Restoration of 1952 MG TD 2

Author: Bob McCluskey
First posted: 1 Sept 2000
Last amended: Dec 2015
Please email Bob McCluskey
Car No TD/11935
Engine No XPAG/TD2/12333
Body Type 22381
Body No 11301/78948

Peather Equipment In the interests of clear communication, and because this is an English car and deserves to be spoken to in English, first a bit of terminology:

The hood is the canvas bit that keeps some of the rain off the driver; the bit that covers the engine is the bonnet.

(And since I've started on vocabulary, it's probably worth clarifying that the bits that cover the wheels to stop them from flinging up stones and mud are mudguards; fenders are either the bits you hang off your boat to protect the wharf, or the frame bordering a fireplace to prevent your carpet from catching fire when burning coals fall out. (source: Concise Oxford Dictionary).

I procrastinated for several years over the hood. When it came to me, the car had a hood, but it was made of black vinyl, which shrank over time because it was hardly ever used. When eventually I did try to put it up, it missed the windscreen by several inches, and was never tried again. When I came to it as part of this resurrection, some fifty years after after it was last erected, it had gone brittle and cracked. Moreover the hood irons were in pretty bad shape, being badly rusted, the rivets were mostly unservicable, and the front timber was rotten. The sidescreen irons were likewise unservicable, and one had been stolen while the car was still a daily drive.

I had a stroke of luck with the hood irons: a long-retired member of the car club was clearing out his garage, and along with the usual junk there was a set of irons clearly destined for my car, and which came to me for a trifling sum. I had a little less luck with the sidescreen irons, but still much better than I deserved. Peter was facing the same problem as me, and we made a deal: I would supply my unservicable parts as templates, and pay for material, Peter would make up a jig and we would make two complete sets (well, Peter made two sets: I helped by keeping out of his way). We had to make a mirror image of the stolen part, but it all worked surprisingly well.

Having done the upholstery course at tech, it did seem that I should make my own hood. But it is such an important and visible part of the car that getting it wrong would be disastrous, and that would almost certainly mean having two or three tries at it. The cost of material would be almost equal to the cost of the hood, so in the end I swallowed my pride and bought one, ready to fit, made from double duck like the original, from a supplier in UK. When I had my Morris 8 almost 60 years ago, there were several suppliers and hoods were available off-the-shelf. Indeed, they were advertised in the classified ads in the Sunday papers - my memory tells me they cost around £8 for the Morris, and very little more for MGs. I was tempted to buy one, as my existing hood had had hard use, but since the car cost only £10, it would have been an extravagent bit of overcapitalisation. This hood was made-to-order, and cost about £450 - a fiftyfive-fold increase in about 60 years! That's inflation! - much greater than the 30-fold increase in starting salaries for electronic engineers (£850 pa then, £25,500 pa now in 2019) but still less than 80-fold increase in the price of beer, which I track carefully as a measure of the health of the economy, necessitating frequent checks - about 1/- a pint then, about £4.00 now.

