MGC Road­ster

Tidy­ing up a newly ac­quired clas­sic such as this MGC Road­ster can of­ten lead to an ex­pen­sive and time-con­sum­ing re­build, as owner Paul Ford found out when he de­cided to smarten up the 'C’s en­gine bay

Classics Monthly - - Contents - WORDS IAIN WAKE­FIELD PHOTOGRAPHY SI­MON COOKE

Af­ter a two and half year restora­tion, this MGC now looks fac­tory fresh.

When the MGC was in­tro­duced at the 1967 Earls Court Mo­tor Show, great things were ex­pected from what at the time was con­sid­ered to be the most pow­er­ful road go­ing MG to date to exit the gates at the com­pany’s abing­don-based assem­bly plant. un­for­tu­nately for MG and its par­ent com­pany Bri­tish Mo­tor Hold­ings (BMH), the hype sur­round­ing this pow­er­ful new sportscar started to un­ravel al­most be­fore the ink on the car’s glossy sales brochures had dried. This sad state of af­fairs was down to suc­ces­sive pe­riod road testers com­ment­ing about be­ing left breath­less by the MGC’s heavy steer­ing and ex­press­ing their dis­ap­point­ment at the lack of grunt pro­duced by the new MG’s twin Su fu­elled 2912cc straight-six.

It didn’t help the MGC’s rapidly de­pre­ci­at­ing im­age when BMH’s over imag­i­na­tive mar­ket­ing depart­ment start­ing hint­ing that the new six-cylin­der MG had been in­tro­duced to fill the gap va­cated by the re­cently with­drawn ‘Big Healey’. any­one pas­sion­ate about their sports cars in the late ‘Six­ties would know that state­ment was stretch­ing things a bit. This rather rash com­ment combined with he fact that that the new MGC road­ster and GT sported vir­tu­ally the same pro­files and in­te­rior lay­out as their four-cylin­der sib­lings didn’t help to boost the ‘C’s show­room ap­peal.

roll on half a cen­tury and al­though the MGC was con­sid­ered to a bit of a le­mon back in the day and as a con­se­quence was only in pro­duc­tion for two years, this six-cylin­der MG has fi­nally shaken off its poor re­la­tion im­age and is now recog­nised as a highly de­sir­able clas­sic. Prices for ex­cel­lent examples sim­i­lar to the 1968 reg­is­tered one fea­tured here have sky­rock­eted in value. right from the start of our in­ter­view, Paul Ford, the car’s owner, was very keen to point out that in his opin­ion the MGC is a re­ally spe­cial car and had the ini­tial road tests been a bit more pos­i­tive the ‘C could have been a rip roar­ing suc­cess.

Paul Ford is a self-con­fessed MG fan and over the years has owned a MGB road­ster and two GTs. “I’d did quite a bit of work to my MGs be­fore sell­ing them on and have al­ways liked the MGC, so de­cided to start to

track down a good ex­am­ple”, ex­plained a very en­thu­si­as­tic Paul who con­fessed that he al­ways thought the six-cylin­der ‘C was the ‘Grand Daddy’ of the line-up. As Paul ex­plained: “Hav­ing worked on my ‘B’s over the years I’d gained a lot of ex­pe­ri­enced tak­ing them apart, so ap­pre­ci­ated that the ‘C’s struc­ture is very dif­fer­ent to the four-cylin­der car but that didn’t put me off and af­ter a while I came across JWM7F in 2009”.

We asked Paul what con­di­tion his ‘C was in when he bought it and were told that it was “okay”. Press­ing Paul on this one word an­swer re­vealed that al­though the ‘C was struc­turally very sound; it wasn’t cos­met­i­cally per­fect and re­ally needed tidy­ing up. “This didn’t put me off us­ing the car for that sum­mer and one day when the ‘C’s bon­net was up I de­cided to start tidy­ing the shelf at the back of the en­gine bay where the clutch and brake fluid reser­voirs are lo­cated”, con­tin­ued a grin­ning Paul.

Sus­pect­ing what that big grin re­ally meant, we asked Paul what hap­pened next and he ex­plained that while clean­ing the area up, a friend came round and com­mented how that wasn’t the way to do it. “He was right off course, so I set to work re­mov­ing the mas­ter cylin­ders and heater box to do the job prop­erly and be­fore I knew it the whole ve­hi­cle had been re­duced to a rolling shell”.

Paul ad­mit­ted that all he orig­i­nally in­tended to do was re­paint a small part of the MG’s bulk­head that had been af­fected by years of spilt brake fluid af­fect­ing the paint­work.

