The MG project: the trip home


Well this is going to be an interesting project and one that I will try to document along the way. I just bought a 1966 MGB to take on as a restoration project. The car is supposed to run pretty well but is in need of some attention to the paint and interior. Last weekend I drove about 8ookm to have a look at it and it did look ok. I guess when you buy a 45 year old car you know you are in for some work and expenses. This week I went back there to purchase it. It really was a question of planes, trains and automobiles to get to the farm where it was located and had been sitting in a shed for the past 2-3 years.
It was going to be an 800km drive to get it home – trailering it was going to be difficult as I couldn’t find a one-way hire trailer anywhere near and moving by truck proved difficult as they wouldn’t take anything extra in the car (such as the tonneau, workshop manuals, spare parts etc).
Driving in the middle of an Australian summer through quite remote areas is challenging enough for new vehicles let alone older ones. Finding out that the temperature guage wasn’t working didn’t make me feel any better either. The farmer who owned the MG had never put the roof on and when I looked at it I wasn’t keen on it either – the stiching had come undone in a number of places and well, basically it stank, Seems like it had been sitting on the floor of his shed for a long time. The interior seemed to have been home to one of the farm animals and was covered in hair (dog’s or cat’s I am guessing).
Once we had settled the change over I took off for home and a few 100 metres down the street tried to turn the headlights on since I was going to be travelling well into the night to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. They didn’t work! Back to the farmers and guess what? They worked when he put them on.
So off I went on the first leg of my 800km trip (about 440km). Since I wasn’t confident with the car and was worried about it overheating I tried to keep the speed down to around 80km/h which meant I was in for a long stint at the wheel. About 200km later I thought I would fill up with petrol at one of the few towns that I would be passing through. It was about 9.15pm and well and truly dark so you can imagine how I felt when after filling up with fuel and resuming my trip the headlights wouldn’t work. I decided to back track a few 100 metres to a couple of hotels on the outskirts of town to stay overnight since obviously I couldn’t go anywhere without headlights. A few metres down the road the lights came on so I decided I was just going to keep driving and not turn anything off.
Driving at night in the Australian outback can be quite beautiful as the skies are so clear and filled with stars. In the open top MG this seemed great however driving at night can be very dangerous because of the animals that tend to hop in front of your car at the most inconvenient time. Kangaroos and other animals are quite active at night (particularly dusk and dawn). Normally I drive a 4wd in the country which is much safer than an MG so it was quite a stressful 400 or so km but I made it to my first destination without any further mishaps.
The next leg was going to be more difficult as the weather was really starting to heat up and the last place you want to have an overheated engine is in country South Australia in the middle of summer. For this leg I put the roof on as the sun can be quite overbearing and I also started my trip predawn to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. There were a few close calls with kangaroos (one dangerously close) so I had to travel very slowly until the sun got quite hot and the roos rested for the day.
A few hundred kilometres on I had to cross a river by ferry and while I was waiting for the ferry and then travelling on it something in the engine compartment overheated and the engine stalled and wouldn’t start again. As I was on the ferry this mean’t a few trips back and forwards across the river until whatever it was cooled down enough to start the car again. I think it may have been the coil.

The MG doesn’t have any heating or cooling – the only thing it does have is free flowing hot air from the engine compartment into the dirver’s seat area so you can imagine how hot I was starting to feel – this was not a pleasant drive!

Anyway, I made it back home where I started to uncover some of the other things that need attention – I think it’s going to be a pretty long list and will keep me busy for some time to come. I hope I have the patience to see the restoration through until the end as it will be a great little car by then.

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