Journey in a PA
Octagon Newsletter … November 1991
By Peter Lee
The moment in time was a magic one for a young man in his first MG, everything was right in the world, from well polished black bodywork with a tall gleaming chrome radiator, to the beautiful summer afternoon on the 'B' roads of Cornwall - roads that were just wide enough for an MG, with an occasional pull-in for other vehicles to pass. This was the time of the annual vacation - the two weeks one could venture away from home, in a pilgrimage for the sun. With the hood down and wearing the correct headgear and driving gloves,
I revelled in the cornering of the MG and that copper pipe really did improve the sound of the exhaust as it was reflected from the high stone walls.
Slowly it is realized that not all is well, the ears are tuned to a less entrancing noise than a straight through exhaust, the hill you had to change into second gear for has levelled out, but engine revs will not let you get into third. A brief look at the handbrake tells you it is not on, but 20 mph; right foot to the floor on a level road adds up to a large lump in the throat. Upon raising the bonnet with the engine idling, an appalling clattering noise assailed me from the innards - piston broke? not quite. A 'P' type MG is a single overhead camshaft engine with the dynamo mounted vertically at the front of the engine driving the camshaft through bevelled gears. The valves are operated by forgers each side of the camshaft and oil is pressure fed by an external pipe through a restrictor in the head - this was the cause of the problem. A blockage which resulted in melting white metal out of the camshaft bearings and reducing the effective valve lift.
With oil supply restored the engine would run – just, but it now sounded like a Busby Berkeley sound track, a new set of bearings were required.
Towards the end of the second week, having visited all the garages in St. Ives and having phoned all the MG people I could think of, was all to no avail. A set of bearings did not exist - no one would sell me a set out of their cylinder head and my finances would not run to purchase a complete head. Most young men with a sports car at the end of a two week vacation would know the feeling.
Walking and considering all alternatives, such as towing the car 300 miles, returning with bearings, or selling it where it stood, in front of me on the street was a broken piece of leather strap, 3/4" x 10" long. With stories of people using paper clips and ladies underwear to hold a vehicle together for thousands of miles, the idea of replacing the bearings with leather dawned on me. Using the two good remaining halves at the front to take the thrust from the bevel gears, I secured short lengths of leather strap into the housing with counter-sunk brass screws. After adjusting valve clearance and a prayer to Allah, I started the motor. It ran beautifully, with a good supply of oil to the 'new' bearings.
Driving with great difficulty, because all digits were crossed, and thinking "Why did I not subscribe to RAC or AA?" I departed St. Ives quietly, chanting prayers a Tibetan holy man would have been proud of. However as the miles rolled by confidence in my repairs grew, it ran for many miles before they were replaced by the proper bearings - about 3 months later.
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