• To Replace with Period Correct or Upgrade?

    Some Thoughts on LBC Originality vs. Reliability
    by DrEntropy


    The discussions of originality as in contrast to reliability is an old one. For the most part they seem mutually exclusive. Purists want to enter concourse events and win awards for their examples, as near to original in appearance and equipment as possible. Function is important as well, but these vehicles are largely owned as pieces of Automotive Art. Not meant to be pressed into service as normal transport. Others own them to drive, whether to occasional club gatherings or as the fair or foul weather daily transport.


    While I can appreciate the purists’ intent, their attention to detail and devotion to preserving a car in its original factory condition, I’m one who wants to drive the cars. Sometimes to compete in group or racing events, sometimes to simply make a beer run. Having owned LBC’s my entire adult life, mainly as the only cars to count on to get to a job or the grocery store, the reliability factor outweighs whether or not the original pieces and bits are part of the machine. Most of our LBC’s were mass-produced, designed and built with profit in mind. The balance between reliability of components and profit seems to have tipped in favor of profit in about 1968. A perfect storm of sorts; British labour issues, changes in United States automotive “safety standards” import cars had to meet and a changing attitude by many U.S. consumers that Japanese sedans were more economical to purchase and operate than American or British products. By 1976, Japanese car sales were nearly 15% of all car sales in the U.S. and growing.


    I’ve personally maintained the LBC’s I’ve owned, as many as three MGB’s at one time, three Lotus examples a few years later. All were improved in reliability with “upgraded” components at various times, the current MGB being a good example; converted to negative ground, an alternator replaced the generator. An aluminum radiator with an electric “pusher” fan to thwart the Florida summers while in traffic, and most recently a torque-reduction starter fitted. Relays added to several of the switched components. All good improvements to reliability. It could never win a concourse ribbon but I’d wager it would make a run from Tampa to Cleveland and back, likely only stopping for fuel and rest. When that trip was made in the late 90’s, largely with the original period parts, the ignition light began glowing twenty miles short of the northern end of the trip. We had to locate a BMC parts vendor to get replacement generator brushes. For a few years after that there was a set of spare brushes in the “traveling kit”. With the alternator conversion it’s doubtful any electrical system charging issue will arise for a long time to come. In July Florida traffic the overheat issue was always a concern, Britain rarely sees the same conditions so designers and engineers there didn’t consider climate to be of overriding concern. But the engine will now sit at an intersection here, at idle for extended periods and stay at thermostat temp.


    In short, if the intent is to drive an LBC with regularity, improved components to make it more a driver makes good sense. If ribbons are the goal, use a trailer!