The first issue was where to fit the hood irons. There was no consistency here. One source said they should be fitted so that the distance from the door to the hood iron was 20.5 inches (521mm); another said that that was wrong. Cars I measured were 500 - 510 mm. (For the record, when mine was finished, it came in at 515mm from the lowest point of the door to the frame, measured parallel with the front edge of the rear frame.) Most sources said just use the old holes, but as I had completely re-upholstered the car - and used new wood - there were no holes. As I thought about it, and looked at other cars, I realised that the best looking hoods were defined by the sidescreens: the edge of the hood was level with the sidescreen strips, and the sidescreen itself tucked into the hood underneath the seam. The bottom strips were horizontal, front and back, and were in line. The back edge of the rear sidescreen iron is defined by the hook on the rear mounting: it hooks into the fitting in the timber, and there is no adjustment. In fact that little fitting defines the position of all the sidescreens, and through them, the hood. So the first step was to put the rear sidescreen frame in place, and adjust it so that the bottom rail was horizontal, and the next step was to fit the front sidescreen frame and adjust it so the bottom rail was horizontal and in line with the rear frame. I put the sidescreen stud plate on the bracket with the wingnut, and fixed with only one screw to allow adjustment up and down. The front frame still needed a bit of adjustment, but I decided that it was good enough for this exercise and could wait until later. But because the new frames were made from templates made from the old originals, the front edge of the front screen aligned well with the windscreen so I was confident the shape was right. In the picture, see how well they fit: the bottom rails are horizontal, and in line with each other; the top rails follow a pleasing line, and the front edge is parallel with the windscreen, and about 1/4" behind it; and the back edge of the front frame is parallel with front edge of the rear frame. This is important, because when the screens themselves are fitted, the chrome strips will follow the lines of the frames exactly, and that is what catches one's eyes. And from this, also, you can infer that the position and angle of the windscreen is exactly right. I can't remember how I achieved this: there were no holes in the scuttle to provide guidance, because the rust had been cut out and patches made, and there was new timber underneath. But I must have spent enough time measuring and trying, because as you can see the windscreen gods gave it a tick.

I bought a piece of Tasmanian Oak for the front edge of the hood irons, and planed it to the correct shape, as determined from my existing rotten timber and the timber already on my new irons. I made it so that it had a little less shape than the windscreen, so that it would press firmly on the windscreen when the thumbscrews were tightend, to make a better weather seal. The width was initially 1040 mm, extending beyond the hood irons by 7 or 8mm each side. I could see no reason for it to extend beyond: the effect would be to hold the front of the hood a few millimetres out from the hood iron, and since the sidescreen is intended to tuck into the hood seam, it meant the sidescreen itself would be held proud. Also it made an ugly fold in the hood itself. Later I trimmed it to finish level with the irons, which were themelves level with the edge of the windscreen.

The next thing was to fit the front rail to the wood. First offer the hood irons up to the windscreen to ensure that the thumb screws fit correctly onto the posts on the windscreen. May need to cut and weld the front iron - neither my original nor my "new" irons fitted correctly (why was that? the windscreen frames were original, and I know the old hood did fit at one time. It's still a mystery.). Screw the iron onto the timber using only a couple of preferably stainless steel flathead woodscrews. Mark out the postholes, and the flat area to be chiselled out to accomodate the flat portion of hoodiron. Remove the screws, and drill out the postholes and chisel out as necessary. If you decide to use those copper sockets this would be the time to fit them; I didn't, since neither set of hood irons I had seen had them. Screw the hood iron firmly back onto the front timber, and verify the fit against the windscreen, tightening up the thumbscrews.

Now you get to work on the fabric itself. The first step was to cut out the notches for the windscreen wipers, then lay the weather strip along the top of the windscreen, and mark and cut the holes for the windscreen posts.

Now cover the timber. You need to have the front timber pretty well in place, and because I didn't have the irons fitted properly yet, I suspended them from the rafters in the garage. Lay the weather strip in place, fitting it over the windscreen posts, and ensuring that the notches for the wipers are in place. Then fit the hood iron and tighten the thumbscrews. Pull the inside (trailing edge) flap against the hood iron so that the weather flap with the wiper cutouts fits snugly against the windscreen where it will look as though it might keep out some of the rain. Pull the flap over the wood, and fix it on the top. I used glue for this, although knowing that originally it was tacked. Mea culpa - I don't think it will be noticed. Trim it so that it doesn't overlap at the front, then pull the leading edge back over the timber and tack it.

Trim the material so that it can fit around the timber, then stretch and tack the front (leading) edge to the top of the timber. Now you can trim it again, and fold and glue it around the ends. Next step is to fit the hood itself in place. Of course this can't happen if it's still tied to the roof, so I held it up with internal props.

Lay the hood over the hood irons.At the rear, make sure it is centred, and put one screw in place at the centre, making sure that the material will cover the tacking strip.Go to the front, and make sure it is centred. Now go back to the rear, and stretch it around the corner, satisfying yourself that when the final press stud is fitted, it will fit snugly up to the sidescreen. Maybe consider clamping it in place, each side. Now, working from the centre, fix it in place. I used stainless steel screws and cup washers. Others have used lift-the-dot fasteners or press studs, so they can remove the hood in order to get to the sidescreen stowage, or to fit luggage etc.

