Bruce Bodemer’s MG TD

Bruce is a neighbor of my friend Bill Meub (he of MG TF 1500 fame) and one of the participants in last year’s Lime Rock run. He’s been working on restoring this little MG TD for about the past year and half. I’m lending a hand on some of the things that Bruce would like some help with—starting with the wiring. Overall, the TD is in good shape and was a running car when Bruce pulled it in to the garage. Right now, the body panels have been removed and are at a local body shop being straightened and repainted, the interior is out of the car giving us access to just about anything we want to get to.

3/3—First trip to shed to work on the TD this morning. Only 26 degrees out. Brrrr! The little propane heater did its best to keep things comfortable.

I started by removing the old harness (which had been added to over the years), the aftermarket turn signal switch, and the non-standard starter solenoid (a past owner had changed the TD to an electric push button style at some point) as well as doing a quick visual inspection of the fuse block (cracked), voltage regulator, starter (new), distributor (needs new wires and boots) and other electrical components. All in all, not too bad a shape for the shape it’s in and it should be easy peasy to return it more what the factory intended.

Bruce has already purchased a new cloth covered wiring harness (including the under dash wiring) with the correctly colored wires that should simplify getting things in working order. Most of what is missing or worn is small stuff and all available from the usual British parts suspects. One of the bigger challenges will be to source, at a reasonable price, the missing Lucas horns and brackets. I thought I a pair located on e-Bay but by the time I located the brackets and the covers, they were almost the cost of new ones. So, the search goes on.

Here’s a quick gallery of the TD’s present state.


3/8 – Day two at Bruce’s shed and the clean up continues. I removed the remaining bits of the wiring harness, removed the non-standard choke a previous owner had installed with a bracket mounted to the steering support, removed the non-stock starter solenoid, disconnected the remaining lines to any instruments and removed the dash panel, and removed the cracked fuse block and other assorted and sundry bits an pieces that were either not stock or worn. We now have a clean slate to work with.

The big surprise of the day (which I inexplicably missed capturing on camera) was removing the faux engine turning from the instrument panel to discover some small remains of the original finish. Sadly, it doesn’t look like we will be able to restore the original dash face as someone drilled a rather large hole between the speedometer and the tach. So the plan is to veneer it with something close to what it might have looked like.

With everything removed, I was able to make a short list of needed sundries to help reassemble things – firewall grommet kit, new screws for the instrument panel as well as the dash, and a piece of mahogany veneer. Previous order of parts arrived from Moss Motors early this evening and the new crimpers, bullets, and connectors were delivered from British Wiring a couple of days ago. I located a pair of Lucas horns (high and low “windtones”) including the brackets for what, I think, is a fair price. I still need to source a Trafficator turn signal switch and bracket but we’re off to a good start with what we have.

Bruce has some painting to do up under the dash and a bit of touch up on the firewall where I removed the old starter solenoid and the fuse block so…no work tomorrow to give the paint a chance to cure. Here are shots of the cleaned up dash area.


3/13 – 3/16 – While waiting for parts – new fuel pump, firewall bits, horns and brackets, etc. – to come in, I thought I’d get going on the center instrument panel. First up was to disassemble it and inspect what I had for parts. Other than the aftermarket start button, everything was in good shape, save for the expected clean up and a small bit of pitting on the edge trim. After 60 years, there was some grime here and there, but not bad at all. I also removed and discarded all of the wiring remains. Pretty tatty stuff.

With the panel stripped, I used my trim hammer to tap out some distortion around the mounting holes where a PO had used hex head screws and flat washers (the original fasteners have been sourced) to attach the panel…and tightened them down a bit too hard. There was also a small amount of scarring on the surface around the ignition lamp opening but I don’t think it will show when everything is reinstalled. After cleaning the surface to remove the last remnants of the previous finish, I carefully taped off the chrome edge, cleaned the surface with wax and grease remover, sprayed it with two light coats of self-etching primer, then two top coats of  the correct bronze color finish from Moss Motors. Ready to reassemble.


