12th/13th October - a bit of Autumnal spannering

Changed three dampers and the axle rebound straps. I'd been waiting for Leacy's to get a new batch of rebuilt units in for a while. I bought the rears 2nd-hand at Stoneleigh early in 2006 when I changed from the accursed telescopics the PO had fitted. I'd already had to replace those once at great expense, they had lost virtually all damping since, and I wasn't prepared to spend that sort of money again. I was prepared to have to replace these 2nd-hand ones there and then, but they've done quite well. One had started weeping this year, and as I didn't really know what spec they were I changed both. Plus a front which had been damp for a couple of years, and just started dripping on the floor. Got all three off in an hour and a half which I think is pretty good going! This was even though I had to remove the rears complete with the drop links and suspension bottom plate as I couldn't get the tapered drop-link pin out of the damper arms in-situ, and that meant disconnecting the after-market anti-roll bar. Whilst doing that I noticed the axle rebound straps were a bit ratty, so got a pair of those while I was at it. These are well known for corroded nuts shearing the pins on the axle, but they and the upper bolts and nuts all came undone easily - with PlusGas - even though externally they showed corrosion. Details in the relevant 'Spanners' sections. Working on these cars is sooooo much easier than the ZS!

2nd-4th October - Helvellyn via Striding Edge (not)

Helvellyn via Striding Edge was the intention right enough, but we took a wrong turn early on and ended up on St Sunday Crag. Just as well, it was wet along with blowing a gale, and we would never have got across the ridge even if we had reached it. Even on St Sunday Crag conditions were really bad, not to say dangerous. On the way up we saw one chap coming down with blood streaming down his face, another two serious walkers with helmets and goggles said they got so far and turned round, and we heard later the Mountain Rescue Team had been up to at least two groups one with broken bones. It was bad enough on the way up as the wind was very gusty and first you would be pulled one way then the other, then it would suddenly drop for a few seconds which would send you staggering again. You couldn't stand in it, and only barely walk, when we paused we had to crouch on the ground. I've got two walking poles to take the pressure off my aging knees a bit and was struggling just to get them onto the ground, they were being blown sideways, and all of us were blown over at some point. And this was on the lee side! But we did get to the top, where it was just a constant blast. The experts amongst us decided it would be better to push on down the far side to get into the valley and some respite sooner. But we hadn't gone very far when we reached a bit of a ridge that steepened, and the wind was screaming up it. At that point I couldn't make any further progress forwards even on hands and knees, let alone stand up and walk. The wind got into the overtrousers of one of our number and just ripped them apart. I was thinking that I was going to have to go back the way I had come irrespective of what the others did, but was making one final attempt into the teeth of the gale, when fortunately the others decided enough was enough. Unfortunately that meant climbing back to the top of the crag again, I hadn't realised just how far we had come down. On the way down it seemed much calmer than it was on the way up, but whether it really was dropping or was just less than we had been used to I don't know. Fortunately we got down in one piece, with just a few bruises. The annoying thing was that next morning dawned still with lots of blue sky - a perfect day for a walk, and a repeat of Ben Nevis last year. Oh well, it was an 'experience', maybe better luck next time. Together with a detour via Sheffield to see a pal on the way home, 430 miles in Vee.

Sunday 13th September - Stafford MG Enthusiasts 'Donna Louise' charity run from Whittington, Lichfield to Upton House

A late choice and a local run, replacing the South Downs run the previous week as that would have meant three weekends away from home on the trot and the Navigator drew the line at that. About 30 cars so one of the smaller runs but a friendly bunch. Turned out to be a very local run as we passed within about five miles of home, so a portion of the route was in my 'Sunday morning 40 miles to get the paper' territory, but a sunny albeit cool start to the day so none the worse for that, quite cloudy later on. Upton House is quite small as first glance but packs more into the gardens and house than many places several times its size. Owned by the founder of Shell and remodelled by him in the 20s and 30s and not changed much since then, the house contains a superb collection of paintings. Superb Art Deco bathroom for the mistress of the house covered in aluminium leaf, and both his and hers bathrooms had two push-buttons by the bath labelled 'up' and 'down'. Couldn't see how anything could actually move up and down, and they turned out to be call buttons for servants - upstairs servants for personal services and downstairs servants for more menial tasks like emptying the bath! How the other half lives. The gardens are spectacular as at the bottom of the main lawn at the rear of the house there is a massive series of terraces down to a large pool. A shortish run at about 60 miles we had arrived by lunchtime but there was enough to keep us occupied for the rest of the afternoon.

