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LIVING WITH "ALISON" (3)

Episode Three - A Gleam in the Eye
In an occasional series, Malcolm Robertson outlines life with 'Alison', his 1957 MG ZB Varitone Magnette….

At the end of my last report, I was about to tackle the under-floor area which was still caked with fifty years of grease and grime, plus was suffering from some small rust spots in the strengthening beams that run from the sill to the tunnel.

This turned out to be the sort of job that if you are smart, and plan ahead, you leave to someone else! This is not me and since I had just about finished all this dirty work I persisted and lay under the car for long hours using degreaser, scourer pads and sandpaper to clean it all up before doing the rust repairs and spraying with rust preventative black gloss. I decided against the bitumen-based paint and remained true to the gloss black, which looks magnificent now (although I know it won't last long!).

Christmas intervened at about this time and I didn't get back to Alison until February when little Leah went back to school. Plus I had the usual summer jobs around the house to do and I wanted to take a little trip to Melbourne, an 1100 mile round trip which I did in my old MG Two Litre (SA). (See Loz Scott's report on the Melbourne MG Car Club's Concours d'Elegance held on Sunday 6 February.)

The first job after I got back was to re-fit all the windows into the doors. This is not a difficult task, but you need to be careful not to scratch your new paint, and to make sure you do everything in the correct order, otherwise you can find youself with the window glass still on the bench and everything else nicely fitted. The glass goes in absolutely first! I also managed to put a tiny crease in one rear door when I opened it onto the front door. Lesson: fit the check straps before you start playing around! I had a nice discovery while fitting the rear quarter windows. Among some surplus rubbers from a fellow Magnetteer there were two quarter window rubbers from a GM car - the Australian built Holden Statesman. I couldn't figure out why these rubbers were there until I was experimenting with different rubbers for Alison's rear quarter windows. Not only did these rubbers fit perfectly once a section had been removed (they were too big originally) but they enabled me to do away with the metal framework into which the Magnette quarter windows were fitted. Mine were badly rusted anyway. And they were made from a beautifully soft rubber which eliminates the need for silicon or bitumen sealants.

On the front quarter windows, I repaired my original rubbers with black silicon and gave them a coat of tyre black. It's not perfect, but so far it is better than trying to make new rubbers out of the less-than-satisfactory new rubber extrusions available in Australia. Restorers overseas may have had better experiences.

For the past few weeks I've been fitting a new wiring loom which I bought from Vic Longden at Octagon Manufacturing in Perth (+61 8 9448 4466). The loom is exactly as original with all the colour coding as per the wiring diagram in the book. The only two changes I asked for were for the loom to be made from the more modern plastic coated wires instead of the old wax coated ones, and to have my amber turn indicator lights wired in separately. So far it has gone in easily, but I haven't connected up a battery yet. In fact, I'll probably connect a 12 volt torch battery first, just so I don't set fire to anything! I have done the dashboard and now I am under the bonnet, cleaning, painting and rennovating all the various bits and pieces that connect up to the wiring loom: regulator box, fan motor, wiper motor, various relays, generator, coil, starter switch and motor, steering column, etc. There are lots of items and each takes quite a bit of time to restore, even though I had started this process months, and in some cases years, ago. And don't forget all the rubber pipes and grommets - I didn't realise how many grommets there were, and hardly two of them the same!

I've also just had the brake components overhauled: master cylinder, wheel cylinders, pipes, etc, as many of these also need to be fitted while working under the bonnet. Many components were replaced, such as the hoses and front wheel cylinders, but with others it was more effective simply to overhaul the originals. You'll see in the photos that I have taken to using a rust preventative silver spray paint (same paint as the black I've used under the car) on my rennovated brake pipes and various nuts and bolts. If I had been really keen I would have had these parts zinc plated, but that all takes more time and money!

Once I am happy with everything under the bonnet, I will refit the engine bay side panels, the mudguards and install the lights and Alison will begin to look like a real car again. But you'll have to wait until my next report…

Finally, the under floor area is completed and is looking presentable
These are Leah's pedal car, an old MG TD, and her MG1100 as seen from under Alison's freshly painted rear end
The first of the components are put in place as the new wiring loom creeps across the firewall
Many days later and the components start to look as though they might actually do something
Meanwhile, on the other side of the engine, the steering column, the brake master cylinder and the generator/coil assembly are fitted

  • Alison-bumper brackets
  • batterybox
  • diff

  • firewallbegins
  • firewallfinished
  • underfloor