It takes a certain sort of person to own a classic British sports car for anything more than a short period of time, and it all comes down to expectations versus reality.
You see, it’s very easy to picture yourself dropping the top and blasting down a narrow country lane with the wind blowing in your hair and picnic basket in the back, but you’ve actually got to make it out to that country lane in the first place. The never-ending oil leaks, the graunching and grinding gears, the always-going-out-of-tune carburettors, the leaking soft tops, the dreaded rust – it’s all part of the ownership ‘experience’.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Today, you can have all of the classic British sports car charm and club sandwiches you desire, but none of the maintenance woes. And you can have it with staggering performance, too.
There’s a real art to restomodding, and this 1967 MG MGB Roadster is a prime example of what can be achieved when a sizeable investment and true craftsmen are brought together with a clear vision in mind.
While this MG Abingdon Edition – or ‘MG Abingdon Edition AU’ to be specific was brought to life in New South Wales, Australia by Modern Classic Cars and still resides on the country’s picturesque East Coast, the vision can be credited to British company Frontline Developments, who have been building and perfecting these things for some time.
Unlike a Singer Porsche which is immediately recognisable as a restomod or reimagination, the MG Abingdon’s modern updates are a little harder to pick. In fact, you need to be looking quite hard to spot them, which is half of the beauty for me. But whatever you do, don’t let the car’s stock appearance deceive you – this thing packs some serious performance credentials. Zero to 100km/h? You’ll get there in four seconds if you’re on it. Top Speed? 160mph (257km/h) they reckon.
Supercar-rivalling acceleration is one thing, but wrapping it up in a cohesive package is something that requires a lot more thinking, and that’s where this car shines. You can get to 100km/h in the blink of an eye, and then corner and brake with just as much confidence and precision. It drives like a new car, which shouldn’t really come as a surprise as that’s what it largely is.
Like Frontline Developments and Modern Classic Cars do, we’ll start with the shell itself.
Given their age and that rust I was talking about – the sills go particularly bad in MGBs – finding a good straight, start point is extremely important, but from there every exterior panel is restored or replaced with a brand new equivalent, and then fine-tuned for a far-better-than-new fit. Seam-welding takes place on the inside, and de-seaming on the outside for a much cleaner look.
All of the bodywork and Tartan Red paintwork for this build was handled in-house at Modern Classic Cars, and I’m unsure it could be faulted. The final touches come from new chrome, modern headlights, and a period racing-style fuel filler cap.
Like any bespoke build, you have plenty of options to personalise your car. While wire wheels would be an obvious choice for many, Dunlop-style alloys in 15×6-inch (front) and 15×7-inch (rear) sizing fit the bill nicely. They’d be my choice outside a suitable set of Minilites.
The millimetre-perfect exterior is impressive, but it’s the cabin that really sets this car apart. Nappa leather abound, the MGB Abingdon’s interior features a roll bar, modified Mazda MX-5 Heritage edition seats that have been completely re-styled and upgraded with adjustable lumbar support and heating, a Mota-Lita steering wheel, electronic gauges with custom original-style text fonts, and even a push-start button fashioned from Bakelite.
Add in sound insulation and Wilton carpet, air-conditioning, full electrics plus a premium JL sound system built around a retro-style head unit, and an MGB cockpit has never felt so good.
Of course, it only gets better when you jam your right foot to the floor and grip the wheel tight.
Frontline Developments had many obvious and not-so-obvious choices when it came to giving the MG Abingdon a new heart, but it’s hard to argue with the engine they chose given how well suited it is.
The natural habitat for a MZR L5-VE is a late-model Mazda engine bay, but this brand new 2.5-litre four-cylinder DOHC unit with variable valve timing looks right at home in the MGB.
In stock form these all-all0y motors are good for 170hp, but with forged pistons, billet rods and crank, a CNC-machined cylinder head with oversized valves and revised cams, four direct-to-head Omex 50mm throttle bodies, a custom exhaust system and Omex engine management, 289hp is achieved.
As you’d expect, the MGB’s driveline has seen some significant alterations, too. The gearbox is a brand new AWD Mazdaspeed6 unit running out to the original MGB diff housing, albeit now LSD-equipped. Uprated half-shafts and a custom tail-shaft are also employed.
With all this in mind and given how little the car would weigh, you can easily understand why it’s so damn quick.
Earlier on in this story I noted the MG Abingdon’s handling prowess, and it’s in this department that a lot of time was spent testing and refining a totally overhauled suspension system. The front end features aluminium uprights with steel tube wishbones, custom top A-arms and coilovers, while the rear end now benefits from a coilover-equipped custom 6-link arrangement. Overall, the car sits 25mm lower to the ground.
Further enhancing the drive is electric speed-sensitive power steering, and a completely new brake package featuring Frontline 4-pot callipers and vented discs up front, and a disc setup out back.
For me personally, a quality restomod improves all aspects of a car without losing any of its original charm. It’s easy to do too little or too much, but with the MG Abingdon Edition it feels like they got it just right. You could argue that the exterior would benefit from wider bodywork and a fatter wheel and tyre combination, but as-is there’s a real sleeper vibe going on, and you definitely can’t argue with the performance.
With an AUD$170,000 starting price this car isn’t for everyone, but nonetheless it’s cool to see a creation like this come to fruition. And Modern Classic Cars aren’t stopping here; next on the list is a 1967 Daimler 250 powered by a 4.0-litre Ford Barra.
Photos by Matthew Everingham