About 120 miles all told, so a mere gnats gambol.

September 8th-10th - The long anticipated cambelt change on the ZS

Three days in hot sun wrestling with the very limited space and tight nuts click here for the full story.

August 16th - British Motor Museum, Gaydon

First time back in a few years, and a sunny Sunday so a welcome trip in Bee. Actually a big BMW festival and my son has a couple of classics and had been invited to show his M3 Evo II. He had taken his 2-year-old son/my grandson Thomas who is car mad, so I took Thomas around the museum (three times!) whilst his dad talked BMWs.

More Fords, Astons and Land Rovers than there used to be since Ford's involvement but still many of the BL exhibits including a Morris 1000 British Telecom van, MG DR2/PR5 prototype, EX255 and others I hadn't seen before.

August 7th - Bletchley Park

A long awaited visit to see Enigma, the Bombes, and Colossus in the flesh. I've been fascinated by these since I first heard about them in the mid 70s, when the 30-year rule allowed for the first publicising of many until then secret activities from the second world war, and the BBC broadcast the excellent series 'Secret War'. Even then Colossus was still secret for some time to come. Colossus was a superb collaboration between highly intellectual theorists and mathematicians such as Alan Turing and Max Newman amongst others, and the brilliant technician Tommy Flowers who using his GPO (now BT) experience and standard equipment built Colossus to Turing and Newman's design. Of ten machines built by the GPO factory in Birmingham (where I was based for a time, but much later!) eight were totally destroyed at the end of the war and the remaining two shipped to what became GCHQ Cheltenham, where they continued to be used and their capabilities explored until the 1960's when they were destroyed as well, along with all documentation. If it wasn't for the perseverance of Tony Sale, and a vital document being made available under the American Freedom of Information act, Colossus would have been lost but for a couple of photographs and 'illegally' kept circuit diagrams. Tony and others spent from 1993 to 2004 rebuilding first the Mk1 then the Mk2, using period equipment scavenged from telephone exchanges only then being replaced by modern technology, which in itself was another quirk of fate.

I'd heard Bletchley were keen to obtain any period valves and associated equipment, of which I had a little from my youth. I also had an old GPO tool kit so decided to take that along as well. Mentioned these at the end of the tour and their eyes lit up at the tools, more so than the radio stuff! As the equipment was built and maintained by GPO personnel they intend to expand the exhibition with a display of tools and equipment, so these were very gratefully received. Got to speak to Tony Sale and when he heard about my GPO experience wondered if I lived locally as they always needed more help, sadly I live about 75 miles away, otherwise I would have already been a volunteer!

Oh, and the MG connection was I travelled in Vee, about 150 miles. Dry all day but looked like it could have rained any time in the morning, very warm and sunny in the afternoon.

June - Vee's MOT

Passed as usual, with a verbal observation from the mechanic that the rack was showing a bit of play. I'm not surprised, Vee has been plagued with wheel wobble since I first replaced the front tyres, despite repeated rebalancing, new tyres, and swapping fronts and backs over a couple of times. I've tried several avenues to find someone that does the old-style on-car balancing with no joy. Checking the play myself it is only around the straight-ahead position, i.e. it is the wheel wobble that has probably caused it. I may well have to replace the rack soon but really don't want to do that if it still has the wobble. A couple of months ago on one trip it seemed particularly bad, which made me do another Google search, and this time I found a reference to BMTR in Birmingham having a special 'Road Force Measurement' machine, and also Vibration Free in Bicester who are balancing specialists, any rotating machinery, and do have on-car balancing facilities. 55 per hour for the latter and usually a minimum of 2 hours required, as compared to 15 per wheel at BMTR, so that was my first port of call. Success! see the reasons why in Wheels & Tyres.

Jun 1st - The 10th Anniversary New Forest Run, http://www.1009mg.org.uk

An absolutely dire Saturday morning with torrential rain for our journey down which took two hours of driving to get out of. But after that the weather got drier and brighter and by the time we arrived at out hotel in the Forest we were able to sit in the gardens enjoying late afternoon sunshine and a well-deserved beer. Sunday dawned with clear blue skies which started hazing over by the start of the run, but loads of sunshine (apart from a few rogue spots of rain in the opening stages) until well into the afternoon. Normally when it starts raining we persevere with the hood down for a bit, but with the darkening skies we opted to stop sooner rather than later and by the time I had got the hood up it was absolutely tipping it down, and it didn't clear until evening. Excellent organisation and a superb route though many areas we hadn't visited before despite it being our fifth time in the Forest and our fourth time on the run, lots of foals to keep the Navigator 'Ahhh'-ing. As usual we stayed at the Forest Park in Brockenhurst, which never fails to please. See a video of the run on YouTube.

