1961 MGA Mk2

Dave’s 1961 MGA Mk2 Restoration 535WPF is one of the last MGA’s produced, having been first registered in December 1961. Of the 101 thousand MGA’s produced only about 9000 stayed in Britain, the vast majority being exported to the U.S.A. This car is one of only 350 1600 MK 2’s that stayed in this country. Little is known about its early history, but due to modifications found when restoration was started in earnest, it looks like the ‘A’ had a racing past. Last on the road in 1970 the ‘A’ had a short working life. Then became part of John Foss’s extensive collection of classic cars: John used to run what is now Stadlestones Garage. Upon his death the ‘A’ was passed on to John Brayford in 1993. Over the next 16 years John gradually worked through the car, but the restoration lost steam and he moved the car on to me in April 2009. I wasn’t actually looking for a new project, having just finished the 3 year restoration on my red MGBGT V8, but John rang me up with the offer of some workshop tools. By the time I got round to visiting John with my brother the fly press had gone to the scrap yard. We had a look round John’s garage that was almost shoulder height in bits of car and John explained that he was giving up MG ownership due to ill health. With the words ‘Hey Dave you could just do with that MGA’ the seeds of “need” were firmly planted in my tiny petrol head! Before I could see what I had bought John ‘tidied’ the garage, so now it was only waist high. We hired a car-transporter and loosely mounted the body back on the chassis and towed the ‘A’ home to start the long task of mopping up my spare time up for the next four years. Upon inspection, life in a damp garage had not been kind and most of the body repairs had to be re-done. It’s amazing how much space a car in pieces takes up, so I devised a trestle system so the separated body could be worked on with the rolling chassis underneath. When all the welding was done using a mixture of new re-manufactured panels, scavenged second hand ones and home made ones, the body was loosely mounted back on the bare chassis. I converted my old home made boat trailer to be a flat bed, designed to locate the chassis firmly in place. We then towed it up to Pro-Strip in Nottingham to chemically striped of all the paint, under-seal, filler and crud. This meant immersing it in a hot caustic bath for 24 hours then wet grit blasting followed by a long dip in a phosphate, pacifying, solution in order to kill any lurking rust. Then another little trip down the M1, with bare body, to Nuneaton, where ‘Ian-the-paint’ spells his magic on ugly and moth eaten car bodies with a pristine coat of paint. Ian kept the car for over a year and worked on it as his ‘hospital job’, when his bread and butter jobs were slow. I popped in from time to time for up dates and rang Ian on the 1st December 2011 to pat it on the bonnet and wish it happy 50th birthday. While the garage was clear, my attention turned to the mechanical bits. The engine was really worn and needed to be re-bored with new pistons, bearings, cam shaft, valves etc. etc. The machining, was completed by Fred Burt, formally of Broadlands Engineering. All components were checked over, re built, cleaned, polished or painted before storing ready for re-assembly. Upon collection the assembled, painted shell was absolutely stunning. Ian’s patience, aligning panels, levelling all my welding together with hours of spraying, rubbing down and re spraying; resulted in a finish that exceeded original factory standards. Hoisting the body and chassis off the trailer, created a tense moment, when trying to balance everything in the right position my home made lifting gear started to bend! First in place were front and rear axles closely followed by a new wiring loom, and a completely new braking system. A big decision was made to change the colour of the interior from black to red – a factory option. Some of the procedures caused a few headaches but with perseverance and many cups of tea; the seats were re covered, together with dash board, glass fitted to windscreen frame, carpets bound and glued into place. The shiny rebuilt engine with re furbished shiny carburettors, eventually made their way to the tight engine compartment without scratching the shiny white paint. First start up and movement under its own power since 1970 was a big step forward in January this year but the freezing three months of winter weather we had, slowed the progress of final fettling down to a snail’s pace. Finally M.O.T-ing this June at Chale garage. Apart from a problem with the brakes binding, which was quickly sorted by spending more on brake components, all seems to be running sweet. At the time it’s sometimes hard to see why we buy a project car, but Len Wilby summed it up with; ‘Maybe Dave doesn’t need a new project car, but that car needs Dave’.