Indeed, a dual project was soon underway – ADO51 would be an Austin-Healey, while ADO52 was scheduled to be the six-cylinder, quickly designated as the ‘C’. Intended as direct replacements for the old Austin-Healey 3000, these two new models were developed together with the presumed intention that the ‘winner’ would be the one to enter full production.
MG engineers toyed with many engines, including a Coventry-Climax V8 and the Australian-developed Blue Streak, a 2433cc six-cylinder engine. Although the Australian motor was lighter than BMC’s C-series engine, the cost of importing units from Australia was vetoed, and in the end MG redesigned the BMC C-series motor. Now with seven rather than four main bearings, MG would suggest more changes but Alex Issigonis, the man in overall charge, was not happy for any further modifications to be made.
Similar compromises were also made when it came to the new model’s body design. With minimal funds available, a decision was made to develop the existing MGB to take the revised 2.9-litre engine.
Subsequent changes to the MGB bodyshell included the addition of a new front-suspension cross-member as well as a modified bonnet to accommodate the engine’s height. The new pressing also included a smaller bulge to cover the leading SU carburettor. The inner arch areas were also modified, and in order to save space the MGC was fitted with torsion bar front suspension, while larger 15-inch wheels were also specified.
A further development headache came with BMC’s insistence that an optional automatic transmission – Borg-Warner’s hefty Borg BW35 – also be included.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, Austin-Healey’s project wasn’t showing a lot of promise, much to Donald Healey’s dismay. As a result, despite the building of an Austin-Healey Mk IV prototype, in 1966 Healey pulled out of the project leaving MG’s ADO52 as the only contender for series production.
The first fully functional MGC prototypes were produced from November 1966 to July 1967, with the new model debuting at the 1967 Earls Court Motor Show.
When reviews of the first MGCs emerged from the British motoring press, much to MG’s dismay the verdict was largely unfavourable – critics remarked on the new car’s major understeer characteristics, dull performance, and uncomfortable seats, and the new car was seen as being far too similar to the cheaper MGB. Furthermore, BMC’s press division had under-inflated the front tyres on the demonstrator cars, which only exacerbated the MGC’s natural tendency towards understeer.
To read this and other articles on the Classic Driver website please click here to sign up for a membership. Once a member and logged in, you'll be able to read all the articles on the site. If you are already a paid up member, please log in, using the Log In link in the menu at the top of the page.