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To strip an MG

Initial parts removal

Started with this

October - December 2006

In other places, this car would have been lovingly restored and driven for many happy miles. Fortunately for me, this was not to be its fate. Not many parts cars available around here, and we're many miles from anywhere here in Utah. So instead of restoration it donated its vital bits and pieces for the Tunebug.

I originally planned to just take the motor and transmission, but my good friends on the British Car Forum convinced me to take pretty much anything that would bolt off. Even though the MG is some 15 years newer than the Bugeye, a surprising number of the parts interchange.

First parts

The first thing I decided to tackle was getting the engine ready to come out. To do this I had to remove the carburetors, alternator, exhaust, and a few electrical bits. These were the easy bits to take, and a good way to get started.

Other bits

At a later date I also removed the rear axle half-shafts and the rear differential. The MG has a taller 3.9 rear end, which will fit in the Tunebug and make cruising a little more relaxed. The axle bits are just nice to have around as spares.

At this point I was really glad I had invested in a set of auto dollies. With the half-shafts out, the wheels will go on but not really spin at all. The dollies made moving the MG around the garage quite easy.

Engine Removal

December 26, 2006

Getting started

I bought the MG expressly for the engine and transmission. They will fit directly into the Tunebug, and offer more power and better gear ratios. Since I bought the MG I've been slowly taking off the extra bits that I wanted--rear end, axles, and a few other small pieces. I'd been waiting for the right time to tackle the engine removal. With a week off for Christmas and New Years, I had the time.

I also had the tools, in the form of a 2-ton engine lift from Pep Boys. The price was right, once I figured in the number of times I would need it. I'm sure it will come in handy for other things as well.

To work we go, with a bit of help

I also got an engine leveler, that was supposed to help with keeping the engine balance point level. In the end, it did work, but I wasn't all that impressed. I connected 2 chains to the engine, to the bolts that hold the valve cover on. Next time, I'll probably try and use all 4 chains for a more secure connection. It worked, but was a little more shaky a connection then I'd really prefer.

I unbolted both mounts from the car (the rubber mounts and the brackets). This gave me plenty of side-to-side movement so I could clear the steering column. Otherwise, it was just a case of lift a little, wiggle a little, lift a little, and repeat. I was fine until the the very end, when I needed to be wiggling the transmission and running the lift at the same time. Luckily, my wife was willing to come out and operate the lift for me so I could finesse the transmission. A bit more pushing and pulling and the engine was out!

Thoughts and tips

I did discover a few things that may be helpful for folks who are going to do this. First off, while you can do this alone, I'd really recommend having a helper handy. In the end, I need to be in 2 places at the same time, and would have been somewhat stuck without my wife's assistance. The helper doesn't need to be strong or get dirty, but a spare pair of hands within shouting distance would be a big plus.

I did need to remove the front wheels to gain enough space for the engine hoist that I have. I was also careful to make sure that I had enough overhead space for the lift, and enough space to roll the lift out and put the engine/transmission down once I was done. The MG really doesn't roll now, so the car would not be able to roll away from the engine. It's good to think of things in advance, since finding you don't have enough room with the engine is dangling in space would not be a nice feeling.

The windshield on Midgets and Sprites comes off with just a few bolts, so I took the extra time to pull it off before tackling the engine. Seemed silly to leave it and risk putting the transmission through the glass. 6 bolts and it was off and safely stored.

The other trick I came up with was an easy way to remove the bonnet with only one person. I connected a strap from my engine lift to the bonnet, giving me a 3rd hand to hold the bonnet open while I undid the bolts. This trick also worked when I was putting the bonnet back on. Simple, and highly effective.

Bonus parts

While I had the wheels off and the car up on stands, I removed 2 small brackets that connect the radiator supports to the inner fenders. The Tunebug was missing these parts, and I was having some trouble finding them. I was looking over the MG, and noticed what looked like the very brackets I was missing. A few minutes with a ratchet and I had them transferred over. I guess when they redesigned the front end for the square Spridgets they used the same part. Everything lined right up, and now I've got a 2 fewer parts on my need list.

Stripping the rest

December 29, 2006 - January 8, 2007

Once the engine was out, it was time to tackle the rest of the bits. I planned to take the front disc brakes. To do this requires taking pretty much the entire front suspension, from the shocks through to the tire rod ends. In the end, this was not too difficult, requiring only the purchase of a really large adjustable wrench for working on the tie rods. When I do the Tunebug front end, I will get a spring compressor though. I just sort of winged it, and it worked out okay. A little scary working around those springs, though. Otherwise, with no big rust or stuck bolt problems the front end came right out.

With a little more persuasion from my friends, I decided to finish the stripping job by removing the rear brakes and hubs as well. They are a bit of an upgrade over the ones on the Tunebug, and were there for the taking. A friend (thanks, Jeff!) graciously offered to loan me a hub puller, and I bought the biggest socked I'd ever seen (1-7/8") to remove the hub nut. A hint for its removal is to remember to flatten out the tab washer first!

With some grunting and a bit of leverage, I got the hubs and brakes off. I grabbed everything, including the brake back plates and the entire hand brake assembly from the handle to the rods and cable. Not sure what I might need later, so good to get it all now. And that was it, all the bits I wanted were now in greasy piles on my shelves.

Final Thoughts

Ended with this

This was a really fun process. Working directly on all these systems might just be the best way to figure out how they all work. I think I have a better understanding of the suspension bits than I had before, for sure. And I now have just about the entire drivetrain from the MG sitting on my shelves, ready to be used in the Tunebug when I am ready. In all, I wound up taking:

  • 1275 engine, with ancillaries (alternator, starter, fan, etc.)
  • H2 carbs and intake
  • Exhaust manifold and exhaust pipe
  • Ribcase 4-speed transmission
  • 3.9 rear differential
  • 2 axle half-shafts
  • Front disc brakes and suspension
  • Rear drums, including backing plates, hubs, and hand brake assembly
  • Radiator supports

A good haul, and well worth what I paid for the car. There is something to this parts-car business after all. Now all that is left is to round up the remaining MG parts, and pass them and the tub on for someone else's projects.