When you break five Spridget gearboxes in 18 months, the cause can be considered more than heavy-handed driving. Tim Fenna started racing soon after he passed his driving test and the standard MG 'box couldn’t cope. So, the young engineer converted a Toyota gearbox to use instead. It worked a treat, the press loved it, orders flooded in and Frontline was born.
The robust gearbox then showed up the weakness in the rest of the car. Tim sought more power, better suspension, handling and brakes, and over time, he delivered. Essentially, Tim and his team made the car the original MG engineers always wanted to make, but using more modern, exacting and high-performance technologies. In fact, when reviewed by the late Don Hayter the original Chief Engineer of the MGB, he stated, "This is the car we always wanted to build."
Frontline was born in 1991 to develop MG drivetrains for race-proven reliability. By 1997 Frontline was a fully established performance parts supply operation and thirteen years later the company relocated to Abingdon and the former Benetton F1 factory where the Company is based to this day. It was in Abingdon that the restoration services flourished, many incorporating upgraded Frontline components. Ultimately, the aim was to build complete 'Restomod' MGBs - to offer an MGB without comprise. It took 10 years of hard graft, but the result was the LE50: an ultimate MGB of their own. And it was an instant hit.
Despite the LE50's performance prowess, some customers wanted even more performance. The result was the Abingdon roadster: an ultimate, optimised version of the Mazda-powered LE50. BBC Top Gear presenter and show host/DJ Chris Evans voted it the finest car he had driven during the whole Top Gear season. So, the Abingdon sold out very quickly, demonstrating the demand for MGBs that could perform as well as almost any modern car. And so the Abingdon factory grew.
During these expansion years Ed Braclik was partner to Tim Fenna, masterminding the sales and promotion aspects to the business from 2008 to 2021. Ed had been an early Frontline customer and 'bought in' to such an extent that he ended up a pivotal influence in the Company's growth. With Maggie Patston running the office and admin since 1995, staff loyalty has played a core role in the Frontline story.
Customer relationships are close at Frontline and such a personal service fuelled international sales which grew majorly, Frontline LE50s, Abingdon Editions and Bespoke Editions being sold all over the world. By the time the LE50 and Abingdon were sold out well over 100 Frontline MGs had been made.
Today Frontline enters a new era, presenting the LE60 V8 GT and the Electric Edition 'BEE' - two very different cars. The LE60 is the ultimate vision of a MGB Grand Tourer with pace, agility and character in abundance; the BEE is an electric B (B Electric Edition) and shows how electric cars can be thrilling to drive, too.
Over 30 years on, Frontline has built a formidable reputation for building classics that are beautifully engineered, exquisitely made pure drivers' cars. Every Edition is created with passion and in full pursuit of perfection.
The Pininfarina-styled MGB was the ubiquitous British sportscar. Over half a million were built from 1962-80 and, although designed to a low budget and built to a questionable quality standard, every one of them brought glamour, practicality and joy to its enthusiastic owner.
MGBs were also easy to work on, and even today officially sanctioned original machinery reproduces original body shells. So, the market was strong for a much-improved MGB: for the kind of car the MG engineers originally dreamed of building, before the money men got involved... And Tim Fenna took on the challenge, creating one of the very first 'restomod' classic cars: that is a much improved and thoroughly modernised version of an existing classic car.
While other 'restomod' firms took high quality, exotic cars as the 'basis' vehicles - Porsches, E-type Jaguars, Mercedes - Tim was determined to evolve the MGB into something world beating. It was light, popular, pretty and the basic design was terrific. And there were modern engines from Mazda that suited the vision perfectly...
So, Frontline MGs were to be far more than dressed-up or accessorised 'restomods': they were to rebuilt to ultimate standards, from all aspects of the engineering (drivetrain, suspension, brakes, rigidity) to door shut-lines, panel seams and every detail. Taking a lead from the finest custom and coachbuilding traditions and combining them with cutting-edge race-bred engineering, the result is a Frontline MG: high performance cars like no others in the world.
There is probably no other company that takes a 50-60 year old low-cost, mass-produced sports car and turns out into a model the fits perfectly into the modern world. Moreover, a car that is an icon and heirloom - something to treasure forever.
As any classic car owner knows, modern cars are built to far better standards and impressive levels of efficiency and reliability. However, modern cars are also often very boring indeed.
At Frontline, the charisma and appeal of the original MGB is fundamentally imbued into the brilliance of the modernised tech. Moreover, all the rough edges and compromises are painstakingly removed. Even the paintwork is several times as thick, and takes hundreds of hours to perfect. And the interior is more akin to a fine glove than sports car vinyl of old…
Above all, it’s a very personal process. The customer is involved at every stage from conception and commission to creation and refining: it’s a happy and rewarding journey in the making.