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Published: 13th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


Buyer Beware

  • Most bonnets were made of aluminium and can suffer from electrolytic corrosion or dents. Replacements are expensive and naturaly rare.
  • Bubbles under the paint where the front wings meet the top of the scuttle is a sure sign that extensive repairs will not be far away.
  • Feel up high in the front wheelarches for a box section - the top of this is flat, traps muck and corrodes. From here, the corrosion spreads quickly into the bulkhead, A-posts and front of the sills. Does it feel soft - if so walk away.
  • The condition of those sills is crucial, particularly on the Roadsters. Check them carefully inside and out, and be aware that replacement is both time-consuming and expensive - like £2-3000 in some cases.
  • If the sills look good but the door gaps have closed up, the sills may have been poorly repaired and the structure not properly braced when the old metal was cut out.
  • The triangular box sections under the front seats that hold the torsion bars are not currently available, so check them for corrosion as repairs will be specialist.
  • The chassis sections that form the front hanger mounts for the rear springs need a good poke to assess their soundness. Rot here is common as is in the battery trays and rear floor. The arches are another major worry.
  • Engines, and transmissions are all unstressed and long-lived. Neglected engine oil changes and ignored leaks from the other units are the most likely causes of problems. Incidentally, the MGC engine shares little in common with the Austin 3 Litre lump of that era.
  • Rattley valve gear does not usually spell an engine’s imminent demise, but low oil pressure is more of a concern. Expect to see at least 40psi on the move.
  • Vague steering is probably down to wear. Budget on a full suspension stripdown to rectify although as it’s more E-Type than MGB in design it’s a lot simpler and cheaper.
  • Oh by the way, making an MGC from a donor B is a hell of a difficult task we are informed…

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 3/5

    More a lazy cruiser than rip snorting MGB beater. Okay though

  • Usability: 4/5

    Like the MGB, the C is so practical and useable

  • Maintaining: 4/5

    Like the big-engined MGB it is, there are few worries

  • Owning: 4/5

    Little different to an MGB really but restos more difficult

  • Value: 4/5

    Currently execellent, costing no more than normal MGBs

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The MGC has long been saddled with a tarnished reputation but now four decades on Big C finally takes its rightful place in the world as a growing band of classic car enthusiasts appreciate it as the true Grand Tourer it has always been, hails Simon Goldsworthy

Journalists - don’t you just love them! In 1967 they positively hammered the MGC as a poor substitute for the Big Healey and for years this “B plus” became a forgotten and misjudged sportster. Thankfully those days are long gone. No, it is not an MGB, although that is a common mistake for the uninitiated. But look a little bit closer: if the 15inch wheels don’t give the game away and you don’t spot the discreet badging on the tail, then the muscular bulges in the bonnet should tell you that something is up. Have a look underneath that front end and things will get even more interesting… When the MGB was designed, it was given an engine bay that was both long and wide. This was largely because the company always planned to introduce a more powerful bigger brother, and they were careful to leave room for either a V-engine or an in-line six. Initially a family of V4 and V6 units had been under development, but when this project was canned, MG needed to find an alternative. Several options were explored, including Austin’s big four pot then being used in taxis and the Blue Flash Six from Australia - effectively a six-cylinder variant of the B-Series built down-under to give the Ozzie main dealers something to pitch against the Holdens. The problem for both of these options was that nothing else in the company’s vast portfolio were using them at the time, and they were ruled out by an understandable and long-overdue desire for some kind of rationalisation within the group. That eventually whittled the choices down to the Hobson’s choice six cylinder C-Series engine, a unit already familiar to MG since it powered the Austin Healey 3000 that was built at Abingdon. This was primarily a saloon car engine though, and when it was redesigned for the forthcoming Austin 3 litre, it was given seven main bearings instead of the earlier unit’s five, making it smoother, stronger but ultimately less sporting. As part of this re-design it also lost 44lbs, which was welcome, but it still weighed in a whopping 209lbs heavier then the B-series motor - not exactly a lightweight itself. Financial constraints ruled out
extensive modifications to the bulkhead or transmission tunnel, so it had to be sited well forward in the car and the front suspension was totally redesigned with torsion bars and telescopic dampers to make room for it. But from the outside, the only signs of this transformation were a transverse bulge in the front of the bonnet to clear the radiator, and a teardrop bulge further back to clear the front of two SU carburettors. The MGC did not get a good press… Slower than the Big Healey and less nimble than the MGB, it was compared unfavourably with both and pilloried for not being the car that journalists had expected. The paying public were probably more concerned with the fact that it cost a lot more than a B but didn’t look very different. Either way, after a short two year production run the MGC was withdrawn. More recently, classic enthusiasts seem to have cottoned on to the model’s many virtues, only to find that there are now not enough decent cars to go around and prices are rising as a result. In short, this as good a time as any to snap up one of the last remaining bargains.

