A couple of weeks ago, a friend loaned me several books dealing with building and modifying cars. Lots of good advice, but there was one outstanding theme which threaded its way through all of the manuals: research and advance planning! Heavy emphasis was made that the research/plan phase of a major automotive project is at least as important as good workmanship and money. Up-front effort in this area can literally spell the difference between success and failure. How many times have we seen in the classifieds,”…75% finished, $10,000 invested. Sell for $1,000″? This unfortunately frequent occurrence could probably have been avoided with proper advance planning of the undertaking.
So, prior to beginning a project, I recommend the following sequence of tasks should be followed:
1. Tap into every available source of information. Books, magazines, newsletters, catalogs, etc. Get in touch with clubs and individual owners of similar cars, whether standard or modified. If you spot an interesting article in a magazine, the owner’s name and city are usually included in the article and you can call directory information for the owner’s city and get their number to call them. They will be flattered that you went to the effort to track them down, and like most motorheads, they will be more than willing to talk about their car. You might also take a long afternoon to browse through the local library’s automotive collection of literature, photo copying any pertinent information.
2. Make a rough draft of all the major facets of the project. Then mentally perform each job, writing down the major components of each operation. Note also what parts and tools will be required for each phase.
3. On paper, build a project flow chart or sequential breakdown of all the tasks, major and minor. Study this carefully so that the progression prevents any backtracking or interference with another task. (I.e., having to drill a freshly-painted inner fender wall in order to install a bracket.) Generate a complete list of all parts and supplies, their potential source, and cost. Also make a list of any tools you will need and which you don’t presently own. These will have to be purchased, rented, or borrowed!
4. Procure all required parts, purchase tools and instructions, and have them on hand before they are actually needed. This prevents stalling of the project while waiting for little things like a gasket or a cable.
The above advice is applicable to any major automotive endeavor, whether an engine rebuild or complete restoration. It is of particular value when contemplating significant custom modifications, as in an MGB V8 conversion. Sadly, I can attest to the vast waste of time and effort which occurs when a well thought out game plan is not established prior to the work beginning.
When I started my own V8 conversion, it was with very little knowledge and an “I will solve the problems as they arise” attitude. If I knew then what I do now, having closely studied MGB V8s for the past few years, I could have cut my labor and expenses by 75% and raised the initial quality of the conversion quite a bit.
Another common error is to try and use whatever parts are readily available, even if they are not the best ones for the job. Just because you have a Hupmobile transmission lying in the back shed, don’t try and use it in the MG to save costs! This misplaced economy leads to conglomerations such as my Oldsmobile engine, Buick bellhousing, Ford clutch, TR8 flywheel, and Omega transmission drivetrain. It works—but only with an inordinate amount of fitting and modification. The wasted time and frayed temper could have been avoided by taking the time to obtain the proper parts in the first place. This applies to tools also!
Take the advice of the experts (not necessarily me!) and also take the time to properly prepare for any major automotive endeavor. It will pay off with a faster completion for a less expensive and better crafted end product.
(Kurt is the V8 Registrar of the North American MGB Register, and despite what he says above about his expertise—he really does know about V8 conversions!—Ed.)