Screw the hood to the tacking strip. At the same time, the webbing should be in place at the rear, and fixed to the tacking strip. Making sure that the material is still centred, make the penetration and bolt the hood to the rear hood bow, using the hole that should be in the bow. There isn't a lot of ageement about how this should go. Some say it should go through the long seam on the top, to avoid wear and punch-through. Others say it should go underneath the flap, else why would it be there? That's the view I took. Also the holes in the bow were not equally spaced, so the bolt couldn't have gone through the seam. Now pull the fabric forward, and adjust the height of the hood irons to match the sidescreens nicely. When you're satisfied with the height, screw the bracket in place, and possibly use only one screw initially to allow final adjustment of height. Then, keeping the fabric centred, tack it with a few tacks to the front edge of the timber. Pulling it forward will automatically tighten the rear panel. The final picture here shows the unpleasant crease due to having the front timber rail a bit too long. Not only did it make the crease, but it would have meant the side fold would not have covered the front sidescreen as it should. I took out the tacks, and trimmed the timber to align with the hood irons - about 7 or 8 mm each side - and re-tacked the front rail.

I still can't believe I nearly did this. It would have been a disaster, either leaving it seriously wrong, or necessitating another £450. As it was, I was lucky, because if I had cut another millimetre, it would have been unrecoverable. So, finish tacking the front edge, where it will be covered by the hidem. At some stage here, the webbing must also be tacked in place. Trim the front edge just as far as the side seam - no further at this stage. Pull the side around and fold it up to the trimmed edge, and mark along the fold, as shown.This is the line to cut to, and then you can finish trimming the front edge. Tack it in place, and then cover the trimmed edge with the hidem. The fold is supposed to go all the way round to the long seam on the top. Mine was a couple of inches short: this was not my fault, but the problem was that the hood wasn't long enough. How much would it have hurt the supplier's margins to have made it a couple of inches longer? One of the references I have given has an identical problem. The trimmer there blames it on shrinkage: he thinks his was old stock, and moreover he kept it for several months before fitting. I'd be pretty sure that mine was made to order, not old stock, and although it did sit in my garage for several months before fitting, yet I don't believe that shrinkage was the cause: it is now several months since it was fitted, and the minor wrinkles have not yet disappeared, as they would have done had the problem been due to shrinkage.

Here is the nearly finished hood: by no means perfect, but a lot better than many I have seen. The front sidescreen frame needs a bit more work to straighten it, and the rear corner of the hood will come into better shape when it has the press stud fastener in place - I couldn't do it myself, because I didn't have the tool, but a friendly trimmer did it for me in exchange for a bottle of prize-winning home brew.

Sidescreens. In view of the good fit of the sidescreen frames against the hood, I expected that fitting the screens themselves wouldn't be difficult. Well, it wasn't difficult, but it wasn't exactly easy either.

The screens are made from two layers of canvas, with the transparent lexan material sandwiched between them. You have to fit them against the frame, then trim first the outside, then the inside material.

The first step was to hold the screens in place against the frames, and mark the holes. Starting with the rear screen, I used bulldog clips to hold it against the frame, and marked the holes with felt-tipped pen, then drilled out the holes. You can see in the picture that the rear screen is about one inch too long - it overlaps the front frame and would be visible through the inside of the window. It should come just up to the edge of the front frame, no further. It would have to be shortened, and I found several references to the same problem. I put the bolts through the screen to hold it in place, and carefully marked out where the front seam should be before I took it off the frame, unpicked it, trimmed the material and resewed it. The seam had been made by folding the outside material back under itself, sewn, and then the inside material trimmed back. That's how I did it too: first unpick the seam, then trim the outside material, leaving enough to fold back inside itself, then sew. I held the edge with miniature bulldog clips so I could be sure that the edge didn't slip while I was sewing it. This picture shows the right rear screen; all the screens were dealt with in the same way.

