Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Classic Anniversaries -

MG had been con­sid­er­ing a six-cylin­der ver­sion of the ’ B as early as 1961 and by the mid-1960s there was the fur­ther is­sue that the US Fed­eral Safety Reg­u­la­tions, which were due to take ef­fect on in Jan­uary 1968, would make it too ex­pen­sive to reengi­neer the Big ’ Healey to meet the new stan­dards. The re­sult­ing MGC would look like the B – for Abing­don’s bud­get was lim­ited – but un­der­neath it was rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent. The C-se­ries en­gine, as used in the Austin-Healey 3000, was deemed to be far too heavy for the ’ B’s shell and BMC’s man­age­ment de­cided that the lat­est MG would be pow­ered by an up­dated unit de­signed by Mor­ris Mo­tors. There were respaced cylin­der bores, a short­ened crank­case and seven bear­ings in­stead of four, and the plant, in a lower tune, was to be used in an­other new BMC of­fer­ing for 1967, the Austin 3-Litre.

Un­for­tu­nately, when Abing­don ‘s engi­neers tried to fit this en­gine in a stan­dard MGB, they found that it was mission im­pos­si­ble. The plant may have been 44lb lighter than the old C-se­ries but it was still 209lb heav­ier than the stan­dard B-se­ries. To cre­ate the MGC, the ra­di­a­tor was re­lo­cated eight inches for­ward, sand­wich­ing the oil cooler with the grille, and the en­gine’s taller di­men­sions meant that the ’ C also had to sport a dis­tinc­tive bulge in the bon­net. The front sus­pen­sion had to be ex­ten­sively al­tered with lon­gi­tu­di­nal tor­sion bars and tubu­lar shock ab­sorbers plus a new cross­mem­ber while the bulk­head and floor pan­els were strength­ened.

There were also vac­uum-as­sisted Gir­ling brakes in place of the B’s Lockheed sys­tem and a thicker front anti-roll bar. In or­der to com­pen­sate for a frontto-rear weight bal­ance of 56/44 as com­pared with the B’s 52/48 the ’ C boasted 15in wheels and a new steer­ing rack.

As the ’ C was de­vel­oped dur­ing BMC’s badge-en­gi­neer­ing era, the ini­tial idea was that it would

be part­nered by an Austin-Healey 3000 MkIV, but this idea was dropped at a late stage in the face of op­po­si­tion from Don­ald Healey. And so, the ’ C was launched solely as an MG at a price of £1102 for the Road­ster and £1249 for the GT – just £153 and £155 more than the ’ B. The 120mph top speed was cer­tainly im­pres­sive com­pared with the ’ B but the re­sponse from the Bri­tish mo­tor­ing press was mixed. There were com­plaints about un­der­steer – the press cars were sub­se­quently found to have in­cor­rect tyre pres­sures – and the of­ten-acer­bic Car mag­a­zine asked: ‘Abing­don, home of the Bri­tish sport­ing tra­di­tion, did you have to do it like this?’

How­ever, such re­marks should be bal­anced against Au­to­car’s test of a ’ C GT fit­ted with the op­tional BorgWarner au­to­matic gear­box, which con­cluded that it ‘more than suc­ceeds in what it sets out to achieve more than does the open sports car.’ Fur­ther­more, Mo­tor found that its ’ C Tourer ‘am­ply sat­is­fies one of the prime re­quire­ments of grand tour­ing – the abil­ity to cruise with com­plete ef­fort­less­ness at high speeds.’ More pos­i­tive pub­lic­ity was gained from the Lon­don Met’s ’ C traf­fic cars and when An­drew Hedges and Paddy Hop­kirk drove a light­weight MGC GTS race­car to a class vic­tory at Se­bring in March 1968. Best of all, the fu­ture Prince of Wales chose a ’ C GT as his first car af­ter a test drive at Buck­ing­ham Palace; that car, SGY 766F, sub­se­quently passed to Prince Wil­liam.

MGC pro­duc­tion ended in Au­gust 1969 and some 200 un­sold GTs were bought by Univer­sity Mo­tors, Lon­don’s largest MG dealer, which treated them to 175bhp Down­ton en­gine con­ver­sions. It was a fur­ther demon­stra­tion of the ’ C’s po­ten­tial and 50 years af­ter its launch it seems that the MG suf­fered from a prob­lem that was to sub­se­quently af­flict the Jaguar XJ-S – it was too of­ten com­pared with a very dif­fer­ent pre­vi­ous model rather than be­ing ac­cepted as a car with its own dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter. The ear­lier-men­tioned Mo­tor test also noted that ‘en­thu­si­asts fa­mil­iar with the mas­cu­line be­hav­iour of the Austin-Healey 3000 may find the per­for­mance of the new car dis­ap­point­ing’ but the ’ C was rather dif­fer­ent form of trans­port.

From a 2017 view­point, one mis­take BMC did make con­cerned the MGC’s level of equip­ment – hav­ing to pay an ex­tra £15 1s 2d for a heater was anachro­nis­tic even in 1967 – as an im­proved level of stan­dard fit­tings might have fur­ther es­tab­lished its in­di­vid­ual iden­tity as a com­fort­able two-seater. Any­one ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the MGC would al­most in­stantly note how it boasted a bet­ter ride than the ’ B and in many ways, it was an ideal choice for any­one seek­ing a high-speed tourer that re­tailed at a very rea­son­able price. To­day the ’ C’s many and var­i­ous mer­its, as one of MG’s most in­ter­est­ing post­war of­fer­ings, are now fully es­tab­lished.

forget the nay-say­ers – there’s no need to cling on to the win­dow ledge when corner­ing hard in an mgc.

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