1968 MGC Roadster
This is the story of the improvements that my wife and I made to the 1968 MGC Roadster that we purchased in September 2004. The work took two years and we are very happy with the results. The car drives and looks almost new. First, here's the car's history as we know it.
We bought the car from a gentleman near
Tennessee for $5000. He and his father bought the car in 1980 as a father/son project but, unfortunately, the father passed away that year. This owner did some improvements to the car, but didn't have the time to do the work necessary for a good restoration, and he was anxious to find an enthusiast to complete the job. He drove this garage-kept car frequently on short drives to keep it running well. He also left the car original; it even has the pollution control equipment in place. This is a complete car that showed 37,500 miles on the odometer when we bought it. It came equipped with a Borg Warner T-35 automatic transmission, painted wire wheels, the original jack, and the original AM/FM radio. The top assembly, with stow-a-way frame, was like new and the top's fabric still had the white chalk fitting marks. There was no body rust except for very minor surface rust on the floor pans. Credit for this car's survival goes to this previous owner from whom we bought the car. I'm sure he knew what he had for the 24 years that he owned it, and the importance of protecting the car from the crusher. Now, let's take a look at the challenges the car presented for restoration.
A previous owner prior to 1980, a
Tennessee alumnus, painted the car Tennessee Volunteer orange. It looked like he painted the car in his driveway because the tape job was very poor and allowed overspray on all of the parts that an enthusiast painfully attempts to protect. When we got the car, it was orange, black, white (the car's original color) and grey. The car had also sustained left front collision damage prior to 1980.
The left front collision damage was repaired by the gentleman from whom we bought the car. The interior engine compartment wall that supports the left front suspension components had been repaired. During that process, the car's vehicle identification number (VIN) plate and commission plate were removed and lost. The left front fender was also replaced but with a later fender that had the left front parking light/turn lamp in a different position than the original fender. The left A-arms and king pin were also bent. In spite of this damage, the car ran true at all speeds with no vibrations.
The bumpers were original and showed their age. The windshield was cracked top to bottom and the windshield seals were dry rotted and curled. The interior was original with black leather seat covers that were long overdue replacement. The dash was cracked in two places. The carpet was dry rotted. The original rubber mats were present under the after market carpeting, but the mats were worn. The painted wire wheels were true but needed stripped and painted. The tires had been on the car since before 1980 and they were dry rotted. While the car's cosmetics needed a lot of attention, the car's mechanical condition needed much less attention.
The engine started quickly and produced 50 pounds of oil pressure at cruise and 25 pounds at warm idle. The car idled smoothly at 800 rpm. The cooling system kept the temperature gauge at just above 'N'. All of the gauges worked. All of the switches worked except the brake warning failure and hazard warning switches. The exhaust was an after market glass pack that was a little loud for this car. Both brake boosters were installed and working, but within a month they began sucking brake fluid from the reservoir. Now, with a list of things to do, it was time to begin this rolling restoration.
The first challenge we addressed was the front suspension. We decided to do a complete rebuild of the front suspension on both sides, starting with the left front. This was quite a challenge. We had rebuilt MGB front suspensions before, but not an MGC torsion bar suspension, and we learned as we went along. The factory manual was spot on with instructions. We noticed the bent parts as we replaced the bushings. Thanks to Tim Martin in PA for supplying us with straight A-arms and a left front king pin assembly. The car was dead in the water without those parts. It took us about six working days to complete both sides. We replaced all front brake components while the front end was apart, including the brake hoses, rotors, pads, and anti-squeal shims, and we also replaced the wheel bearings. We replaced the exhaust system with a new original MGC exhaust system that my wife bought on Ebay for $78, and we overhauled the rear brakes.
Other systems components that were beyond our repair capability were shipped for rebuild. Those components were as follows.
Master Brake Cylinder: White Post Restorations,
One Old Car Drive, White Post, VA 22663. (540) 837-1140 http://www.whitepost.com/
Brake Boosters: Power Brake Exchange,
260 Phelan Avenue,
95112. (408) 292-1305
Engine and Transmission Oil Cooler Lines: Hydra Hose,
536 Hampton Highway,
23693. (757) 867-9795. Another MGC owner and I had Hydra Hose build our cooling lines after a major after market supplier's hoses failed to fit.
Radiator: Steve's Radiator,
3001 George Washington Memorial Highway,
23693. (757) 867-8046. The radiator core was replaced with a modern, larger capacity core with the same dimensions as the original.
Bumpers: Royal Silver Mfg Company, Inc,
3300 Chesapeake Blvd,
23513. (757) 855-6004. They chromed the front and rear bumpers and four over riders.
Speedometer: Nisonger Automotive,
225 Hoyt Ave,
10543. (914) 381-1952. www.nisonger.com The trip meter was inoperative so we had the speedometer rebuilt.
