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MG MGA - Reversing Light With 5-Speed Box

I am posting this as food for thought for others who already have a Type 9 5-speed box fitted or are thinking of doing so and are considering utilising the reverse light switch that is incorporated within.

When I fitted my box, I did not contemplate the use of the switch. Accordingly, I made no allowance for the switch terminals when aligning the box. You will see from the attached photo that to get either bullet connectors or the original plug in place I had to cut an access hole in the tunnel. The bullets protrude slightly into the cockpit, but by the time the underlay and carpet are fitted, it is barely noticeable.

The electrical connections were simple. One reversing switch wire to an ignition switch controlled power source and the other to the reversing light. The light earths itself.

The reversing light is a period Lucas L494. This particular one was a genuine NOS I picked up on Ebay for 30. They are now being reproduced and can be obtained from Vintage Supplies:

Shame about cutting the hole, but it can always be welded. The other plate in the picture is where the original 5-speed tachometer cable entered the cockpit. It is now a useful access point for the right angle tacho drive


Steve Gyles


Thanks for posting this tip. I'm planning on a 5-speed conversion for a driver, and hadn't thought about the reversing (back-up) light. I'm going to add this to my list.

On a bit of a tangent, I've been researching sources for the 5-speed conversion kit including the transmission. If I did the math correctly, the High Gear kit including transmission is about $1000US less than one from a US distributor. Does that get made up in taxes and shipping ? Now that we have a European style health care system, we are told that we have to learn what a VAT is.

Anyone else with advice on where I should buy from ?

Chuck Mosher

Steve...In the middle of the conversion using the Hi-Gear kit and have the engine out using a mix of techniques shown on the threads.Biggest problem was getting the brass nuts off the exhaust manifold flange ( going to use double ss when I reassemble ) but still have some skin on my knuckles . All well so far and about to remove shaft and old gearbox etc.Also thinking of putting the gearbox and engine back in together since lift out was so easy and I have rigged a ow lifting arrangement ..any comments?
I will take the opportunity to consider doing some other particular want to see if I can design some braces to laterally stiffen up the front end (and therefore bumper) and tubular cross brace to allow towing with a threaded rod or cable through the starter handle hole.
...but back to the thread...
I have a reverse switch and light and will be fitting. Are you saying the connectors cannot be fitted inside the tunnel and a hole is needed ..or was it because you retro-fitted?
What route did you use for the cable?

Chuck ...go straight to Hi-gear ...dont use the agents et al. I costed them all and Hi-Gear was the best and cheapest and the support you get from Peter Gamble was excellent. He is a telephone and fax man not email!
I bought my conversion,gearbox etc for about 1200 pounds 4 months ago and he charged me about 200 pounds for delivery to melbourne. Pound is on the floor right now so should be good value for you!
His kit is complete and instructions are great...using them right now and all parts look good quality.
Neil Ferguson

Neil Ferguson

I installed the 5 speed from under the car without removing or altering the transmission tunnel. I did put a reversing switch in before installing the transmission.

Order one from Moss or somewhere and install it even if you don't use it immediately. I have no currently active plans of for putting in a reversing lamp but I may later. (Image attached showing the switch terminals very close the the tunnel)

The switch is very long and could not be installed later with the transmission in place without cutting or removing the tunnel. Connections with straight connectors may also would require what Steve did. I think there are angle connectors available that might work but could be fabricated if necessary.

I ordered my 5 speed kit directly from Hi-gear. Peter was very helpful with getting all the special parts I needed for a low starter, MGB clutch kit together. Just make sure that you have all the arrangements for Customs clearance arranged beforehand.


Jim Ferguson

I spent the day helping a friend install one of these kits in my MGA. He and I and a few other people went together and bought a few from Peter at Hi-Gear. Because we ordered direct, we were able to customize the orders. A few were for MGAs with 1800 motors and one a Magnette with an 1800. All the 1800 conversions are new, and the hybrid kits Peter puts together makes this conversion nearly seamless.

We also (in most cases) requested specific speedometer drives along with specific angle drive ratios. I believe we're getting the speedometer accuracy within a percent or two of stock, although that theory has yet to be tested. I did the math, so I guess we'll see just how smart I really am.

We did not arrange for a customs broker in advance and that may have cost us a few days. I'm not sure if I'll ever need to know, but I'd really like to know more of what goes on in the customs process.

Our group looked briefly at the kit from Australia, but the engineering on the Hi-Gear kits is far superior. Just about everything is taken care of. On the MGA you need to drill a few holes for mounting the gearbox, but the MGB kit includes a replacement for the removable crossmember so it's just that much less trouble (and I think the MGB 5-speed crossmember is easier to deal with than the original crossmember).

Based on our experiences, Peter will include a reverse switch and a plug/wire-ends if you ask nice. He also sources the complete line of angle drive ratios from the place in England that makes those (his prices are slightly higher than the original source, but when ordered with the kit the shipping isn't a factor). The first picture shows the reverse switch wires coming through the hole in the tunnel. The plug/wire-ends we got had the wires going out the side. As long as the switch itself fits, the plug shouldn't take up much more space. I've fitted the switch, but haven't put the plug on yet. I was figuring on adding a hole just for access, and then covering it with a rubber or plastic plug.

