This MGB GT Is The BRG King Of San Luis Obispo
Photography by Courtney Cutchen
Every now and then, I’m met with the opportunity to photograph something completely different from my norm. When Ted emailed me about an MGB GT located just north of San Luis Obispo, I was immediately interested. This is the first MG I’ve ever photographed, believe it or not. So there I was, given the chance to jump in my car, road trip down to SLO, and meet a stranger at his house to talk about his little, green car. How could I say no?
As much as I loved the car, its owner, Chuck, was an amazing person to converse with. I’m used to meeting people who are passionate about their cars, but Chuck is one of those individuals who just ignites at the subject of these charming, British autos. It’s in his blood, and it’s very apparent when talking to him.
I was welcomed into his home as if I was a friend just stopping by to visit. He was enormously enthusiastic about the car and the shoot, and provided an exciting walk-around to showcase his build. It’s always relieving to me to work with someone who I can just click with. It was refreshing to hear his perspective on things, as well. Take a look!
Courtney Cutchen: Chuck, how long have you been building and restoring cars?
Chuck Wyke: Since 1977.
CC: That’s a long time. What exactly got you into MGBs?
CW: I bought one in ’89 from Peter at British Sports Cars in San Luis Obispo. I was really disappointed in the car at first, but then I breathed on it with my own personal mods and fell in love with it.
CC: When we spoke on the phone before shooting your car, you mentioned that this was your 10th or 11th MGB restoration – what have you learned in all that time of working on them?
CW: Well, eleven MGBs total, six of them for me. Until the Miata came out, MG boasted the most heavily produced sports cars – about 500,000 made between 1963 and 1980. Subsequently, there are still a lot of them out there on the market. This makes them cheap to buy and for the most part, cheap to work on and buy parts for. You get a lot of bang for your buck, and that works for me.
CC: Are there any particularly special elements to these cars, in your opinion?
CW: The cars themselves, they have a lot of charm with their chrome gauges, thin, oversized steering wheels, and low tech, simple layout. Not so fast as to get you in trouble, but just enough to have fun.
CC: Tell me a little bit about this car in particular. I’m not an expert with this chassis, but it seems there are a lot of small things you’ve done to make it exactly your own. Can you elaborate?
CW: This car was taken down about 90%. I did all the work myself at home. The body—between low profile tires and springs— has been lowered three inches. Rear hatch handle, reverse lights, and front turn signals have been shaved off, and the front and rear fender moldings were removed and filled. Same with the front air vent. The bulge on the hood was added for aesthetics but has no real function. The grill opening was modified to a alternative shape by my design, and includes a badge that I hand fabricated. The vents at the front and rear fenders were also added by hand for aesthetic purposes; same with the canards on the lower valence. There’s no radio and no antenna, and I painted the bumpers to match up with the wheels. Hopefully it’s tastefully done without being too over the top.
As for the interior, the dash and console are from a ’74, and were redesigned for more gauges. The suspension side of things leaves us with simple, stock shocks. As I said, the tire and spring combination have given the car about a three inch drop. It’s got a larger front sway bar, stock brakes (with the exception of drilled and slotted rotors), and a vacuum assist brake booster added.
See that little hand device on the shifter? The car has a six speed overdrive transmission with a shift handle activation switch. The engine was rebuilt with a ported head, mild street cam, electronic ignition, cold air induction, and various other items.
CC: That’s a lot of work for a build that looks so understated. I’m a fan of those cars that are all about the details, and it’s admirable that you’ve done all this work yourself out of your home garage. What’s it drive like?
CW: This car handles great and has spirited performance. With that said, it’s about as fast as a stock Civic, but a whole lot more fun to drive.
CC: So you’re definitely one for spirited driving, as I can gather. With that in mind, do you prefer to have a car that’s more for looks, or one that you can thrash around a bit and not worry about?
CW: Looks are definitely most important to me. With a few exceptions—like the Datsun 510—I prefer cars with curves. However, I also like drivers that can be pushed with spirit. No show queens. Like most enthusiasts here on Petrolicious, I believe that cars were meant to be driven and not stored.
CC: Couldn’t agree more. So then, what’s next? You mentioned having a liking for Datsun trucks and 510s – do you think one of those could be in your future?
CW: I don’t know if there will be a next. It probably won’t be a Datsun unless one just happens to drop in my lap. If I had a choice, I would like to have a 1974 Alfa Romeo GTV. They’re going for about $40,000 – $50,000 fully restored now. So, unless I happen upon a cheap barn find, it’s a little too rich for my blood.