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Dan Masters
Alcoa, Tennessee
(577 posts)

10/28/2007 12:11AM

Main British Car:
1974 MGBGT Ford 302

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Posted by: danmas
Date: August 08, 2010 09:35PM

I was rummaging through some old files today and found this article I had published in the newsletter many years ago. I enjoyed reading it again and thought maybe some of you would find it amusing too. (edited a bit to bring it up to date)


1. You will completely change the character of the car.

Completely changing the character is a bit of an overstatement, but yes, you are indeed changing the character. Depending on your preferences, it is entirely possible to make a swap without changing ANY other aspect of the car except for the engine. It can be done such that there is absolutely no outward indication of the swap, nor any change in the handling characteristics of the car, the only difference being the power available to your left foot.

2. You will wreck the weight balance, and destroy the handling

You can, but using a little common sense will prevent that. If you choose to drop a 740 pound Chrysler Hemi into a Spitfire, there's nothing you can do to bring back any semblance of handling. On the other hand, stuffing an aluminum Buick/Oldsmobile/Pontiac/Rover V8 into a TR6 will remove over 100 pounds from the front end.

Ideally, the weight distribution in a front engine/rear drive car is fifty/fifty, but very few cars achieve this goal. Straying from the ideal by a small amount is not really a problem, and you can stray quite a bit and still have a good car. One has to look no further than the MGC for a real world example of this.

Yes, I know, the MGC is not considered to be a well handling car by many, but ask any owner and they'll tell you in no uncertain terms that the MGC is indeed a fun car to drive. Let's take a look at some numbers: According to one source, the MGB weighs 2140 lbs, with a weight distribution of 50.7/49.3 F/R. The engine in an MGC weighs 209 lbs more than the four cylinder, which, along with the required chassis changes to accommodate it, gives a total weight of 2460, with a weight distribution of 57.1/42.9 F/R.

The MGC engine only had about 50 horsepower more then the MGB, so just imagine how much fun an MGB would be with a lightweight Ford 302 engine that only weighs about 30 - 40 pounds more, yet gives an additional 240 horsepower! Or, use a BOP/R aluminum engine with all the extra horses and LESS weight.

Even if you do dramatically reduce the handling, it's no crime. Superb handling is not the goal of every one. It's perfectly OK to want a car that's quick from red light to red light but doesn't handle curves very well. With the state of the road system in America today, most of us sports car owners have to go out of our way to find a road where the handling of our cars can really be enjoyed. You would really have to go out of your way to screw up the weight balance and handling to the point that the car couldn't be driven comfortably on the majority of today's roads. Even an overloaded poultry truck can navigate the interstates at speeds well in excess of the speed limit without any problem.

Most sports car owners also have a pick-up truck, a sedan, or a station wagon as well. You have the station wagon or sedan to haul people, and the truck to haul things, and completely accept that neither of them handle well. You wouldn't expect your truck to handle well any more than you would expect your sports car to haul gravel. If handling is important to you, your conversion may take a different direction than that of someone who only wants a drag racer. Neither one is right, neither one is wrong, it's a matter of personal preferences.

3. The chassis and/or the suspension wasn't designed to handle the weight of the larger engine.

a) Don't use such a heavy engine, or,
b) Redesign and reinforce the chassis and/or suspension so that it is adequate.

4. The brakes will not be adequate for that much power and speed.

The speed limit on the interstate is 70; you probably drive at 75-80. Are your brakes adequate now? If not, why are you going that fast? If they are, why do they need to be better? Are you going to drive faster? Do you really think you will be driving 100 mph plus just because you can?

5. You will never recover the money you put into it, as no one will want it.

You can never recover the money you put into a "return to original" restoration either. Spend a week in Miami and try to recover the cost of that. Play a game of golf, watch a movie, or go to a professional sporting event and see how much money you can recoup. If you don't consider the fun of the conversion worth the money spent, then you shouldn't attempt it.

6. There are plenty of fast cars already available -buy one of those if you want to go fast, and leave our cars alone.

The car in my garage is not ours, its mine. If I wanted another make, I would have bought another make. I could buy a Camaro or a Mustang with a powerful engine already installed for a lot less money than I spent to convert my MGBGT, but I didn't want a Camaro or a Mustang. I converted my MGBGT because I like it, but I like it better with the bigger engine. Much better.

7. You're defacing a work of art. It would be like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

Your chances of drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa are approximately zero, as the original is safely stored in a well guarded museum. What you can do is draw a mustache on one of the thousands and thousands of copies of the Mona Lisa. The same is true of these cars. The original design may be considered a work of art, but the cars themselves are mass produced merchandise, stamped out on presses by the thousands. The original drawings are safely stored somewhere - hopefully - and all you can do is modify a mass produced copy of the original.

8. Unless you know what you are doing, the car can be dangerous.

True, no question about that. That's one of the reasons for this web site, to point out the possible pitfalls of a conversion, and to provide guidance for doing it right. Unless you know what you are doing, restoring one to stock can be dangerous as well. There is nothing inherent in swapping engines that make it more dangerous than a simple restoration, unless you are lucky enough to have a restoration project car that requires only minor cosmetic work.

9. It's more of a challenge to drive an underpowered car with finesse than it is to use brute force.

It's more challenging to arm wrestle a gorilla than either of the two, but I'd rather not. Yes, for some road use, you will have more fun trying to make the most of the power your car has and depend more on handling than power; Nevertheless, it's hard to beat the kick one gets from being pressed back into the seat by pure torque. Even with all that power, though, if you look hard enough, you can find a road where handling is still the most important aspect of the fun. There, you can have the best of both worlds - brute power to get you from one corner to the next, and finesse to get you around the corners.

10. These cars are classics, and should be preserved for posterity.

In some cases, yes, these cars are rare enough that it would be a shame to modify one. I would be loathe to swap a V8 into an Italia, for example, as they are rather rare. MGBs are still available in the thousands, and the vast majority of these are being restored, rather than modified, so it is unlikely that there won't be enough of these around in years to come to satisfy the museum aspects of car collecting.

11. Bonus Reason!


Rick Ingram
Central Illinois
(1502 posts)

10/17/2007 09:36PM

Main British Car:
1974.5 MGB/GT 3.9l Rover

authors avatar
Re: Spuriousization
Posted by: mowog1
Date: August 08, 2010 11:39PM

Thanks for posting.....been a while since I've read it....and it is STILL the truth!

Bill Young
Bill Young
Kansas City, MO
(1337 posts)

10/23/2007 09:23AM

Main British Car:
'73 MG Midget V6 , '59 MGA I6 2.8 GM, 4.0 Jeep

authors avatar
Re: Spuriousization
Posted by: Bill Young
Date: August 09, 2010 08:28AM

Great to read that Dan. For anyone who thinks conversions don't "handle" they should have been in Indy to see how they did on the road course at O'Reilly Raceway Park.

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