sure however which ones have a Canadian or US office. Anyway, it couldn't be simpler - you contact them, negotiate a rate (yes they will negotiate), transfer the funds to them (in your home country) and they transfer the funds to the account of your supplier. Normally these guys do their business transferring funds from the UK to the Euro zone for the likes of house purchases however times are slow and they are getting pretty aggressive looking for business at the moment. No affiliation etc.etc.
Chris Malcolm

This thread was discussed between 29/09/2008 and 04/10/2008

MG TD TF 1500 index

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