Unusually this time instead of returning home on the Monday we had decided to move on to Dorset for a few days, being enchanted by the countryside on our visit a couple of years ago to some places with T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) connections. There were a couple more Lawrence places I wanted to visit, like St. Martin's Church in Wareham which has a full-size effigy, and is well worth a visit in its own right as it is a 1000 year-old Saxon church with some wall paintings 700 years old, also a small Lawrence exhibition in Wareham Museum. Another is the memorial stone near where he was fatally injured in a motorbike accident, which we were unable to find on our previous visit. Still couldn't find them, hopefully next time, this may help! Wareham is an attractive small town, particularly the quay-side. From there we moved onto our accommodation for the next three nights - The Marquis of Lorne at Nettlecombe near Bridport. We turned off the main A35 to go through Loders and Uploders as that seemed the most direct route and in seconds we were creeping along folds in the valley bottoms in very single-track roads, with grass growing up the middle and precious few passing places. Through the very pretty hamlets of Loders and Uploders, then we encountered a cutting and a steep climb up towards Nettlecombe which looked straight out of Lord of the Rings! Sheer stone sides, with gnarly tree roots growing down them, foliage right over the top and more hanging down and very dark - spooky! The Inn itself is on a bit of a plateau at the top of Nettlecombe, but with more hills around it, beautiful views and great walking country. Nettlecombe is also a hamlet consisting of a handful of cottages so 'remote' that they aren't on mains water, but local spring water. No restrictions on water usage though, other than a polite request not to chuck the towels in the shower to be changed daily if it can be avoided. Great local (Palmer's) beers and superb food freshly prepared by the owners from local produce. It was a real joy to sit outside the front of the Inn in the evening sunshine, enjoying the views, in an amazingly peaceful part of the world. After checking in and dumping the bags we went down to West Bay, the harbour for Bridport. A bit 'fish and chips' but it is a working harbour with some interest and attractiveness and has some pretty spectacular cliffs backing the beach. Tuesday was Lyme Regis which is a surprisingly (in this day and age) attractive town, beach and harbour with its Cobb with ornamental gardens overlooking. The one minor problem is that all parking is Pay and Display so you have to plan in advance how long you are going to be, not easy in a strange town, but very reasonable at a pound or two for 2 or three hours in most places. In the afternoon we travelled over to Chesil Beach and its spectacular views from the hill down into Abbotsbury, which in itself is very attractive and unspoilt. The car park for the beach itself was going to be 4 and we didn't think we were going to be more than an hour, so settled for the view from the hill and a pint in the very popular Swan Inn, which called us louder than the Swannery. Wednesday was Lulworth Cove and the walk along the cliff path to Durdle Dor, probably one of the finest coastal areas of Britain. We spent 4 hours there, including a very good value Dorset cream tea and could have spent 6, except for the Pay and Display issue. The whole of the area is known as the 'Jurassic Coast' famous for its beach fossils, although you are more likely to find them after winter storms have eroded a bit more of the cliffs. As well as that the geology of the area is fascinating as pre-historic upheavals from colliding continents have turned the rack strata on end in many areas, so you can see millions of years of deposits in just a few yards.

Thursday saw us homeward-bound. Apart from a morning shower on the Wednesday just as we were starting out so we opted to travel to Lulworth with the hood up it had been hood down all the way in Dorset, with moderate sunshine although quite a bit of cloud. Sod's Law dictated that two miles from home we ran into the aftermath of the heaviest shower we had seen, and very wet roads, plus a river from a burst main, so Bee's bottom got wet. But the rest of the way home and the remainder of the afternoon was dry so she was fine to put in the garage that evening. 644 miles and no problems. Just one broken spoke, unexpectedly on the all-stainless wheel.

