Richard Mildon
 
 
Member Name(s):
Richard and Gendie Mildon of Kairanga, Manawatu
Member Since: 2004
Member Comment: Richard is retired, a former general engineer, 10 yrs. Polytechnic lecturer, 25 yrs. Disability equipment technician, 5yrs. General roustabout, and DIY home renovator and mechanic. Gendie is a retired librarian, whole of life. We are the fourth owners of the car.
Car Model: Mk2 T Car
Car Built By: Doug Sayers, Auckland.
Year Registered: 1991
Colour: Off white
Mechanical: Chassis: Triumph Herald 13/60
Running Gear: Triumph Herald suspension and diff, disc front brakes.
Engine: Nissan A14
Transmission: Manual 5 speed Nissan
Special Modifications: Fold down windscreen, aero screens, hinged bonnet sides, GRP modifications to rear aspect of car, air shocks.

See below for more details of the car
How Can I Help: In any way I/we can. Just call.
Email Contact: richard.mildon@tcarclub.org.nz




Our Kit Car story - Richard and Gendie Mildon

I bought a 1954 MG TF 1250 in 1968 for $600. It was pretty rotten, had had 14 owners in its previous 14 years and I doubt that it had ever had its oil changed as what was in the sump was like burned treacle. However, that fixed, surprisingly it drove well and still reached its maximum factory top speed which says a lot for the durability of that legendary XPAG engine. After driving it hard for about 12 months I decided to do a restoration and rented a shed. The long and the short of it is that I undid every single nut and bolt on the car and rebuilt it from the ground up over a period of about 5 years except for a new hood and tonneau. Getting married got in the way there. A couple of years after the first baby arrived we decided that three people into two seats didn’t fit and the car had to go. So it went, and in so doing it changed the direction of another person’s life. But that is another story.

As is the way, when you do something like getting rid of a family pet into which you have poured so much effort, love and money, there is an instant regret and one wishes one hadn’t done it. However, from that point the value of that particular model, and others like it, began to increase exponentially while income increased only incrementally and it became hopelessly out of reach to repeat the exercise at any time in the future. What was one to do?

I remember going to a car show somewhere some time in the mid 1980s and there was a white car displayed that from the rear looked something like a TF but not greatly. From the front it was not the thing at all; a GRP radiator shell?? It was a car that nearly had it, but not quite, and so it was very quickly forgotten. One still dreamt of finding an absolute wreck of a TF for a song and spending money, but very slowly, on it. But that was not to be….until…

One day in 2002 there was an article in one of our local free rags about a car club that was having its annual rally around the Manawatu. The cars were described as TF look-alikes. The interviewee was a chap called Les Howard, and the cars were going to be parked up in the Square for a while in Palmerston North for the public to look at. So along we went.

Lo! The ugly duckling I had seen nearly 20 years earlier had turned into a swan. I rang Les Howard after the event and we went to see him. He very kindly said ‘Take my car for a spin’, and that was it. My wife and I talked about it and set ourselves a budget and I then wrote to Alternative Cars for the details. Crash and burn!! The price of the basic kitset, a Mk V by then, was more than our budget for the whole car.

Then Les told me there was one at Whitby advertised in the Club newsletter. So I phoned, we went - it was off-white like my old MG - and took it for a drive. It seemed a generally well-put-together 1991 Mark II that had good potential. The steering was a bit stiff, the rear end made a grinding noise, it needed a bit of work, but here was a complete car in pretty good nick that was half the price of the basic unassembled Mk V kit. We agreed on a price, having knocked a bit off because of the funny metal-to-metal grinding noise somewhere in the transmission at the rear, and it was ours.

My trouble now was that I was handicapped by previous TF ownership and thoroughly imbued with the MG ideals of how a classic car should look, and it didn’t have a fold-down windscreen. There was clearly some work to be done to get it looking how I wanted, but it could not all happen straight away. Luckily it was not a real MG so I was not constrained by any need to retain originality and satisfy snooty MG owners who would constantly remind me of it (remember I had been one of them). So I could do anything I liked. As I looked over it more closely, as well as being put together quite tidily originally, I noticed it already had some extras like an extractor exhaust, vacuum assist brakes and front disc brakes.