3/15 – A simply splendid afternoon spent in the workshop. While Bruce sanded down the dash panel in preparation for the new veneer application and worked on finishing the installation of some rear sheet metal, I busied myself with installing the new firewall grommets, removing the aftermarket fuel pump, installing the new starter solenoid and bracket, and starting to run the new wiring harness.

The new veneer sheet is very nice stuff and will look great after it’s finished. I cut  a couple of pieces for the new dash face and took them and the dash home with me where I have a nice flat, large indoor space to work. It’s going to be in the low 30s this weekend (more snow) and if any work is going to be done on the TD, it will need to be indoor work. Also on tap, will be to finish installing the last of the instruments and switches in the instrument panel. Not much to show for images this time.


3/20 – Progress on the dash. Veneer is applied and all of the openings trimmed. Edges were all sanded smooth, then the veneer was lightly sanded with #320. Just enough to take the nubs of the wood. For the finish, I added some tint to clear Minwax Polycrylic to give the finish some depth. The images are in-progress shots, I still have another coat to go before the face is done then I’ll flip it over and re-coat the back and edges with black paint (same as the original) to help keep the wood sealed.

I decided to go ahead and finish the cubby veneer, unmounted. That way, I’ll just need to sand and mount it, clean up the edges and should be good to go.


3/22 – Another Friday afternoon, hanging out in the shed and some more progress to report…but not many pictures. After quite a bit of time spent trying to figure out which combination of bracket and horn went together for which side of the car, I was able to bolt up the twin “Wind Tone” horns without much ado and ran the wiring harness to connect them under the dash and out the passenger side firewall opening. While hooking them up, I discovered that the new harness’s bullet connections are something less than stellar as two out of four, fell off while I was attempting to insert them into the clips. Ah well, it was a good opportunity to try out my handy, dandy new crimper from British Wiring and make short work of securing the ends. All is now well.

I also was able to get the new fuel pump mounted and run the new fuel line from the carb only to discover I missed ordering the 90 degree elbow I need to complete the installation. I’ll tack it on my next order to Moss. I didn’t get a chance to run the new copper fuel line from the tank to the pump but still might get to it at some point this weekend. It would be nice to button this part of things up and move on to completing the wiring.

Lastly, after a good bit of work, I was able to remove the old bolts from the battery box and install the wooden tray, all of the new cables, and the new battery hold down bar and ends. It’s looking sharp under the bonnet! Here are a couple of pics of the recent work.

MG-TD-fuel-pump-hornMG TD drivers-side-horn

3/24 – A BIG day. I spent the morning finishing up work on the dash beginning with wet sanding it, first with #800 then with #1200 papers, making sure to be careful about the edges and use a good amount of water to keep the surface well lubricated. After I was happy with the sanding work, I cut the finish with Meguiar’s swirl and scratch compound using an old wool sock (the absolute best fabric to use for this), then gave it two coats of 3M pure Carnuba meant for new finishes. Man does it shine!

Next was to reinstall the aluminum bead trim (which I had previously straightened) around the outboard edges of the dash and the cubby opening. It was delicate work despite that it involved a hammer, albeit a very small one as the trim is very soft and the wood very old. Even though I was going slowly and being careful, I still managed to give my thumb a good whack while driving in one of the new nails. Nothing serious, some blood shed but mostly just damage to my pride. I also gave the whole business a last coat of wax before moving on to the final assembly.

After drilling out all of the screw holes from the backside, I filed their edges just a bit to make sure we don’t catch an edge while reinstalling the dash in the car. I also drilled out the new hole in the instrument panel for the low fuel warning lamp and mounted it after finding the missing horseshoe clip in the bottom of the box and then mounted the panel to the dash. Happy days!

Last to go in were the tachometer and the speedometer, both of which needed a little maintenance work and clean up before being installed. The tach had a small piece of something sitting at the bottom so I popped off the glass and cleaned it out. The speedo needed a new rubber seal installed. Once the repairs were made I put them in the dash and screwed the back plates on.

