Just a Simple Wrench
by Ann & Jake Snyder
Gentle but Strong
"Good morning. This is war. I will tell you what to do, and you will do it". Now there is an exciting way to start a Technical Session at University Motors Ltd. Mr. Twist certainly knows how to elicit instant attention. For the dozen-odd students, the focus would be rebuilding the gearboxes that lay ranged by type upon the floor. Except for T-type gearboxes, there was everything, including MGA, Midget, MGB non-overdrive and MGB overdrive applications. And the staff was specialized as to who would help each of the groups. We were assigned to Mr. Twist's tender mercies and decided that careful attention and diligence were the best policies. Work started almost immediately because this was one of the "graduate" seminars given on Monday and Tuesday and prior participation in the Friday-Saturday-Sunday basic course is encouraged. Having participated in the basic course also means that you know the general layout and where the coffee pot (bring your own cup), shop rags and restrooms are.
The handouts are extremely useful as the rebuild proceeds and establish logical sections: Disassemble and measure, clean-polish-surface, inspect, build up sub-assemblies, and assemble the complete gearbox. In addition to the text, we were given five 11-by-16 inch pages that had the drawings of the gearbox internals on them.
A real revelation to us was that, in spite of the promise of heavier hammers and hotter torches implied in the morning salutation, much of the disassembly was done with a twelve-ton press. While commercially made, it amounted to a rectangular frame with a hydraulic press mounted at the top and a bed that could be moved where desired to get the proper working distance. We used it to take apart the mainshaft using the two-part collars referred to as "bearing separators". We used it to flatten-out the layshaft thrust washer that became just a little bent in half when we inserted the laygear at an angle rather than straight. And we used it too many times to press the rear mainshaft bearing into the housing. This bearing, which is no longer obtainable in the original configuration, consists of a double race of thirteen ball bearings held by a double separator between the inner and outer races. With just the slightest bad luck or bad judgement, we found that quite suddenly there were twenty-six ball bearings scurrying about the floor. Interestingly, twenty-four or twenty-five of them were always easy to find.
While there were many other tips and techniques we learned, and while we had the great satisfaction of rebuilding the overdrive gearbox under conditions that Mr.Twist describes as "You will never get in so far that you can't get out" (due entirely to his and his staff's encyclopedic knowledge and consummate mechanical skills), our greatest fascination was with the 12-ton press. In spite of all the work being done on complex parts with tight tolerances, never once was there the ring of a hammer or the hiss of the torch. In fact, the shop of students and staff was quiet enough to hear a ball bearing drop. Naturally, this fantastic tool went on our "must-have" list, and eventually we got one. We have used it to remove the front suspension trunnion from the top of a king pin, and we did this without any heat or hammering. A defective speedo gear was removed from a gearbox mainshaft and replaced without any fuss, and very delicate (expensive) needle bearing assemblies were pressed into a (non-MG) AWD front differential.
And when and where can you get knowledge like this? Easy - February, in Ada, Michigan at University Motors Ltd. See the UML web page at www.universitymotorsltd.com or phone 616-682-0800. There are a total of seven courses from which to choose. If taking a course does not fit into your schedule, the Universiy Motors Technical Booklet (now almost an inch thick) is available for $30 ppd directly from UML at 6490 Fulton Street East, Ada, Michigan 49301-9006.