The first things to do were the things I could do myself. I changed the shape of the dummy slab petrol tank to give it parallel sides and shifted the filler cap to one side. I made new and wider tank straps. I made patterns for new windscreen pillars and had them cast. I machined them and had them chromed. I built a new windscreen which when fitted to the pillars folded down beautifully. I fitted aero screens to use when the windscreen is down. I shifted the wipers from the scuttle to be a screen mounted assembly as on earlier MGs, and I found a pair of nice driving lights – not Lucas yet. They were a pair of Harley Davidson passing lights. Surprisingly they looked really good.

Swap meets and wrecking yards were raided for Smiths instruments and any other Lucas or English stuff that was suitable. What I could not find, I made. A very nice lot of burr elm veneer came my way, so after designing a dashboard that was of a more early MG style and nothing like the TF’s - a pressed steel arrangement which I never thought attractive - a new assembly was made that completely replaced the original panel and instruments, and I made two new wing mirrors. The metal to metal grinding noise turned out to be due to an incorrect rear axle and hub reassembly done by some previous butcher mechanic. Stiff steering was discovered to be a badly bent rack (also fitted by some butcher in full knowledge), now all fixed.

This work took a couple of years, and the car was able to be put on the road again for our first Anral in 2005 to Christchurch - a good shake-down run - but with the intention of gradually adding more MGish extras as time went on and money allowed: TF bumper blades and over-riders, a TF scuttle mirror, a decent steering wheel, T Type wing mirror to replace the home-made ones, Lucas driving lights and Windtone horns.

Over the following years all this has been attended to plus more besides, including air shocks (ex Chev Corvette) to adjust the rear ride height and reduce the ‘tail dragger’ look of the Mk II, a scuttle mounted, switchable auxiliary SU fuel pump, electric radiator fan and reversing light. The Repco trailer tail lights had to go, and so were replaced by the best mod I had seen on another T Car; a pair of modified oval VW tail lights. Much wiring has been replaced to conventionalise some earlier shonky work by a previous owner, and an engine running problem was finally sorted that had taken years to pin down.

Significant further bodywork changes have been made too, all as a result of the opportunities created by a series of unfortunate contretemps with other cars. After repairs following a crushing front and rear incident with another couple of club cars, and later, after being tail-ended by a tourist at a stop sign that he chose not to stop at, the dummy slab tank is now entirely separate from the rear valance and looks like a proper tank, and the bonnet sides, which are normally rigidly fixed panels minimising under bonnet access to the narrow top opening uncovered by the bonnet butterflies, have now been cut along the sweeping line of the guards and are hinged to lift away completely, increasing under bonnet access remarkably.

Although I didn’t have the fun of building the car originally, it has been a great pleasure modifying an existing car in a very personalised way, still at far less cost than the price of a completed self-built kit. The car is a lot of fun to drive, having been south as far as Christchurch and Nelson, west to New Plymouth, east to Hawkes Bay and north to Whangarei, plus a lot of running around in between. It has given a great chance to iron out any running difficulties and learn of its delights, always with the roof down. It will break the speed limit comfortably but not habitually, and is a really nice drive on a twisty road. The A14 engine runs as sweet as a nut.

The car is now many years older than my original MG was when I first bought it, but it is neither rotten nor rusty. The upholstery has mellowed and is used looking, and the dash veneer which took on a rather crusty look from an unfortunate drenching one night when driving between Otaki and Levin (the stars were shining when we left Wellington), has been recently re-veneered and spar varnished, complete rewiring done under the dash at the same time. Lucas spotlights have now been fitted and one of the H-D passing lights is now doing duty as a reversing light. And a tonneau which was lost in Nelson has been replaced. The car is maturing nicely.

We love it, and no more babies can come along and force us to sell it.