Recreating the MGC GTS that raced at Sebring

With just two MGC GTS cars made in period, John Piper and Richard Adams decided to make their own replica, says Damien Smith

MGC GTS replica built by John Piper

he new-old MGC GTS is based on ‘Romeo’, RMO 699F, which raced at the 1969 Sebring 12 Hours

Jayson Fong

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Richard Adams only met John Piper through a mutual friend, but it didn’t take much to convince this serial classic car owner that Piper Special Vehicles should be entrusted with an expensive pet project: to build a loose homage to the MGC GTS coupés with which the Abingdon works went racing in the late 1960s, including at the 1969 Sebring 12 Hours.

The works only built two of the lightweight racers, featuring aluminium roof, door skins, front valance, ‘bubble’ wings and Perspex-fitted tailgate.

There was ‘Mabel’, registered MBL 546E (which finished 34th overall at Sebring), and ‘Romeo’ – RMO 699F (a highly respectable 15th, driven by Andrew Hedges and Paddy Hopkirk). Adams has based his replica on the latter.

MGC GTS replica in workshop of John Piper

The car’s immediate future is touring – France awaits

Jayson Fong

“I’ve always liked the idea of the Sebring, but as they only made two you can’t buy a real one,” says Adams. “I started talking to John about something completely different, a scooter based on a KTM motorcycle that does about 150mph! I wasn’t convinced… but I said one day we might find something else to do together and that’s when we got on to MGs. He said, ‘We’ve always wanted to make a Sebring,’ so it was a coming together of like minds. We’re paying homage. It’s not as if we are trying to pass it off as original. This is simply my modern take on Romeo.”

MG badge on green car
Piper Special vehicles badge

Free from any desire to recreate the car bolt for bolt, Adams and Piper chose a 3.9-litre V8 with fuel injection over the original straight-six, with a very ‘un-period’ five-speed gearbox from a Mazda MX-5… all fitted to a heritage shell. Glassfibre has replaced aluminium “so it’s a bit lighter than it would have been in the day”, points out Adams. “It’s a conglomeration of ideas; a ‘best of’.”

Burbling around Bristol for some photos, the MGC turns heads and looks ideal for what Adams plans to do with it: touring France with friends rather than racing it. As for Piper, it’s the kind of project he’s taken great pleasure from in recent years. But now a fleet of electric Sprites are about to divert him on a new course.