May 17th - Jorvik Run, Castle Howard, Yorkshire, 01759 305386, http://www.ryedaleyorkmgoc.co.uk/events.html

As well as the usual wash and polish and wheel treatment before the run for some reason I decided to check the horn, indicators and lights. Surprised to find the headlights weren't working, main or dip, but the flash was. Before I could get into anything with my meter they came back, and flipping switches and wiggling wiring failed to bring it back. After a few minutes it happened again (at least I knew I wasn't imagining it) but again cleared itself before I could do any tests. So I left it with the main lighting switch pulled forward out of the dash, column cowl off and meter at the ready, having a couple of days to keep testing before we departed for the run. Wednesday and Thursday no problems, but it happened again on Friday morning, and I was able to prove it to the main lighting switch (no power on the blue spade). Annoying really, this is a new switch (well, new when I restored Bee 20 years ago!) with very little use of the lights since. But true to my golden rule of "If you haven't found a use for something yet you haven't kept it long enough" I rooted the old switch out of my post-restoration spares box and fitted that. The only reason I changed it 20 years ago was because all the switch logos were a bit scruffy so I replaced them all as a matter of course, both old and new carry 'Lucas' logos.

Good journey up on the Saturday, hood down and dry all the way. Couple of very heavy showers in the afternoon while we were in castle Howard, bit of a bummer as I only had the tonneau cover on and I now know it leaks! Castle Howard was a bit disappointing. After Brideshead we were expecting some really grand rooms, but apart from the spectacular facades and rear gardens with fountain there wasn't a huge amount to see inside. The main 'hall' that connects the front and rear is spectacular, plus a couple of the other rooms and a number of paintings. But virtually the whole of the back had been burnt out in 1949 and the structure only finally repaired in the 60s. The rooms themselves are still just shells, so for the TV series and film although actual rooms in the castle were used were used they only contained stage sets.

Sunday morning dawned with a clear blue sky and sunshine, but with promises of cloud and showers by late morning. Never mind showers persistent and quite heavy rain for a couple of hours! Nevertheless hood down at the beginning and end of the run, although another heavy shower mid-afternoon just as the presentations took place, this time I saw it coming and got the hood up in time! Route instructions spot-on for directions and mileages, although unlike other runs these days there was no information on places of interest, pubs or loos, so that and most of the route being between hedges apart from a couple of glimpses of typical Dales valleys to the south and the moors to the north the run was a bit boring. The run raised 1,700 for Marie Curie Cancer Care which was excellent. Met up with David and Helen Bolton from Durham with whom I had been swapping emails on various topics for a while now, first time we have met which was good. Superb hotel just a few minutes from Castle Howard - The Worsley Arms in the attractive village of Hovingham, one used by the cast while filming Brideshead Revisited. Very comfortable and great food and wine, definitely on the list for a future stay.

Showery and very blustery on the way home, started off with the hood down but the cross-wind on the A64 was so bad it went up, and stayed up, even though the weather got much better as we neared home, and finished dry which was one good thing. Two thirds the way home I tanked up and after that Bee didn't feel right - pinking much more than she had been all weekend (none at all on the way up) and seemed to be holding back. In a town and some stop-starts on slight inclines although Bee was rolling it wasn't as freely as normal, and I had a couple of whiffs of hot metal. One could be someone else, two is worth investigating, and I found the left front hub a bit warm, disc blued (used to smoke them) and smelly. Jacked up the wheel and found it was definitely dragging more than it should, although it loosened up when I banged on the side of the tyre, and the pistons weren't seized. Took it steady the rest of the way home (40 miles or so) to find it as cool as the other side when we arrived. Next day jacked up both sides to compare and it is definitely dragging after the brakes have been applied. Took the pads out and the edges are badly crumbled, and although I pump the pistons all the way out and all the way back in again, polish them and there is no corrosion, that side is still dragging after applying the brakes. As it looks like the dust seals are breaking up (bits of rubber sticking up) I decide to replace calipers, discs and pads both sides. 484 miles, a very rare mechanical problem, and one broken spoke found when I started work on the calipers, but she still got us home with no drama.

7th May - Got an email from Barrie Egerton from Sydney a few days ago to say he would be in my area and how about meeting up for a drink, which we duly did. Always good to meet up with fellow MG-ers from around the world, Barrie has done quite a bit with V8 conversions. We hope to meet up again next March when we should be in Australia.

