Many people seem to think that once a car is restored, that is it. We all know it certainly is not, as the slow wearing out and ageing process starts all over again. My starter motor is a good example. The many ways an old car can think up of being just damned awkward are legion.
If you study the workshop manual, you will see that after engine number 14023, MG fitted a different Lucas starter motor, a M.35.G1. This smaller starter motor can only be used with flywheel part-number X.24418. The earlier starter is not compatible with this later flywheel and visa-versa. So now you know. Since that edict was issued in 1948 engines, flywheels, gearbox, clutches and starter motors have been swapped about willy-nilly and the mix, unless you are certain of your cars pedigree, can be quite complex. How many engines has your car had in its life? If you are lucky yours will be its original. Most likely your Y will have the later flywheel and starter. But some of us very soon found out our cars were ‘different’. I’ve never bothered to strip down my starter motor, even when I rebuilt the engine of my 1952 YB in 2011 I just cleaned it up and painted it. It has worked unfailingly since the day I purchased the car in 1995. But a month ago I began to have problems with starting the car, which at that time seemed to just be a tired battery. A new battery was purchased and all was well for a week or so. Then one day pulling the starter button bought no response.
I checked the battery terminals, the battery voltage, I even pulled the mechanical solenoid to bits and cleaned its big copper terminals, all with no effect. I checked that 12v was arriving at the starter’s terminal, it was. So it was the starter motor itself. It is 65 years old so perhaps it did need a bit of tlc. To get it off the engine requires quite a bit of stripping, carburetter and manifold were removed, and the two bolts undone to get the starter off. Then I noticed that my engine had three bolt holes. Early engines had a three bolt starter, later ones two bolts. The starter was an odd one, its brushes were end-on to a commutator, not as normal like a dynamo on the sides of a drum-like commutator, and the brushes and ‘comm were badly burnt. So I plumbed for a new starter motor from Classic and Vintage Dynamos, 01623 747666. It was only £50 plus vat and P&P. When it arrived it had a bendix with nine teeth, as the vast majority of Y Types will use. But not mine. The body and armature of this M.35.G1 starter motor was identical to the one I had removed from the XPAG. But mine had ten gear teeth on its bendix. Alarm bells began to ring. I telephoned C&VD who were surprised as my car should use what they sent. Then I remembered that little note in the workshop manual about flywheel starter ring teeth numbers being different on early engines. But my car has a YB gearbox and a Gold Seal exchange YA engine, so there is no way of knowing the XPAGS real age or original number. Seems I have an early flywheel with a later starter, which according to the manual is not possible.
Aha, but it is possible if you fit the ten-tooth bendix to the later starter. Luckily I had most of an old three-bolt starter under the bench and once I had made up a little spring compressing tool, swapping the bendix over was easy. I strongly suspect this is exactly what the garage at Dalston in Cumberland did in 1966 when they fitted this older engine to my car for its then owner; they made up a ‘bastard’ starter motor to suit the engine/flywheel/starter set up just as I have just done. (The word ‘bastard’ in engineering terms simply means a non-standard item.)