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MGC vs Triumph GT6

POOR RELATIONS OR RICH PICKINGS? Published: 3rd Feb 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MGC vs Triumph GT6

What The Experts Say...

We were lucky to speak to an enthusiast who has owned both vehicles although not as classics! John Sinclair reckons that it took time to appreciate the MGC GT after stepping out of a tuned MGB, which he says handled much better and felt nimbler. The GT6 he first regarded as too small with a tight cockpit. But he liked the nippy performance while found the handling of his Mk3 okay although certainly it kept him alert after the rock steady feel of the MGC! Of the pair Sinclair can’t decide on the better car,as they had their positives and negatives he says. John now drives a Mk2 MX-5…

MGC vs Triumph GT6
MGC vs Triumph GT6

Models In Depth...

MGC vs Triumph GT6
MGC vs Triumph GT6
MGC vs Triumph GT6
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Both were the sporty options that buyers went for when their wallets couldn’t stretch to the cars they truly aspired to. Never mind being touted as the ‘new Big Healey’ replacement the 1967-69 MGC was regarded as something of a poor man’s Aston Martin, DB2 and MkIII, while its all new six-cylinder engine promised more performance than the MGB. The GT6 also sprung from a humbler model, the Michelotti-penned Spitfire. But adding the Vitesse’s sixcylinder two-litre engine created a potent, if slightly wayward, pocket rocket that also, by happy accident, looked like a Jaguar E-type in miniature, even down to the kinked rear quarters.
E-types and Astons were beyond the reach of most mortals in the 1960s. They still are of course – but these two wannabes were affordable back then and are even more affordable now as classics. What one should get your hard earned money however?

Which model to buy?

Both a hit for six

A mere 8999 MGCs were built over the car’s two-year production life (during which it was quite vilified because it had replaced the much-loved Austin-Healey 3000) while almost 41,000 of the cheaper GT6s emerged from Coventry over twice that timespan, from 1966 to 1970. That made the GT6 the winner at the time although, to be fair, MG soon lost faith in the C and didn’t do much to try and improve it. Early criticism of the GT6 at least poked Triumph hard enough to evolve it into the MkII in 1968 – which tidied up the handling, added more power and made the cabin a better place to be. When that worked, the MkIII version of 1970 made it even better still.

Today both cars have passionate followings and provide a practical and cost-effective classic transport. The MGC has finally got the edge over the GT6 in the current marketplace, its scarcity and overall performance making it more desirable. It’s also the more practical machine, with 2+2 seating offering the chance to fit passengers in the back, although it’s probably easiest if they don’t have legs.

The GT6 however is a strict two-seater (an extra rare seat could be ordered, but rarely was), with less overall cargo capacity too. Still, you probably won’t need it as you won’t be trying to tempt any more than one passenger along. Overall, the GT6 is the better package, but that won’t mean anything to the hardcore MG or Triumph fan, for whom the badge is everything.

What’s the best to drive?

A question of character

The ‘C’ did not share the same fortunes as the preceding Big Healey: the contemporary press coverage spelt disaster and pulverised any chance of success for the MGC: it was decreed that the model’s handling bordered on the dangerous. It did not help, if urban legends are to be believed, that the press cars were apparently supplied with incorrect front tyre pressures, thus causing ‘terminal’ understeer coupled with a perceived lack of performance.

The criticism was at odds with a top speed of 120mph and 150bhp. More was expected of the MGC not least because for all its added power those added horses were sleepy ones. At a casual glance, the MGC and its ‘B’ stablemate looked very similar, which may have turned some buyers off – there wasn’t that much special about the C aside from larger 15 inch wheels and a bulging bonnet. Underneath though, it was very different, with a revised front suspension and floor: you can’t make an MGB into a cheap C!

From a driving perspective, though, the GT6’s handling was better, at least from the MK 2 onwards, because it didn’t have an overweight engine taken from an Austin 3 Litre stuck on top of torsion bars up front. The GT6’s lightweight and small six-pot is more balanced in its installation. It’s also purely manual – MGCs had an automatic option which may have made them better as a Grand Tourer, but it detracted from their pure sportiness.

Yet, when pushed, the swing-axle sourced from the Spitfire/Herald resulted in extra hedge-trimming activities and intimate contact with roadside hedges during power lift-off mid corner (the famous Herald’s bow-legged wheel tuck-in), though the Mk2 mostly cured this in ‘69, with a redesign of the rear end, new lower wishbones and Rotoflex drive couplings.

The MGC feels unbalanced and the same could be said of the early GT6s where the rear wheels tuck in under hard cornering and pitch you into the scenery. That was much improved with the MkII and MkIII, although they can be tricky on the limit still, again especially in the wet. The MGC is definitely a GT, the GT6 still has more small sports car pretensions; although the engine is smaller it always feels the keener car.

Owning and running

An interesting trend

Today, the MGC has a strong following, with values exceeding (certainly in the case of the convertibles) the better developed and performing MGB V8. Both the MGC and the GT6 are easy to own and run – specialist support for both is high from the many companies that provide parts. There’s practically nothing you can’t get for the body side of the MG, and it’s pretty much a similar story for the Triumph.
The Triumph is by far the easier to maintain, with separate chassis and the complete front bonnet and wing assembly folding forward, affording fantastic engine and suspension access.

GT6 engine parts are a little bit easier to come by than for the MG’s six-cylinder engine, which was only shared with the less exotic contemporary Austin 3 Litre. But the benefit of all those specialists vying for your business is that parts prices are usually reasonable, and, if they’re not, you can always go elsewhere.

The best GT6 prices are now up around the £7000 mark, although if you like a challenge, basket cases can still be had for under a thousand pounds. Fortunately, the GT6s simpler construction – bolt-on bits, separate chassis, that flip-front bonnet – makes it one of the easiest British cars of its era to restore. They actually make good beginner’s cars for those wanting to teach themselves the art of restoration.

The MGC is a more complex beast to work on because of its monocoque design, but at least you won’t find yourself ever having to down tools and struggle to find parts. Prices are significantly more expensive though, reflecting the more grown-up and more solid feel of the MG. A rough fixed-head coupe will usually set you back about £2500, for the convertible, £3500 is likely to be nearer the mark. At the high end of the market, expect to pay £10,000 for a tin-top C, or £13,000 for a convertible, in concours condition or from a dealer. However, the C is definitely on the up – some ‘silly money’ sales have seen convertibles go for over £20,000 recently.

And The Winner Is...

If you want out-and-out corner-chucking sports car fun, then it’s the GT6; it does feel like the genuine article. But let’s give the MGC its due; it’s not a lazy, sluggish imitation of a sports car but a competent affordable GT with more creature comforts than the Triumph can offer, and a more grown-up, developed feel to it. For a long distance trip and overall staying power, it’s the one we’d choose; the GT6 is more about short, sharp blasts of fun. And the MG’s values are currently rocketing fur ther too, if you’ve a mind to a potential investment…

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