New M.G.-C Sports Car

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It had been Motor Sport‘s intention to publish comparison road tests between the M.G.-C and Triumph TR5. Both cars were announced at Motor Show-time and both were six-cylinder improvements of existing models and so comparisons were inevitable. Obtaining the MG.-C was no problem: B.M.C. were able to offer GT or convertible versions, with either manual or the newly-introduced Borg-Warner automatic gearbox. We chose an open model with the manual gearbox, because we expected that to be the type that would compare best with the TR5. It probably would, but we have not been able to find out. Standard-Triumph’s Press Office are not providing cars for road test until the new Triumph is properly in production, which only happened in the New Year although the car was unveiled as long ago as October, 1967. We now publish impressions of driving the M.G.-C.

Not only were comparisons being drawn with the TR5, but also with the MG.-B, which continues in production, and the Austin-Healey 3000, which doesn’t. On the face of it, a combination of the qualities of these cars would seem to add up to a rather pleasant project. But devotees of the big Austin-Healey and the “B” will not be quick to warm to this hybrid. One feels that if there had never been an MG.-B or big Austin-Healey then the “C” would have had better prospects. Perhaps the makers are aiming at another market completely, for while the MG.-C is an enjoyable and tireless as a touring car, suitable for those unending continental roads, it is not a sports car in the Austin-Healey and MG.-B sense.

It may be unfair to refer to this model as a derivative of these two cars. B.M.C. are now able to use the same body pressing for two cars which are so different, which must be an economy measure. The engine, as is now well-known, is a modified version of the six-cylinder C-series, although the industry has been rife with rumours of something a little more exotic. The block has been redesigned to make it shallower—although it still necessitates the use of a sizeable power bulge on the bonnet—and lighter. It now has seven main bearings instead of four and in the process 5 b.h.p. have been lost. It develops 145 b.h.p. at 5,250 r.p.m., top torque of 170 lb. ft. being produced at 3,500 r.p.m.

The twin SU HS6 carburetters draw their supplies from a 12-gallon fuel tank. Fast cross-country cruising in the “C” returned a fuel consumption of 20.2 m.p.g., which does not add up to a very workable range. But then one cannot have it both ways; the fuel supply in the boot, together with the spare wheel—our car had wire wheels and the hub took up even more space—meant that precious little luggage could be carried there. It was a bit of a struggle trying to get in a medium sized suitcase, and we finally gave up and put it just behind the seats. The engine compartment was fairly full but due to the carburetters and exhaust manifold being grouped on one side, the dip-stick, plugs and oil filter, etc., were reasonably easy to reach. The rocker cover, which looked smart in its black crackle finish, had the out-of-place M.G. octagon badge mounted on top. Just in front of the water radiator is an oil cooler. The bonnet was light but the prop was difficult to unwedge.

The wheels have also grown a bit, being 1 in. bigger and wider. Having upped the power from 90 b.h.p. the brakes obviously had to be improved and behind the wire wheels and Dunlop SP41 radial ply tyres were, at the front, 11 1/16 in. disc brakes, and, at the rear, 9 in. x 2½ in. drums. To these have been added a vacuum servo and the result was braking that gave us no trouble at all. The extra 50 b.h.p. has been off-set by the extra 622 lb., mainly from the bulk of the engine. Using the M.G.-B method this would have made the steering intolerably heavy and B.M.C.’s answer was to increase the turning circle to 3½ turns lock-to-lock, half more than on the “B,” and to advise owners to use higher pressures in the front tyres. The only other major change was to discard the “B’s” coil springs and supplement instead two longitudinal torsion bars.

At first glance the “C” is immediately distinguished by the bulges, which rather spoil the lines but hint of a hairy car. The interior has been slightly altered, as has that of the 1968 M.G.-B mainly because of the American safety regulations. The dip-switch on the floor is in a better position, but still tends to act as a foot rest, and the same 16½ in. steering wheel as used on the “B” now has a leather glove on it. It is this small point more than any other that emphasises the general public’s apathy towards the “C”: If a “new” car is being produced from an old one, why not make a clean sweep of altering those things which have been most criticised? The job has been half-started, for there are neat, flap-type door handles and rubber-surrounded window winders (which on our car were very loose). But while at it, why not put on a proper leather-rimmed wheel, redesign that facia, in particular those heater controls, have seats that give a little lateral support, provide a sun visor, give the car fresh air and efficient heating systems, and replace those tumbler switches with rocker type that do not project? These may be small points, and no doubt owners could learn to live with them. H.R.H. the Prince of Wales obviously thinks he can . . .

The transmission tunnel seems wider, and sitting on top of this is a nicely placed short gear lever, mounted by a circular knob about the size of a golf ball. (One feels reluctant to say that it feels “nice” because of what old Freud might have had to say.) There is a long travel between the forward and backward positions of the gearbox and an unbelievably small space between the gate. Initially, when changing from second to third it was all too easy to snick the lever into first. It would go in without any trouble, too, thanks to the synchromesh now fitted to first gear. Otherwise the gearbox, with its oddly chosen ratios, was fine to use, a little bit tight but that was no doubt due to its newness. The handbrake manages to sink between the driver’s seat and transmission tunnel without being a nuisance. The clutch had a long travel before it began to bite.