Which model to buy?

There is only really one basic choice to make: do you want a convertible roadster or the fastback GT? The Roadster has a screen height that is uncomfortably low for some people, meaning that a GT with sunroof can be a more comfortable alternative. The production run of just 8999 cars was split almost 50:50 between the two models, so you should be able to hold out for the one of your dreams. There were some detail changes along the way, most notably some trim and gearing revisions for the 1969 model year, but nothing that should rule one car in and another out. Instead, concentrate as ever on finding the best example that you can afford.

Behind the wheel?

Slower than the Healey and less nimble than the MGB it was compared with both

If you are familiar with an MGB, then you will feel right at home in the MGC - a speedo that is marked round to 140mph is one of the few visual clues that this is something different. The bonnet bulges add a touch of aggression too, but it is only when you start the engine that the difference really becomes abundantly clear.
A straight six has a note all of its own, deeper and more melodious than a four-pot but more of a menacing rumble than a V8’s gentle burble. The next thing you will notice when you move off is that the steering is heavier than the B, itself no lightweight in the parking stakes. This is hardly surprising given that there are 567lbs of cast iron lump sitting over the front wheels and the inherent excessive caster angles MGs ran on. It does lighten up once the wheels get rolling of course, but the big wheel in your hands coupled with the low-geared steering rack do emphasise that the C is no nimble sportster. It may be faster than the B (and we apologise for defining the MGC’s performance in terms of its smaller sibling, but this does at least let you visualise what to expect from behind the wheel) but it does not feel it and will probably post slower point-to-point times when travelling the back roads in a hurry. But then, that is never what the MGC was intended to do. Its forte is touring, and at that it excels. Cruising at 70mph or more is relaxing and effortless, particularly with the optional overdrive fitted. There is more than enough torque to make towing a breeze, and the C-Series is an engine that sits very comfortably with an automatic gearbox - you will lose some 10mph from the top end (down from 126mph to 116mph) and stretch the 0-60mph sprint out by a second or so to 10.9sec, but these differences are hardly noticeable in the real world and in return you get a true long distance tourer which retains enough sporting pretensions to keep the fun alive.

Ease of Ownership?

Its real forte is touring, and at that it excels

In comparison to just about any other classic, the MGC is well supplied with spares and keeping one in fine fettle is a breeze. Just about any other car that is, except the dreaded MGB, which intrudes into this assessment once again! The problem is that the MGC shares most parts with the B from the scuttle back, and the supply of parts here is predictably vast. But that front end was extensively modified to take the C-Series engine, with revised structural sheet metal to do away with the B’s detachable crossmember and convert to torsion bar suspension. Not all of these revised parts are so freely available and, although many are now coming back onto the market as interest in the MGC revives, quality can be variable. Having said that, all the expertise and knowledge you could possibly want is out there for the taking, both for road or racing. Nobody specialising in the more prolific MG models is likely to turn you away, so parts, servicing and restoration skills should be pretty local wherever you are. A well-oiled mail order machine will fill in any gaps. And both servicing and repair are 1960s-easy if you are a DIY spannerman. They are also 1960s-frequent though, the kingpins for example benefiting from a squirt or two of lube every 1000 miles. This is nothing unusual for the era, but is worth remembering if you plan to rack up the miles on a regular basis.

