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AutoMatters & More: Custom Wide Body, V8 MGB – 17 Years in the Making (Part 2 of 3)

Welcome back! In Part 1 we learned that Jim Stabe retired his 1966 MGB by the late 1990s, after it had been involved in an accident and its drivetrain was sold.

Jim’s wife eventually asked him to either do something with the MGB or get rid of it, so in 2001 Jim chose to resurrect his MGB as a custom wide body, V8-powered car, doing all of the work himself except for the upholstery. He said he was “self-taught, did a lot of reading. It DID take me 17 years.”

Even though less than 250 pounds of the original MGB metal remains, it was important to Jim to keep the car recognizable as an MGB. Styling cues that he wanted to preserve included the body side reveal (which often gets obscured with fender flares), hood, headlights, taillights, bumpers and grille.

Wide Body
Widened bodywork Jim Stabe

Jim’s decision to install a C-4 Corvette suspension that he sourced from a rollover wreck, since it had very good geometry and forged aluminum components, meant that he would have to significantly widen the MGB. This suspension was much too wide to fit under the MGB bodywork.

Using a 12” blade in a Sawzall, he cut the car in half the day after Christmas of 2000, moving the sides apart until it looked about right with the suspension, wheels and tires.

Cutting the car in half to widen the body was just the beginning. He spent the next 17 years putting it back together again! Here are some of the major challenges involved in this build.

The stock MGB body shell is a strong, rigid, unibody monocoque made entirely of sheet metal, but since Jim was increasing the horsepower and torque to above 500, and widening the structure 11 inches by cutting it in half, he felt it was necessary to further increase the strength and rigidity of the monocoque structure. Noting that the Lotus Elan utilized a backbone frame structure to provide a strong, rigid platform upon which to mount the powertrain, suspension and fiberglass body, Jim used tubing to fabricate a similar backbone frame for his MGB, increasing the stiffness and providing the means to mount the V8 engine, 6-speed transmission, and C4 Corvette front and rear suspension pieces.

Rear fender
Rear fender details Jim Stabe

The fabrication of the rear fenders began with the inner wheel tub. The fender top section was done in three pieces and, once shaped, allowed the outer portion of the tub to be trimmed. Once trimmed, the vertical portion of the inner tub was fabricated and the wheel opening created.

The horizontal body reveal line was created in the upper part of the fender, which was welded into place. The lower fender was formed in two pieces and welded in place. The outer and inner fenders were flanged and attached together with spot welds.

Backbone frame
Backbone frame structure Jim Stabe

The transmission tunnel is double-wall sheet steel welded to a 1-inch tubing tunnel structure, with urethane foam sandwiched between the sheets. The exhaust pipes are routed through the transmission tunnel, to provide ample ground clearance and excellent insulation from heat. The cockpit stays comfortable to the touch, even with the exhaust 2 inches away from Jim’s feet. He said he could drive it with bare feet even before the carpeting was installed. The bottom of the car is completely flat.

The new sheet steel floorboards were fabricated and installed 1-1/2 inches lower than the stock floors, which lowered the seating position in the car.

Front suspension
Front suspension & V8 engine Jim Stabe

The cockpit surround has a rolled edge similar to that of an AC Cobra’s. This car is a total roadster with no top, windows or door locks. The rear 7-inch portion of the original cockpit was covered with steel, eliminating the useless body opening behind the Corvette seats.

The front suspension attachment locations were duplicated from a C4 Corvette, so all of the original suspension geometry was maintained. Jim commented that “the front suspension issue may have been the tipping point from sanity to insane on the build.”

The front valance assembly mounts and ducts air into the radiator, provides mounting points for the front bumper, locates the grille and extends the flat underside of the car to the lower edge of the air dam.

In Part 3 we will conclude with Jim’s biggest challenge, and the V8 engine.

You will find additional photos at www.drivetribe.com. Enter “AutoMatters & More” in their search bar and click on TRIBES. Send comments and suggestions to AutoMatters@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2018 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #563 (Part 2)

Copyright © 2018, Del Mar Times
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