16th-19th March

A trip to stay with family that I wouldn't normally comment on, except I was taking a day out to visit friend Terry who is rebuilding a 74 GT. He bought it as an abandoned restoration so doesn't know if it's complete, he's not done one before so he doesn't know where everything goes, and to cap it all he is blind. I've been mentoring him, he'll describe a part or send me a video of bits he has found and I'll tell him what they are and where they go. So far he's got the engine in assembled and fitted a door, rebuilt the clutch slave, got the front and rear screen glasses in but still working on the trim, fitted rear bumper and light units and a lot of other bits and pieces. Electrics are a problem of course with colour coded wiring and individual bullet connectors, so my trip was mainly to deal with that area - including wiring to the front lights and heater that had just been chopped through for some reason, plus welding a new stud onto the drivers quarter light, fitting a new tunnel carpet including cutting hole for gear lever, plugging all the wires back to the centre console, and anything else we could fit in. Five hours flew by.

Back where we were staying on Saturday we happened across a steam and vintage tractor rally, so that was worth a few photos, as grandson Thomas loves engines and tractors so was in his element.
Just short of 250 miles in Vee, including the side trip of about 140 miles. No problems but the wheel shake seems much worse than normal, had the wheels off recently as part of the annual service but was careful to put them back on the same sides, same studs, and centring them with Rostyle nuts before tightening the standard nuts as usual, so I'm not sure why. Would really like to get rid of it altogether though, if only I could find someone who still does on-car balancing.

Late March ...

... four Sundays on the trot I have been out in one or other of the MGBs in some brilliant weather. Would have been five but for 1 degree of frost on a Saturday night and the roads slathered with salt again for the foreseeable future. Also investigated the V8 bearings, with some good news and some bad, and changed Vee's bottom hose.

March 11th - Coventry Transport Museum

Happened to get an invite to a seminar at the museum, so worth a trip for the museum itself if nothing else. First time I had been in around 20 years, I think Thrust 2 had just broken the World Land Speed Record which was in 1988. Well worth the trip, free entry to the museum, and as well as the expected static displays of cars there were some street scenes of horse and cart days, early cars, the Coventry Blitz, as well as features in Thrust 2 and Trust SSC. No MGs, but then I realised the displays all had connections with Coventry, which made sense. A major manufacturer base in its day, at the entrance to the museum there is a listing of all the car, bike, motor bike and commercial vehicle manufacturers that were or had been based in the City. Half a dozen? 20? Amazingly there were no less than 600! Part of the museum is on the site of an early motor factory, but not for one manufacturer but dozens, each with its own bit of floor space, a bit like a craft village of today.

March 1st - what a terrible autumn and winter.

I've only managed about 50 miles in Bee since August last year, and under 300 in Vee. 220 of those in Vee were one trip to stay with family for a few days and we were caught out by a sudden frost while we were there so loads of salt on the roads when we came back as well as wiping out all our plants and cuttings which were outside prior to bringing them inside for the winter. 'They' are talking about a good summer, but whether that is through any scientific evidence or simply a case of "well it's been the worst winter for 15 years so the summer must be good to keep the average right". Whatever, we could certainly do with one, the last two have been pretty poor. But today is cold but sunny (forecast wet!) so Bee nearly doubles her mileage since August to get the Sunday paper - yee ha!

Got to Stoneleigh last week, picked up a couple of large spanners for the oil cooler connections, but not much else car-wise. Forgot to look for a couple of engine restraint brackets that go behind the front rubber mounts on Bee and prevent the fan chewing up the radiator if it moves forwards on its mounts. They are missing on Bee, but although the Parts Catalogue indicates one type or another were always fitted, mine isn't the only car I've seen without them. Not planning much else for Bee this year, but now Vee has gone over 200k I feel it is time to investigate the big-ends and main bearings. I've bought a pack of Plastigauge so am mentally gearing myself up to do that pretty soon. Also in line is cleaning up the throttle body and investigating the VIS unit on the ZS now I have fitted a mini oil 'catch tank' in the breather pipe which should stop any more getting in. However that will need Vee to be roadworthy as I don't know how long the VIS unit will take to sort out. I also have to change the cam belts on the ZS this year - Rover says six years but Haynes recommends four. The ZS is five years old this year, so a reasonable compromise. It is low mileage which on the one hand should help, but on the other shorter stop start journeys with frequent acceleration are more stressful than long distances at a steady speed. Breakage inside the manufacturers recommended interval (across many manufacturers) is well known, my daughters Renault has just failed wrecking the engine, the good news was that she had just bought a replacement car, the bad news that she hadn't had time to sell the old one yet.

Finally seem to have resolved the ZS exhaust knocking when turning left at slow speed and over bumps.