The Daily Option?

As part of a gearbox redesign to cope with the extra torque of the C-Series motor, MG’s gearbox finally got synchromesh on all four forward ratios, which can be a boon in town traffic. You can also opt for a power steering conversion for this kind of use, or a high ratio rack if your regular commute sticks more closely to those B roads we all know and love. Either way, fuel consumption may be an issue for regular users though; up to 30mpg is achievable on a lazy run, but the low 20s is more typical for average use. When new, much criticism was levelled by the press of the day at the MGC’s handling, particularly its nose-heaver understeer. While the basic truth of this cannot be denied, it is nowhere near as bad today as many bar room pundits would have you believe. For one thing, improved tyre technology has improved the grip no end, and for another thing most classic owners treat their cars with far more care and respect. The understeering tendencies can be dialled out by specialists if you wish, but for most of us just spending a little time to adjust to the car and then driving within its limits is all that you need to do.



MGB Roadster enters production in May, continuing the styling trend set by the MGA but built as a monocoque and powered by a 1798cc version of the popular B-Series four-cylinder engine. The cost of developing and tooling up for the monocoque means it will clearly have to be capable of being adapted to further roles.


MGB GT is unveiled in October, featuring a raised screen height and an angular fastback roof by Pininfarina, cleverly blended into the lower half curves of the convertible and created a shape that still looks good to this day. Fitted with a front anti roll bar as standard, the GT is as fast as a roadster despite the added weight.


The need for a B with more sting was growing and after experimenting and toying with a variety of engine options, attention focuses on a revised version of the old Austin Healey 3000 six-cylinder C-Series lump with seven bearings and supplied by Morris. The first pilot-build MGC cars are assembled in November.


A prototype is entered in the Targa Florio in Sicily on May 14th.With a lightweight body and flared arches, this is powered by a 2-litre B-Series engine but features the MGC’s suspension. It is known as the GTS to help hide its development plans. Fullscale C production starts in the summer, with a public debut at Earls Court.


The GTS puts in an excellent performance at Sebring but slim hopes of producing a limited run of roadgoing GTS cars is dashed when new boss Leyland shuts the Competitions Department. Already panned, the MGC is given new, sportier gear ratios and some minor cosmetic tweaks for the ‘69 but no real development.


MGC GTS is given one final competition fling by the US importers at Sebring in March. Both cars finish, but without setting the track alight. In the UK, an MGC GT is given to Charles as a birthday present when he turns 21 and becomes the Prince of Wales. The last cars are built in July after disappointing sales.


University Motors in London sells off the last of the GTs, having bought the final 200 cars and modified them to customer order with cosmetic changes and Downton tuning packs awakening the sleepy engine with up to 175bhp. Meanwhile Kent-based Mini exponent Ken Costello experiments with slotting in the Rover V8 engine…


Common sense prevails and MG finally uses makes its own V8 MGB but in GT form only. Although not quite as powerful as the ‘six’ the lighter weight of the Rover unit makes this the best - and fastest - MGB yet. Then conflict in the Middle East just months after launch and a subsequent fuel crisis quickly kills off the car…

We Reckon...

The MGC in standard form is not a 0-60mph point and- squirt car, but it really comes into its own in the 60-90mph bracket. It will cruise, it will burst past other vehicles when overtaking space is tight and it will do all this with effortless ease. If you don’t mind everybody else assuming that you have an MGB, then there is a lot of quiet satisfaction to be gained from knowing that in many ways, it is all that and so much more.

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