Panhandle British Car Association: Article


by Keith Sanders

The morning of the car show in Grand Rapids was nice and clear, about 65 degrees, and there were plenty of maps to go around and give guidance to the 20-mile destination. I had a navigator, a city and an event map. We needed to be at the show site a little before the crowd arrived, as John Twist had asked me to help park the sea of MGCs in the assigned parking positions. We knew we had about 60 Cs and a total of 600 MGs going in that general direction, so who needs a map, just follow the car ahead, who is following the car ahead of it, who is following……you get the picture.

After about 5 turns, some about 180 degrees, we were third in a four car line, going what I thought was way too far south, and not near enough west to reach our destination. After pounding on the steering wheel at the last two four-way stops, I blew the doors off the A and B in front of me and took the next westerly turn I came to. Wanting to make up for lost time and being the road was in open country, straight and smooth, we took the GT up to cruising altitude for about 5 miles. Jim pointed to a place marked “PARK” on the city map he was holding, said something about going that way pointing north, which I agreed with. We made a right turn and off we went assuming we had overshot the park.

As we got into the general direction of this park, we compared the location with the SHOW map and lo and behold, we were at a park, but about 7-8 miles from the one we needed to be at, and on the wrong side of the interstate. That was problem #1. As we did a quick u-turn, and headed back, not 2 blocks away I spat and sputtered, made a quick righthander into a church parking lot, coasted to a stop under a tree, and the C died. Problem #2.

Now between Jim and me, we have a total of about 70 years of experience working on cars, and feel confident with almost any procedure without an open manual in sight, so we popped the hood and started looking around. Plug wires, OK. Coil wire, OK. Must be fuel. I turned on the key, no click of the fuel pump. I got under the car and tapped the fuel pump, no click, wire off and on, no click. I removed the fuel cap, blew pressure into the fuel tank, but still no crank. I banged on the bottom of the tank…..kind of hollow sound…”but I put gas in just before I left Florida”. Jim removed the fuel line at the carb connection. We tried the key again; we had fuel rushing out. Cranked again but still not the sound we wanted to hear. We pulled the #spark plug wire to check for spark. No spark. Pulled the distributor cap…the rotor was laying in two pieces jammed between the points and the cam.

Now that problem #3 was identified, we commenced with repairs. No spare rotor, no duct tape, no super glue. (Yeah, I know the British car rule on spare parts, and I broke it big time). You would figure that with 600 plus MGs running around Grand Rapids, someone would be coming down this street, but we were not on the most direct path between the motels and the show site. Should we try and patch it or call a tow? Patch it, of course, never admit defeat. Looking around inside the goody bag for some kind of help, we found a brand new Castrol key fob. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but Jim determined the split ring looked just about the right size to fit the rotor. It did, but it needed to stay tight. A rubber band would work just fine. We also eyeballed the point gap and locked them down, bound up the rotor and put it on, bumped the starter and the C sprang to life. As we eased out onto the street, we laughed at our brilliance-Redneck engineering overcomes British engineering (Jim and I are both southern boys, you know.) We topped off the fuel, about 6 gallons, and headed on our way at a more gentle pace. About 2 miles down the road, as we came to a four-way stop, it died again. We popped the hood, pulled the cap and it was still together. Looking deeper we saw the points were closed again. Reset, reassembled and away we went again, about 3 more miles. Dead again. Points closed again (seems very odd) but Jim reset them again. While stopped, another C pulled up to offer assistance. Looking at our wounded rotor, he pulled out a fishing tackle box of parts and handed us a used rotor. So full of joy, I didn’t do a close inspection and just stuck it on. It fired and off we went, but only about 2 more miles, dead again. This time a closer inspection revealed the rotor was about 1/8” taller, and the center carbon button was pushed up and partially melted into the cap. Problem #4.

The old rotor went back on and Jim’s pocket knife along with some sidewalk surgery freed the spring-loaded post. We arrived at the show late but at least we arrived under our own power. AT the show I purchased the correct rotor, a spare cap and a set of points from one of the many vendors, just in case they were needed for the return trip after the show shut down. I would have paid ten times the price if they had known how desperate I was. On the return trip, it died one more time, and the points were closed again. Another reset. I have checked it several times since my return and the points seem fine now, but I can’t figure out for the life of me how they closed up 4 times in 20 miles. That has got to be some kind of record. I suppose I need that electronic points set up. Guess I need to give Little British Car Company a call.

- Keith Sanders

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