THE REHABILITATION OF THE MGC
For all the MGC’s bad press, the competition cars and the Downton conversions suggest that the factory could easily have made a credible sports car out of it if MG’s corporate parents had had the will to do so. Even without the expense of a Downton-style engine conversion, some owners say that just installing a declutching fan and a lighter flywheel (after properly balancing the engine) can make a big difference in engine response. The handling, meanwhile, can be sharpened considerably with some judicious suspension tuning.
It seems that the MGC’s biggest problem was that it was the answer to a question no one was really asking. Racing aside, people liked the MGB because it was cute, fun, and relatively inexpensive. The four-cylinder MGB’s modest power-to-weight ratio (which eroded steadily throughout the seventies) did no harm at all to its sales, even in North America. The MGC was more powerful, but its higher price and running costs made it impractical for European buyers and American customers looking for more power had many other choices; the price of an MGC GT would buy a big-block pony car with more than 300 gross horsepower (249 kW). As for Australia, it appears that a few RHD MGCs were sold there, but they were quite rare. Unlike the MGB, which was locally assembled, the MGC was subject to import tariffs and presumably quite costly. In short, the MGC was not nearly as cheap and far less cheerful than its four-cylinder sibling and its popularity suffered accordingly.
In recent years, the MG faithful have finally begun to reassess the MGC, which we think is long overdue. If it was not as nimble as the early MGB, even a completely stock MGC stacks up well against the clumsier rubber-bumper Bs of the late seventies and it’s certainly faster. The C may not be as rare or as desirable as the later MGB GT V8, but it’s unusual enough to turn heads and it has an interesting story to tell.
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NOTES ON SOURCES
Our sources included Keith Adams, “Austin 3Litre,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 14 September 2010, “Classic boo-boo,” The Independent 4 July 2006, www.independent. co.uk, accessed 21 August 2010, “Company timeline,” “Formation of an Empire: BMC is created,” and “Humble Beginnings: The principal players,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 21 August 2010); the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “MG Sports Cars,” HowStuffWorks.com, 23 May 2007, auto.howstuffworks. com/ mg-sports-cars.htm, accessed 9 September 2010, and “Replacements for the MGB: Triumphs Were the Corporate Will,” Cars That Never Were: The Prototypes (Skokie, IL: Publications International, 1981), pp. 73-76; “Autotest: MGC GT automatic,” Autocar 7 November 1968: 10–14; Jouke Bloem and Jolanda van der Meer, “MGC royal connections,” “MGC, Abingdon’s Grand Tourer,” n.d., www.joukebloem. nl, accessed 10 September 2010; “Car and Driver Road Test: MG-C,” Car and Driver June 1969, pp. 53-56; Anders Ditlev Clausager, Original MGB: The Restorer’s Guide to All Roadster and GT Models 1962-80 (Original Series), third printing (Bideford, Devon: Bay View Books Ltd., 1998); Mike Covello, Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946-2002, second edition (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2001); Downton Engineering Works website, www.downton. com, accessed 12 September 2010; Mark Foster, “Downton Engineering Works 1947-1975,” mk1-performance-conversions. co.uk, n.d., accessed 12 September 2010; “Giant test: MGC v. TR5,” Car August 1968, pp. 49–53; John Heilig, MG Sports Cars (Enthusiast Color Series) (Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing Company, 1996); Bruce Ibbotson, “How to Develop the MGC, Overcome most of the Problems and Further Develop the Car for Use on Our Roads, in Today’s Traffic Conditions,” MG Car Club of Queensland, 10 February 2010, www.mgccq. org.au, accessed 12 September 2010; David Knowles, MG: The Untold Story (Osceola, WI: Motorboks International, 1997); F. Wilson McComb, “MGB GT: Last of the Bargain-Basement Gran Turismos,” Special Interest Autos #103 (February 1988), pp. 36-43, and MG by McComb (Colchester, Essex: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 1978); Mark J. McCourt, “Six into four, M.G. style,” Hemmings Motor News September 2006; “MGC GT,” MG Owners’ Club, n.d., www.mgownersclub. co.uk, accessed 13 September 2010; “More Safety Fast (‘Motor’ Road Test No. 7/66: MGB GT),” The Motor 19 February 1966, pp. 17-22; “M.G. C – University Motors Special MGC GT with Improvements,” Autocar, 17 December 1970; Skye Nott, “MG Racing Results 1963-1978,” The MG Experience, n.d., www.mgexperience. net, accessed 10 September 2010; Rainer Nyberg and Gary Davies, “Marathon de la Route,” The AUTOSPORT Bulletin Board, 8 September 2006, forums.autosport. com/ lofiversion/ index.php/t46815-50.html, accessed 10 September 2010; “Softly, softly” (Motor Road Test No. 37/67: MGC), The Motor 4 November 1967, pp. 25-30; “So You Want to Buy an MGC?” Safety Fast December 2007, pp. 29-34; “Space with dignity (Motor Road Test No. 1/69: Austin 3-litre automatic),” Motor 4 January 1969, pp. 13-18; and Rainer Wilken, “Special BGTs: The most historically important, exotic, spectacular and stylish MGB GTs packed into one page…almost,” www.garage24. net, accessed 8 September 2010.
Information on the Austin-Healey series came from Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “1953-1967 Austin-Healey 100 and 3000,” HowStuffWorks.com, 20 August 2007, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1953-1967-austin- healey-100-and-30005.htm, accessed 21 August 2010; John Chatham, “The Austin Healey 4000,” Classic & Sports Car Vol 10, No. 5 (August 1991); Geoffrey Healey, Austin Healey: The Story of the Big Healeys (Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset: Gentry Books Ltd., 1978), excerpted in Chapter 4 of John Heilig, MG Sports Cars, pp. 75-77; Geoffrey Healey, Healey, The Specials (London: Gentry Books, 1980); and Frederick Pearce, “The Big Healey Stretch,” Auto Magazine, August 1973, reprinted on the web with the permission of the author at englishcars. com/ austinhealey/ 4000/ ah4000.html, accessed 13 September 2010.
For comparison with the Ford Capri 3000, we consulted “Fastest British Ford yet,” The Motor 11 October 1969, and “Autotest: Ford Capri 3000GT XLR (2,994 c.c.),” Autocar 30 October 1969, both of which are reprinted in High Performance Capris: Gold Portfolio 1969-1987, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1990).
Special thanks to the owners of the black MGC GT and the Metallic Riviera Silver Blue MGC roadster.
Historical exchange rate data for the dollar and British pound came from Lawrence H. Officer, “Exchange Rates Between the United States Dollar and Forty-one Currencies,” MeasuringWorth, 2009, https://www.measuringworth.org/exchangeglobal/, used by permission. Exchange rate values cited in the text represent the approximate equivalency of British and U.S. currency at the time, not the contemporary U.S. suggested retail prices, which are cited separately. Please note that all exchange rate equivalencies cited in the text are approximate and are provided for general information and illustration only; this is an automotive history, not a treatise on currency trading or the value of money, and nothing in this article should be taken as financial advice of any kind!
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