AutoMatters & More: Custom Wide Body, V8-powered MGB – the Biggest Challenge (Part 3 of 3)


This is the final installment chronicling the very custom transformation by Jim Stabe of his formerly stock 1966 MGB.

Jim knew from the outset that the curved, wide, speedster-style windshield was going to be his biggest challenge. He had been looking for months, but most windshields are really pretty flat compared to an MGB’s, and not wide enough for this custom wide body MGB.

Wet Masonite taking on shape & curvature of windshield
Wet Masonite taking on shape & curvature of windshield
(Jan Wagner)

Then one day, by chance, he was having lunch at an outdoor café across from work when a 1967 Impala convertible drove by. Its windshield looked wide enough, and as it passed directly across from him, he could see that the glass had a significant curve as well. He followed the Impala into the parking lot, where he got permission from its driver to take a few measurements. It indeed was wide enough, and it had more curvature than he had found on anything so far. He bought a windshield and began to work with it.

First he made a Masonite copy of the windshield’s curvature. To do this he soaked the Masonite for a couple days and then placed it, weighed down, on the inside of the glass. After it dried it had taken on the exact shape of the glass. He reinforced the Masonite with wood backing, so that it would retain its shape, and then he began to trim it to fit the contour of the car’s cowl, sweeping back 14 degrees – steeper than the stock windshield.

He used the Masonite pattern to mark the glass for cutting, which he did using a tool with a 1/8" diamond cutter and water spray. Cutting the glass took several hours. The edge was cleaned up using a sander with a tungsten carbide belt.

MGB hood
(Widened MGB hood)

Jim also used the Masonite form to fabricate the windshield’s frame, from pieces of MG Midget uprights and 1"x1" aluminum channel. He made a ring roller machine to form the aluminum channel. Finally, he mounted the windshield’s frame to the body using specially made aluminum parts.

The hood is a massive piece and was very difficult to get straight and flat. Its frame is made from tubular steel. A total of nine pieces of aluminum make up its skin – a combination of stock MGB aluminum hood pieces and fabricated aluminum pieces, TIG welded together. The center section was fabricated on an English wheel, to match the contour of the stock hood pieces.

Recognizable as MGB grille but with GM logo
(Jan Wagner)

After the skin was completely welded and the welds dressed, the entire skin was again run through the English wheel to finalize the curvature of the panel.

The hood hinge was patterned after BMW hinges that allow the hood to rock up and forward, before being tilted up to the vertical. A simple hinge could not be used, since the front of the hood is curved and it sits on top of the grille. That ruled out simply hinging the hood at its front corners.

The grille is one of the styling cues that makes the car recognizable, but take a closer look at the logo within the familiar octagon and you will see GM, instead of MG – a nod to the GM V8 engine. The grille was difficult to fabricate due to its many subtle curves and angles. The thickness of its upper tube had to be increased from the stock dimension to maintain a proportional look. The grille is also structural, since the hood latch and release mechanism are attached.

Camaro Z28 LT1 V8 engine
(Jan Wagner)

The modified 350 cubic inch LT1 V8 engine and close ratio 6-speed transmission are from a 1995 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, with a Vortech blower setup from a Corvette LT1 engine. Other mods include a 7-quart baffled road race oil pan, Ford Taurus fan and fabricated shroud, fabricated remote aluminum surge tank and aluminum recovery tank, 11-inch Corvette diaphragm clutch, posi-traction, and a hand-built, 17-gallon fuel tank. Since the donor engine still had its naturally aspirated compression ratio of 10.9:1, Jim added boost triggered water/methanol injection to prevent detonation.

Output at the flywheel is 535 hp @ 5,800 rpm and 550 ft lbs of torque @ 4200 rpm (470 hp and 479 ft lbs of torque at the rear wheels), with 8 lbs of boost. Weight distribution is 50/50.

Jim says his MGB is a hoot to drive!

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Copyright © 2018 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #563 (Part 3r1)