Ta da! What a difference from where we started. Here’s the evidence:


Test fit...looking good

Test fit…looking good

4/9 – I’ve been remiss in not posting these past weeks but it is not for lack of progress nor effort, as evidenced by the accompanying photos. Between the Easter holiday and bit of ill health things slowed (but not stopped) a bit on the MG TD renovation but we are now back up to speed and hoping to have the wiring out of the way within the next two weeks.

With the dash pre-assembled to make sure everything went back together correctly, how could I resist not fitting it to the car to have a look. I could not! Here it is in all of its glory, looking all the while like its been there for the last 60 years. There’s still quite a bit of work to do to rebuild the cubby door but I’ve sourced all of the small parts to get the job done and will get after finishing it up once the wiring is complete.

Worth a second look

Worth a second look

In addition to the dash test fit, the wiring harness has now been run out to the front and rear of the car and the remains of the old wiring completely removed. Saturday was spent adding the wiring for the turn flashers and making all of the connections at the new fuse block and the voltage regulator. No surprises there as I was able to track down the correct wiring diagram making the job, as the Brits might say, “easy peasy”.

I also finished off the connections to the new fuel pump including running out the new copper line and making the electrical connections. The turn flasher was mounted up as was the turn lamp relay (up under the dash so there’s no picture of that), everything going to together quite smoothly with Bruce”s able assistance helping to reach where no one man could manage.

Besides completing the electrical connections to the instruments, during the next visit to the shed, I’m aiming to mount the Trafficator (turn signal switch) and complete the hook up to the new starter solenoid and the oil pressure and water temperature lines. Once those are in, I’ll assess what’s left in the firewall for openings and fill them with rubber grommets to keep the draughts out and provide some weather seal. Here are a couple of shots of the firewall progress.

Fuse block and regulator wired up

Fuse block and regulator wired up

Fuel pump and turn flasher installed

Fuel pump and turn flasher installed

There remain some details to take care in the engine compartment—fixing the tool box lid to the box, clamping the new fuel line to the body structure, and wiring up the generator, distributor, and coil but we’re getting very close to buttoning up the front of the car in anticipation of taking care of the engine tune work and…a first start in the not too distant future.


4/13 – Busy, busy busy. Today was all about cleaning up some of the little things and loose ends so, the next time I visit the shed, I can concentrate on the under dash wiring.

  • Wired the generator including adding the missing lock washers under the nuts
  • Wired the coil including adding same lock washers under fixing nuts
  • Put the water gauge pipe through the firewall, lashed it to the support, and temporarily screwed it in to it’s place on the radiator
  • Finished running the harness out to the front of the car and across to the passenger side
  • Wired up the distributor including making a new positive wire
  • Mounted the trafficator under the dash
  • Trimmed and secured the choke cable
  • Trimmed and secured the starter cable
  • Drilled out the rivets on the number plates and replaced with proper brass screws
  • Secured the new copper fuel pipe to the support strut using correct clamp

Whew! Also took the time to compare the under dash wiring bundle against the wiring diagram. Everything looks good and should be a straight ahead proposition to finish up the dash wiring the next time I visit. Following are the evidence of the day’s work.

Turn signal wiring bundles through firewall

Turn signal wiring bundles through firewall


4/20-21 – Not the most glamorous bit of photography this go ’round but much was accomplished in terms of completing the wiring…which means we’re that much closer to starting the TD up.  The turn signal circuit is now completely wired including the relay, the flasher, the trafficator (turn switch), and the wire bundles run out through the firewall. There’s still quite a bit to do in terms of the details—all of the turn wiring still needs to be covered in sleeving, the firewall grommet needs to be installed, the front and rear bundles need to be run out to the extremities and secured to the main harness, and, of course, the whole business needs to be tested.

On Saturday I was able to finish wiring about 80% of the instrument panel. There’s still a bit to do with the various grounds and I need to build a new instrument lamp harness but that’s about it for the dash which means the following week will be spent getting the motor ready for its first re-start.

On the list of things to do is replacing the distributor cap, points, and condenser. Fitting a spin-on oil filter, changing out the engine fluids, adjusting the valves, setting the dash pot resistance on the carburetors, set the static timing  and, of course, testing all of the new electrics. Once we get it running, I’ll synchronize the carbs, set the timing with a lamp and that will be it for a while as the car goes off to paint.

