Canadian Corner (Volume XIII, Issue 1 - January 2005)

by: Graham Creswick

The idea of an MGB V8 was subliminally ingrained into my subconscious at an early age and for a long time it rested dormant. It started while I was attending university in Hamilton back in '68 and owned a '64 "B" roadster as my first daily driver. I happened to stop at the local BMC dealer down on Barton Street, (now defunct Gulliver Motors), and was awed by a '67 blue MGB GT sitting in the showroom with a sign that read "re-powered w/Ford 289 engine", apparently converted by a Hot Rod shop in St. Catherine's and, as I remember, sitting on Shelby Cobra style Halibrand knockoffs. Although I didn't take time to scrutinize the conversion or the $3500 asking price, I did recollect thinking of the performance that it must have had.

Fast forward to the year 2000: I had just sold my restored '67 Jag MK2 and was contemplating the next project, when a combination of friendly discussion and events made the direction clear - a V8 powered MGB. Attendance at the Cleveland V8 meet, a chance to talk with Kurt Schley, Dan LaGrou, Rick Ingram and others and the purchase of Roger Williams' excellent "How to Convert..." book armed me with the knowledge to start the process.

The complete ground up Olds 215 conversion, on a 1976 "B" basket case hauled back from Dallas, took me about 2 years, but that included conversion to chrome bumper, fuel tank relocation for dual exhaust and some other niceties. For two seasons after completion, the car performed very well and had been a joy to drive but there was that missing ingredient that was hard to quantify.

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Oldsmobile 215
(Oldsmobile 215)

Was it the "old technology" of the engine and its idiosyncrasies (like exhaust manifold bolts threaded into water galleries, that leaky rear main seal or the noisier than normal valve train), was it the fact that 3.5 liter fuel injected engines were becoming commonplace in new vehicles or that a mundane looking Honda sedan could be purchased off the showroom floor with 240hp. It wasn't until I read Steve Carrick's "302 conversion" article in the January 2002 British V8 Newsletter where he stated "start with the engine of your dreams" that it became clear that that missing ingredient was the increased horsepower that a modern Ford small block engine offered.

Ford 302
(Ford 302)

The rest, they say, is history. I managed to persuade Steve to let me drive "Barney" and the die was cast. By the time the 2005 convention in Terre Haute rolls around, I'll have the Ford 302HO installed. Details of the conversion could be the gist of another article in a future publication of the Newsletter.

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