Thursday, December 3, 2015

1970 MG MGB GT Restomod

This feature has long been waiting to be released. With everything going on in our personal lives, it just had to be put on hold. Fortunately, things are now back to normal and some spare time is not hard to find. Read the write up, and enjoy the photos, guys!

I first saw this beautiful resto-modded British car during one of Houston’s well-known monthly car gatherings. In a parking lot filled with exotic supercars, this small and unassuming car caught my eyes. I was not too sure what I was seeing at first because I am quite unfamiliar with these breed of cars, but upon closer look and a little help from Google, I found out that it was an MG MGB GT with some restored and modified parts on the exterior. I snapped some pictures, walked away, then came back to the car. It is a very interesting restoration - with all the Frankenstein-ish combination of the best parts from the various iterations of the MGB’s almost 18-year production life. Upon returning from a walk around the parking lot for other cars, I noticed a swarm of people gathered around the MGB GT. To everybody’s surprise, the car was packing some serious powerhouse in the engine bay (more on this later in the article).

I really wanted to talk with the owner about his car that day, but it was difficult with all the people flocking around him. So, I decided a couple of days after the car meet to search for the car online. As fate would have it, I found the car in one of the MG forums. I got in touch with the owner, scheduled a photoshoot, planned the time and location, and now the product of it all is on here. 

This is now where Matt comes in. He is the very lucky owner and responsible custodian of the silver 1970 MG MGB GT that started out it’s life as a British Racing Green car designed by Pininfarina.

Matt has always been a gearhead like most of us. Having grown around a lot of gear-headed family members, he picked up his love for cars at a young age. His fascination for MG cars, however, did not come until his father’s mid-life crisis at the tender age of 35. His father bought an MGB convertible that wasn’t really in the best of shape. As Matt recalls, the car was in such a bad shape that his mother had his father sell the car just after 6 months of ownership. Stories like this are what usually spark any gearhead’s love and obsession for anything automotive, and sure enough, this specific narrative was Matt’s earliest “car memory.”

Having gone through college, marriage, and birth of a son, Matt has always had that fond memory of his father’s MGB. It was now time for him to go out and look for his perfect fun car -  something that he could build memories with his son, and hopefully to keep for more than 6 months and eventually pass on to the next generation. He listed down a few qualities that the car should have to be a candidate for his purchase: affordable, unique, bespoke, powerful, fast, loud, fun, technically and mechanically simple, and timeless. His initial decision was to search for either a Cobra replica or a Morgan three wheeler. So he went on his computer and scavenged through Bring a Trailer. 

The stars must have aligned perfectly, or the gods must have been rooting in his favor. Either way, things worked out for Matt because he found something unique - an even more special car than just a replica or some weird car-wannabe tricycle. Matt stumbled upon an already beautifully restored and modified MGB GT. The car, sans roof, was just like that of his father’s. Alas, he just found the car of his dreams on the internet, and is located some 1500 miles away in California. 

Buying something online is risky, and all the more when you purchase a car sight unseen. Matt on the other hand was confident with the whole process because he knew the seller was transparent and reputable - having built a couple of pro-touring cars and dragsters himself and actually racing them on the track. 

Matt is very fortunate that the previous owner has already done most of the labor-intensive work on the car, albeit leaving some minor details and finishing touches that Matt needs to address. He is determined to make the car as clean as possible with top components while giving the car his own personal treatment.

As you might have already noticed, this car is not for the purist. The car is very far from being a concours quality example of an MG, but the quality of this resto-mod is top-notch. The car was completely stripped and built from the ground up.

Now, moving on to the most obvious changes on the car - its exterior. This is where most purists would cringe even before seeing the engine bay. Huffaker fender flares and Sebring front and rear valances are incorporated seamlessly onto the beautiful lines of the car. In addition, an RV8 style fiberglass hood was put on to cover the engine bay, which added some more heft on the front end. Those additions alone make the car look aggressive and track-ready.

To complete the look of the current car, various little exterior parts from different model years have been sourced, like the MKI Tailights and MK III Fishmouth Grille. Valeo E-Code Headlights with H4 bulbs were put in place of the old ones to provide ample driving light at night.

The most significant change done to the car, however, is its powerhouse. Gone is the 1.8L four banger from the original car. In its place is a Jim Grubbs built Ford 331 stroker mated to AFR aluminum heads with 185cc intake port volume and 58cc combustion chamber size, topped with Ford Racing polished aluminum valve covers and intake manifold. The engine is built with Crower Enduro stainless roller rockers, Comp hydraulic roller cams, and ARP bolts. A Billet Specialties Tru Trac Serpentine System with 140 amp alternator and A/C compressor completes the set-up.

