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H958 HOO aka MG Maestro Turbo #396 of 505

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  • H958 HOO aka MG Maestro Turbo #396 of 505

    MGT#396 on its way to a classic car show at Hoghton Tower near Preston, Lancs, July 2010.

    My wife and I have had custody of this car since October 2009, though it was already family-owned since 2008, having been bought almost exactly a year before to-the-day by my brother. MGT#396 is one of the more well-known MG Turbos on the scene, having been regularly exhibited at shows since as long ago as 1996.

    MGT#396 as a 'modern', exhibited at the MGOC Southern National Event
    at Leatherhead, Surrey, July 1996.
    Photo courtesy of and Victor Kish.

    On display at MGSD, Stanford Hall, Leicestershire, July 2005.

    When purchased by my brother in October 2008, he would soon realise that it was suffering from a number of issues resulting from, shall we say, less than impeccable workmanship, caused by 'modifications' and 'improvements' while in the stewardship of previous owners.

    For example, the front electric windows only worked when they felt like it, which turned out to be shoddy aftermarket wiring, put in place to extend the switches from their original location under the radio to their new position in the Montego-style centre console. Of bigger concern, within months the engine had seized solid at a set of traffic lights, and the car and its embarrassed driver had to be towed home. This turned out to be a screw which had flown out of the reluctor ring (as a result of another slapdash modification), but this was only destined to be diagnosed and fixed by removing the gearbox and clutch, outside on a cold and sleety day in February 2009.

    My brother David preparing to drop-out MGT#396's clutch and gearbox to fix its poorly, seized engine.
    February 2009.

    Additionally, pretty much from purchase, it refused to idle smoothly and it would frequently cut out until it was fully warmed up, often at the worst places like at islands and at street junctions. At first, both my brother and I put this down to the car 'objecting' to being put into daily use after spending several years just running to and from shows. But as the problem never sorted itself out, and following a couple of near-death instances, he decided he had to fix it.

    Spamming the Triple-M forum for ideas, he tried resetting the mixture, fitting new O-rings to the stepper motor (courtesy of E_T_V), fitting a different stepper-motor (courtesy of MGT#18, R-I-P), checking all the pipes, even raiding G51 NAV of its vent valve, but none of us could have predicted the real problem was that the carb had been piped-up wrongly by some tozy dwat and it was amazing that the car was even running at all.

    MGT#396's immaculate detailed engine bay, doing it's best to disguise the fact that actually the lump ran like an absolute dog.

    Re-plumbing the carb got the car running reliably but my brother still couldn't reduce the idle CO to within legal limits, typically sitting between 10-15% no matter how he adjusted the mixture. A complete rebuild kit from Burlen Fuel Systems finally sorted that, just days before the car was due its next MOT, when otherwise it would have failed its emissions-test most spectacularly.

    Not long afterwards, we bought the car from my brother. While the engine then ran superbly (and it still does), the car has still occasionally thrown us a curved ball to keep us on our toes. Last Spring, we pulled over to the hard shoulder of the M55, supposedly for just a few seconds to adjust the sat nav, when the engine just cut out suddenly with the oil light on. Long story cut short, it turned out to be bad wiring to the inertia-switch behind the radio, which had been patched to effect a rather crude immobilising device with the fitted alarm. But finding that out involved the car being recovered by the AA and taken to my local garage, who were convinced the oil pressure switch was at fault. So to fix it they completely dismembered the knock sensor, thinking it was the oil pressure switch. It was me who eventually traced the fault, with the car still sat in the garage on a four-post lift while three trained mechanics with 50+ years experience between them stared at it and scratched their chins.

    Later in the year, electrical gremlins would return, again by way of the poorly-installed alarm and immobiliser. This time, the symptoms were that the alarm/immobiliser sometimes didn't let the car start. By now I'd had enough of the alarm and so 350 later I had a brand-new guaranteed Thatcham Category 1 alarm and a car which for the first time in goodness knows how long was both electrically and mechanically reliable.

    My wife, 'posing' with MGT#396 at Guy's Thatched Hamlet near Bilsborrow, Preston, Lancs.
    April 2010.

    That doesn't stop the car from still 'cheering us up' occasionally with its idea of a practical joke. For example, last Summer the driver's door suddenly decided it was no longer going to open from the outside anymore. This turned out to be a worn nylon actuator-rod in the locking-mechanism. Maria sorted me out with a replacement lock from the Club's Ledbury spares.

    Additionally, the window in the o/s/r door is held up by a wing and a prayer because the runner has rusted out. This is still waiting to be fixed, in lieu of me sourcing a good runner from somewhere, though inbetween time I've jammed the window from the inside. Also within the last year, the roof-lining has started to suffer from middle-aged droop at the rear and ideally needs replacing.

    Last Summer we also treated the car to a bit of a cosmetic spruce-up at a local body-shop down Blackpool South Shore. This involved some small repairs to the bottom of the n/s/f doorskin, the o/s outer sill and some very minor 'catch it before it spreads' repairs to both rear wheel-arches. At the same time we also had the car's front brake callipers painted red.

    MGT#396 showing-off its red front brake callipers through its 16" MG Abingdon alloys.
    July 2011.

    That more or less brings us up to date, and despite the fact that, shall we say, no day with this car is ever uneventful, we all love it to bits and we wouldn't be without it.

    Last edited by G51 NAV; 19th January 2012, 11:28. Reason: photo credit.
    John Orrell

    MG Maestro Turbos 396 and 502
    MG ZT190+ (53 plate)