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
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department starting hinting that the new six-cylinder MG had been introduced to fill the gap vacated by the recently withdrawn ‘Big Healey’.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.