All the massive air volume required goes into a custom fit Spectre Performance ultra low profile dual plenum air intake, through a Holley Ultra 750HP DP carburetor, and out of a Fast Cars, Inc. Block hugger headers that go to two straight 2.5” pipes all the way into a single Flowmaster muffler, and finally out of a single Magnaflow tip. The temperatures of the hot V8 is kept at bay by a Fast Cars, Inc. radiator and fan combo, while ignition components are all by MSD. The electrical components had to be redone after the V8 conversion, thus a Painless Performance wiring harness was used.

The power produced by the Ford V8 is measured on the dyno at 425 brake hp and 440 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel. All of it is transferred to an MMR Pro Trans 750 transmission derived from a Tremec TKO 5-speed that is bolted onto the engine via an SFI approved Quicktime bellhousing, and controlled via a Pro 5.0 shifter combined with a hydraulic clutch release bearing. On the rear department, the custom driveshaft is connected to a Billet Strange yolk and into a Speedway Engineering 9" rear end with N-case 3.55 Trac Lok.

To translate all that power to the ground, Vintage Wheel Works V48 wheels with custom center caps are bolted on. The V48’s are two-piece aluminum wheels reminiscent of the British Minilite wheels. The wheels are wrapped in Hankook Ventus V12 tires; 17x8 (225/45/17) in the front and 17x9.5 (255/40/17) in the rear. For ample stopping power, Wilwood brakes are utilized on all four corners with a matching Wilwood master cylinder.

The previous owner did not skimp on the suspension bits either, since he wanted the car to perform well on the track. The front end suspension is sourced from Fast Cars, Inc. It has a complete independent front suspension sub frame assembly with integrated Ford engine mounts. The kit comes with its own rack and pinion, and coilovers installed by Fast Cars. To stiffen up the front end, a Tourist Trophy adjustable hollow sway bar was also added. The rear end is taken care of by a Classic Conversions Engineering 4-Link Rear Suspension mated with Carrera coilovers.

One interesting item that you would notice on the exterior of the car is the Ridetech “Cool Cap” Stainless Steel Gas Cap on the passenger side C-pillar. The fuel filler cap was rerouted from its place on the rear body panel, just below the trunk lid. Also, in place of the factory fuel tank is a BMC 18 gal aluminum fuel tank with internal pump.

The interior is left mostly untouched, so the panels and trims are all OEM. If you are an avid MG enthusiast though, you would notice the MK IV dash/center console in place of the factory item. The gauge cluster has been swapped out for new VDO Vision Black gauges.

Since driving would require you to be on the steering wheel 100% of the time, the stock one is replaced by a Nardi Classic 390 mm wood wheel with vintage Nardi MG horn push button.

Surprisingly though, the previous owner installed a decent audio system in the car, as if the sound of the roaring V8 isn’t enough. Hidden flushed in the panels are 6 speakers, plus a JL 8" subwoofer and an Audison SR5 amplifier tucked away underneath the trunk floor cover. To add to the creature comforts is a Vintage Air A/C system. 

Like I said, this car is far from stock, and I bet the Englishmen who built this car in the factory wouldn’t have thought that it could look and perform this way. A lot of the heavy lifting has already been done, but it is now up to Matt to complete the car with the minor details and possibly some performance parts update.

Since taking ownership of the car, he has already performed a couple of updates to make the car prettier and more functional. The windshield trim has just been replaced, along with a new-old-stock Unobtainium front grill. A few of the interior pieces previously mentioned were also done by Matt, including the headlight update and tail light backdate, as well as some of the electrical bits in the car.

In the near future, he is planning to swap out the old seats for GTS Classics Nurburgring style buckets, and replace the Holley carb with a Holley Terminator Stealth EFI system, which should add more power to the Ford engine and at the same time retain the qualities we all love in carburetors.

We’re excited to see all of Matt’s vision come to fruition, and we’ll definitely keep you posted.


  1. Very Impressive!! Good job on the blog. From what I see in the past you have not been posting on a regular basis. That tells me that you most likely have to many irons in the fire.. But I would like to see more, you have an excellent eye for photographing cars. I hope you are able to keep posting to the blog..Thank you Dave.

  2. Impressive indeed, fabulous job! I never thought of fitting a later MGB dash to a GT; looks just great w/ the VDO gauges, and it's cool to see the orig. style upholstery was followed. Too bad the period chrome bumpers are gone; to me MGBs look unfinished without them, but that's a personal call.

  3. what never is mentioned but is very important to me as a small time fabricator and builder is how much money is put into the ride. If there is as much into this as a new Camaro then I would have to think twice.
    I'm just finishing Thor's Tackhammer and it is much more aggressive than this MG and will be completed for just over $4000. You read that right.