MGC front three quarters exterior

MGC

BUYER’S GUIDE

MGC Review

Hated by the contemporary motoring press but a favourite of the now King Charles, the MGC’s moment may yet come…

What Is It?

With the Austin Healey 3000’s 1950s underpinnings showing their age the MGC was developed to create a more contemporary ‘big-six’ sportscar out of the more modern unitary foundations of the popular MGB.

Like many British cars of the era internal politics behind the scenes sadly meant the C never quite lived up to the promise, with production only running for three years after barely 9,000 were made. Much of the blame for this has been laid on the use of the heavy, iron-blocked C Series six-cylinder engine over various lighter motors that had been proposed during development, and the lack of preparation for the press cars driven by the first crop of journalists.

Their assessment that the leaden engine, heavy steering and unfavourable handling lacked the sparkle of the four-cylinder basically doomed the C from the start, though in later years enthusiasts and specialists have since unlocked its potential.

Corrosive Areas

Front wing to scuttle seams

Sills

Inner wings and floorpan

Checklist

  • At a glance the MGC looks very similar to the four-cylinder MGB – giveaways include the transverse bulge in the (aluminium) bonnet for the radiator and a smaller offset teardrop-shaped one over the lead carburettor
  • Under the skin the MGC uses a different front suspension layout, with longitudinal torsion bars running under the floor pan to the inner wings through triangular box section chassis members – check these carefully for corrosion
  • Many of the rot-prone panels unique to the MGC are hard – or impossible – to get hold of, so inspect the underside and inner arches especially carefully
  • Multi-layer sills corrode from the inside out and, by the time you can see the rust, major work will likely be required
  • Same goes for the seams between the front wings and windscreen scuttle, edges for doors and bootlid, scuttles, boot floor … the list goes on
  • 9-litre six-cylinder is thankfully tough, proven and under stressed so shouldn’t be cause for too much concern if looked after properly and the usual checks for the condition of oil and coolant indicate a clean bill of health
  • All-synchro manual gearbox can be a little baulky to use, but shouldn’t make any nasty noises – check the overdrive on third and fourth works if present; automatics should go on forever
  • Saggy headlinings aside, interiors can be revived relatively easily, so don’t be put off by a shabby cabin if the structure is sound
  • University Motors – or UM – cars with Downton engine upgrades are desirable, but easy to replicate; not a problem if done honestly and properly but if you’re seeking a true original do your due diligence to be sure of originality
  • Fat-arched Sebring racers offer a tempting vision for conversion into something fruitier and more muscular if that’s your wish

How does it drive?

While the MGC was the most powerful car the brand had yet built more was made of the extra 98kg the iron-blocked six put over the nose, and the less favourable weight distribution compared with the B. A situation not helped by the fact that the first press cars were apparently supplied with under-inflated tyres that accentuated a reputation for nose-heavy, understeery handling which has stuck with the MGC ever since.

While carrying nearly 200kg more weight overall than an equivalent MGB and, diplomatically, more planted as a result, modern tyres and some sympathetic suspension modifications like poly bushes and rear end reinforcement from a Panhard Rod, Watt’s Linkage or an anti-roll bar can apparently work wonders, while engine mods can unleash the untapped potential under the bonnet.

None of these changes need mess with the spirit of the car, which, on reflection, successfully realised the dream of a gruntier, more mature take on the MGB with longer cruising legs.   

What’s good?

Not much compared with a B, if you follow the herd. But history is coming round to the MGC, and the very fact it’s a lot rarer than its much more commonplace relative adds some novelty value even if most casual viewers won’t notice the subtle external differences of the bulges in the bonnet to make space for the radiator and forward of the twin carbs.

It may be heavy but that six-cylinder is built tough, responds well to period authentic tuning modifications and has a more sophisticated sound and character than the more familiar 1.8-litre four-cylinder. Under-appreciation has also meant values compared with big Healeys and other six-cylinder equivalents have looked relatively reasonable.

And while the motoring press at the time may not have liked it the then Prince Charles certainly did, keeping his Seychelles Blue MGC GT for three decades before handing it on to Prince William as a birthday present.

What’s bad?

Most people won’t be able to tell it apart from a B, and those that can will probably delight in telling you it’s not as good anyway. So, defending your choice to the classic car know-it-alls at the local car meet or pub car park may get tiresome.

Like any car of its era rust is inevitably going to be a concern with any prospective purchase, a situation not helped by the fact that while the MGC looks the same as a B from the outside it uses different panels underneath and not all of these are as widely available (if at all) when it comes to restoration.

In its way corrosion has a nasty habit of progressing from the inside out as well, so a car that presents well superficially could be hiding all manner of horrors within.  

Which model to choose?

Given a short production run and smaller numbers choice is pretty much limited to roadster or GT, and between manual and automatic gearboxes. Transmission-wise the automatic fits the MGC’s stated aim of being a more grown-up cruiser, but most keen drivers will seek out manuals, those with the optional overdrive on third and fourth especially desirable.

Body style will be down to personal taste, the appeal of summer lanes with the roof down obviously a big part of the MG dream while the GT’s coupe bodywork is perhaps the more stylish and definitely gives you more options and space for long trips away.

You’ll pay handsomely for the privilege and need to be sure you’re looking at an original but if you can score one of the limited number of cars bought at the end of production by London dealer University Motors and sold with a range of Downton engine tuning packages you’ll have a properly desirable and spicy MG on your hands.

Specifications

Engine

2.9-litre six-cylinder petrol

Power

152PS (112kW) @ 5,250rpm

Torque

236Nm (170lb ft) @ 3,400rpm

Transmission

Four-speed manual/three-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

Kerb weight

1,109kg (roadster), 1,177kg (GT)

0-62mph

c. 10 seconds

Top speed

c. 120mph

Production dates

1967-1969

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