About The MGC Sports Car
By the mid 1960’s it had become clear the Austin Healey 3000 had had its day and a new model was needed if there was to be a continuation of the brand. However, there was precious little money available to develop a completely new car, as British Motor Holdings was at this time descending towards financial difficulty.
British Motor Holdings, as it was revealed some years later, was not operating to a good business model. Yes, it is true certain cars were selling really well, but as in the case of the Mini, BMH were losing money on every one it produced. There were also too many models, not to mention model variations, being built, making for an unsustainable financial situation.
A New Model Was Needed, But no Money to Develop it
The stark reality was, for an Austin Healey 3000 replacement there would be no money available, but a new car could be built using whatever parts were already available.
The MGB and the MGB GT were already established as leaders in the sports car market in the UK and were selling virtually as fast as the MG factory at Abingdon could make them. It therefore made sense at the time, and economical sense at that, to put the Austin Healey 3000 engine into the MGB body and launch it as a new model.
Had it not been for a quarrel between George Harriman, Chairman of British Motor Holdings, and Donald Healey; a quarrel that saw Donald Healey walk away from BMH, the MGB with the 3–litre engine would have been launched as the Austin Healey 3000 MkIV. Instead, Donald Healey took the rights to his name with him, the car was named the MGC and the Austin Healey Sprite changed its name to that of Austin Sprite.
When Launched the Press Slated The MGC
When the MGC was launched in 1967 the motoring press were merciless in slating it for all they were worth. Whilst it is true the MGC was powered by the torquey in–line, 2912cc, six–cylinder pushrod OHV BMC C–Series engine, which produced 150bhp, the car actually was otherwise said to be uninspiring.
Being available as a roadster as the MGC, and coupé as the MGC GT, on paper this should have been one of the best selling sports cars of its time. However, the complaints were plentiful and mainly centred on its handling characteristics and alleged poor acceleration performance. The very fact it looked identical to an MGB seemed to work against it too, rather than being an asset as first intended.
When the first reports on the MGC were printed, MG engineers found it hard to believe the press had been driving the same car. They were flabbergasted by the critical appraisal. "An unworthy successor to the Austin Healey 3000," it was alleged. But the fact that it well out–performed the standard MGB, that it was a very good touring car, and it could be purchased for a very similar price to the MGB, didn’t seem to count.
Weight Distribution Was Not as Good as The MGB
It is true the car was not as well balanced as the MGB, particularly in the case of the MGC roadster, as this didn’t even have the coupé body to provide additional stability. The cast iron 6–cylinder 3–litre engine was really too heavy; a bad situation deepened by the fact engineers could not mount it far enough back in the engine bay to spread its weight over the entire chassis. Consequently, the MGC was somewhat nose–heavy.
To allow the MGB body to accommodate the engine, external changes were small. From the outside the most obvious difference to the MGB was that of the broad bulge in the bonnet, essential to clear the top of the long tall engine and the large radiator required to keep the engine cool. 15–inch road wheels replaced the smaller examples fitted to the MGB, and there were of course the MGC badges.
Under the skin, and so as to make way for the bottom of the engine, the front cross member of the chassis had to be removed. This was where the suspension and engine mounts were positioned in the MGB and so it meant completely revising the front suspension from that of the original coil spring set–up.
Instead, torsion bars were fitted and these ran back from the front stub axles, longitudinally to a mounting point below the floor pan. This effectively transferred the suspension stresses back to the centre of the now reinforced body shell.
The rear suspension was essentially the same as the MGB, but with increased spring rates and a much stronger rear axle to accommodate the increase in power.
There was also a new and stronger all synchromesh gearbox applied for the same reason. The transmission tunnel of the MGC had to be made big enough to accommodate the bulky automatic gearbox, an essential commodity if this car was going to be exported for sale to the United States.
MG is Taken Over by British Leyland
The poor reception the MGC received from the press was undoubtedly instrumental in bringing about its short–lived production run of just two years. It was significant also that the demise of the MGC coincided with British Motor Holdings being rescued from financial collapse by Leyland in 1968, an event that saw the formation of British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC).
When the takeover took place, Leyland brought with it two other badges to the new British Leyland family, these being Rover and Triumph.
Within a few weeks of the Leyland takeover of BMH, the parent company of MG, the MGC was dropped from the range. Attention and resources instead were given to the replacement of the Triumph TR5 by the Triumph TR6.
British Leyland Management Not Sympathetic Towards MG
It seems the MGC project was pretty much doomed from the start, a situation helped by the fact the press never gave it a chance. Also, with the takeover of British Motor Holdings by Leyland shortly after the MGC was launched, this brought in a new management team that were unsympathetic to the some of the products now in their charge.
Although the MGC was a flop it was not the last MGB derivative to be marketed with a big engine. Despite the abandonment of the MGC by British Leyland in 1969, only four years later the company announced a new version of the MGB. However, this time, the car kept its original name of MGB, but with the suffix, V8.
The engine used in the MGB V8 was the Buick designed all alloy 3.5–litre V8 power unit, as fitted to Rover saloons. Being constructed of aluminium alloy it was much lighter than the cast iron straight–six of the MGC. It suited the car far better in terms of the overall weight and gave the MGB V8 better handling characteristics.
Although never sold in the United States, the MGB V8 was a sales success for British Leyland. But even so, the car was killed off in 1976 and thereafter preference was given to promoting the Triumph Stag, which itself turned out to be a commercial disaster.
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The MGC Nearly Became the Austin Healey 3000 MkIV