Andy’s using homebound time to work on the MGB GT restoration

With car shows and auctions canceled or postponed, it’s a great time to get out in the shop and finish those projects

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MGB GT
BEFORE: Engine out of the car and ready for resealing | Andy Reid photos

While many people are feeling frustrated about the number of event cancellations, I’m looking at this change in scheduling another way: I have much more time to work on the MGB GT restoration at The Paddock.

My next task for the MG is to reseal the engine. Since I already knew that John Twist, the founder of University Motors, rebuilt the engine in my MGB GT only 10,000 miles ago, I called and asked him what needed to be done. After sending him some photographs of the engine, he said all it needed was new seals and a few gaskets.

Jay makes sure the timing cover is perfectly flat for a proper seal

Why does an engine that went through a top-tier rebuilt only 10,000 miles ago need such work? Because the previous owner did not drive the car very often for 18 months and gaskets and seals began to leak from lack of use.

While resealing and engine may seem like a very easy thing to do, and it is, you have to do a number of things correctly to have an oil-tight engine after the reseal.

The first task is to clean the engine thoroughly. I did this with a combination of engine degreaser, brushes, water, and brake cleaner. 

After cleaning, I disassembled the front cover assembly, the side engine covers, oil pan, and valve cover. These covers all went into our wet-blast cabinet and were completely stripped of paint. Removing the front cover also let us see the condition of the timing chain and timing chain tensioner. We found that the tensioner had some wear and replaced it with a new one.

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Next, we examined the oil pan and checked to see if the mating surface was completely flat. While it was pretty good, it as not perfect so I had my friend Jay Hoyt from The Paddock use a dolly and hammer to work on the part until it was dead flat.

Mac checks the new timing chain tensioner

Moving along, we called John Twist back as he had mentioned to me that the choice of side cover gaskets was important and the standard ones were not correct. He told us that to get the best seal possible I should use an MGA side cover gasket on the rear cover and a standard MGB one on the front. 

We made sure the surface of the engine block was completely clean and then put a light coating of gasket sealer on each side of the gaskets. We installed both covers on the engine, careful to not over-tighten the bolts, using the specified 7 foot-pounds of torque. This is important. Tighten them more and the covers will leak.

Next, we installed a new oil pan basket set, which includes the two stupid cord gaskets for the front and the rear of the engine. We lightly coated both these in gasket sealer and pushed them in. 

If you are dong this, your gasket set has two different size gaskets and one fits the front and one the rear. This is important as these cork strips need to fit flush with the block. 

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Timing chain tensioner replaced

Finally, we put a bead of Permatex Right Stuff on the oil pan and placed the gasket on the oil pan.  We used Right Stuff because every single engine builder we spoke with, including Twist, said that was what to use. Again per Twist, we put a light coating of grease on the other side of the gasket to assist with the seal. This makes the pan seal and also allows it to be easily removed if necessary. 

Also, like the side covers, we were careful to only tighten the oil pan bolts to the specified 6 foot-pounds of torque. This is important as making the bolts tighter can distort the pan, which will then leak.

Next, we installed the seal in the timing cover twice. We had to do it twice because I messed up the first one trying to fit it. We used stock gaskets and a light coating of sealer and again were careful to torque it to only the specified 6 foot-pounds for the ¼-inch screws and 14 foot-pounds for the 5/16 screws. 

Side covers replaced and resealed

Yes, there are two different fasteners on the timing cover. Note that we also had Jay check and adjust the timing cover to insure it was completely flat.

We then installed the valve cover and new gasket torquing the fasteners to the specified 4 foot-pounds.

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I could not have done this easily myself and I am grateful that Mac from the Paddock was on hand to help with so much of this work, as well as for his guidance.

Now the engine is ready for painting. Our next segment will be on gearbox disassembly, evaluation and parts chasing.

Since many of us are cooped up and I have a lot more time to work on the car, these updates should become much more frequent. Look for one or possibly even two very soon.

AFTER: The engine resealed



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Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.

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