During the latter half of the 1960’s, BMC were getting ready to launch the replacement for the Austin Healey 3000, and this came in the form of the now well-loved MGB. However, thanks to the success of the 3000 and other MG products, BMC needed to create a strong first impression of their new model, and what better way to do that than create a number of endurance race- prepared models? Not only would BMC be able to showcase the MGB’s motorsport prowess and longevity, but by entering them in such a prominent race, it would drive up customer awareness, which ultimately improved sales.
Often regarded as the ‘ultimate’ MGB iteration, the so-called ‘Sebring’ cars were built by BMC to showcase their new product, with the legendary twelve-hours of Sebring race firmly set in their sights. The result was a truly special version of the MGB, with a significant weight reduction oﬀering it a chance against the higher-powered competition that it would face out in the States.
This weight reduction came about thanks to the use of bespoke Aluminium panels, including a set of hand-crafted wings with almost comically-sized flares that allowed for the fitment of oversized wheel and tire combinations. While they were designed for practical reasons, these bulbous arches and revised panels gave a truly ‘purposeful’ look to the MGB, and oﬀered it far more road presence than the standard cars. Naturally, plenty of MGB owners wanted to replicate this iconic look on their own cars, which gave rise to a number of Sebring ‘replica’ or ‘recreation’ cars.
This particular car was purchased as a donor car in July 1985 by the current owner, with the intention of creating the ‘ultimate MGB'. As an ex-Irish Rallycross champion, Brands Hatch Racing instructor and TV commentator, the vendor is certainly well-versed when it comes to top-flight machinery.
The car aﬀectionately became known as “Kermit” throughout its life, on account of the 1960’s British Racing Green bodywork. A much younger, better-condition shell was sourced for the build, which was acid-dipped and had a number of panels replaced according to the vendor, including the usual ‘problem areas.’ These panels include the internal and external sills, inner wing boxes, and the jacking point extensions.
Of course, one of the most defining points of the Sebring cars was the custom bodywork, but this recreation takes things one step further, with the widened wings and other unique panels being moulded from Kevlar, as opposed to Aluminium like the original vehicles. This not only saves weight, but also increases their strength and resilience.
Keen-eyed viewers will note that the bonnet is from an MGC, which is held down by leather straps for a true ‘period’ racer look, in addition to the factory-fitted catch. The reason for this swap is so that the bonnet cleared the Holley Carburettor, which was fitted to the Aluminium Rover V8 engine. This was in turn connected to a five-speed manual transmission, sourced from a Rover SD1. As standard, these P6 engines had a rope rear bearing seal which was prone to drying out when not in regular use. To solve this, a remanufactured engine with a conventional rear seal was fitted, which was also bored-out to a 3.9l displacement by Beaufort Restoration in 2011.
Naturally, all this newfound power meant that the chassis had to be upgraded to cope, and it would appear that a thorough program of upgrades and reconditioning has taken place, which is backed up by a brace of invoices and other paperwork. New uprights, wishbones, heavy duty bushes, lowered and uprated springs have all been fitted, along with a Ron Hopkinson front roll bar and a set of gas adjustable tele shocks. The rear also benefits from a set of re-cambered springs, gas adjustable tele shocks, anti-tramp bars, and a Ron Hopkinson anti-roll bar.
Heavy duty front and rear Nylatron bushes have been fitted, along with new front hub bearings, V8 disks and rebuilt V8 calipers fitted with Mintex M 171 brake pads. The original rear drum brakes remain, fitted with new slave cylinders and M 171 shoes. All-new Automec copper brake lines were also fitted, along with a new fuel tank, pump and fuel lines.
Accompanying the car is a hoard of paperwork covering just about anything you could want. From the original specification letter discussing the options for the build to recent MOTs, invoices for work and more, the history file backs up the extent of the work done to the car over its lifetime.
Settling into the drivers seat and slamming the door shut, this MGB GT feels every inch a thoroughbred British sports car, with all the major controls falling to hand with ease. The interior itself presents in very good condition overall, with a number of upgraded and aftermarket parts including the steering wheel, while the Smiths gauges have all been recalibrated on account of the engine swap and five-speed transmission. The tan leather seats are in fine condition, with no visible signs of damage or wear, beyond the usual old leather needing a deep conditioning to bring it back to full health, while the light tan carpet also presents well, although this too could too with a deep clean/valet in the drivers’ footwell to bring it back to its true colours.
As previously mentioned, this car was fitted with a Webasto opening sunroof to enjoy on a sunny British summer day during its rebuild, with the pop-up wind deflector present and correct.The condition of the sunroof appears to be very good indeed, with no sign of excessive wear on the outer or inner covers, nor any signs of leaking or blocked drains. The headliner is in good condition, but could also benefit from a thorough valet to bring out its best.
The carpet of the luggage compartment is still in very good condition, with a deep pile despite its age. Underneath the compartment, the wheel well is in excellent condition, with no signs of rust or water ingress during our inspection.
The shape of the car is enough to evoke memories of tin-top racing and long-distance spirited drives, particularly with the accentuated Sebring arches and front end. The towing eye and additional ventilation on the front end only serves to further the idea that this truly is a car build for spirited driving, with a thoroughbred heart.
Finished in iconic British Racing Green, the paintwork shows signs of use and wear, though still presents well enough from a distance. This was the owners ‘fun’ car for a number of years, with associated signs of use such as stone chips and a couple of minor scratches and blemishes starting to show, which have been documented in the photos.
The brightwork is overall in good condition and polishes up well, though there are signs of pitting around the front quarter lights and in a few other places around the car.
The wheels are shod in a set of meaty BF Goodrich Comp T/A tires, giving a very purposeful appearance to this little B-road rocket. The wheels are also free from kerbing and show no signs of damage, though they could benefit from a refurbishment.
As you can imagine judging by the thoroughness of the conversion and overhaul, the mechanicals of the car present in excellent condition as far as we can tell, despite the initial engine conversion and associated work taking place 35 years ago. In the years since, the milage covered remains low, but the car has been taken care of wherever necessary.
The engine fires into life immediately upon turning the key, and settles into a refined rumble characteristic of these Rover V8s: Not too rowdy, but press the ‘loud pedal’ and you’ll be quickly reminded of what is hiding underneath the bonnet that stretches out in front of you. The steering feels surprisingly light when manoeuvring despite the lack of power assistance, with the cars’ turning circle being surprisingly small. The gears all engage with a satisfying click from the SD1 five-speed gearbox, and all gauges and dials appear to work as they should.
According to the seller, the only two major points that have needed addressing during his time with the car were the aforementioned rear main seal upgrade in 2011, and the fitment of an upgraded MGB RV8 rear axle due to the original axle spring locator coming loose.
Underneath, the car appears to be in decent condition overall, with no major signs of damage during inspection. The full stainless steel exhaust also presents in good condition, and gives this Sebring tribute car a fitting soundtrack.
Let’s be honest - who hasn’t dreamed of living out their racing-driver dreams? While this gorgeous Sebring recreation may not have the provenance of the genuine Sebring cars, that doesn’t make it any less visceral. The sound of the Rover V8 firing up alone is enough to get your blood racing, and once you drop into the drivers seat it’s clear that you’re sat behind the wheel of a very serious piece of kit indeed, conjuring up visions of being a ‘gentleman racer’ during the 70s.
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