Think First... Then Act

May 1, 2016 | By John Gunnell

Here are a couple of experiences I can share that illustrate where brain-power trumped muscle-power.

Mind Over Mallet

I was getting a tour of the PowerSport Institute (PSI) in North Randall, Ohio, the branch of Ohio Technical College that teaches motorcycle repair. Both of these are great places for young people to get an education in the auto and motorcycle repair fields. OTC even has an auto restoration program, as well as a racing program (

Now, back to the PSI tour. The young lady in the black top seen in the photos on these pages was trying very hard to get a part she was holding to seat on the engine block.

She kept trying to slide it over the studs and make it seat flat, but it just wouldn’t do it. At one point she was even using a rubber mallet to try to tap it down. And she was getting a bit frustrated.

The instructor in the gray shirt was giving me the tour. He asked me to excuse him for a moment. He took a look at the young lady’s situation and calmly

removed the piece, reached inside, rotated one of the reciprocating parts, then slid the original part down over the studs. It seated perfectly flat. “I don’t think you’re going to need that mallet,” he told her.

I can’t for the life of me remember exactly what he moved, but it was definitely a case of mind over mallet.

Taking a Different Angle

Long-time Auto Restorer readers will remember my yellow MG-TF roadster that was one of three MG cars I was trying to restore at the same time in my “Tale of Three Ts” series. The idea was to restore one car to original show condition, to fix another as a “driver” and to build the third as a hot rod with Ford V8-60 power.

Doing three cars at once was a little too much of a challenge in a lot of ways, but the project is continuing very slowly. In fact, we are about ready to squirt paint on the red MG-TD and I’m hoping to get the yellow MG-TF into a metal fabrication shop soon to fix some rust damage that originally was hidden.

Anyway, this story dates back to just before the MG-TF was taken apart. In fact, it relates to the reason that I decided to take the car apart. The accompanying photo pre-dates my disassembly of the car and if you look closely, you can see that the rear end sits a little low. This was the case because a wooden cross- member that bridges the frame rails below the rear of the body tub was splintered and nearly cracked through.

I discovered this damage one day when I was taking my 14-ft. enclosed car trailer to have some work done to it. My favorite trailer shop is near my oldest son’s house. I decided to put the MG-TF in the trailer, unload the car at the trailer shop and visit my son while they were working on my trailer.

When I got to the trailer shop, I started to back the car out of the trailer, which has a ramp-style door. Since the car was sitting so low at the rear, the muffler was hanging down lower than normal. As the rear wheels traveled from the flat floor of the trailer to the angled ramp, the muffler hung up in the gap between the end of the trailer and the ramp door. You could tell from the exhaust note that the muffler was snagged and it also bent an aluminum trim strip on the rear of the trailer floor. I could not move the car in either direction without causing more damage.

Just then two sturdy-looking fellows happened to be walking by. They came to my aid and tried to lift the rear of the MG. In fact, they were strong enough to lift the car, but every time they moved it, they were causing more damage to both the car and the aluminum trim strip. In addition, the car was really snagged on the trim strip and would not come off it, no matter how much they lifted or pushed or pulled. It didn’t take long for their “help” to loosen up the whole exhaust system. The car now had developed a little exhaust rumble.

At this point, the owner of the trailer shop came out. He looked over the situation more carefully than the helpers had done in their excitement and told me to get in the car and push down on the brake pedal. Then he went around to the front of the trailer. He simply laid down a block of wood, lowered the trailer jack and raised the front end of the trailer by cranking the jack handle. As he raised the front of the trailer, the car un-snagged itself.

John’s MG-TF

John's MG-TF

The shop owner told me to take my foot off the brake. When I did that the car rolled the rest of the way down the ramp to level ground.

The shop owner said he would replace the aluminum trim strip for a few bucks. I was able to drive the car to my son’s town, although the exhaust gurgled a bit. When I got it home I put the exhaust system back together. Luckily, no real damage had been done by this brawn- over-brains succeeded by brains-over- brawn experience.