We picked up the car on the Friday before Christmas and drove it from B.M.C.’s Holland Park depot to Standard House, where the revelries of the office party were just starting. (To put B.M.C.’s mind at rest, we were very easy on the bottle; when we told the man we were in a hurry to get back because of this, his face developed an enormous hole where his mouth was.) The car was no trouble in the thick London traffic—and it was thick that Friday—with hardly a fluctuation in the temperature. We were using only first and second gears until we reached the outskirts of London later that evening. After being left out on the coldest of nights the car started first time, with the choke full out, and warmed up after a few minutes. We had heard reports of plug-fouling but never experienced any.

There had been no tremble with the MG.-C in traffic; what would it be like on a long journey? We covered over 1,000 miles that Christmas weekend and became convinced that motorways would be where the car would be enjoyed best. At 70 m.p.h. in overdrive top the engine was hardly ticking over and at that speed normal conversation could be enjoyed, the main sound being that of the rather noisy plastic fan. The burbling of the big engine gave an impression of reliability and we had no doubt that the engine would go on for ever in such conditions. As rain began to fall we cursed the slow-working windscreen wipers—until we discovered that they had, at last, two speeds.

Once wound-up, the car was quite happy but getting there quickly was always a problem. The long-stroke engine does not develop full torque until 3,500 r.p.m. and in a slow-revving engine the gearbox had to be used to the full. On the face of it the MG.-C should have proved a real flier, almost a small version of a Jaguar E-type. There was something missing but just what we would not like to say exactly. Overtaking, for instance, was not entirely trouble-free: a quick glance in the mirror, which is too small, use the indicator, which had to be held in position, drop into lower gear or flick the handily placed overdrive switch, and accelerate. As the car seemed slow in picking up speed perhaps the answer is to follow further behind. On the subject of the overdrive, which is a useful £61 extra, if takes a long time to function but appears much smoother than on the “B”.

The M.G.-C is faster than the “B” but lacks the tautness and better road-holding of its smaller brother. The SP41s hold the road quite adequately, even in the wet, but from the very first time we tried one of these cars—at Shenington last October—it was evident that it would handle far differently from the “B”. The changes to the front suspension set-up have made the “C” an inherent understeering car when driven hard, which became truly evident at our private test track, when no amount of extra throttle could induce out the tail. At slower speeds in the wet, the back could be made to come round with a quick dab on the accelerator which was rather nice when turning out of side streets although more tyre-conscious drivers would drive more sedately.

It is on twisty roads that the “C” comes off worst. The steering is still rather heavy, despite that extra half a turn, while the seats do not hold the driver, the steering wheel becomes rather fouled up with the driver’s knees and the dip switch does not provide a very satisfactory foot rest. The seats have plenty of forward and backward movement and even the tallest drivers can be accommodated. However, we could visualise the problems of the shorter driver: the steering wheel and windscreen wipers, combined with the shallow windscreen, could well obscure his vision to a great extent.R. F.

M.G.-C Convertible

Engine: Six cylinders, 83.36 x 88.9 mm. (2,912 c.c.). Pushrod operated overhead valves, 9.0:1 compression ratio, 145 b.h.p. at 5,250 r.p.m., 170 lb. ft. at 3,500 r.p.m.

Gear ratios: first, 9.86; second, 6.82; third, 4.34; overdrive third, 3.64; top, 3.31; overdrive top, 2.71.

Tyres: 165 x 15 Dunlop SP41 on knock-off wire wheels.

Weight: Approx. 23 cwt.

Steering ratio: 3½ turns lock to lock.

Fuel capacity: 12 gallons (approx. 240 miles).

Wheelbase: 7 ft. 7 in.

Dimensions: 12 ft, 9¼ in. x 4 ft. 11¼ in. x 4 ft. 2¼ in. (high).

Prices as tested: £1,239 (including overdrive, £61; wire wheels, £31; heater, £15; radio, £20).

Makers: M.G. Car Company Ltd., Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England.

Performance Figures

Acceleration:

0-30 m.p.h. … 3.75 sec.

0-40 m.p.h. … 5. 0 sec.

0-50 m.p.h. … 6.75 sec.

0-60 m.p.h. … 8.4 sec.

0-70 m.p.h. … 11.4 sec.

0-80 m.p.h. … 14.9 sec.

0-90 m.p.h. … 18.9 sec.

s.s. quarter mile … 16. 3 sec.

Speeds in gears:

First, 44 m.p.h.; second, 63 m.p.h.; third, 97 m.p.h.; overdrive third, 115 m.p.h.; top, 120 m.p.h.; overdrive top, 120 m.p.h.