Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cool Runnings

Ask owners of classic British sports cars about factors that affect their comfort while driving them and many will mention cockpit heat. Here in the deep South, summer is a tough time to drive your classic even though most of us grew up in an era when car air conditioning was the exception rather than the rule. Maybe we have gotten soft, but any advantage we can find to cut down on the amount of heat we endure in our classics is one most of us will take.

Robb Olgetree and His MGA
My friends at E-Type Fabs US sell a product called KoolMat. KoolMat is designed to lower cockpit temperatures by adding a thin layer of silicone rubber sheet reinforced with fiberglass. Silicone rubber is a poor conductor of heat, so it is a great insulator. You've probably seen silicone oven mitts, cooking utensils and hot mats in department stores. The KoolMat system uses the same concept.

Floors are Out
The KoolMat folks have a number of kits with pre-cut shapes that you bond to your cockpit floor, toe and heel boards. This thin layer (about 1/8" thick) is enough to significantly reduce interior temperatures. 

SABCC Newsletter editor Robb Olgetree decided to give KoolMat a try and he ordered a kit for his 1962 MGA. A group of SABCCers offered to help with the installation and see what the product was all about. Robb brought his car to Richard Cunningham's garage for the duration of the project.

Michael King Paints the Floors
First, remove the interior. OK, maybe not completely, but the floor boards, firewall, toe and heel boards have to be accessible to apply the product. Robb took advantage of the interior stripout to inspect his seat runners, seat mounts and, most importantly, the plywood floors of his MG. He  determined that the old floors were probably past their prime so he elected to replace them. SABCCers Michael King and Noel Eagelson were on hand to offer assistance.

Zero Clearance Installed
While Robb and Richard cut new floorboards using the old ones for a template, Michael and Noel attended to giving the underside of the MG a tidying and apply a thick coat of paint to the new floor boards. The board cutting was an exacting exercise with the erstwhile carpenters making sure that the shapes were correct and the fastener holes lined up with the mounts on the chassis. Well into the evening, Robb decided to throw in the towel and come back next Saturday to finish it.

KoolMat Installed
During the week, Richard applied another heat barrier product to the underside of the driver's side floors. Zero Clearance is a foil backed fiberglass insulation that reduces both radiant and conductive heat flow. On US MGAs (MGBs, too) the exhaust runs directly under the driver's seat and Richard thought that the extra barrier would be helpful. The Zero Clearance product is self adhesive and requires sealing of the exposed fiberglass to prevent moisture wicking and reduced insulation effectiveness.

The Finished Item - Looking Good!
Early the next Saturday morning, Robb and Michael struck in to the day and with Richard's help, made great progress. Robb applied the firewall section first, taking advantage of the lift and that fact that the floors were still out of the car. Next came the toe boards and the transmission tunnel sections. Finally, the main floors were installed and fastened down to the chassis. 

Late that evening, Robb's new carpet set went down and the seats  - now on renovated runners and mounts - went in. While most of the work can't be easily seen, the results are obvious. The gang joked that Robb would probably need a jacket on his way home (this is July, you know) since the car would be so cool.

Robb later reported that difference was instantly evident. A cooler cockpit and quieter riding was the result of the hard work of a couple of Saturdays. 


  1. Rodney is too modest. His help on this project was invaluable, as was the work of everyone else involved. It was a good time getting together with friends of like interests and accomplishing something. I'm sure there will be other projects in the future (Noel's clutch maybe).

    1. Not only was it a lot of fun getting together with other club members to work on this project but it was accomplished in 2 work days, even though one of them was a 16+ hour day. Had I done it on my own I'm sure that it would have taken several months so I definitely appreciate all the help. Maybe we should have gotten that stainless steel exhaust while we were at it ........

  2. I can't recall a time when I more enjoyed two long days of hard work. I hope I can get in line behind Noel so that we can pull the engine of my Midget 1500 and detail the engine bay. Projects such as this are what car clubs are all about. And guys, the seafood lunches will be on me.


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