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Projects - 1935 MG PB

Updated June, 2012 the last chapter……….

This 1935 MG PB was bought in the UK in 1976 by the present owner. He lived overseas at that time and during a vacation in England came across this pretty PB. It was fairly recently restored and in great shape. Pictures of the car could be found in several books. He really wanted to buy a Tickford, but liked this car so much that the original plan was changed and the PB changed hands.

Six month later the car arrived in the USA and the father of the owner picked the car up. Only years later did my customer see the car again, and he was horrified. The car was stripped of many good parts, tail lights we no longer the ones that appeared on the pictures and the steering wheel was just a frame. The chrome parts were pitted and rusted etc.  At this time it was too late to make any kind of claim and the car sat for years in a dry barn.

Fast forward many years. My customer approached me and asked if I wanted to take on the restoration of the PB. Not complete, but just make it look nice again and make it look original. I like challenges, and said yes, not knowing what I would get myself into. My first hint should have been that all experts in the UK and Tom Metcalf all said the same thing to me. “Good luck with it, you’ll need it!”

Did I find out what they were saying!!!

The car came into the shop in Crystal Lake several years ago. Dismantling was not a big problem. The car came apart very well, but we found out that the body was in far worse condition that we thought earlier. When the paint was stripped we noticed that many areas were filled with Bondo and we found many cracks. Lots of holes had to be filled, and a pretty serious dent in the front right fender had to be straightened.

The upholstery was done by Bruce Ryza of Top Line. As usual Bruce did a fine job, using the materials that came closest to what was originally used. As the car came with a vinyl interior it took me a lot of time, (and miles) to find out what the materials were supposed to be. The leather was installed using the proper techniques and correct fasteners. Bruce also made up long sections of piping that was used when we installed the body and interior panels, thus guarantying a perfect color match.

The gages were also repaired and new chrome bezels were found. The ignition switch is no longer available and even after searching we had to settle with one that looks the same, but has a different back.

New tail light, the proper ones, were found. I got a lot of help from Tom Metcalf and Jamie Dowley of Sports and Vintage in the UK. Jamie always was frank about the quality (usually very good) and if the part was as per original, adapted, or from another model that would fit as well.

It is amazing how many parts actually are available for a model of which only 526 cars were built, 65 plus years ago. Of course the MG cars were usually a development of previous models but it still is amazing. Some parts we had to make from scratch, some we could alter to fit. The set rest rake adjuster pictured is one of the parts we had to make from scratch. Some engine parts had to be fabricated as well.

Having the bare chassis on the floor of the shop, we first made sure it was straight and than started the repairs. Not many were needed, apart from things like the king pins, bearings etc the frame was repaired fairly quickly and painted with a primer with a high concentration of chromates. The belly pan and tunnel needed repairs and big holes needed to be filled.

All the chrome, even the bad parts like the head light buckets, were stripped.  The radiator shroud needed all the studs braised back in and the head light buckets were restored. And don’t think we used any epoxy or JB weld, braising and lead goes a long way. New head light mounting nuts were made with the proper Whitworth threads and chromed. The brass parts were chromed, and the steel parts coppered and chromed after that. 

With the chassis ready and the body at the paint shop it was time to clean up the engine. A huge disappointment came when I took the valve cover off. The set up of this wonderful little engine is really beautiful. It has an overhead cam shaft, which pushes down the rockers somewhere in the middle between the valve and pivoting shaft. Valve clearance adjustment is by a concentric bush on the pivoting shaft. The cam shaft is driven by a beveled gear on a shaft that is driven by the crank. That shaft drives the generator, between the block and the head, as well.  But the cam shaft was dead. Holes everywhere and some of the lobes were worn as if the car had been run without ZDDP in the oil. We decided to rebuild the head and make it ready for use of unleaded gasoline while we were there. A new cam shaft was found and installed.