The front screens were likewise about an inch and a half too long: they should overlap the rear screen only as far as the rear trim strip, and at the front they should fit snugly into the recess formed by the windscreen frame and the windscreen's side support bracket. I trimmed both at both the front and rear edges, and at the front I had to trim so much that I had to trim the lexan also.

To trim the inside and outside canvas I first offered up the screen with the bolts and the trim strips, and marked the canvas lightly with a sharp pencil, on the outside against the ss strips, and on the inside against the frame. Most instructions said to just trim up to those lines, but that would leave a frayed edge. I have seen one car which was finished like that: it looked unfinished and amateurish. I have seen several where the outside canvas was folded back under the trim strips and sewn: in one the sewing was visible, and in several it was not. I decided to get the folded back look, with hidden stitches.

So I first took the trim strips off again, but left the bolts in place, and removed the screen from the frame. I drew a line 1.6cm from the outside line, and trimmed the outside canvas to that line. Then folded it back underneath as far as the bolts, and clipped it into position with mini bulldog clips: take care with the corners. Then I sewed just inside the pencil line: that would ensure that the sew line was hidden by the edge of the strips, but it would still catch the folded-under canvas. Then on the inside I trimmed the canvas to just inside the pencil line, so the cut edge would be hidden by the frame itself, but still held secure.

To finally fix against the frame, there is a choice: either put the bolts in place, offer up the cover and put the nuts on loosely before sliding the trim strips over the head of the bolts, or put the trim strips on before offering up to the frames and doing up the nuts. This is not easy, because the bolts are only just long enough, and with the extra thickness due to folding the canvas underneath, it is a struggle. In a phenomenon possibly related to entropy, you will find that whichever you choose, it would have been easier the other way.

Finally, these two pictures show the final result, showing what I think is the very satisfying fit of the hood against the rear screen, the final fit of the front screen against the rear screen and against the windscreen. In places you can see that the sewing is not quite hidden by the strips. Unfortunately you can see that my seams weren't quite straight, and the thread is a very slightly different colour. But by the time they've been used a bit, you won't notice either of those defects. Spoiling the effect is the hood, which curls away at the top corner of the windscreen due to being too short. I might just unpick that corner and have another go. Later.

And here for comparison are some truly awful installations. I found these at the MG Experience bulletin board, but I also found some of them on the web in the public domain. And you can find similar examples or worse at any open day.

It's really hard to know what's gone wrong with some of these. The first image - the red one - is of a two-bow TD. Looking at the rear screen first, it would appear that the hood irons have been installed too high, since the hood barely covers the screen. The alignment of the screens isn't too bad - the lower strips are more or less horizontal and in line, but I am totally baffled as to what's gone wrong at the front. The height at the front is good, but the angle to the windscreen is hopelessly wrong, and the top rail is too long. It almost looks as though the frame were made to fit the oversize screen. The dimensions of sidescreen frames are given here: the TD two-bow frame is 22 1/2 inches, and so is the TF. The TC front frame is about 3" shorter, but the rear frame is about 3" longer, so it doesn't look as though a frame from the wrong car has been used.

The second (white) car is a three-bow TD. Here the fit against the back edge of the rear screen is good, and would be better if the snap-stud had been closed, but the second bow is too high so the rear screen is barely covered by the hood. I believe this could have been fixed by changing the angle of the fixing bracket. At the front, it has exactly the same problem as the first example.

The third car doesn't actually look too bad. The front edge of the front screen fits nicely where it should, into the windscreen. The strips are horizontal and in-line. But the bracket for the hood-irons has been installed too low, so the hood is not high enough, and the inside of the hood would be visible through the rear sidescreen, which is not right.

References: From the number of enquiries and references given here, you will infer that many people find this task, not overwhelming, but at least daunting.
The Complete M.G. TD Restoration Manual by Horst Schacht Copyright Horst Schacht 1996 ISBN 0938253-02-6

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