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Published: 20th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Fancy owning a motorsport legend for road and track use? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their names on stages and circuits, and still provide fine drives today

The MGC’s finest hour came at Germany’s notorious Nurburgring race circuit in 1968. The three-man crew of Tony Fall, Andrew Hedges and Julien Vernaeve brought their lightweight GTS model home in sixth place after an 86-hours nightmare– but it could have been a rousing third! The Marathon de la Route was one of the toughest races ever, but it had some strange rules. If your car spent too long in the pits, you were penalised. So when the car came in, in third place, with the front brake pads welded to their pistons, the British Leyland team had just 17 minutes to make repairs. The work could not be completed in time, so the late Tony Fall was sent out for another lap of the hair-raising 14.17 miles circuit with no stoppers! “When the car came in for the second pit stop, the crew had to throw a trolley jack in front of the wheels to stop it,” said Tony. His brakeless laps of the ‘Ring have – justifiably – gone down in motorsport history.

Only two racing works MGCs were ever built. One (MBL 546E) contested three races, the other (RMO 699F) just two. As well as that Nurburgringresult, Paddy Hopkirk and Andrew Hedges were 10th overall at Sebring in 1968, and 15th in 1969. And that was about it, after less than two seasons British Leyland’s motorsport policy all changed and all the bits were sold off. The MGC was never going to be a sporting – or commercial – success. Born out of a desire for a Big Healey replacement it was, to put it kindly but in the true sense of the word, a bit of a bastard. In fact the original BMC ‘C’ series engine of the Healey would not fit the MGB frame. So it had to be re-designed, 1.75ins shorter but with seven mains bearings instead of five, and the front coil-spring springs changed to torsion bars to fit, with just a lump in the bonnet and bigger (15ins) wheels revealing there was more power on tap. But that engine weighed 200lbs more than the four-pot MGB unit. The car was front end heavy and, despite a lowering of the steering ratio, ponderous to drive. True, it had 50bhp more than the B but few people loved it. Production, in roadster and GT guise, was short and then – after a decent period of mourning – along came the Buick/Rover all-alloy V8 that weighed just about the same as the cast iron four-cylinder unit and solved the lack of power problems. The MGC story does not, however, end with BL flogging off its two complete GTS cars. The remaining three alloy bodyshells were sold, along with piles of spares, to ‘Squealey’ racer John Chatham. He built a third GTS for the 1969 Targa Florio, but it failed to qualify, then a road car (which would be fun), and a finally mod-sports racer with an experimental all-alloy engine of 200bhp.He also built a 175bhp roadster that achieved success in the 1970’s driven by Derek Grant, and later, as ‘Red Rooster’, by Steve Bicknell and Matthew Bracey. Doug Smith, of MG Motorsport, is the C expert, and has produced half a dozen extremely desirable, steel-bodied, GTS ‘Sebring’ replicas. Lately people have re-discovered the rather misunderstood MGC, and a growing number are venturing onto historic rally stages and race tracks. After all, it’s more brutish than a B, and cheaper than an Austin-Healey 3000 with a lot more ground clearance! And the MG can also be made to handle well these days too. Don’t be tempted to turn an MGB into a C as it’s a hell of a job we’re told. Go buy the real thing – you may be surprised.

MGC Summary


1967-69: Roadster – 4552; GT – 4457.


Engine: Front mounted, all cast iron, seven bearing, 6-cyl in-line, pushrod ohv with two valves per cylinder. 2912cc. Twin 1.75ins SU carbs.
Power: 145bhp.
Gearbox: four-speed all-synchromesh, optional overdrive. Automatic also available.
Drive: Rear wheels.
Suspension: Front, independent with wishbones, torsion bars and tubular dampers. Rear, live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs and lever arm dampers.
Brakes: Front discs, rear drums.
Steering: Rack and pinion.

Claim to fame

Lightweight, all alloy GTS raced by BL team at Sebring and Nurburgring. (GTS raced at Targa Florio in 1967 (Hopkirk/Makinen) was in fact alloy MGC, but with 2004cc four-cylinder MGB engine.)

Famous names

Paddy Hopkirk, Andrew Hedges, Tony Fall, Julien Vernaeve, Clive Baker, Alec Poole, Roger Enever, Craig Hill (US), Bill Brack (US), Derek Grant, Steve Bicknell, Matthew Bracey, Tony Moy, Robin Morgan, Mike McBride.

Where to buy

MG clubs websites, specialist dealers such as MG Motorsport (, Peter Edney ( and Former Glory ( Sebring (01354 638678), plus Classic Cars For Sale of course!

What to look for

Engines tough, but sometimes tappety (don’t worry, wide clearances) and oily (check carefully!). Gearbox should be quiet, slight rear axle ‘clonks’ OK (tolerances are loose) but check prop-shaft UJs. Front discs squeak. Check for kingpin wear. Bodies rust in all the usual places, especially chassis legs, sills, door bottoms, shut pillars and front bulkhead.

What to pay

Nice but leggy cars from about £6000 to £10,000. Really good ones to £15,000. ‘Sebring’ replicas (by MG Motorsport) are the ultimate affordable car and will cost £20-25k. If a genuine GTS ever comes to market, you’ll need to sell the (big) house!


MG Car Club:; MG Owners Club:

Maintenance, tuning and sport

Many spares (except drive line) are common with MGB so no trouble there, but you’ll have to go to the specialists (see Where to buy, above) for the hard-tofind bits. Tuning (MG Motorsport again) is conventional, with cast iron units seeing 200bhp on triple Weber DCOEs. Racers head for MG Car Club which has its own race series, also Classic Sports Car Club’s ‘Swinging ‘60’s’ series. ( Rallymen go to Historic Rally Car Register (

Competitive Rating: 7

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