I’m happy to report that the interior kit came in from Moss Motors and is, as expected, just spectacular. The little TD is going to look quite splendid in red on red. Here are few detail shots from the week end’s work.

Flasher wiring

Flasher wiring

Trafficator wiring

Trafficator wiring

Under-dash turn wiring

Under-dash turn wiring

4/26-27 – Where to start? It was a busy weekend in the shed—finally getting to some of the mechanical work.

MG-TD-front-wiring-bundlesOn Friday afternoon I concentrated on completing running the turn signal wiring fore and after and taking some of the details behind the instrument cluster. After wrapping the new wiring in looms, I ran it out to the four corners and secured it to the original style harness with zip ties. Ordinarily I don’t like the use of this modern convenience on these cars but, given that hardly any of it can be seen, I felt it was okay to do. After the new harnesses were secured, I coiled up the excess, capped off any exposed ends, and secured the bundles to the frame—ready to finish up when the TD comes back from paint.

Friday closed out with fabricating and installing the ground wire loop for the instruments and tidying up some other odds and ends. Not as far along as I wanted to be, but as far as I got.

New spin-on adapter and filter

New spin-on adapter and filter


Adjusting the valves

Adjusting the valves

Saturday’s menu included replacing the old canister oil filter with a new spin-on adapter and filter. This is another one of the situations where I think authenticity  gives way to practicality. We saved the original parts in the event that some future owner wants to make things “period correct” once again. Also on the list of things to do, draining and replacing the oil (black as night), adjusting the valves, setting the distributor timing, replacing the points, rotor, distributor cap and wires and generally making the TD ready for its first start.

New cap, rotor, and wires

New cap, rotor, and wires

For the first start, I adjusted the valves cold (a little more gap than when hot) and static timed the distributor. I’ll readjust the valves hot and time the distributor with a light once I get the motor going. While I was at it, I went ahead and replaced the ignition tune-parts and replaced the plug wires as well. If only in appearance, a massive improvement over the awful transparent yellow wires and push on plug boots that were there before.

MG-TD-Ready-to-tuneLastly, I removed the air filter and filter manifold in preparation for tuning the carburetors once the engine is running. While removing, I discovered the stud that affixes to the intake/exhaust manifolds had been buggered up so I took the time to remove, clear out the threads and reinstall it. It’s getting down the small stuff now as far as firing the TD up goes. Still have some wiring to button up, want to replace the spark plugs, and need to run the fuel line to the rear of the car. So, it looks like one more week before the engine is making its own noises.

All in all, a very satisfying couple of days in the shed with a good deal accomplished…and even less left to go.

5/17 – I’ve been a bit remiss in posting to this page but will attempt to catch up on where things are at. If I leave anything out, check the posts area as I’ve been more diligent about keeping things  up to date.

Driver's side all put together

Driver’s side all put together

After fixing a annoying bad ground wire and correcting the firing order (#3 and #4 wires had been swapped), I pulled the choke, turned the key, pulled the starter and…vroooom! Started right up and idled like a champ. Sounds like a sewing machine, it’s that smooth.

In anticipation of the body shop coming to get the TD at the end of the month, Bruce wanted to move it from the shed (below the house) to the garage on the street level. So we measured the gate opening—59″—then the width of the car (no fenders)—56″—giving us a mere inch and half on each side to slide it through. To top off things off, it was just a glorious Vermont spring day. The perfect setting to pull the little TD into the light of day for the first time in many, many months.

Passenger side

Passenger side

With Bruce guiding the way, I eased the MG between the gate posts and out onto the street. Clutch was smooth, brakes were decent (as good as they can be for a TD), and the engine temperature was just perfect. The only noticeable issue that will need some attention is the front suspension…due new shocks and bushes before the final assembly is completed. Very bouncy.

Just for fun, I installed the fuses and we tried the new Twin Tone lucas horns (thanks, Hugh). Simply perfect. Sounds just as it should. The remainder of the electrics will wait until after paint to be completed.

That’s it for now. I hope to get by the garage and shoot some video evidence of the TD running. So, stay tuned…