1978 MGB GT
Gavin Edwards has his late father to thank for his love of MGs so he thanked him in the best way possible by building a B GT as a tribute.
WORDS: CRAIG CHEETHAM
PHOTOS: GREGORY OWAIN
”I DID IT FOR DAD” — MGB GT STREET RACER BUILT IN TRIBUTE
Gavin Edwards’s MG story began 20 years ago when he visited former MG Rover dealership Kerridges and walked out with a TF 135 Sprint. The dealership, situated in Needham Market, was run by long-term MG enthusiast and much-loved local businessman John Kerridge, who passed away in 2020, aged 86.
“When we purchased our car from him in 2003, John told us we were not just buying a car, but buying into a way of life,” said Gavin. “He said our social lives would change forever as a result and he was right. We’ve made some great friends with our MGs.”
Gavin and his wife, Michaela, found everything John Kerridge said to be true. The TF was eventually replaced with an LE 500 but, when Gavin’s father passed away in 2020, a new (or old, depending on how you choose to look at it) MG would joint the fray.
“My dad had a passion for MGBs and, following his passion, I was reminded of this,” said Gavin. “I was made aware of his fondness for them and his involvement with them in the past but what I didn’t know was that I was part of the reason we never had one.
“I’m led to believe, from one of my father’s closest friends, that whilst my dad was visiting a car dealership to purchase our new family car, his eyes were drawn to an immaculate Pageant Blue MGB GT and [he] came very close to buying it. There simply wasn’t enough room inside.
“After looking over the car for some time, he commented to the salesman that he would have to have a Marina GT Coupé instead, as he now had kids, so, when I was growing up in the Seventies, that’s what we had.”
As a tribute to his late dad, Gavin toyed with the idea of buying an MGB GT to have in memoriam but it had to be a GT and it had to be Pageant Blue. “I wanted us to buy what my dad wasn’t able to at the time,” added Gavin.
In the end, he came across a tired but presentable Pageant Blue GT offered for sale by the Vintage Petrol Pump Company, sold as a usable but improvable project. To fund its purchase, Gavin and Michaela sold their BMW Z4 so it was a big step.
It was ironic, then, that soon after finding the car they wanted, Gavin and Michaela received a call from Stephen Kerridge, son of John Kerridge, to say he’d found them a perfect car. Rather than turn it down, the Edwards family bought that one, too: a 1979 Heritage shell rebuild, which Michaela now uses for shows while Gavin takes the far-from- standard 1978 car.
WE HAVE SHOWN THE CAR SEVERAL TIMES NOW AND THE REACTIONS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN POSITIVE. WE’VE MADE SOME GREAT FRIENDS WITH OUR MGs.
“After my father’s passing, I learnt of his exploits at the local motor club and his passion for competing in an MGB,” said Gavin. “He never was a driver but a co-driver and mechanic. This gave us the inspiration to try and create a replica of a car, based on a couple of black and white photos, in memory of my father’s competition days.”
A huge amount of help with the project came from Lloyd Shelley, of Lloyd Shelley Motor Sports, who had been a lifelong friend of Gavin’s father. Lloyd has been building race and rally cars for over 50 years. “I asked him what I needed to do to make this car a great drive whilst still running the original 1,800cc engine,” said Gavin. “He then set about tuning it to its best and rebuilding the carburettors, as well as adding a big-bore exhaust and different air filters. We left it there, under the bonnet, as the engine was already in a great condition.
“Since then, we have fitted competition springs to the front, uprated lever arm dampers, a larger anti-roll bar to the rear, competition springs and Spax rear shocks. The braking system was fully rebuilt and front vented brake discs installed, with competition pads and shoes all round. We have no idea of power output but, according to Lloyd, she loves to be driven hard.”
...THE DRIVE OF OUR B IS QUITE OUTSTANDING, WITH SUPERB HANDLING AND STOPPING POWER...
Unfortunately, Gavin and Lloyd discovered that the bodywork required far more repair than initially thought, something many an MG owner will empathise with. Due to illness, Gavin was unable to do the bodywork himself so the work was undertaken by Shaun Rumsey of Spray Shack Bodyworks in Braintree (sprayshack.co.uk). Shaun found various suspect areas where poor previous repairs had been carried out and cut away lots of corrosion, rebuilding and repainting the car and adding the bodywork graphics that it now displays.
“Having used Spray Shack in the past on both of the previous MGs, and having won Best Paintwork awards at shows in the past, there was not anyone else we trusted to undertake the repairs needed,” added Gavin. “We also took the plunge and decided to remove the rubber bumpers and go with an RPS kit instead, which we got Spray Shack to fit.”
Like all projects, Gavin’s build wasn’t bereft of problems. “There were plenty,” he said. “Finding more corrosion than expected, undertaking emergency runs for replacement panels, parts. Like all classic cars, they are sent to test you and, although you replace parts, they still sometimes fail. Both MGB Hive and my local specialists, Brown and Gammons, couldn’t have been more helpful.”
Shaun at Spray Shack agreed to work on the B ‘between jobs’ so it was there for almost a year in total, returning to Gavin in March 2019. During that time, he and Michaela set to work on the MG's interior.
“We fitted new front seats from MG Motor Sports, removed the rear seat and fitted a level floor and, at the same time, fitted a bolt-in roll cage, again with the help of Spray Shack,” he added. “Then we had the dash trimmed by the Walnut Dash Company and the gear change has been improved with the installation of a Healey-style weighted gear knob and separate overdrive switch.”
Otherwise, it’s the suspension and braking modifications that make the most difference, for which Gavin has Lloyd Shelley to thank. “With the set-up now on the car, with its 15-inch wheels and tyres, the drive of our B is quite outstanding, with superb handling and stopping power,” said Gavin. “It gives you great confidence in today's traffic. She is superb on B-roads, as per most classics of her age, but feels a little underpowered on motorways. Saying that, cruising at 70mph isn’t an issue thanks to the overdrive. Driving with the unique sound of a B-series with a bigbore exhaust system is quite rewarding.
“We have shown the car several times now and the reactions have always been positive. People love the colour and, as it looks a little different, it does tend to draw people towards it. Often when displaying it at shows alongside Michaela’s black MGB GT, my friend Steve Dadd’s black GT and my other friend Paul Baxter’s white GT (all with rubber bumpers intact), my car stands out because it’s a little different.”
For Gavin, it’s the tribute to his dad that’s the most important part of the car. “The graphics on the side of the car show everyone that has helped us to build the car to what it is now: MGB Hive, Kerridges, Lloyd Shelley Motor Sports, Spray Shack and GK Graphics. Betty’s Bits ‘n’ Bobs (my wife) has kindly supplied me with a rear boot cover as well as quilted roll bar pads but my favourite part is the memorial badge that has been added to the rear bumper of the car, which shows the car as being dedicated to my late father.”
WE ALSO TOOK THE PLUNGE AND DECIDED TO REMOVE THE RUBBER BUMPERS...