“Hav­ing re­duced the car to a bare metal shell, I was now keen to to­tally re­store the MG and bring it back to how it left the fac­tory in 1968. So I started to look at books and trawl through the In­ter­net to gather as much ref­er­ence ma­te­rial as pos­si­ble. Ev­ery­thing had been pho­tographed as it came off the car and was la­belled and boxed up be­fore be­ing put into stor­age. With the car fi­nally stripped out, the first job was to in­spect the ‘C’s metal work and start from there.”

Like a lot of clas­sic fans, Paul told us he re­ally en­joyed watch­ing a TV se­ries pre­sented a few years ago by Mark Evans en­ti­tled ‘A MG is born’ and fan­cied build­ing a MG from scratch for him­self.

“Al­though I ob­vi­ously didn’t have any of the su­perb fa­cil­i­ties they had on the TV se­ries, I took the de­ci­sion to do all the work my­self at home and set to work mak­ing a list of all the pan­els that would re­quire re­plac­ing or re­pair­ing”.

Rather than just re­pair the shell and get the car back on the road, Paul wanted to re­store the car to how it would have come off the line at Abing­don. As Paul ex­plained: ‘”When­ever I go to car shows, I’m al­ways at­tracted to cars that have been re­stored to fac­tory spec­i­fi­ca­tions and this was how I wanted my MGC to look. Ev­ery­thing that would go back on the ‘C had to be ei­ther new or re­con­di­tioned and some small parts were miss­ing on my car, which made the job much harder”.

Paul ad­mit­ted that re­build­ing the ‘C turned into a labour of love and as he only had a sin­gle garage to work in, the MG needed to be rolled out into the open so it could be turned round to work on the other end. "Al­though the shell looked to be in pretty good shape, a closer in­spec­tion re­vealed a small amount of cor­ro­sion in the floors and the car's three part sill struc­ture. So I ei­ther re­paired or re­placed all these pan­els and also fit­ting a new pair of front wings". This highly tal­ented owner then ad­mit­ted that he did all the weld­ing on the car him­self af­ter tak­ing time to learn the ba­sics from an ex­pert.

To say the owner of this MGC is a per­fec­tion­ist is some­what of an un­der­state­ment. Paul ex­plained that he was keen to en­sure that ev­ery small de­tail on his car, even it was hid­den away deep in­side the en­gine bay, be­hind the dash­board or on the chas­sis, would be com­pleted to the high­est stan­dard pos­si­ble. “To be hon­est, hav­ing set the stan­dard so high I of­ten found work­ing on the MG ex­tremely frus­trat­ing. So as not to go to­tally mad, it al­ways helped to end a work ses­sion with an easy task to boost my of­ten flag­ging morale”, re­vealed Paul who went on to ex­plain how he man­aged to com­plete this de­tailed nut and bolt restora­tion in just two and a half years.

“Rather than spend­ing the odd evenings and week­ends in the garage, I man­aged to work on the car dur­ing the day­time and I’m very lucky that my pro­fes­sion al­lowed me the free­dom to do that”, ex­plained an ob­vi­ously very proud Paul. We were keen to know what job al­lowed Paul to work in his garage for so many days on end and af­ter a bit of prompt­ing the MG’s owner re­vealed how he was the front man in a rock band called Multi Story. “We’re ei­ther record­ing in the stu­dio or on the road tour­ing for quite a lot of the year, so this means I get a de­cent amount of time at home. So I spent most of it work­ing in the garage up to my el­bows in MG”, joked Paul be­fore go­ing on to say that the only work he didn’t do to the car him­self was the paint­ing.

“I know a guy who runs a re­ally good paintshop, so left

that part of the restora­tion to him and I’m more than happy with the re­sult. It’s funny, but I al­ways thought that get­ting the freshly painted shell back into my garage would be a sign that the re­build was near­ing com­ple­tion but how wrong was that”, sighed Paul. “al­though the en­gine had been re­built by a spe­cial­ist, I found it was the small jobs that took the time and there were quite a few parts par­tic­u­lar to the ‘C that were hard to lo­cate. Two of these in par­tic­u­lar were the glass wind­screen washer bot­tle and the leather bound steer­ing wheel that was unique to the MGC.”

Paul ex­plained how he even­tu­ally man­aged to find the cor­rect type of washer bot­tle af­ter the bulk of the re­build had been com­pleted but it took a while longer to lo­cate the cor­rect steer­ing wheel to re­place the plain one that had come with his car. “af­ter the car was al­most com­pleted, I called on the ser­vices of a cou­ple of old school pals who were fa­mil­iar with tun­ing cars like the MG and they worked won­ders ad­just­ing the carbs and ig­ni­tion tim­ing to get the re­built en­gine run­ning smoothly”, re­called Paul who then ad­mit­ted that he also owns a 1966 MkI MGB GT.

