Recently while driving my 74-1/2 MGB roadster, I encountered a problem that could have had disastrous consequences. My car has the 14" x 6" Aero 5-Spoke Alloy Wheels from Victoria British (part #9-2265) which were purchased and installed by the previous owner of the car and have been on the car for some time. While making a sharp left turn (U-Turn), I heard a loud clank, followed by a severe grinding noise from the front end. It felt like a brake binding and pretty much stopped the car from moving forward. A cursory visual inspection did not show any apparent damage or cause for the noise. I backed the car a short distance and no noise. The car seemed to drive normally now when moving forward. But there’s always that nagging thought saying "abnormal things in LBCs do NOT fix themselves".
Anyway, the car drove normally the in short distance home and was fine the next morning until I turned left again a few blocks from home and the same thing happened. Once again I backed up, the binding released itself, and all seemed well on the short, but cautious, return trip home. But turning into my driveway provided an encore performance. I backed the car into the garage, jacked up the front end, and inspected the brakes on both sides. All appeared normal. Then I noticed some small aluminum shavings on the garage floor and in the driveway. Examination of the inside of the left front rim showed damage all the way around the inside edge of the rim.
Re-mounting the rim and rotating it slowly showed that the tie rod end was in direct contact with the rim. When the tie rod flexed downward, the tie rod end made firm contact with the wheel rim. Rotating the tie rod slightly upward (clockwise as you look toward the wheel hub) released the contact with the rim. In other words, the clearance is so critical at this point, that any slight play in the tie rod can cause the end to contact the wheel and act as a rather abrupt "parking brake". The softness of the aluminum rim vs, the steel rim adds to the problem. Had I been doing highway speeds, I hate to imagine what might have happened. I would probably have wished that the wheels came as a set of five... four wheel rims and a roll bar!
Being unwilling to drive any distance and at any highway speeds, I had the car towed to my favorite MG mechanic/guru 35 miles up the road in Tucson (about $150.00 with "fuel charge" included). Inspection there pretty much confirmed by diagnosis, and checking other MGBs in his shop with aftermarket alloy rims showed a similar lack of clearance between tie rod ends and wheel rims. There was less than 1/4" clearance between the tie rod ends and the minilite style rim or PanaSport style rims.
The tie rod ends on my car are the originals, so they were replaced with Moss #263-390 ends. These have a more tapered shoulder at the top and provide slightly more clearance that the stock ends, even when the tie rod is rotated downward (counter clockwise). So far, no recurrence of the problem, but I’m still nervous and wait for the "bang/grind" every time I turn to the left or make any sharp turns. I have ordered 6 mm wheel spacers from Moss Motors (part # 674-685), and plan to install them on the front wheels to allow enough clearance to establish a "comfort zone". On my rubber bumper car, these spacers will still allow sufficient tire clearance with the front fender openings to avoid any tire rub.
So that’s my story and words of warning to anyone installing oversize custom rims on a B. Neither the mechanic nor I have ever encountered this problem, but I can’t help but wonder how many rollovers and other accidents involving LBCs might have been caused by a similar problem and blamed on "faulty front suspension parts" or "poor maintenance.
Upon measuring the offset for these custom rims, I found the following:
The wheel width is 6 inches
The Distance from Mounting Hub to Inside Rim Edge is 4-1/2 inches.
Dividing rim width (6") by 2 gives a 3 inch centerline measurement.
Subtracting the 3" centerline from the 4-1/2" rim to hub measurement gives a positive offset of 1-1/2 inches. This times 25.4 (conversion) equals 38.1mm positive offset.
The typical wheel offset for MGBs is 22mm (or .90 inches).
This means that these custom wheels are .6" (more than 1/2") beyond typical, and are therefore pushing the safety limits (in my opinion).
Also, the 6mm spacers from Moss don’t make any appreciable difference in tie rod clearance and the manufacturer recommends 8 full turns on the lugs. The spacers only allow 5 full turns, so they don’t work.
Feedback is always welcome.