I started the first weekend of 2023 off with a drive, and a tow. Sigh.
Since my last post about the overheating, I’ve made half a dozen short trips around town on small errands. She’s been starting fine and running smoothly, albeit a bit herky-jerky until she warms up from the 50F (10C) temps.
Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day, with a temperature almost to 60F (16C). Clear skies and only a bit of wind. After some morning honey-do’s, I decided to take the car about 40 miles to a motorcycle shop in El Reno to get a new battery for my 2-wheeler. This was to see how Pearline would perform, heat-wise, after a longer trip. The trip over, on I-40, was uneventful. In the parking lot, I did a quick check of the engine temps with a digital thermometer gun. She did great, and the needle never got above “N”.
I bought my battery and talked with the parts guy for a while about our favorite bikes. He eyeballed Pearline for a minute as I pulled out. It was way past noon and I was craving a famous Oklahoma onion burger, so I decided to head into downtown.
I was about 1 mile (1.5km) from the motorcycle shop when I lost all my gauges and the motor stopped. I was doing about 35mph on a split 4-lane road. I was able to glide Pearline to a safe stop in a parking lot. I waited 20 seconds and cranked her back to life. I pulled out of the lot and kept going. I made it another mile before she died a second time with the same symptoms. Again, I was able to coast her to a safe place off the road with plenty of room.
This time, there was no restarting. The starter was strong, but no spark. Not even any smell of fuel.
I got out of the car to get my tool bag from the trunk/boot and remembered that I had done honey-do’s in the morning. My tools were sitting on the garage floor. I didn’t even have a rusty set of pliers on me, but I did have a pocket knife. I lifted the hood in disgust and tried to figure out if my knife could work loose the hose on the fuel filter. As I was bent over, a vehicle pulled up behind me.
Out came David, a tall lanky fella who appeared to be in his 70s with a long white beard. David had on a Harley t-shirt and a smile a mile wide. In his hand was a roll of tools. David looked under the hood and said “Ah, she’s got the dual SU’s. Best carbs out there–I’ve put them on a bunch of bikes.”
In between ideas about what the problem might be, I got a bit of David’s life history. To say it was colorful would be to leave out a lot of details. Regardless, he was the Good Samaritan I needed at that point, with some tools and enough knowledge to at least make a stab at it.
We discovered the fuel pump was getting 12V, but not pushing fuel to the filter. That’s pretty much meant that we weren’t going to be able to make a roadside repair. Certainly not as the January afternoon was starting to cast long shadows. Even though it was moderately warm, I didn’t want to be crawling on the pavement where I might get soaked in fuel.
I thanked David for his kind assistance and he departed. I called a guy I know with a tow truck and sat down to wait for his arrival. Ninety minutes later, as the remnant of the sun was disappearing over the horizon, we sat Pearline back down in my garage, my wallet $250 lighter for the effort. I drowned my sorrows with a cold Yuengling and decided to try again the next day.
Sunday, I went out to start tinkering and she started right up. Consensus from the experts on the MG forums is that I should’ve spent Saturday installing the gas tank that is sitting on the floor of my shop instead of a joy ride on a nice day. Some of the replies suggested the condenser in my distributor could’ve gone out, but that’s unlikely since I had the distributor worked over in 2022 by the foremost authority on those. The distributor authority informed me the likely electrical culprit would be the coil, as a failed condenser won’t give you a second chance like the one I got.
So, the next set of updates will be to put the tank and sending unit in and possibly a new coil.
An amusing side-note. In looking for a specific model of coil for my MGB, I found the website of a former co-worker (or I believe to be him). He apparantly has a similar affliction, only with classic VW vans. Crazy, small world. Richard, if you’re reading this, I enjoyed reading your site.