(Editor's note: Tony Giordano is an avid MGC enthusiast from New York. He is a regular contributor to the American MGC Register newsletter ģCīNotes, and a source for everything MGC. This article will be continued in next month's Driveline)
I am restoring what many believe is the "missing" MGC-GTS race car and in the process have learned a great deal about these amazing cars and their convoluted history. I want to share with you some of what I've learned.
The last racecar produced by the famed factory competition department at Abington was the MGC GTS. It is an undisputed fact that there were 6 (six) completed MGC-GTS's (Sebring) body shells delivered to the MG factory works department early on in the life of the MGC. The GTS shells were originally painted red but were later overpainted green prior to racing at the Targa Florio, at the insistence of the Italians who did not want any red cars racing but theirs!
These body shells had steel structures with aluminum body panels attached including large front and rear fender flares to accommodate larger tires and wire wheels for racing. In addition, there were reports of at least 13 other prototype MGC's used for development purposes. Some of these cars are still around today, although not all accounted for and include an MGC-GT that was used for testing in the desert (but which desert-more on this later!).
The first Appearance of one of these cars (MBL 546E ) was in something of a disguise. For the Targa Florio road race of May 1967, B.M.C entered a 'prototype' MGB GT with an oversize (2,004cc) racing 4 cylinder MGB engine with two 2" SU carbs. However, the car had the aluminum body with those sexy fender flares on an MGC chassis. Missing was the distinctive MGC special bonnet. "Autosport" magazine called it a "lightweight MGB GT". Clearly, the reporters were not encouraged to look under the front or rear of the car for if they did they would have seen the torsion bar suspension , 4 wheel discs and many other goodies that were foreign to an MGB. (see Graham Robson's 'MGC' book page 38, -buy it -it is a good investment for your collection).
In 1968, the first of the 6 cylinder MGC-GT lightweights, "MBL546E" was raced at Sebring, with chassis # AD052-1060. There was much interest in the car, with its large flares and tires, bulging hood and purpose-built grille giving it a mean and powerful look. People wanted to purchase cars straight away, but none were for sale that year.
In 1969 the factory made a decision to race at Sebring again, only this time 3 cars would race; an B-GT and 2 C-GTS's (LBL 591E, MBL 546E and RMO 699F respectively). The B-GT had no flares- just a regular looking GT. The factory decided if it could not achieve an out right win, the MGC-GTS's racing career would be over and all the cars and extra parts including engines, gearboxes, body panels, wheels, tires, and racing supplies would be sold off to pay for the trip to the USA! Unfortunately, the race team went home with nothing but their personal belongings!
Arriving home, there were still 3 remaining completed body shells with no mechanicals installed, but with lots of parts including trim, roll bars many extra panels and alloy engines, heads etc. John Chatham, a well known race driver, who had a long term relationship with the factory from having raced Austin Healey's (Abington prepared those for racing as well) was upset that he couldn't run Targa Florio in 1970 with the factory.
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