Harvs.com.au – Tom Harvey

Wire Wheels. Nice to look at, not so good for going and stopping. 1970 MG Midget wire wheel to steel wheel conversion.

Posted in Cars, MG Midget by Tom Harvey on January 10, 2010

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It was time. After an engine rebuild provided a little more power and a lot more torque, the car is now even more of a pleasure to drive. The increased torque means there’s far lees need to continually downshift when you are faced by a hill, however, a little more torque and power has it price.

About a year ago a certain clicking sound became apparent when accelerating from a dead stop or braking – this was not good news. The wire wheel splines were worn. So i was left with 4 options:

  1. Ignore the problem
  2. Have the wire wheels rebuild
  3. Buy new wire wheels and hubs
  4. Convert to steel wheels (or minilites)

The problem with ignoring a problem like this  is one day you might put your foot on the brake and the splined hub will be so worn that it will turn within the splined centre of the wheel and you won’t stop like you were planning.

Rebuilding wire wheels also has its’ problems. To my knowledge when wire wheels are rebuild the spokes are replaced and re-tensioned, however, the worn splined centres cannot be replaced as no new ones are available. This means you end up with a lovely rebuilt wheel which still has a worn centre (rumour has it that it’s pretty damn expensive too).

New wire wheels are expensive, whether chromed or painted (~$2000-2500 AUD). By replacing wire wheels with wire wheels means that at some point down the road you’re going to have the same problem – clicking worn wheels that were not designed for the power.

So converting to steel wheels (or minilites) seemed like the best solution. A cheap way to covert from wire wheels to steel wheels is to have the wire wheel hubs machined and drilled and simply use 1/2 inch wheel spacers either side. The wheel spacers are required as the differential housing is an inch wider on steel wheeled cars (I think 42 vs 41 inches). There is however, a problem with this approach. In NSW it is illegal to fit wheel spacers, unless they came standard with the original car. This is not something that a policeman is going to pickup on the side of the road, however, it is something that an insurance accessor  might pickup at some stage in the future (like after a prang and before or during a claim). So what do you need to do to do it properly?

Major Parts Required:

  • Front
    • 2 x bolt-on style hubs
    • 8 x wheel studs
    • 2 x brake rotors
    • 8 x bolts, hubs to brake rotors
  • Rear
    • 1 x rear steel wheel axle housing
    • 2 x half-shafts
    • 8 x wheel studs
    • 2 x wheel bearing kits
    • 1 x diff and axle flange gasket set
    • 2 x O-rings
    • 4 x Urethane axle to spring pads
  • And of course
    • 5 x wheels with caps and chrome nuts (minator)

I sourced all these parts from Colin Dodds at Sprite Parts, and I’m sure he’d be more than happy to help you out if you’re considering doing a similar thing.

Here are a few pictures of the whole process:

New front hub assembly. You might also notice that I’ve added up-rated springs and had to replace my worn wishbones. (Neat little trick – there’s no need to use wire to support the calliper while it is removed from the upright, simply leave a bolt in a it fits nicely into the triangular hole in the chassis)

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MG Midget jacked up minus rear differential assembly.

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Newly painted steel wheel axel housing – Almost ready to go in.IMG_0104

This was no quick task. Converting the back and front took me nearly 4 full days under the guidance of Colin. A time consuming part of the whole process was having to remove and replace my worn wishbones (for everyone’s reference they wear because they are a metal on metal surface and should be greased via their grease nipple about every month – most like mine hadn’’t be greased in about 2 decades). The 4 bolts that attach the wishbones to the chassis will come out in 3 minutes of 3 hours, and getting them back in is a similar affair – I was unlucky enough to have  2 of the 4 bolts not want to play ball.

These changes have really improved the handling of the car. Previously it was soft, a bit sloppy and made clicking sounds. It also caused a very unnerving wobble at around 50mph.  Now the handling is much more direct and precise and there is no wabble (a wheel alignment certainly helped as it was about 4 degrees out). Although these changes have  moved away from the car’s original condition, it has resulted in a car which is much safer and roadable, and as I like to drive it as much as possible and not just on weekends I couldn’t be happier.

Another big thanks to the very generous Colin Dodds from Sprite Parts, without him this wouldn’t have been possible.

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