Parking Brake Relocation

One of the dead giveaways that the apparent MG TD before your eyes is an ersatz model is the location of the parking brake. Original MG TDs have a longish, chrome parking brake handle wedged between the seats, where you would expect to see it on a modern car. This was no small innovation; prior vehicles placed the brake lever in all manner of inferior locations, and even later sports cars–Porsche’s 356, for example, which was the MG’s superior in just about every other respect–had their emergency brake hardware in compromised, less ergonomic places. (Up under the dash in the Porsche’s case).

TD replicas, being replicas, have compromises as well, one of them being the location of the brake handle. On most Chevy-based vehicles the handle is placed down next to the tunnel, in a spot reminiscent of its placement on the MG TC. Ford-based cars mostly got it right, I think, but the Volkswagon-based cars have them in the oddest place: in front of the shifter, well up under the dashboard.

The reason for this is obvious, but also completely unclear.  Obviously: The handle is exactly where VW engineers put it. It is in front of the gear shift lever because said shifter has been moved about 21 inches aft, as per the kit maker’s instructions, in order to transform the highly space-efficient and practical VW floor pan into something more suited to a devil-may-care sports car.

So the e-brake stays put. But why? Relocating the e-brake lever would not have imposed an impossible hardship on the home builder.

The cost of such a move is negligible.

And the cost of leaving the handle where it is–inaccessible in an emergency–could be very high indeed.

So why? Why did every kit manufacturer neglect to instruct its customers to put the parking brake lever where it belongs? (In Fiberfab’s case the decision was compounded by the company’s choice of a bench seat, which further compromised the car’s looks while all but foreclosing the correct e-brake placement). Best answer I can deduce is laziness–on the kit engineers’ part and imputed by them to their customers. As with the near-universal decision to cut, turn and re-weld the front axle beam in order to lower the ride height,* the several hours’ work required to get the e-brake right was deemed superfluous.

So now, 30 years later, it is up to me.

Here is Bridget’s cockpit as I purchased her:

Perfectly serviceable for a TD Replica, as you can see. And the brake worked fine–once one leaned fully forward, with one’s right ear almost touching the dash, to grab it. The adjustment was tight too–the lever came up only an inch or two before the back wheels locked.

Moving it back is a simple matter of cutting the bracket from the tunnel, cutting a slightly smaller hole where it needs to go, fishing the cable tubes out and cutting them, affixing the bracket over the hole and then shortening the cables to fit.

Here’s the cutting out part:

Do this carefully with a cutoff wheel--you don't want a reciprocating blade down inside the tunnel.

Next, the (not too big) hole in the back. Measuring is easy as placing the handle where you want it and marking its location.

In my case, the perfect spot basically obliterates the chassis number. Shouldn’t matter, as the car is titled according to an assigned VIN.

Wrote the chassis number down with a Sharpie. This is useless.

Fishing out the cable tubes is rather difficult–particularly since these were already bent to make way for the shifter 30 years ago. A long screwdriver, another long screwdriver, a little grunt and a lot of patience is the way here. The tube on the driver’s side appears to twist around the clutch cable tube. Be gentle, and cut carefully. In my case a half hacksaw worked best (and, yeah, I tried the cutoff wheel, the jig saw, the sawzall…use a little hand saw; it’s faster and safer for everything concerned).

Pry with screwdrivers, clamp with needle nosed vicegrips . . .

the little hand saw works best.


Getting the cable lengths right is fairly easy with this cable shortening kit--$7 at CIP1 & other fine VW aftermarket retailers. The buggy guys say to drill the set screw hole a bit deeper. One guy says he taps a second set screw. Great. One could put a dab of epoxy on the cable ends as well, if one were so inclined. I didn’t bother. If it slips, it’s not likely to be critical (It would fail on the up-pull, when the most force is applied).

The sheet metal screws were a temporary measure. My Sharpied chassis number is hidden under primer.

And here’s the thing: you don’t need the shortening kit. For TD authenticity the best way is to simply loop the cable over top of the stick and secure it with a pinch clamp to the other cable. Wish I had thought of this before. The TD handle is smooth on top–just like most e-brake levers ever since. The Bug handle is among a very few with this adjustment appendage sticking out the top of it–making it still a dead giveaway to the MG cognoscenti.

Ah well. Still much better than what it was.

Now to make a fire extinguisher mount.

*More on the front suspension in a future post.

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About stuntmidget

I'm a poor mechanic and general wisenheimer. I love old cars and the stories behind them, true or not.
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