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Homepage. This page: Two competition-prepared MG MGC coupes assembled prior to a race in 1968.

Works' MGC GTSs in 1968.

My thanks to Jean-Marie for allowing me to share the following photographs on the site, in this instance featuring the BMC-entered MGC GTS (S for Sebring) alloy-bodied coupes that were to compete in the 1968 Marathon de la Route. Nearest the camera in photograph number one is RMO 699F, while alongside it is parked sister car MBL 546E - the pair known by some as, respectively, Romeo and Mabel.
(Please click the thumbnail to view the full-size MG images.)
MGC car registration RMO 699F
The second is a view from the rear of MBL, note the roof lamp and large, quick-release, fuel filler cap set into the rear quarter panel behind the side window. The "C" of "MGC" appears to be missing, which Mario later explained to me via Facebook (and is covered further down the page):
"When the Works entered MBL in the 1967 Targa Florio, it was the MGC chassis, but with an MGB 2-litre engine. As the MGC wasn't yet in production, the car was entered as an "MG GT" and no one was the wiser that it wasn't a true MGB GT. Just thought that might help clarify that detail. Cheers."
MGCs on the Marathon de la Route in 1968
Shortly after putting this page online, Jean-Marie found a couple more shots of the cars - one a head-on shot of RMO, the second a sideways look along the front of both cars. Fantastic!
Front view of the MGC
Side view of both cars

The lightweight MGCs.

In all only two lightweight versions of the MGC GT were built by the Competitions Department at Abingdon, MBL 546E, and later RMO 699F. Under the guidance of Stuart Turner, work began in designing the lightweight Cs in 1966, the plan being to race them in prototype sportscar categories. Six bodyshells were built, the centre structure being built from steel along similar lines to the roadgoing version, while exterior panels such as the roof panel, doors, and the instantly-recognisable bubble-arched wings, which housed a magnificent set of wide Minilite wheels, were formed in aluminium. The first of the alloy competition cars - MBL - was in fact ready for testing prior to the six-cylinder road car being announced, so pronounced were the delays with the latter. Initially MBL ran with a much-modified four-cylinder MGB engine, enabling it to compete in the 1967 Targa Florio, its drivers being Paddy Hopkirk and Timo Makinen.
MBL would next compete at the 1968 Sebring meeting, by now fitted with a 3 litre engine and entered as an MGC GTS, the MGC now being familiar to the public. It finished the race in tenth overall. Later that same year, 1968, two cars (MBL and the recently-completed RMO) were entered into the 84-hour-long Marathon de la Route, which is when the two photographs above were taken by Jean-Marie. MBL was crewed by Julian Vernaeve, Andrew Hedges (who had accompanied Hopkirk at Sebring), and Tony Fall. RMO would be crewed by Roger Enever, Alec Poole and Clive Baker. While MBL did finish - despite wearing its brake pads down to the backing plates - RMO expired mid-way after losing coolant.
Their final Works-backed outings were at Sebring in 1969. The results were disappointing and both cars found new homes with American owners. And what of the other four lightweight shells originally constructed at the Competitions Department? Austin-Healey man John Chatham purchased them all and, over time, built them up into complete cars.

Road cars.

Evidently, despite showing promise, the two competition cars didn't really live up to expectations. The road car also had a less-than-happy entrance into the world. Originally envisaged as a replacement for the Austin-Healey 3000, one that could be marketed as both an MG and A-H, the car came in for criticism early on for its nose-heavy road manners, a result of shoe-horning a 3 litre straight-six under the new car's aluminium bonnet. Despite appearances that looked very similar to the MGB, a great deal of re-working to the B's hidden structure was required before the 2,912cc "six" could be accommodated. A key difference between the two cars was the front suspension - whereas the B employed coil springs, the C was fitted with a torsion bar front end.
The car made its debut at the 1967 London Motor Show, priced at �1,101 16s 6d for the open car, and �1,249 6s 6d for the GT. Overdrive manual and automatic gearboxes were listed options, both perhaps well suited to the car's abilities as a long-distance cruiser, rather than out-and-out sportscar (the steering in particular came in for criticism in early road tests, described as being unresponsive and lacking in feel). The Autocar's road test, published in their 16th November 1967 issue, started with the following summary of their findings, which no doubt did little to aid sales.
AT A GLANCE. New derivative of MGB with six-cylinder engine. Lack of low-speed torque and engine reluctant to rev. Very noisy fan (compared to the sound of a "supercharged vacuum cleaner" in the test itself). New all synchromesh gearbox works well, but has odd choice of ratios with overdrive. Heavy fuel consumption. Light brakes, with some fade. Good ride; strong understeer; steering low geared. Lots of legroom. Heater extra. Good finish.
In comparison with the MGB though, the C's acceleration from a standstill was noticeably perkier, managing the dash to 60 mph 2.9 seconds quicker than the B (10 seconds vs 12.9 seconds). On the flipside, acceleration in top gear once on the move, was typically slower than in the four-cylinder car.
By the time that the MGC was retired, 9002 examples had been built, split roughly 50/50 between roadsters and GTs.
Changes to the engine throughout the car's production run were minimal, and tended to revolve around North American emissions regulations, rather than a desire to unlock more "oommphh" from the unit. University Motors, a London dealer in MGs, did sell a number of uprated versions, while ace tuning outfit Downton Engineering offered revised cylinder heads, tubular manifolds, performance exhaust systems and other useful tweaks to give the long-legged C some extra grunt. With all the mods, in Stage Three tune, the engine was producing in the region of 174bhp - a useful increase over the standard car's 150.
Both of the lightweight cars survive. A photo of RMO at the Goodwood Revival can be found here. A book on MGs that was reviewed on this site, and features a chapter on the MGC, can be seen on this page.

Update.

Shortly after publishing the two photographs of RMO and MBL, Julius Thurgood dropped me a line via Twitter, and sent a couple of shots of RMO shortly after it had been re-discovered in the States, and re-patriated to the UK (this after a period of the car being believed to have disappeared altogether). Thanks!
RMO in more recent times
Front view of the MGC GTS as found
Return to Page 17 in the vintage car gallery.

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