As I explained in my post "Horrible Admission", I have purchased a TR7 in order to accurately assess the accuracy of various preconceptions and actual reports on the integrity of Britain's most maligned vehicle. Those of us who are privileged to own MGs and MGBs in particular need empirical proof that our smugness is justified and that the natural pity we accord to the benighted individuals who are cursed with wedge ownership is not misplaced. Due to the continuing benefits of El Nino here in western Canada, I am able to carry out my exhaustive road tests under ideal conditions.
Initial impressions, in a free association mode:
Gawd it's tiny, and those bumpers are really ugly. The back looks plain and cheap, as though they couldn't afford a few nice chrome bezels or trim bits. Everything is kind of dull and the lines are fuzzy. That swoop in the side really looks odd and out-of-place. The wheels are really ugly and dinky-looking. Bigger rubber would definitely look better.
The door opens easily but I can hear my wife already, "That door handle is a nail-breaker". The interior looks quite nice. Sort of angular-modern. The seat is comfortable and easily adjustable - unlike my B. I can adjust the backrest but the notches are too far apart - I can't find one I like. The windshield is positively huge.
The multi-switch is just like the one on a B but seems better- made and it works better. What is this huge, goofy-looking knob? Oh, it dims the dash lights. Why does the biggest knob control the least important function? The gauges are very modern looking - big and round. The small gauges are quite nice-looking also - very American. Wow, there's even a clock - and it works! I wonder what this one does. Ha, what a blast. The headlights pop up just like some kind of frog eyes. Up and down, up and down. Well if it quits somewhere I can entertain the passersby.
The heater controls and panel are very American but huge. They take up half the dash. I wonder what all those big trays in the top of the dash are for? Probably dust. The dash is full of very American looking air vents. I wonder if they do anything? Wow, what a huge glove compartment and look at this big plastic bin under the rear window. You could carry ice in that and keep your beer cold. There's even a console compartment and look at that, the lid opens and the catch doesn't break off in the process. Hmmm.
Well, let's start it up. Now where's the choke? (3 minutes later) Finally, I found the %^$*&& thing. What a clever place, under the dash where the hood release should be. The key is very similar to the one in my B and just about as much fun to find the keyway. Well here goes. Hey, it started right away. Gawd, what a racket. This thing sounds like the inside of a culvert. Maybe I should go get my earplugs.
Wow, I gotta take the choke off a long way to keep it running. It's sure running rich and loping a lot. There, if I keep my foot on it it'll idle. Time to turn on the heater - there's frost on the windows. Let's see - this one up, this one down, the next one down and last one up. Ahhh, it's blasting me with minus 10 air. Stop that! Damn, the vent control just moves up and down but the vents don't respond. Well, I'll just wait outside until it warms up, it shouldn't take long. (15 minutes later) Too hell with it, it's got to be warm enough. I guess I'll just scrape away the frost.
OK, here we go. Into reverse. Let's see - push right, lift, push up. Unnhh. Maybe if I use two hands. Yeah, that's got it. OK, a little clutch, a little throttle. Damn, it stalled. Try again. OK, it started right up. Here we go again. Oops. Damn. Once more - this time lots of gas not too much clutch. Yeah. Yuck, what's that noise. Sounds like a chipped tooth on the reverse gear. I hope it'll hold. Out of the driveway, into first. Let's go. Ooops. Damn. That first gear is really tall. Try again, lots of clutch slip - yeah that did it. Gawd what a racket. If I drive this thing for long I'll go even deafer than I am already. What's that rattling noise? Oh Hell! The needles are fried on the layshaft. I wonder where I can get a tranny. Maybe it'll hold until I finish my review.
Herewith follows part 2 of the saga. I shall continue in free form. As you may remember from part 1, the moment of real truth is upon me and I am about to turn the beast loose.
Well, here goes. Engine running a bit balkily but running. Rev it up, eeease out the clutch, let it slip. Whoops, were moving. God, what a racket. I think I know why this car was such a bargain. It sure is tall-geared. I'm doing nearly 30mph in first and we're only making about 3000rpm - of course it sounds like 6000rpm. Back into second. Unngh, this stick is big and stiff. The guy that did this interior must have had hands like hams. Whoof, no more tranny-devouring noises. I'd think if the layshaft needles are gone I'd hear it all the time. Ouch!! This damn thing has no front damping at all. It's bouncing all over the road and bottoming every time it hits the ground. The steering is pulling to the left like crazy. Unnh. Damn that one hit me right in the butt. The rear suspension is also bottoming. Why doesn't the city fix this bloody road. In this thing I could feel a dime lying on the surface.
