Nicholson-tuned MG.-B GT
ITS a peculiar business, tuning cars. Many non-drivers or non, enthusiast drivers have queried the benefits of modifying a sports carwhich ” surely is fast enough anyway.” We can dismiss the protests of these people straight away by citing the performance and specification of the latest tuned car we have had to try, a Bill Nicholson M.G.-B GT. This car, known unofficially as the ” Express,” for it carries no outward differences to the Standard car, is very civilised; although the performance and handling are improved enormously it has lost none of its versatility. Far too many road-tuned cars are taken beyond the practical limit and really become competition cars. Nicholson’s M.G. has quite a mild tune and, just to prove it, the car will sit in the worst of traffic jams without over-heating unduly or oiling-up plugs.
There can surely be few better people to tune M.G.-Bs than Nicholson. Cars turned out by his organisation—one in the hands of Jean Denton has just won the 13.W.R.D.A.’s Embassy Trophy for the second year running—are seen at all sorts of race meetings in this country, very often beating the Lotus Hans. But the firm is not solely a racing one and does tuning kits from Stage t to Stage 6 for M.G.-Bs. The version we tried had a Stage 2 engine, a popular development and one which Nicholson has lost count of the number completed.
This conversion consists of fitting a modified cylinder bead (taken in part exchange for the original unit) and twin S.U. carburetters of t ‘t in. diameter. These have no air cleaner fitted and make a delightful sucking noise when the engine is revved. To this engine is fitted a close-ratio gearbox and at the other end a 4.22 axle ratio. The other half of the modifications consist of adding a servo to the brakes, adjustable shock-absorbers at the rear, and altering the spring rates by making them softer. When the GT was introduced it weighed some 11cwt. more than the open model and 13.M.C. altered the spring rates accordingly. Nicholson have experimented by making the springs a bit softer but keeping the ride height the same. The car we tested, the personal transport of Nicholson’s Sales Director, Robbie Gordon, had the optional extra wire wheels and Dunlop SP41 tyres specified by the makers. The wheels were 40, although, according to the tyre manufacturers, the 51J examples could improve the road-holding by as much as 5″;,. Most young drivers prefer the smaller, leatherrimmed steering wheels which have recently become the vogue. Nicholson thinks otherwise and reckons that the standard steering wheel is worth 2 sec2a lap around Silverstone. Gordon’s car was fitted with a leather wheel but Nicholson changed it for the road test and afterwards declared : ” There, it looks like an M.G. again now.” All of which adds up to a selling price of f,t,399 and, As we have said, a much more pleasant road car. Quite frankly we could not fault the tuning and many of the observations we had to make concerned the actual car, as designed by B.M.C., rather than any subsequent ,r-k done to it. We have always been very fond of the M.G.-B, in pai ticular the GT version, and at least one staff man believes it to be the only good-looking car made by B.M.C. Having said this, and added that there has been a long succession of M.G.-B owners on the staff of MoTt-)8 SPORT, we would like to add a quick complaint about the seats, which surely never saw the inside of an ergonomist’s office, the lack of ventilation without having a gale blowing down one’s right
car, and the awkward heater controls. Having made these observations of the M.G.-B GT itself, we will now go back to the conversion.
The tuning has slightly increased the mechanical noise from the well-known five-bearing push-rod engine, which burbles away while stationary, but once in motion, and with all windows closed, the car is quiet silent. Obeying Britain’s infernal speed limits the engine was barely more than ticking over, the tachometer showing about 3,200 r.p.m. in overdrive top while the speedometer was registering 70 m.p.h. This is ideal for it must be remembered that the M.G.-13 GT is more of a civilised road car than a rorty racer. The overdrive, which comes in and goes out with quite a jolt, is a very useful addition to any M.G.’S specification; certainly the road-test car, when used in overdrive 3rd, was particularly pleasing. It would scoot up and down the Cotswold hills with ease, dropping down to direct drive when overtaking but not sounding too hard-worked at even quite high speeds. Unfortunately we were unable to take accurate, fifth wheel performance figures but one could sense the car was quicker. It certainly seemed quicker and more stable around the corners, and roundabouts in particular outlined the difference between the untouched and touched. The Nicholson car simply sat on the road with n’er a trace of twitch from the rear while a standard car had seemed less stable. All done with a relatively simple change of shock-absorbers and spring rates! The fuel consumption worked our at a reasonable 28 m.p.g.
For as little as £334 on top of the rrIOSC basic production model’s price, Bill Nicholson Ltd. have produced a car with a nicer ride, more performance and better road-holding and without the addition of a lumpy engine. On the contrary, it is smooth and pulled away very well from the ” wrong ” gear, the pair of carburetters sucking happily as it did so.—R. F.