“Be­fore you ask, I’m not plan­ning to re­store that one!”, quipped a chuck­ling Paul while adding that he’s not re­ally in­ter­ested on com­mit­ting him­self to an­other mammoth restora­tion project. “Been there and done that. I’m only tidy­ing up the GT, hon­est, and all I’m say­ing is that I feel a bit like the per­son who self-built a fam­ily home. They’re very proud of what’s been achieved but never want to go through all that pain and hard work again”.

Walk­ing round Paul’s MGC and closely ex­am­in­ing all his metic­u­lous work­man­ship and at­ten­tion to de­tail, we could see where all the time and ef­fort went. Ev­ery nut, bolt and screw on the car has been re­placed with a stain­less steel equiv­a­lent. The at­ten­tion to de­tail was re­mark­able, even down to the re­pro­duc­tion en­gine bay stick­ers po­si­tioned in ex­actly the right place on all the rel­e­vant com­po­nents. The owner of this car con­fesses that he was self-taught when it came to gain­ing the skills re­quired to re­store the MG to this high stan­dard and he re­ally should be con­grat­u­lated for a job very well done.

When we asked Paul what he con­sid­ered to be the hard­est part of the re­build, he thought for a while be­fore re­veal­ing it had to be com­plet­ing the wiring, as that had him foxed a few times. “The MG needed a new wiring loom and I was a bit con­cerned about get­ting all the con­nec­tions into the cor­rect lo­ca­tions. How­ever, I needn’t have wor­ried too much, as ev­ery­thing had been fully la­belled be­fore be­ing re­moved. This was prob­a­bly an over cau­tious way of work­ing and to­gether with the stack of pho­to­graphs I took while dis­man­tling the car en­sured that ev­ery­thing went back ex­actly as it should”.

We're not ex­pert enough to tell if Paul’s Tar­tan red MGC has been re­built to con­cours stan­dards, but to our eyes it didn’t look far off. The only is­sue we could find that would prob­a­ble mark down this MGC’s orig­i­nal­ity in a com­peti­ton was that it now sits on a set of chrome wire wheels, whereas when new the car would have been fit­ted with a set of enam­elled wires.

Paul’s con­vinced that he’s man­aged to re­build his MGC as close to the con­di­tion it was when it left the fac­tory in 1968. He went on to ex­plain how he went to dozens of car shows to pho­to­graphs en­gine bay lay­outs on sim­i­lar aged ‘C’s to en­sure that all the ca­bles and wires were po­si­tioned cor­rectly and crossed over each other in the cor­rect or­der.

It’s the same in­side the MG’s spot­less cabin, which fea­tures all-new red piped black leather seat fac­ings, door cards and car­pets. In fact Paul ad­mit­ted that the only orig­i­nal items reused in­side the car were the switchgear, seat frames, door fur­ni­ture and drop glass. The car’s still got its orig­i­nal al­loy bon­net with the two chrome trimmed raised press­ings to clear the front of the rocker box cover and the lead­ing car­bu­ret­tor. Be­fore the ‘C’s now highly prized light­weight bon­net was closed, we couldn’t re­sist tak­ing a last look around this car’s spot­less en­gine bay and the au­then­ti­cally painted straight-six.

Dur­ing the sev­eral times the MG was repo­si­tioned dur­ing our pho­to­shoot on the his­tor­i­cal new­port Trans­porter Bridge, the 3.0 litre straight six fired up first time, ev­ery time and quickly set­tled down into a gen­tle and very pleas­ant pul­sat­ing rhythm. Paul lives just out­side new­port in South Wales and has lots of won­der­ful coun­try­side to ex­plore in his MGC and is par­tic­u­larly fond of tour­ing the area around the Wye Val­ley and the pic­turesque Vale of usk. asked if he ever takes the car out in the rain, the an­swer was a very sur­pris­ing some­times. But as Paul ex­plained: “If it starts to rain when I’m out, it’s not the end of the world. Liv­ing in Wales we tend to get a lot of rain and if I was re­ally wor­ried about the MG get­ting wet I’d hardly ever get the chance to drive it!”

The loom­ing tow­ers of the New­port Trans­porter Bridge pro­vided a great back­drop for Paul Ford's im­mac­u­lately re­stored MGC. The owner pho­tographed sev­eral MGC en­gine bays to en­sure all the wiring on his car was all routed cor­rectly.

The ex­tra weight of the six-cylin­der en­gine re­sulted with the MGC's front sus­pen­sion be­ing to­tally dif­fer­ent from the B-se­ries pow­ered MGB.

Nice touch. A com­mem­o­ra­tive plaque marks the MGC's 50th an­niver­sary.

New seat fac­ings, door cards and car­pets were in­stalled dur­ing the re­build along with a re­fur­bished dash­board.

The MGC was only in pro­duc­tion for two years and sur­vivors like Paul's fine ex­am­ple are now highly de­sir­able.

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