Well, at least the engine is quite smooth and sounds powerful. Up into third. Push, hard. This thing sure doesn't shift like any LBC I ever drove. Ahh, that's better the noise is a little less deafening and the car seems smoother. Gotta watch that clutch. The travel is huge and I have to slip it on every release or the thing jerks like crazy.
I'm going to stick my leg into it. Hmm, not bad but it seems to peter out at 4000rpm. Hell, it's redlined at 6500, what's the matter. I'll just stomp it again. God, what a racket. Nah, not much more urge. It seems to like it better when I shortshift. OK, down into fourth. That's not bad. It almost seems pleasant at about 55mph. I'll push it a bit. Up to 70mph. Yuck what a racket again. Even worse, now it's howling as well as growling and roaring, not to mention bouncing and lurching. Sounds like a whole bloody zoo. I wonder if a lot of that racket is fan noise. You'd think when someone designed a closed car that there'd be some use of sound-deadening material to prevent this "sitting in a barrel effect".
It's still pulling to the left and now the front wheel on that side is shimmying. Probably took a hit at some time or other. I'd better check the tire pressures when I get home. Bang, Crash. Well, that settles it, I'm going to have to put strut cartridges into it. I hope they're not worth a bloody fortune.
It's really deceptive. It actually is going faster than it seems. I thought I was doing about 50 there and I'm actually going 65. I don't like the droop snoot. I can't see the end of the car. I'd better watch when I'm parking. That's probably why it has that big, poorly-repaired dent showing through the shaky can finish on the nose. The DPO said he had repaired a dent. What a laugh. His idea of repaired and mine don't quite agree. You're supposed to sand the bondo before it's painted.
Why did they build that huge windshield? The seat is so low I'm only looking through the bottom quarter of the glass. Maybe they were planning to sell it to Chicago Bull's players. What the hell is a Rear Fog Light? A damned orange light just came on with that message. Do they have a special light on this thing for driving backwards in the fog. Hmm. If you back away from fog does it clear up or is that so the guy behind can see your headlights because he can't see your taillights?
I wonder if the light is related to one of those two really big black pushbuttons with the squiggly line on them. No, the first one turned on a purple light which says "Rear screen demister". The second one doesn't do anything. I wonder if it used to operate the Rear Fog Light, whatever the hell that is.
I like the brakes. The boost is nice compared to the workout I get driving my B. The car stops very quickly and surely. I wish the steering wasn't so quick and easy. Maybe I should look into installing a booster on the B. The edge of the console is digging into the side of my knee. Just like the B. Weren't those damned Brits that designed this thing ever forced to drive one? Why do they always manage to put some hard-edged thing right where it digs into someone's leg?
I don't like this fat, little steering wheel. It looks like something out of a grotesque hotrod. It sure is twitchy. If there is one thing I like about LBCs it's the neat steering wheels the old ones have. This thing is ugly. The hub is so huge it looks like a modern one with an airbag. That'd be wonderful. A Lucas airbag. God help the little children.
This noise is just too much, I can barely hear the radio. Maybe if I turn it up a bit. Yeah, that's better. Damn, one of the speakers is cracked. Maybe that's why the PO had the treble turned all the way up. Oh well, I can't really hear it over the roar of the engine.
This thing is really close-coupled inside. There is more space above the dash than there is behind my head. Just like the B in reverse. You could easily pile two sixpacks on each side. Of course you couldn't see out unless you sat on a dictionary. At least it's really easy to shoulder check. There is practically no blind spot. Good thing cause it's only got a driver's side mirror. I just realized when I looked back that the interior is very like my cousin's Fiero. Now there's a wonderful comparison. Come to think of it, it rides like my cousin's Fiero.
Well, I'm getting really sick of this noise. I'm going to open the window. Hell, it's only minus 5 and the heater is finally warming the interior. I'd better check the thermostat. It's probably got a 160 in it - if it has one at all. It's a good thing I turned the blower down. With the engine noise, fan noise, radio and tranny noise I couldn't hear a 747 it it was landing on my roof. Oh, wow. With the window open the noise is much quieter. It's like letting the smoke out of the wires. I think I just let the resonance out of the tin can.