The other place I might add a hole is in line with the oil filler plug. If you ever want to check the gearbox oil or top it off (which may not really be necessary), this hole will prevent a massive amount of frustration. Another simple alternative that just occurred to me would be to sacrifice a 3/8 allen wrench and cut a short bit off one end. Then use a 3/8 open end wrench (or a GearWrench ratcheting box) to get the plug out. You've still got to get under the car that way, but it shouldn't be necessary that often.

We ended up saving about $1400 on each kit when compared to the Moss price. Not to knock Moss, they're a good company, but they just order them from Hi-Gear and charge some extra to deal with currency fluctuations and customs, etc. (well, they're around to make money also). The low pound was a not inconsequential part of the savings. The pound at it's peak a couple of years ago would have nearly halved our savings. On the other hand, a year ago the pound would have been even better for us.

One downside to dealing with Peter is that he does not email. Get a phone card with good rates to England. I use Google Voice, two cents a minute to the UK.

Peter also suggested that gear oil rated GL4 (and not GL5 or GL6) is the only thing recommended at this point. He specifically mentioned Red Line. I didn't order any, and couldn't find it locally. I'm using some Royal Purple that says it's rated at both GL4 and GL5. I'm hoping it will work, but I really don't know how to tell whether it is or not. I understand the issue (or I think I do), but I certainly don't have the necessary knowledge to do any sort of spot check or anything.

The accessory that these kits really need is some reproductions of the original MG shift knobs (the teardrop MGA knob and the round MGB knob) with the ford shift pattern engraved into them.

Look back in a couple of days, I may have some other advice. Some of it might even be useful.
Dave McCann

Thanks everyone for all the advice !

Sounds like High-Gear is the way to go. I'm building from a 3-main 1800 engine block, so I will need some "hybrid" engineering as well.

I'm unfamiliar with customs, so I will need to do some research to see what I need to do here in Houston.

I'll post my experiences when I get the engine to the point where the transmission needs to go in.

Best regards,
Chuck Mosher
Chuck Mosher

I had no clue on customs before ordering stuff for several people from Hi-Gear. It wasn't bad, but it cost more and took longer than I expected.

Quick summary is that we were called on a Thursday by the shipper (UPS) about who our customs broker was. We said we didn't have one, so they referred us to one. Later that day, we talked to that broker, but they said they only do commercial work (i.e. if you're not a business they don't want to work with you) and they referred us to another broker. About a day later that broker contacted us, and after another day of faxing, signing and talking on the phone we got word of what we owed them (for their fees and the customs fees; more on that later). They were in town, so a check was delivered that afternoon. The next day the shipper delivered the stuff.

The customs fees were 2.5% of the value of the order. The value in this case was the entire bill that was included with the order. This bill included shipping costs, which (I think) should not have had a customs duty. I also thought that used parts were duty free, but I could be wrong there. I'm not sure what sort of different documentation might be required to reduce the customs duty. Customs also charged a 0.21% processing fee.

The broker charged $100 for customs entry services, $100 for customs bond & $60 for terminal fees.

It worked out to about $80 for each person, so it wasn't outrageous in the overall scheme of things. It was, however, about 50% more than I was expecting it to be.

I'm not sure how much shopping around you can do for customs brokers. I'm also not sure if you can deal with customs yourself, but I have a feeling you don't really want to. The brokers fees might really impact a single kit/gearbox order (I doubt they are in any way proportional to the order value), but I don't have any other suggestions along those lines (other than get half a dozen friends and go in together).

Peter (Hi-Gear) gives quantity discounts and the savings on shipping can be significant. If you're near an airport using airport transfers tonbridge, airport to airport shipping is also cheaper (Peter drops all orders off at his local airport).

As long as the pound hovers around $1.50, it shouldn't be too much trouble to get a kit and a gearbox delivered for around $2k. I spent $2100 on a custom MGA 1800 3-sync/5-main kit with a rebuilt clutch release arm and an angle drive. On the other hand, if you're going custom, you're probably going to be talking to Peter more than a few times to get everything straight. He's a good guy to work with and knows his product, but I never got a great phone connection (it was often difficult to understand what he was saying).

You'll also need a fax for some of the details at some point. I've got an older version of the instructions in PDF form, if anyone is interested. Email me and specify MGA, MGB or Magnette (there are other kits, but I don't have instructions for them).
Dave McCann

Check Barney's site for location of the hole in the transmission for access to the plug/switch. With the original Merkur/Sierra right angled plug it just fits behind the tunnel, ie, it does not come into the car, and the wire tail hangs down below the car.
I have this fitted to my coupe, but have not fitted the reverse light yet. It should be straight forward as per Steve's notes above.
P. Tilbury

This thread was discussed between 03/04/2010 and 06/04/2010

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