Carburetors: Joe Curto Inc.,
22-09 126th Street,
NY 11356. (718) 762-6287. The condition of the carburetors was unknown. The car was driven 2,000 in 24 years so a rebuild was prudent before taking the car on a long drive (over 500 miles or out of AAA towing range).
Distributor: Jeff Schlemmer, Advanced Distributors,
1149 Quincy St,
55379. Jeff rebuilt the distributor and set the curve to match the engine with today's E-10 unleaded 93 octane gas. www.advanceddistributors.com
Now, it was time to address the cosmetics. Cosmetic work included new paint, new windshield, new dash, and new interior. We stripped the car both inside and out, including the dash and windshield. The chrome pieces were sent off for plating and the car went to the shop for paint and body work. Not much body work was required; the shop stated that this was a really straight car. However, we bought the front one-third of a correct left front fender to get the correct parking light/turn lamp for this 1968 car. The body shop cut and welded the lamp perfectly and now the lamps and fenders match. The next big decision was paint color.
The car was originally Snowberry White. We thought strongly that the car should go back to original color, but as time went on, we decided we wanted a stronger color to show off the chrome. We studied the Teglerizer site, MG Color Codes with Photos, and saw Riviera Silver Blue Metallic. This color was the winner, but we did want a color that was original to 1968. Anders Ditlev Clausager, in his 1994 book Original MGB with MGC and MGB GT V8, states: "Two additional metallic colours were introduced, Metallic Golden Beige and Metallic Riviera Silver Blue. These were listed as standard colours on the MGC GT, optional extra on the MGC roadster and the MGB GT, and were not available on the MGB roadster. Both were discontinued early in the 1969 model year". We think we got the color really close to the paint chips. The interior was next.
Riviera Silver Blue Metallic %
1968 MGC GT standard/ roadster optional 1968 MGB GT optional
Black is always a safe color for MG interiors, especially if black was the original interior color to the car. However, the Riviera Silver Blue exterior color called for a complementary interior color. We selected Navy Blue carpet, a Dove Gray vinyl panel kit with Navy Blue piping, and Dove Gray leather seat covers with Navy Blue piping. The interior was purchased from the MGOC. We also purchased from MGOC a 15" Moto Lita steering wheel to replace the original 16.5" steering wheel that suffered a broken spoke while at the paint shop, and a Navy Blue trunk (boot) carpet set.
Reassembly was straight forward once the car returned from the paint shop. The windshield with new glass, newly chromed bumpers, new dash board with new switches, the interior kit, all new weather seals, and steering wheel all went in smoothly. We were fortunate to find (for free) a period after market AMCO center console with radio speaker which we modified for the automatic transmission shift lever. The original AM/FM radio is installed and sounds great even with one speaker. The front carburetor cooling fan and Otter switch came with the car, but the fan motor requires a rebuild. The fan should be repaired and installed in time for the combined North American MGB Registry/American MGC Registry event in June 2008.
We did do a few other improvements. The painted wire wheels were replaced with 15" x 5" chrome wire wheels and 185 x 65 Dunlop tires. We sourced a new Robbins dark navy blue canvas top with zip out rear window and installed it on a later (70-80) MGB top frame. We kept the original stow-a-way frame with vinyl top which is in safe storage. I'm not a big fan of electric temperature sending units, so we replaced the electric temperature sending unit and gauge with an older (1965) MGB direct reading mechanical temperature sending unit and gauge that is installed inside of the AMCO center console. This old gauge tells me that the car is running at the 180 degree thermostat setting with a minor temperature increase in traffic. The original gauge is still in place and the dash looks stock.
The last issue is the car's vehicle number. As stated earlier, the VIN and commission plates were discarded during repairs following front end collision damage. The VIN that is stamped into the passenger's side floor panel has some rust damage and it is hard to read. It appears to show number 3968, or 3988, or 3986. The
Tennessee title we received with the car shows a vehicle number of 39868. Since the last MGC car number was 9102, the
Tennessee title has one to many numbers. We applied to the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust in
England and obtained a Heritage Certificate using the 3968 VIN, the car's engine number, and the original paint color. Clausager states in his book that there were only 453 automatic transmission-equipped MGC roadsters exported to the
United States, so that made the search easy. The Heritage Trust verified that the correct VIN is G-CN1-U/3968-G, and that the original color was snowberry white. The VIN and commission plates are now attached to the inner left wing.
The MGC is a dwindling example of
Britain's extensive and respected automotive heritage. We are pleased to have the opportunity to preserve this piece of British sports car history. We are, for now, the car's caretakers, preserving this wonderful automobile for the next generation of MG enthusiasts. Happy motoring!
Chuck & Becky Hassler