Gee, it's not too bad now. There isn't any wind buffeting and I feel more comfortable. It smells better in here now. I'd better to remember to check the fuel lines and carbs. There is a distinct smell of raw fuel. What a car. If you want quiet you have to *open* the window.
I'd like to shove it through a few fast bends but with this front end I'd end up on a median or around a tree. I can get it bouncing like a kid on a trampoline. I haven't felt anything this bad since last spring when I drove the B home from storage and found that all the oil had leaked out of the right front shock.
I think I had better check the timing. For a two litre, OHC engine it just doesn't put out. My old TR2 would blow the doors off this thing. It would have to blow off the doors - it couldn't suck the headlights out of those goofy pods. I just have to try those again. I'll flip the switch - if I can work it. I suppose this is one of those safety switches. God, give me a good old fashioned toggle switch any day. Even one of those rocker switches in the B would be better. Ah, there. Ha1 Boink they go up. Bwap, they go down. Cute. The guy in front of me must think I'm crazy. Oops. I just realized it also looks like a Fiat X1-9. It's the goofy headlights. Two loser cars that look like a TR7. Is there a connection. Nah, couldn't be.
Well, the list of things to check, adjust, replace is growing. Maybe I should just dump it now. When I told the guys at the sports car club party that I was thinking about buying a wedgling they all laughed at me... There must be a kid out there who wants a red "sports car" and doesn't know about these things.... Nah. I'll stick it out. I promised the SOLers a complete report and they're going to get one - if it kills or deafens me.
Part 3 to follow in which we discuss the saga of new strut cartridges and new rear shocks. They're going in tomorrow - I hope. Keep your fingers crossed.
For those of you have haven't been following my ravings, I have purchased a TR7 in order to assess whether our natural MG superiority is misplaced, particularly when viewing the pitiful owners of Triumph automobiles - and TR7s in particular.
Yesterday, I spent the entire day in the shop, replacing the strut cartridges and rear shocks in the Ugly Wedgling (UW). I purchased KYB gas units which were not cheap. The cost, for those of you contemplating the move, was $230 Cdn.($158 US/92 pounds). The job was demanding and was complicated by a caliper-retaining bolt which snapped off while re-assembling. It took an hour to dig it out and replace it - not counting finding a new metric 2 1/4" x 12mm x 1.75 bolt. The rear shock replacement was complicated by the need to remove the gas filler cap assembly and fuel filler hose.
The result of all of this effort is complete astonishment. The car is transformed from possibly the worst handling/worst riding car I have ever driven, to a very well-suspended, responsive-steering sports car. The ride is excellent and the handling is crisp, although a note a tendency to sudden oversteer and abrupt body roll in a hard corner. Does anyone have any tire/wheel recommendations.
The major problem is now the horrendous noise. I have eliminated some of it by re-hanging the exhaust and turning the muffler and tail pipe to the correct angle. Is there supposed to be a rubber mount on the steel bracket from exhaust pipe to transmission?
I gave the car a good run on the highway today. The engine will not pull much over 4,000rpm and seems underpowered compared to an MGB. I sense a potential here but it doesn't seem to deliver. Does anyone have any experience with this? I suspect a timing problem or possibly frozen weights in the distributor. The car has had its dual Strombergs rebuilt and it idles and pulls smoothly up to 4,000.
With a bit more tinkering, I believe this may be a very much maligned LBC - but unless the noise can be tamed - it can never be as enjoyable as a good BMC car.
While out with the UW today, I found an Austin 1800 for sale. The car is very solid and complete but has had an incredibly ugly sunroof installed in it - made from a large trailer window. Yuck. The engine/transmission has been changed with the new setup being a standard versus the original automatic. However the automatic shifter is still present in the dashboard. The owner explained that the engine was changed after his wife hit a large rock which broke the pan and lower engine casting. He is asking $700 Cdn. and the car comes complete with a parts car. I suspect I'll be able to buy it for about $250. Anyone in love with the old Land Crab?
- John McEwen
Just a few warm thoughts for Christmas. The Ugly Wedgling has been transformed. I checked the timing and found that it was set at TDC instead of 10 BTDC. With a deft twist of the wrist - and a couple of bolts loosened - I created power. The thing goes. It handles. I can see out of it. The seat broke. Oh well, you can't have everything. More to follow.
Merry Christmas to all and the may the Great Octagon in the sky bring each and everyone of you the most pleasant day possible. Dream of polished aluminum and chrome, dream of wood and leather, dream of Castrol R and checkered flags.
- John McEwen