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Saturday, February 07, 2015

Fourth vehicle - 1969 MGC GT

The third car I had access to (alas, I didn't own it) was a 1969 MGC GT.  This was a highly unreliable car that was super-fun to drive whenever I could get it to run.  A friend of my mother's had left it with us while she was on sabbatical for a year.  I took care of it for her by keeping it running and repairing it when it needed to be fixed, which was most of the time.

During that period of time, the MGB was one of the most common sports cars around.  If you said you had an MG, people would assume you had a B.  The MGB had a 4 cylinder 1800cc pushrod engine that developed 95 HP.  Not too shabby for such a small and light weight car.

On the odd occasion you might see an older MGA.  You will likely never see a MGC, and if you do, they are easy to mistake for a B.  Only minor differences in the hood (to accommodate the 3000 cc straight six engine) and the badge identify it.

1956 MGA

1966 MGB

1966 MGC.  The only difference is the hood - and what's underneath!

Here's the difference:
MGB: 4 cylinder 1800cc 95 Horsepower

MGC: 6 cylinder 2900cc 145 Horsepower

Unfortunately the inline 6 cylinder engine weighed about 200 lbs more than the 4 cylinder one.  The car under-steered... a lot.  It got a poor reputation for handling, but with modern tires it apparently makes a fine machine.  The engine had lots of room for performance improvement and modded versions can make about 30% more power reliably.  These cars are now quite rare and collectible.

Driving this car was like being in a go-kart.  It felt like you were barely off the pavement, and it had an awesome-sounding exhaust.  Factory dual exhausts, in fact!  I learned how to synchronize carburetors on this machine, and learned a little about British automotive electrical systems (they suck).  The car's battery was two 6 volt cells.  One battery in a compartment behind each seat, connected in series for 12 volts.  The batteries were back there to improve weight distribution and handling, on account of the heavy engine.

The MGB and MGC came in two body styles - the roadster (convertible) and the GT (Gran Turismo, or hatchback).  The one I had the opportunity to drive was a GT.  It looked identical to the one below.  A very tiny and fun car!

It was a very cool car to drive - when it ran.  I loved it.

One really bad experience I had though, was when the left front wheel came off.  The wheels are held in place by a screw-on center spinner cap that you tighten up using a brass mallet (supplied with the car).  The wheel has very shallow splines to keep it from spinning around on the hub.  On this occasion the splines wore out, and when I put on the brakes, the hub stopped, but the wheel did not, because hub and wheel splines were sliding over each other.  It made an alarming growling sound as the splines wore down - and then the wheel popped off the car.

Below, the parts that almost bankrupted a teenage kid back in the 1970s.

Fortunately the accident didn't cause any damage to the bodywork.  I still had to replace the wheel (splines ruined), the brake rotor (the car fell on it), and the hub (splines ruined).  Of course none of the damaged MGC parts were the same as the more common MGB :)  It was hugely expensive, and the replacement parts took a long time to arrive.  Fortunately I got it all back together and didn't have to explain anything to the absent owner.

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