So, you have your new project home in your shop. Where do you start? resist the temptation to start by buying all sorts of new parts – particularly the shiny chrome you just know you are going to want. In my experience the restoration always takes longer and costs more than you anticipated. That is not to say there will not be some happy surprises along the way – but plan for the long game. Those delicate shiny parts are more likely to get scratched during a long storage. Save them for the crowning touch at the end. By the way – as the restoration progresses keep an eye on EBay. Sometimes brand new parts come up from private sellers at very good prices.
I like to get a notebook to record things. In the old days I also had a camera dedicated to the work. Believe it or not, I actually lost one of these cameras and the more recent photos that I had not backed-up. Now I use my iPhone and automatically save to the cloud. Now, unless you know the type of car very well – get yourself a shop manual and as many parts catalogs as you can. If there was a period parts catalog produced by the maker – try to get a copy. The exploded parts diagrams in these parts books are invaluable. Before you start doing anything – read the workshop manual and go over the parts books and diagrams one by one. You want to know what you are looking at and looking for.
I like to clean the car up as much as possible and then go over the whole car and write out a list of all the bits and pieces I know are missing or worn. I also figure in things that I cannot see the state of, but know that unless they are recently purchased and installed correctly must be replaced. Such items as seals in the braking system, all the hoses, belts etc fall into this category. It is a fun way to get to know the car a little better. Don’t be discouraged, you will always find a flaw or two you missed, or some components that are missing.
Like many abandoned projects, and classic cars in general, this MGA came with a couple of boxes of parts. It is fun to get into these and lay them all out on the floor and find what treats are there. There were two large boxes with the MGA. Surprising to me is that in some instances there would be one of a pair of parts, but not the other one. One example being the front parking lamp/turn signal. There was one new one, but not the other – either new or used. I suspected that one box of parts had gone missing. I also found some new Volvo electrical parts in one of the boxes. I returned these to the shop where the MGA had been, but had no luck finding any third box of MGA parts.
Once my initial list of parts needed was complete I sorted and repacked the parts. Now, this brings me to the matter of space. It seems you will always need more space than you think to store the car and work on it. In particular, you will need plenty of space to store the parts. During the restoration you will be taking of old bits, storing their replacements etc. I have a small storage building with racks for this. However, the MGA came with a period fiberglass hardtop – and frankly that is taxing my storage capacity.
They call economics ‘the dismal science’ and now is the time to turn to those parts catalogs from people like Moss Motors and see what this is all going to cost you. Write the current prices next to the items you need and take a cold, hard look at the costs and your budget. This helps you determine realistic timelines. Fortunately, compared to Rolls-Royce cars and Jags – the MGA is pretty reasonable in terms of parts costs. Still, once the car ins inventoried the costs are always higher than when you did your pre-purchase inspection. Same with the 1958 MGA, but not exorbitantly so.
Now, this was just an initial inspection and inventory – I had not yet begun to see if the engine would start of the car would drive…