MG Race Tech - Wrap-Up
Kevin and Heather Richards once again welcomed the
MGCCWDCC to their farm and garage in Culpeper for a great tech session
looking especially at race cars and the technology and special equipment
used when racing MGs. Mike Eaton shares with Kevin a special interest in
racecars and it was our privilege to have them
After hearing weather reports of morning rain and afternoon clearing we were delighted to find the weather forecasts wrong when our 9:00 a.m. start found us in bright sunlight which remained in place throughout the day. It wasn't planes, trains and automobiles, but the automobiles took advantage of the beautiful day and to explore a couple of routes to Culpeper. Nine cars and 10 people met at a Wendy's in Manassas. Three of these cars used a longer back-roads route, while the remaining six cars used route 29/15 most of the way down. Several others met us in Culpeper.
After a brief introduction to a number of very interesting cars in storage, Kevin and Mike focused our attention on 4 racecars. We moved through time from a '51 MGTD which ran in the 1953 Sebring endurance race to a 1966 MGB which was prepared by the Abingdon factory team for the '66 Sebring race. In between were two MGA's - one, the yellow #76 known to many of our club members as "Honeybee". The other is a beautiful dark green 1960 coupe. Mike Eaton notes, "This is a very rare car… one of only 13 MGA 1600 Deluxe coupes and one of only 5 that were RHD home market cars...truly a unicorn!" The car was purchased and set up as a privateer Rally car in England. Features of the setup included a straight cut close ratio four speed gearbox, custom alloy boot lid, floors, gearbox cover and battery cover. There were also a number of electrical upgrades. Kevin pointed out that while set up for racing and not the street, it could readily be converted to a more street-friendly configuration. Incidentally, the car will be coming to sale this fall. Contact Kevin for more details. The changes in technology and safety are evident as one moves from the early TD which had almost none of the safety equipment now required to the roll bars and safety harnesses which are now required on all vintage racecars.
For phase two, Kevin took us to his work area and gave us a number of tips on "waking up" a car which had not run for a significant length of time. His case in point was a white '66 MGB which has been some years in a barn. Beginning at the front he shared a couple of ways to determine if the engine was turning freely and not seized. The fuel system is very important because fuel goes bad fairly quickly and there can be all kinds of contaminants and corrosion which will foul the fuel system. Kevin noted that it is often best to just put in a new tank and lines. The car we looked at was pretty badly rusted and illustrates a dilemma many MG owners face: "Is it worth restoring, or should I get another body?"
For our final stop in the shop, Kevin ushered us into the "inner sanctum" of his shop for a primer on cylinder heads and valves, emphasizing the advantages of special machine work such as polishing the combustion chamber around the valves and porting for better flow of intake and exhaust gasses. The "takeaway" that stuck most in my mind as I left was balance. Racing engines such as those built by Kent Prather (the engine in "Honeybee" is his work) are carefully and precisely balanced. When the engine is thus balanced, there is less vibration, allowing the engine to run at higher revs without risk of damage. Think of a wheel out of balance and all the vibration. Careful machine work can match parts for weight thus assuring a smooth, balanced engine capable of sustaining the higher speeds required to win races. For machine work, Kevin recommends Mick at British Standard Motors (see contact info below). He can handle the work described above which is most of what is called a "Stage II tune" as well as "Stage III" work which is a complete engine rebuild including balancing and blueprinting the lower end and rotating assembly as well as the "Stage II" work noted above.
Kevin has thrown out a welcome mat to us! His "real" job with the Fire Department often allows time during the week to welcome members who may wish to travel to Culpeper, have a coffee/beer and take advantage of Kevin's experience in an evaluation of their car or simply to have a place to work with a lift and Kevin around as a safety net. If you are considering performance upgrades a consult with someone having Kevin's experience with racecars could be especially helpful.
Following the session, a number of folks took advantage of downtown Culpeper for lunch. Kevin made special arrangements for parking at the Far Gohn Brewery. From there a number of us walked to Grill 309 for food and then returned to the Far Gohn where we enjoyed food and a great selection of brewed refreshment in good company.
Our heartfelt thanks go to Kevin and Heather Richards for opening their grounds and cars to us, to Mike Eaton for allowing us to explore some of his collection, and to Jennifer Giunta who supplied the obligatory donuts!