When the MGC was launched in 1967, there were mixed reactions, both from enthusiasts and the motoring press. It can be described as one of the most controversial sports cars ever produced at Abingdon, and during its short life (1967-1969) the car never came up short, especially with the press. The MGC’s introduction was partly due to the fact that the MGB’s original design, with its monocoque structure, was capable of accommodating larger powerplants than the 1800 cc engine. However, the suspension, engine bay and general layout of the MGB were designed for the 1800 cc engine and the idea of fitting heavier, larger and more powerful engines was initially rejected due to fears that it would compromise the car’s excellent overall balance.
The first real production cars of the MGC were built in July 1967. The car looked very similar to the MGB and shared most of the body panels, chrome parts, trim and many internal structural parts. However, there were obvious and important technical differences to allow the installation of the powerful six-cylinder engine, and modifications to the chassis to cope with the extra power. In its final form, the engine produced 145 hp at 5,200 rpm and 1701 b/ft of torque at 3,400 rpm, a 50% increase over the standard B-series engine. There was an all-new, fully synchronised gearbox shared with the new Mark II MGB, which was launched at the same time.
When the MGC was announced in October 1967, it was available as a roadster for £1,102 and as a GT for £1,249 and was considered very good value for one of the fastest production MGs. The main drawback was in the way the power was delivered. With a top speed of around 193 km/h per hour and quick but not dramatic acceleration, the engine showed a lack of torque at low revs and refused to rev freely. The car was therefore received very indifferently by the press, especially as some of the press cars were poorly presented. Some of the criticisms voiced by the trade press in a series of unenthusiastic road tests included the gearbox, high fuel consumption, general lethargy, heavy steering, huge steering wheel and, probably worst of all, a tendency to understeer due to the increased weight of the front end. The MGC probably received the harshest reception any MG had ever experienced, and after comments like “piggish understeer” and “gutless”, the car’s plus points were its refined handling characteristics and comfortable ride. As a relaxed high-speed tourer, the MGC was a civilised car. The MGC was only produced for two years before it was withdrawn from production in September 1969. A total of 8,999 cars were built, of which 4,542 were Roadsters and 4,457 were GTs. 200 unsold MGC GTs were purchased from London’s largest MG distributor, University Motors, and modified both cosmetically and with an effective Downton engine rebuild that improved power, torque and fuel economy. They sold steadily throughout 1969 and 1970 and are highly sought after today.