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EX176 Engines

Tom Lange Jan, 2021

In addition to the 1,248cc XPAG and 14,66cc XPEG engines used in production T-series MGs, the factory made a third, derivative engine for racing purposes. Although visually identical to the standard 62hp XPEG engine, the EX176 engine (EXperimental Department, project 176) relied on a different cooling system. In most engines coolant passes through matching water passages in block and head, sealed by a head gasket. But the EX176 engine has no water passages cast between head and block, and was intended to be run without a head gasket. Instead, coolant moves through elbows and hoses from an opening in the block's water passage, to a plate-fitting at the back of the cylinder head. This unique feature removed the problem of a blown head gasket, not uncommon but disastrous in a high-compression racing engine. The head and block surfaces needed to be perfectly matched, which was carried out by apprentices lapping them with very fine grinding compound in figure-8 patterns, for 14 hours! It was said at the time that these engines produced over 100hp, and could be made to put out nearly 150; most were probably in the 125hp range.

Very little factory information survives about these engines; the Experimental ledger indicates that they were intended for America, and the majority of them did indeed come to the US. (One RHD TD car was produced by the factory with an EX176 engine, no doubt for a special customer, and another TD was privately fitted with an EX176 engine in the UK, at some point before the 70's.) The vast majority of these engines came to the US, although how and when is also not known, and they successfully powered various different race cars in California, including David Ash’s beautiful Motto MG’s. But the best known of these EX176-powered cars were Ken Miles' brilliant R1 and R2; Miles was Service Manager at Gough Motors in Los Angeles, through whom most of these engines seem to have been sourced. Miles, a superb driver and technician, was also involved with the greatest MG triumph of the time, when EX179, a factory MG streamliner driven by George Eyston with an EX176 engine, set out to break land speed records in 1954, on the Bonneville Salt Flats. With Miles on the crew Eyston set a new land speed record for Class F cars of 1,100-1,500cc at 153 mph, and also averaged 120.74 mph. for twelve hours. All told, the car set seven International and 28 American Class F records. (The car, still called EX179, was later fitted with a BMC “B” engine, and ran again with great success at Bonneville in 1956.) Kjell Qvale once noted that Miles was so frustrated at receiving no pay for his Bonneville service that he “appropriated” the remaining Bonneville stand-by EX176 engines to sell. Some 25 of the perhaps 50 EX176 engines made are known today, some still successfully campaigned in vintage race cars, a large enough number that surely disproves Qvale's memory.

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