The MGB was the Star of the British Sports Car Squadron

MGC GT at Beaujolais Rally 2015
Photo: Robert Grounds, Flickr

Back in the Sixties, the British were the leaders in affordable, two-seat, open-top sports cars. The Triumph Spitfire, the Austin-Healey Sprite and the MG MGA were not only great cars, but an excellent export product as well. These small but high-quality roadsters were well-balanced and relatively powerful, and all of Europe was happy to buy them, as were Americans.

The small Morris Garage (MG) factory in Abingdon – not far from Oxford – managed to export 81,000 MGAs to the United States in seven years (1955–1962), which accounted for 80% of total production. However, this was not enough for the British Motor Corporation (which MG already belonged to then), and they released an even better two-seater in 1962 – the MGB.

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At that time, practically every domestic car in the States was more powerful than the MGB, with its 1.8-litre, four-cylinder, 92 hp engine. However, the important thing was where this engine was mounted. With a curb weight of 920 kg, the MGB was quite a bit lighter than the average American sports car; it handled superbly and was impeccably made. Yes, at that time MG was known as a manufacturer of very reliable cars. Not to mention the one-piece monocoque body, with its fantastic modern design. Even 50 years later, it looks just as good.

MG also gave thought to those who wanted a sports car with a closed body instead of a roadster. Starting in 1965, you could already get one of the best looking shooting-brakes ever – the MGB GT, which was styled by Pininfarina. Americans liked both versions of the MGB just as much as the MGA. More than 60% of the first version – the Mark I that was produced until 1967 (with 115,790 made in all) – ended up in the US. At that time, MG basically sold as many MGBs as it was able to produce.

In 1967, another option came out – the MGB-based MGC. This car looked almost exactly the same as the MGB, but instead of a 1.8-litre engine, it had a 2.9-litre, inline 6-cylinder, 145 hp motor under the hood. Unfortunately, that engine was almost 100 kg heavier than the 1.8-litre, and this fundamentally changed the balance of the lightweight MG MGB. So the MGC had noticeably worse handling than the MGB, although it could accelerate to 100 km/h slightly faster. The automotive press tore the MG MGC to pieces, so sales were disappointing; the MGC was discontinued in barely two years, after producing just 9,000 cars.

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