Budget Style Speed Tuning

While we MG enthusiasts are fortunate to have all the speed and performance equipment available to mildly change our MGs from factory stock to wild racing radical, much of it from Moss, it wasn’t always so. As the purchaser of a new 1952 MG TD while in college, the speed equipment available amounted to a bell driven super charger or larger carburetors, both of which were beyond my means. A fellow student TD owner and I had to revert to some hot rod tricks to improve the performance of our cars.

The first change was to the cylinder head. The larger Mark II valves were installed, .125 ‘ was milled to approach 10:1 compression, and the engine stud shrouds that cluttered the intakes were cut out completely. The head was bolted to the block here with a countersunk Allen head bolt after being polished and ported.

As with the supercharger, the Mark II I S.U. carburetors were also beyond our budget, so intake volume was increased, we thought, by filing down the split brass rod that held the butterflies to almost paper thinness and soldering the butterflies in place. This might not have done much for performance, but it sure made for some interesting idles, especially when a solder joint broke. The air cleaners were, of course, discarded and replaced with copper screens “to keep out bugs.” Power to the wheels was further increased by removing one of the two blades that comprised the fan and replacing the stock muffler with an almost straight through “glasspak.” No catalytic converter worries in those days.

Brake fade was eliminated, somewhat, by welding scoops in the front of the backing plates and drilling the rear part with many 1/2’ holes. This especially eliminated brake fade during Berkeley’s rainy winters but some other brake problems did arise, like not stopping. Suspension was stiffened by culling continuous 1″ strips from old inner tubes, around the circumference, and wrapping them around the front coil springs while the car was raised. When lowered, the springs compressed into the rubber. The strips were baling wired to the spring at the start and finish of the wrapping. Believe it or not, this worked and lasted for the full three years I owned the car. Heavy oil replaced the stock shock absorber fluid.

With these modifications we were able to enter the Berkeley Hills Unofficial Grand Prix races which went on almost every night and weekend, with some success, even against those funny German cars with the engines in the back and roofs (not real sport cars), that were appearing on the scene and sliding into the Tilden Park bushes backward.
Those were fun days when sports car drivers waved at each other, (well, Jag drivers would sometimes raise a little finger in recognition) and the great Detroit Iron owners would continually ask “how do these little doodlebugs stay on the road?” I loved my TD. It cost me $1,800 out the door, all my savings, but it got me out of the Ford V8 rut and taught me how to drive. I have owned many, many foreign cars since. Let me qualify that, the only Japanese car I’ve owned was an S-800 Honda when I lived in England for two years. I’m still loyal to the Marque and I’ve recently begun racing my 1954 MGB in vintage events. That reminds me. I’ve got to find some old inner tubes.

By Daryl Bucciarelli

Daryl will receive a Moss gift certificate for his contribution.

 

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