The introduction of the MGC is a tribute to how royally confused British Motor Holdings had become by the mid-'60s. The Austin-Healey, introduced in 1952, was getting long in the tooth by 1964, even with its new convertible top and roll-up side windows. Marketing managers also recognized that there was a slot in the market for a car that would be faster than the MGB, but with the same comforts. In typical fashion, the company ended up with the worst of all worlds. BMH designed a new six-cylinder engine from scratch to replace the "three-litre"-actually 2,912cc-straight six in the Healey, to be installed in an upgraded MGB, which was also to badged as the "Austin-Healey MkIV." (Ironically, Triumph-which would be merged into BMH in 1968 to create British Leyland-was at the same time designing its own completely separate six-cylinder engine for the GT6.)
However, when Donald and Geoffrey Healey learned that the new car would be cosmetically identical to the MGB, they refused to have their name on it. So, when the MGC was introduced in 1967, British Leyland terminated its contract with Donald Healey, thereby terminating the big Healey in the bargain. The MGC was poorly received in the market, so after two years of struggle it, in turn, was also terminated. The MGB was left to soldier on.
Today, for the same price as a standard MGB, you can get a car that is quite rare. You also get an MG that can run in the fast lane on any freeway without beating you to death. In an era where an MG enthusiast will drive half-way across the country to go to a meet, a car that will comfortably cover 80 to 90 miles every hour for days on end-the MGC has a top speed of 120 mph-is quite desirable. Just don't expect to beat the Midgets on the autocross course during the meet.
Yes, the 290 pounds that the six-cylinder engine adds to the MG does give a 55-45 weight distribution, compared to the 52-48 of the MGB, which does create some understeer. But the torsion-bar front suspension is stiffer, so the handling doesn't suffer as much as one might expect.
Most inner panels and the entire front suspension had to be modified to accommodate the new engine, and the bonnet still had to have a bulge added to cover the higher engine, with a little bulge on top of that to clear the carburetors. But in all other respects, the car is identical to the MGB, so in spite of the limited production of this car, it is easy to get replacement panels, trim parts, and interior pieces.
Over time, the C has developed its own near-cult following, including John Twist of University Motors in Ada, Michigan. "It's the fastest MG available," he says. "It can do everything the Austin-Healey can do, but without the oil leaks, drafty top and uncomfortable ride." Even Prince Charles bought one and still owns it; his son Prince William was recently photographed driving it.
As with any older British car, check for rust everywhere, and don't waste your time with a car that has serious coachwork or mechanical needs. You may have to search a while to find a good C but, when you find one, you'll have classic English lines with superior Interstate capability. Not a bad combination.