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Articles By Mike Rooth

1932 MG J2 Version 2

On the face of it,this has bugger all to do with Land Rovers (again), except for the fact that the little MG J2 and the Rover are (or were) sisters under the skin. There is no vehicle around these days except the Land Rover that will happily accept bits and pieces from all sorts of sources,and still appear roughly original.Or,for that matter,that demand the same "backwoods" maintenance techniques in keeping them running.It seems strange that the first vehicle I ever owned,and the current one,were at the same time the oldest when I bought them,and gave rise to the greatest affection. The J2 was brought home towed behind Father's Jag.This was a 2.4 Litre Mk 1 SE,which lacked a Panhard rod on its back axle,and gave an entertain bum wriggle whenever it took up the slack on the *very* long towrope. I wonder if a Range Rover without this item would do the same?I had no drivers licence at the time,so the MG was driven by an "Uncle".When I asked father why we had to use such a vast length of rope,his reply was "You don't think I want to be *seen* with you and that thing,do you?". Snob.The MG was pushed into the garage,and examined to see if it would start.No way.The battery was flat for a kickoff.This was located behind the seats in a sort of rack,and was very long and thin.It had to be.You count get a normal battery *down* there.So it went on charge,and we examined the rest of my twelve quids worth.It had woodworm.Its the only car I've ever had to treat with Rentokil.Mind you,the woodworm was east (sorry,easy)to see,because there was no trim in the cockpit. There was a speedo(not connected)and an oil pressure gauge (ditto)and precious little else. Basic,you might say,if you felt polite. Under the gull wing bonnet was a (gulp) Ford eight side valve engine,with its attendant gearbox.This was a popular mod at the time for the following reasons. The original MG J2 engine was a little 948cc (I think) single OHC unit.The crank was a two bearing affair.One at each end.Well,what else? Unfortunately,when pressed,it tended to assume strange shapes in the middle,which upset things a bit.The overhead camshaft was driven,NOT by a belt,not even by chain,but by means of bevel gears on the crank, a vertical shaft in front of the engine,with more bevel gears at the top. Great.Except...the vertical shaft was the generator armature shaft,which in itself wasn't a bad idea,but we were even worse at oil seals then than we are now.So...oil leaked out of the cambox doooown the shaft,and drowned Joe Lucas in oil.The next model of MG,the PA solved these problems,the crank had a centre bearing and the dynamo was given a spinning disc to chuck the oil over the engine instead,but,in this one.....powered by Ford. To beast.The battery was left to power the ignition only. The fuel pump was wired up to the battery charger(we always had BIG home made ones).A large 240V electric motor was hauled out of hiding,and a pulley attached.We made a straight starting handle (no crank)and put a pulley on *that* too. Drilled a hole in a block of wood,and feed the "starting" handle through the hole.Find a belt. Everything was switched on,including the motor. The belt was tensioned by pulling on the wood block.Five minutes later,it ran!The exhaust pipe was copper.What a lovely noise! So,having got a runner certain things had to be attended to.New ash frames for the door bottoms.Trim.This came from the vinyl roofs of various scrapped Riley RMF 1.5 litre saloons.Free for the taking .I needed instruments,*and* the speedo had to be made to work.The instruments were taken from a scrapped .....wait for it...Rolls Royce Phantom 11.Temp gauge,ammeter with RR on them. Snob.The speedo is worthy of comment.It was *really* a rev counter.Made by British Jaeger(Smiths?Who are they?),it had a clock type movement I never could fathom out and four scales on the face.RPM,speed in first gear,speed in second,and so on.The trouble was that it was driven off the gearbox originally (Vertical dynamo,don't forget so no take off *there*and no fan belt on the J2 engine,you relied on thermosyphon).I changed the Ford genny for one off a 2.5 litre SS Jaguar,with had a means of running the rev counter at the back.Then made a bracket and ran the speedo by means of a Hoover belt and two little pulleys.YOU try explaining to the assistant in a vacuum cleaner spares shop why you don't care *what* model it is,its got to be *this* length and NO longer. Brakes. Brother,were *these* fun. Trouble was,they were wire operated brakes. The hand and footbrakes worked off the same pedal shaft.The manual said brakes should be adjusted weekly.It was somewhat optimistic in this.The brakes HAD to be adjusted weekly,if not every other day.The manual,by the way,was a single large book,which detailed maintenance on *all* MG models,except the very rare Tiger,from the M Type Midget up to the TC Midget and its Magnette stablemate. Idea for Rovers?The handbrake was far more powerful tan the footbrake.Well it worked on the same shaft and had *much* more leverage,so emergency stops were slam down the foot and haul back the handbrake.One came to a leisurely halt. The handbrake was of the "flyoff" type.That is the ratchet worked backwards as it were.When you pulled it on there was no "click" but you pressed the huge knob on top to set it.To release,pull back,and let go.It flew off. Practically speaking you gave it a clout,and it released on its own .I ALWAYS parked in gear! Tyres.These were about 3.50 X 19,on wire wheels with eared knock off hub caps. I ran about 4.50 X 19 on the back,smaller on the front.The spare was on a rack strapped to the 14 gallon slab tank which was mounted externally at the back. Fuel level was determined by dipping the tank with the jack handle.Fuel gauges were cissy!The shockers were the old Armstrong type,really clutch discs of a sort,with two arms,one bolted to the chassis,one to the axle. Theoretically these could be adjusted by means of a through bolt in the middle,we *all* screwed them up tight and let the chassis do the flexing.The effect was fascinating on rough ground,since the radiator(seen at the end of that long bonnet)tended to lean one way,and the scuttle the other. The spring bushes were bronze,and the outer ends of the springs ran in slots in the front and rear cross members. These were lubricated with grease applied at remote nipples mounted on a row on the bulkhead,or firewall.*Very* civilized. The firewall was literally just that.When the bonnet was lifted you could see the engine one side of it,and your passengers legs,oooooooh! at the other. Suffice it to say that I never wanted to sell that car.PA engines and gearboxes were readily available at the time and would fit.As were hydraulic brakes off old Morris cars. I last saw the old girl about ten years later,parked outside the building where I am now .I could have cried.The interior had benn tarted up to look like,well nothing on earth.Now,of course,I couldn't afford it .I couldn't even afford the number plate.CV 3360. I honestly didn't expect this to end up so long,nor did I intend it to be.So I apologize in advance to anyone who has been bored mindless,by what is,I suppose, largely an irrelevance. Sorry!

Copyright Dixon Kenner, 1995-2010. Last modified April 30, 2005.
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