Note: Everything that follows are the words of the one and only Bud Silvers.
The MG-TC is a relatively safe car for the time period and driving conditions that it was originally intended for. I say relatively safe since we have so many safety features in modern automobiles that we take for granted. Things like seat belts that were not common in the 1940’s. Personally, I tend to exceed the limits of what the car was really intended for (I am sure that most of us are guilty of that). We must understand that in the late 1940’s and in England the roads were quite different from what we have today and quite different in particular from the roads in the USA today. Of course we still have many quaint, winding and twisting back roads, even here in the USA. I grew up in El Dorado, Kansas. Kansas is known for being wide open and flat however, a few years ago we took our TC on a trip to Kansas. One of my favorite roads in the whole state is Highway 177 from El Dorado to Council Grove. This road winds and twist through an area known as the Flint Hills. There are old stone fences, gentle rolling hills and even an old time gas station. It’s a wonderful drive, but even this road was unlike the roads that the TC was designed for. The reality is that on occasion I drive my car on I-25 or even I-70 at speeds of 65 to 70 MPH. I also drive my car on mountain roads here in Colorado. When I owned TC-8192 I drove it to the top of Pikes Peak (14,115′) on four separate occasions. I am planning to drive my current TC (TC-1576) to the top of Pikes Peak and Mt. Evans (also over 14,000′) on a single day. These are good roads, but not for the faint of heart.
I have been asked what prompted me to switch to the VW steering, where here is the story: The Rocky Mountain MG T-Register has an annual trip up through Boulder Canyon, northeast of Denver. Not long after I bought TC-8192 we were on this drive. After reaching the top I found myself following my friend Bill Bollendonk down. Bill on occasion has been known to drive his beautiful TA a bit aggressively. I might also suffer from the same tendency at times. Bill was in the lead during the entire trip down the mountain, but I was doing my best to keep up. There were times we rounded corners at 70+mph with no guard rails and drops over 500 feet. I managed to keep up with Bill, but during the entire trip down I thought of my sector shaft, Pitman arm, spindles, and tie rod balls! I made two decisions that day. The first was never to be so stupid as to follow Bill down a mountain at anything like those speeds! The second was that I was going to improve my steering and upgrade my front end to make it at least as safe as a modern car! With that background in mind, here are my thoughts on what would happen in the event of a steering system failure.
What would happen if your right front spindle/axle broke while driving? Immediately the right front wheel, complete with brake would leave the car. When this happens the flexible brake line would break and open the foot braking system, rendering it useless. The tie rod may or may not be able to keep the wheel attached to the car. If so, the drag of the wheel would certainly pull the tie rod and cause the left front wheel to turn to the left. You would still have some steering, but would have to overcome the drag of the right wheel to steer the car. It would be much better if the tie rod broke and the wheel completely left the car. In that case you would still have some steering available. In either case you would still have the use of the hand brake.
What would happen if your left front spindle/axle broke while driving? The tie rod and drag link might or might not be able to keep the wheel attached to the car. If so, the drag of the wheel would certainly pull the tie rod and cause the right front wheel to turn to the right. Your steering would be useless. It this case I don’t believe it would matter if the tie rod and drag link held the wheel with the car or not. Your steering would be useless. The only control you would have over the car would be the hand brake.
Left and Right Tie Rod Balls:
What would happen if your right front tie rod ball broke while driving? If your castor is correctly set in the axle then the right front wheel should continue straight. I suspect it would shimmy some, perhaps a lot. You should still be able to control the car and get it stopped as this part experience a failure would not affect the brakes. This scenario would certainly be much better the slower you were going, and undoubtedly much worse if you were traveling at speed.
How about a left front tie rod ball failure? In this case the drag link would still be attached and your steering wheel would control the left wheel. As above if your castor is correctly set in the axle then the right front wheel should continue straight.
Left and Right Drag Link Balls, Sector Shaft, and Pitman Arm:
What would happen if any of the above parts broke while driving? This would simply disconnect your steering wheel from the front wheels. It is hard to predict where the car would go, though in theory the castor in the axle should keep the car going straight ahead, just as if you’d briefly let go of the steering wheel. This would not have any effect on the brakes so you could try to stop as quickly as possible.
If any of the above items break while driving the car, you are in serious trouble! Always remember the hand brake! In any of the above situations the hand brake should be able to get you stopped. Thinking a bit too much, perhaps, about the above parts and considering that they were made shortly after WWII when the quality may not have been as good as it is today, I worry about things breaking. For all of the above reasons I have installed Bob Grunau’s spindles/axles and VW steering in my car. My car has a new drag link with a new VW drag link end at one end, which leaves one drag link ball and two tie rod balls that I am going to address next. There has been much talk on the TABC list about using Heim joints in these three places. I am undecided what to do at this point. What ever type of steering you use please replace your spindles/axles AT A MINIMUM. If you decide to continue with the BC steering then please check or replace your sector shaft and pitman arm.
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