The transmission was never supposed to come apart. But, we had to. For some unclear reason the nuts were not installed on the main bearing housing where the primary shafts goes to the bell housing. One bolt was missing, so I had to open the whole gearbox up. About four lines are spent in the manual on how to take apart the transmission and how to put it back together. That worried me, and after actually disassemble and putting it back together, I have no idea what more they could have said. The bolt was found and the transmission inspected.

With the head rebuilt, we put it on the engine, and put the motor on the test stand. After a while we had the engine purring like a MG that is happy to be alive again! I remember vividly that Rich and I were very happy to listen to the sound and I was about to shut it off when three or four big knock came out of the engine. I rushed to shut it off. Too late, a connecting rod came peaking through the block and oil filter housing. This resulted in one of the worst phone calls I ever made.

We took the engine apart and to my horror we found out that the con rod nuts were not tightened. Worse, the cotter pins were not installed. To this day, and probably for the rest of my life, I will not forgive myself for not checking the bottom end of the motor. We had found so many things that were just thrown into the car, like the trans, that it never could have driven 20 miles before things would fall off or get jammed. Still, with that knowledge, I did not inspect the lower end of the motor.

Blaming myself for that, I ended up offering the repairs of the engine free of charge. I should have known better and should have pulled the pan. Lesson learned!

The block was repaired by welding and stitching where possible. The con rods were saved and re-babbitted and the crank only needed a good polishing. It was straight; good thing the motor was at idle when it happened. One piston was hurt, so we broke the glaze of the bores and installed new, old fashioned pistons. And new rod bolts with cotter pins!

The engine was reassembled, new screen for the oil pick up made and this time it passed the tests with honor.

From that point on the build up of the car was fairly straight forward, all be it not without problems. The tub went on, new fire wall made, new harness installed and slowly but surely the car got back into shape.

We had some issues with fitting the front right fender that had undergone major repairs. To the point that one section had to be reshaped to fit properly. Also, one of the head light brackets did not line up properly. When we stripped it from the paint so we could bend it by applying heat, we noticed it was cracked. The bracket was repaired and after some more massaging of the right fender everything fitted properly.

Having done this type of restorations before, I had secured a fair amount of the original paints that were used, so repainting the fender and head light support bracket was no issue. The spare paint also came into handy, when we figured out that the gas tank was painted in the wrong color blue.

The dash came together well, and doors fitted. I wasn’t too happy with the fit, but I don’t think I have ever seen a PA or PB with better fitting doors.

We had acquired the proper side laced rims (the old ones did not survive the sand blaster) and proper three lug tires for the car. The use of the proper three lug tires make for a far better looking car than when modern tires are used. The ride is most likely not as comfortable though, but that was not an issue with this restoration.

The last things we did were fitting the hood and windshield. We decided to have both the Brooklands and windshield on the car, as it will be displayed in a museum, and having loose parts with a car is the preferred way to loose them. The windscreen frame was put together with questionable brackets made out of three layer thick beer can aluminum! That was considered not quite up to standard. The brackets are not available, and knowing how unforgiving windscreens are with wrong or adapted hardware, I took the time to make them from scratch.

Now that the car was together, I drove it a little bit to make sure everything works fine. I cannot say anything but than that my respect for the period racers grew every time I applied the brakes. During the Mille Miglia I talked with a team that ran a PB, and they said that sometimes while the driver was standing on the brakes, the co driver was hanging on the hand brake.

After this little run, the engine was plugged with a blanking plate in the exhaust and plugs in the carburetors.

We are very proud of the results of this restoration. It came out even better than the MG TD that we restored for the same owner. That MG TD was sold three years later and the new owner won one a first price in the Texas All British Car Show for the MG T class. More than three years after it had left our shop!


Before


After

You can see the MG PB in the Wheels O’Time museum, near Peoria. IL.

Yves Boode

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We at Vintage Sports Car Inc. really enjoy keeping the cars from the era we love in good and safe working condition. We pride ourselves for our expertise, and for the way we conduct business.