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MG Magnette Steering Wheel Centerpiece Motif Production

– by Chuck Reece

My MG Brother, Phil White and I, both have 1958 ZBV’s and our steering wheel centerpiece motifs were cracked and broken. No NOS parts exist, so Phil started exploring the possibility of making new parts.

His brother-in-law has a CNC machine shop, but did not have the time or money to donate to our cause (CNC is the way to go on machining difficult plastic molds, if you are going to make a lot of injection molded production parts). My father, Charlie, owned a machine shop prior to retirement and showed Phil and I a relatively inexpensive silicone rubber mold material to make a mold from an existing piece. All that was needed was a perfect donor motif; a bit hard to come by!

As chance would have it, Phil and I bought a spare ZB parts car from Kansas, USA, and the car had a perfect condition motif! The Holy Grail of MG Magnette parts! We didn’t drink from it, but did take several pictures and wrap it carefully prior to the trip home to Arizona.

Back in Arizona, my father helped us make a research and development mold. I also bought some expensive two-part catalyzed clear polyurethane plastic to make the motif. Our first motif turned into a ball of goo, as the part was taken out of the mold too soon!

After 10 pieces and lots of bubbles in the plastic parts, we borrowed a vacuum pump from a friend, and Phil made a rudimentary vacuum chamber from a Pyrex mixing bowl and a flat piece of mild steel. This, and stiff mixing prior to the vacuum chamber, really helped to reduce the air bubbles in the parts. So, we returned the borrowed vacuum pump and Phil bought a brand new pump.

Phil investigated different kinds and colors of paints, with the help of his artist-niece Jessie, and settled upon using enamels for the finished pieces. We have not yet been able to find a method to chrome plate the inside of the MG, octagon and ring, so chrome fingernail polish has been substituted. Further difficulty was encountered in getting the champagne and black paint to look nice, so Phil invested in a professional quality airbrush.

We finally got about ten good pieces out of the R&D mold, and I painted seven of them. Polishing the motif to a high luster turned out to be a challenge. We tried using red rouge, and a blue type of polishing compound on fabric wheels. But these didn’t give the high luster we were looking for. Charlie still has his "Rock Hound" equipment from younger days, so we tried cerium oxide, a rock-polishing compound, on the motif. Wow, that was the trick. It gave us that ultra-high luster that we all want to look at on our steering wheel centerpiece every time we get in our cars or look down during driving. It has taken about five hours of hand labor to mold, cure, sand, polish and paint each motif. It’s quite labor intensive, but the results outweigh the time.

I decided that a second, better production mold should be made to bypass some of the shortcomings of the first mold. We have molded six motif from this second mold, and will continue to mold and paint them as time permits.

At this time, we have still not received permission from LMI, licensing firm for British Motor Heritage, to sell the motif.

Our price will be $80 US dollars, plus shipping and handling, any where in the world.

For your enjoyment, I have attached several pictures of the original motif, de-gassing the plastic, pouring the motif, painting and polishing process.

Safety Fast!

Do you spot the difference? I don't think so. This is the first new motif in Chuck's car

The original motif as it came out of a scrapped car

Pouring a motif

Pulling a vacuum on the mixed plastic

Motif # 1

Charlie milling the mould clamp

Bad bubbles!

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