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In an occasional series, Malcolm Robertson outlines life with 'Alison', his 1957 MG ZB Varitone Magnette….

Readers of the now closed magazine MG World will remember my occasional Running Reports in which I described in tortured detail the agonies of living with one or two MGs. For several years I outlined the highs and lows of running my 1936 MG Two Litre (SA) and of trying to keep a 1964 MG 1100 up to the demands of my then teenaged daughter, Amelia.

Of more interest to the visitors to this website would have been the developments with my ZB Varitone Magnette (ZBV 27116) since it joined the fleet in 2000, a lasting gift to myself purchased with a legacy from a favourite Aunt who died the previous year. In memory of the great friendship we shared, the ZBV was christened Alison.

I bought Alison in January 2000 from the vast collection of MGs gathered over many years by a man in Sydney's west. The restoration commenced almost immediately but was initially a relatively unhurried affair as both time and facilities were limited. Although Alison looked original and sound, she was in fact very tired. Her interior, especially her leather, was complete but sad, she had some rust in her sills and other panels, and her old 1500 cc engine was seized solid.

So when time permitted, I organised the recovering of the seats in new burgandy leather, I had the wheels sand-blasted and new tyres fitted (so that I could move the car around!), and I sent her to Sydney to have new sills welded in and an MGB motor with a Toyota T2 five-speed gearbox fitted by Nepean Classic Cars of Penrith (www.nepeanclassic.com.au).

Then, in April last year, life took a turn for the better when I left working full time and became a self-employed freelance writer, something I had been planning for years! Now I could really focus on the projects that interested me, and the first was already underway in the garage - Alison! And so began in ernest the stripping down for painting. That was about when I stopped reporting for MG World and where this occasional series of stories begins.

After the body had been stripped clean of all its bits and pieces and the chromework sent off for re-plating, the loose panels were taken to our local industrial estate for sand-blasting. While these were being done, at home I got out the disc sander to remove the last of the old paint from the body shell. Essentially this is the only way to be sure you can find all the rust, and rest assured, you will find some. In my case, there was rust in each door (the front left-hand one was so bad that I sourced another one), and around the lower parts of each rear mudguard, plus a few other odd spots, such as under the rear quarter windows. The boot floor was also badly rusted, a legacy of years in the damp Sydney environment. By the way, take care with the disc sander if you ever strip a car this way. It is easy to rip out any lead filler which not only is hard to replace, but is an occupational hazard.

  • ZBV-Feb 2000
  • crowd-Apr 04
  • final paint-sideMay 04

  • inal paint-rearMay 04
  • launching-Apr 04
  • malcolm-Apr 04

  • new engine
  • new sills
  • painting_underway-April 04

  • stripped_for_paint-Sep 03
  • unveiling-Apr 04