This section includes the various changes and alterations that I’ve made, which have seemed sensible to me and particularly aimed at creating a car that’s as near to original as possible, but suited to driving distances in modern traffic. These will be added as and when the job is completed.
- Five speed gearbox conversion
- Hi-torque starter
- Dynamo to alternator (Dynamator) conversion
- Electronic ignition
- 12 volt single battery conversion
- Under floor exhaust heat shield
- Revotec cooling fan
- Bilge fan carb cooling conversion
- Seat Belts
- Twin USB charging port
- LED third brake lamp.
The notable exception here is that I’ve chosen to stick with the original drum brakes, rather than convert to front discs. The reasons for this choice are that the original brakes in good condition, were powerful enough for a standard car used in normal road conditions and partly cost. I’ve fitted all new cylinders, lines, shoes and drums, so we’ll see how it goes.
Five speed gearbox conversion.
Of all the conversions and up grades, the 5-speed gearbox conversion is the one that I was convinced of from the start, having listened to friends that had done it and read many positive reviews. The difference that one extra gear makes is enormous – reduced revs, giving relaxed cruising, improved fuel economy, reduced engine wear and reduced emmisions.
The Hi-Gear conversion kit using the Ford Sierra Type 9 gearbox is the best current option and the conversion kit superb, with everything needed and excellent instructions. The Type 9 gearbox is now becoming more difficult to find and as a result prices are going up, so perhaps now the overall cost is becoming more prohibitive. I was fortunate to buy a re-conditioned unit in 2010 at around £350 as from the same supplier now (2016) they are £750. As a result, I believe there are new conversions, using Mazda MX 5 gearboxes, initially for MGB, but soon to be available for the ‘A’.
Dynamo to alternator conversion.
This is the ‘Powerlite Dynamator’ (alternator) , which they say produces 80% more power and weighs 40% less than the original Lucas unit. It was considerably cheaper than the ‘Dynalite’ alternative at £125 purchased through Accuspark, the same unit being sold for in excess of £300 elsewhere. So shop around. The unit is very well made and a straight fit onto the existing mounting brackets, also taking the coil mounting collar and utilising the original fan and pulley. MGA 1500 alternator.
Single battery 12 volt negative earth conversion.
The original MGA spec was of course for 2 x 6 volt positive earth batteries, which carried on through to MGB production. These units are now expensive to replace and less efficient than a single 12 volt unit. My car had been crudely converted to a single battery before my ownership and as I also wanted to fit an alternator, it made sense to do a full conversion.
Exhaust under-floor heat shield.
Inertia Reel Seat Belts
My car being a 1959, had no belts fitted or mounting points. As I want to tour with the car with my wife and I want to give grandchildren a ride now and then, I decided full inertia reel seatbelts were a must.
Clearly, this raises problems – where to mount the reels, interference with folded hood/tonneau cover being the main two. I’ve seen a couple of solutions to these where the reel is mounted either on the rear wheel arch within the boot or to the side panel. Both come with problems – intrusion into the useable boot space, unsightly brackets, but mainly that the alignment of the shoulder strap is compromised, emerging throught the cockpit bulkhead in the wrong position. To overcome this last point a secondary guide is needed to position the belt correctly, which further adds to the points mentioned.
I have come up with a solution, which is relatively simple (if very fiddly) and overcomes the location of the reel problem. Hopefully the photos will give a better idea of how this was achieved, but basically, I utilised the strengthening channel sections, located under the tonneau shelf. These are perfectly positioned to allow the shoulder belt to pass through the bulkhead in the correct alignment and once fitted the reels are solidly and securely mounted.
As with other methods I’ve seen, the means of overcoming the need to be able to raise and lower the roof is to fit a removable link in the outboard belt anchor point. In my case, I’ve used a sturdy removable link.
The inertia reel needs to be of the type with an adjustable angle facility, to allow for an inverted location.
The fitting plate with the captive 17mm bolt could be welded into place or, as I’ve done drilled and fitted with marine grade stainless machine screws. On each reel, one screw does need to be fitted via a drilled hole in the bootlid channel, but when finished, it’s covered by the bootlid sealing strip.
Fitting the bolts is extremely fiddly but not impossible and helped if you have small slender fingers (I don’t!). Also the use of a right-angled drill adaptor is essential, to accomodate working in a confined space. Welding the plate into place is a far more sensible solution, but despite doing all the welding during my restoration, I still lack the confidence to attack, upside down, an area so close to the body.
Where the belt emerges over the bulkhead wall, I’ve covered the area with a strip of thin brass shimming strip, which should be smooth enough for the belt to slide easily and not be chaifed. (More photos to follow when complete).
The belts are working well in practice.
USB Charging Port
Whilst I don’t want to add too many modern accessories, like it or not, we can’t do without the ability to charge our various devices whilst on the move, so I looked around for a discreet unit.
I found one designed for a motorcycle that is waterproof, small and easily fitted out of the way without the need for drilling.
The unit fitted up under the lefthand corner of the dash, using an extended trim screw in an existing drill hole. The pictures make it appear lower than it is… viewed from the seat it is barely visible. The unit has it’s own on/off switch and is live from the bulkhead fuse block. This enables charging with the ignition off.
LED Third Brake Light
Having been driving the car for 1300 miles, my only reservation has been the feeling of vulnerability from behind due to the low, small rear brake lights.The speed of modern traffic mixed with the size and height of vehicles really demands a more obvious rear brake light.
I started by buying a new LED single strip light unit which came with a simple bracket and wiring. I decided that the best place for the unit is for it to be mounted on the high rear tube of my luggage rack, as in that position it an be seen even when the rack is laden.
It was also important to me to be able to remove the lamp unit when attending shows.
Mounting the unit on the rack also gave the opportunity of hiding the wiring in the tubing, with the wire then entering the boot by one of the rack securing bolt holes .
This is the unit purchased on Ebay. I carefully removed the white writing and graphics with a scouring pad, which tones it down considerably.
On a 1500 with the combined rear lamp unit, it’s not possible to connect up to the brake light circuit at the lamp, so the option is to run a wire up to the brake pressure switch, mounted on the right hand chassis rail beneath the engine bay, adjacent to the starter motor.
My wire routing took the wiring from the lamp through the rack tubing, down into the boot via the nearest rack mounting bolt, across the roof of the boot to the hinge where it turns right towards the inner wing. Here a small hole was drilled with a rubber grommet, to take the feed wire and earth (ground) through the inner wing where the earth wire picks up a grounding point on the nearest chassis tab that carries the loom and the feed wire follows the loom all the way along the chassis to the pressure switch .
From visual point, I used a black wire, which I heat shrink wrapped where exposed, so that it’s not too obvious.
The lamp unit worked well, but in practice after a few miles, the vibrations through the rack caused the lamp unit to work it’s way to a downward angle. This was overcome by reducing the length of the hinged mounting post and fitting a more robust fixing bolt.
Finally, I realised that the light unit is designed to be fitted flat rather than upright as in the pictures, as the led lights are displayed along the length of the lamp side (sounds confusing!)
This was easily rectified by removing the lamp and refitting in the correct plane.