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February 2016 Ride of the Month: 1967 MG MGB GT Special

[dropcap style=”style1″]L[/dropcap]ee Shadbolt owns and drives a classic 1967 MG MGB GT Special that he built into a fantastic rally car in his garage. Car Street Journal spotted the unusual classic racecar a few months ago when some staff members took a trip to Tucson, Arizona, while covering the regional rallycross races held there.

This almost 50-year-old ride was whipping around the dirt with ease and performed even better than some of the newer cars that were there that day. It was an impressive sight to see and CSJ just had to learn more about this car and its driver.

“I wanted a car I could race in any event, anytime, and anywhere” said Shadbolt when asked about the reason he decided to build this specific car. Currently the MG is set up to run SCCA Rallycross events and has an extensive mod list.

Mod highlights include the multipoint cage that was built by Richard Buckner at Streben Motorsports in Portland, Oregon, and the interior caught our eyes, having been gutted and replaced by two Cobra racing seats and a 5-point harness.

Originally, the MG came from the factory with front disk brakes that had two piston calipers, in need of an update and upgrade, Shadbolt uses semi-metallic brake pads and slotted disks. Additionally, an adjustable brake bias valve makes the rear drums work harder if needed. The single reservoir brake master cylinders were replaced with a two reservoir master cylinder.

IMG_1276-01_wmThe engine was built for boost but is currently naturally aspirated. It has low compression with ceramic coated pistons while the connecting rods have oil squirters aimed at the bottom of the pistons and the connecting rods have been lightened and a high volume oil pump keeps the pressure. The cam has remained stock in anticipation of boost and the valves are anti-reversion stainless steel “rimflo” connected to ported intake and exhaust ports. The valve guides and seats have been replaced to be compatible with modern fuel. It is currently running a Downdraft Weber Carburetor. All of this works was done by a race shop in Portland.

So why is a motor built for boost still NA? “I had the turbo on the MG but I had to decide if I wanted to be a driver or a tuner, and the driver won. So the turbo, intercooler, and fuel injection sit in a box in a garage.”

An aluminum rear engine plate was made along with thickening the support for the starter which was a weak point on the original steel engine plate. Since all of the engine mounts broke last season, reinforced new ones have been added by Shadbolt along with a steady rod to the transmission. The clutch disk is custom made with an unsprung hub and semi-metallic friction material.

When it comes to suspension, the old Armstrong brand suspension has been replaced with modern Fox Factory GAZ adjustable tube shocks with remote reservoirs. The lower control arms are longer than stock to create negative camber. Heavy duty bushings replace the stock rubber units while a thicker front sway bar improves handling along with a new steering rack. The rear leaf springs were replaced with fiberglass units. Upgraded Trailing arms and a panhard rod keep the axle located with Michelin Rally tires that keep this racecar on the ground.

Shadbolt explained that his favorite modification to the car was taking the 1967 4-speed transmission with no first gear synchromesh and giving it an optional electric-operated overdrive unit that is modified to operate on gears two, three, and four for seven forward gears.

IMG_1274-01_wmShadbolt admits that he lost track of how much time he has spent working on the MG during the build process which took place 23 years ago in 1992, but tells CSJ that future mods will include a new second set of wheels and tires so that this classic can get off the dirt a bit and hit up paved track events as well.

With such an amazing car and list of mods there has to be some amazing stories to go along with it, right? Shadbolt told CSJ there are many great memories and moments he can look back on, but his favorite is when his wife, Tamara, drove the car in the 1995 “Roads Not Taken” Rally.

Shadbolt explained “it was an all-gravel event that started at 7:00 p.m. and ended at 7:00 a.m. It went through Oregon’s coastal mountain range. Auxiliary lighting got us through the rabbit trails and we had a borrowed rally computer in the car for navigation. This was the first time we had ever driven the car in its element, and it was awesome!”

Some past projects of Shadbolt include a 1967 Austin-Heeley that he and his wife raced for several years, ultimately sold after having participated in 150 events including the SCCA Solo2 and numerous Time-Speed-Distance rallies. Other notable past projects include a built Subaru Impreza in 1997 for the SCCA ProRally Championship. The car was also driven by Lee Shadbolt in a win in the 1999 North American Rally Cup competing in events in the United States and Canada.

Shadbolt tells CSJ that  he enjoys racing in different vehicles but racing in the MG is particularly exciting because “it is weightless. You can put it exactly where you want on the course. The size is an advantage because of how narrow it is. Modern turbocharged cars use horsepower so efficiently to get down the straights, where the MG only has an engine to get it from one exiting corner to the next which makes for a good rallycross car. What I enjoy is the agility and instant feedback. There is no power steering, no power breaks, and no sound deadening.”

Shadbolt got into cars and racing because his grandfather took him to the local track when he was in grade school where he was introduced to drivers and mechanics and also where he saw the first car that really turned his head, a yellow 1955 Chevrolet Circle Track racecar driven by “Crazy Dave Grover.” Shadbolt also mentions to us that his first car, a 1962 Plymouth Fury with push button automatic and a Mopar V8 was given to him by his grandfather when he was 13-years-old, noting “I taught all my friends how to drive in that car.”

When Shadbolt isn’t busy wrenching on a car or racing in one, he helps organize events. “My wife and I have raced RallyCross events since SCCA started them. I think the first events used the Solo2 rulebook. When we moved to Tucson from Oregon there were no RallyCross events here, but a healthy Solo2 community existed and the Arizona Rally Group was already working on organizing RallyCross. I was one of two safety stewards in our first event. We are now in our fourth season with six events per year.”

Shadbolt encourages everyone to come out and race, “we spend a significant part of our lives driving. We should be good at it and RallyCross events are one way to improve on, and maybe even master car control. Almost any car can compete… but don’t even think about modifying your car for the first six events. If you don’t want to drive your own car, just borrow a Dodge Neon.”

Oh behalf of Shadbolt, Car Street Journal also encourages all rally fans or those interested in rally driving to check out the Arizona Rally Group online or visit to register for the next event and keep yourself and the streets, or barren dirt paths safe.

Photography by Matthew Fink 

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