What a day. On Saturday, March 24th My wife Susan and I left Clovis for the Yokhol Valley Run. We met the VBAC group at Starbucks on S. Money Blvd. in Visalia at 10AM. By 10:30 we were sufficiently coffee’d up, peed out, and ready to go. This would be the first major run for my car. The car is a 1958 MGA. I bought this car 3 years ago from an estate sale in Southern California. It had been partially restored and partially reassembled. Essentially I bought a rolling shell and a bunch of parts. After a year of work it was “running” well enough to give rides to my family during Thanksgiving 2010. That was milestone number one. It made its Club debut at the Blossom run last year. Since then I’ve replaced the interior, top, suspension rubber front and back, u-joints, various oil and grease seals. I find that I replace or refurbish many parts solely based on the fact that since something is apart “I might as well…” I’m sure you understand. At times the car was a second job. I would get home from work eat dinner and go to work on the car until… late.
The Yokhol Run was to be the “BIG” shakedown run. When we arrived at Starbuck’s we were greeted with smiles and hugs (thanks Monica). I let everyone know that this was a big deal for this car and me. This was the car’s first “full” tank of gas; Farthest from home; First high speed run on balanced wheels. Balanced wheels are VERY important. As we left the parking lot the car sputtered, coughed but quickly cleared its’ throat and we were off. I was being followed by the E-Type Jaguar guy and his wife and Toyota support vehicle. Everything was perfect. I’ve lived in the Valley my whole life and had never been on the Yokhol Valley Road. What a treat. Beautiful spring day green hills great scenery. Did I mention hills? At the beginning of the run the MGA did fine. When we started to climb I had to down shift to third sometimes to second to get up an incline. After a while I was down to first and the car was just barely running. I couldn’t give it enough throttle to keep it going. Eventually it just quit. Luckily I was able to pull off, on an incline, at a wide spot in the road. Jaguar guy and Toyota support vehicle were behind me. I’m not sure why but anytime I have opened the hood on any car with problem I always have a sense that this super obvious defect would be revealed. “Hey! your carburetors fell off!” Well there we were in the middle of nowhere. Three of us staring at this engine, the carburetors hadn’t fallen off. Now what? Lack of fuel? Full tank. New fuel pump, gas tank, filter. Fuel line was cleaned, very thoroughly. Rebuilt the carbs myself. That may be the problem. Well I could rebuild them again, I had enough tools in the trunk. Of all the scenarios I had anticipated: radiator leak, loose wheel, brake problem, rear axle falling off. I had the tools to deal with it. But for the car to just quit running. Well I wasn’t ready for that. So there we are staring at this thing. At home I would have methodically run through the problem and arrived at a diagnosis. But in the middle of nowhere all I could do was wiggle the plug wires and tap the carbs, I did check the oil in the carbs, it was fine. Jaguar guy put his hand on the radiator to confirm its’ presence. Toyota support concurred and added that the distributor was still attached to the engine. “Let’s see if she’ll start.” I closed the hood. Got in pulled the starter and she fired up. Chug, chug, chug varooooom. I made a split second decision, if she had enough power, I was going. No time for thank you and good bye. I crunched her into first and took off. She pulled up and over what turned out to be the last hill. She was cranking, downhill all the way and I wasn’t stopping until we reached the restaurant.
We met up with everyone at Cattle Rustlers Restaurant in Porterville. I thanked Jaguar guy and Toyota support for stopping and apologized for just leaving when the car started but they understood. Consensus was that the MGA has a fuel problem. After a long lunch and great car conversation it was time to say good bye and head home. Turns out Susan and I had travelled the farthest, most of club members were from Visalia or the immediate area. The car ran fine in the flat lands at 55-60 but any incline or speed above 60 was a challenge for the MG she would hesitate and loose power, frustrating. We made it home with 198 miles added to the odometer.
Since the run I tested fuel flow to the carbs. The pump is putting out about a pint in 10-15 seconds, new pump. I cleaned the pump filter anyway. Pulled the float bowls rechecked the float arms, no problem there. However, when I removed the rear carb fuel line I found that I had installed the little brass cone-shaped filter backwards. The wide end of the filter was toward the float chamber and may have been blocking the inlet. I haven’t had a chance to test run the car since correcting the filter. Also I will reset the carb fuel mixture and balance. Maybe it is too lean? I’m open to suggestions. Overall we had a wonderful day. This experience taught me that I should worry less about the trunk lid falling off and prepare more for an engine issue.
Valley British Auto Club