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MGB Part 1

B for Bargain Published: 13th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MGB Part 1
MGB Part 1 Is a Marina TC engine the same? Generally runs okay
MGB Part 1 We feared the worst but actually the car was sound underneath
MGB Part 1 Small but annoying ding in bonnet trim strip was easily fixed for £12
MGB Part 1 As you can see new dampers have been fitted but there’s trunnion wear
MGB Part 1 The sign of serious rust is this hole on the driver’s side. It needs to be patched
MGB Part 1 New £20 centre console made the interior much more presentable
MGB Part 1 Thorough MOT showed only a few advisory defects
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Are there great classic giveaways any more? We’ve just bought a tidy but MOT-less MGB GT that sounded far too cheap for its own good! Is there a catch asks Alan Anderson…?

What price a classic car? Price guides and accepted values are all well and good but at the end of the day a car – especially a classic – is only worth what somebody is prepared to pay at that moment in time. In other words, would you have given £850 for an MOT-less MGB GT like we did? Spotted at the end of season Battlesbridge classic car show in Essex, it looked fairly forgettable when parked up in a similar line of nicer MGs. But what caught our eyewas the For Sale sign and its price: a princely £1000.

Why so cheap? Agreed, it was the not so popular MK2 ‘black hole grille’ version and the MOT had long been spent, but we’ve seen similar (albeit roadworthy) cars going for double this. At least. After a fairly complete check-over, it (like the owner) seemed honest and straight enough. Apart from the lack of an MOT the only obvious fault was lazy starting (it did fire up eventually) suggesting the batteries were on their last six-volt legs. Going against all the good advice we regularly print on careful vetting and not rushing into things, a deal was quickly struck and for £850 cash, MHK 7J was ours. What’s more our editor, who bought it, doesn’t even particularly like MGBs! So why buy it then? Simple. Call it a gut feeling or huge gamble but we reckoned that a good usable car was here for the taking – and enjoying. It’s no show exhibit and never will be, while concours judges will laugh themselves silly. But we don’t care. Crucially this BGT will be smart and tidy but not afraid of some hard use, plus will also provide the strong basis for some worthwhile and accepted upgrades to make it a fun everyday sports car for – hopefully – a laughable outlay. Does that sound like your idea of a classic car rather than an ornament? Our first mission though was to make it a presentable roadworthy runner – for just £1000 if possible.

What did we get for our easily-parted money?

Alan Anderson takes up the story. What indeed! For the record it’s a 1971 Mk2 GT, fitted with the highly desirable overdrive and folding sunroof options. Whether it’s true or not, the speedo showed 64,000 miles and the V5 boasted just four owners from new; one lady owner keeping it for an impressive 14 years. Apparently. Overall, this is a fairly tidy MGB GT that wouldn’t shame any driveway. The bodywork is straight and true even if the red paint somewhat varies in places. All the usual B rust points seem either sound or well repaired/bodged… The interior is extremely good and save for a missing sunroof handle plinth is all there and should respond well to a scrub up. There’s also a quality antitheft pull out Radiomobile stereo that’s still operative and melodic. All the (sadly badly painted) Ro-style wheels are undamaged and the tyres (a mix of India GTs and Hankook) are almost new. Mechanically the car is equally as fair. Oil pressure reads healthy enough although the engine sounds a little ‘endy’ especially during start up. That’s when it actually decides to leap into life, as this old B Series lump appeared lazy to crank over (more anon) morning non or night. But by far the car’s biggest failings were no go electrics, which comprised of a broken indicator stalk (the bloke bought a replacement at the event’s autojumble prior to us buying the car!), no horn, an equally dead rev counter, only one headlamp willing to light up – and a Kenlowe electric fan that didn’t! In return what we did get was a glovebox full of spare fuses and bulbs… Oh dear.

MOT trauma

The first priority was to get the MGB through its MOT before we could access how good (or bad) it genuinely is. Fitting the new indicator stalk proved straightforward enough, although as it was a later (horn push) type, the older wring had to be cut and swapped to accept the older male connector. Not difficult. That fixed the headlamp flasher, but what about the errant headlight? The car is being ‘repaired’ and run by me. I may be a magazine editor now but previously had to endure a proper job as an electro/mechanical technician many years ago! And in all honestly I’ve never seen such a fire-risk mess on a car in my life. There were wires running here and there or going to nowhere. I ‘pruned’ and taped up an armful of burnt/frayed/discarded wiring to make it safe before I could even carry out any fault finding. Trying to get the offside headlamp to work 24-7 was proving exasperating and it was only when I popped down to the local autostore to purchase a new horn that the proprietor gave me an idea: “Why not just run new wire across the car from the good headlamp to the dodgy one?” It was one of the best eight pounds I’ve spent for quite a long time! Suffice to say that once this ‘bodge’ was done the headlight worked as and when it should rather than when it wanted to. Oh – the only 87 reason that the electric fan wasn’t working was nothing more than the wire running to the fuse box being too short and coming adrift… I’ll come clean here and admit that if I were keeping the car (which I may well do) then I’d seriously consider installing a new loom. As it was I did enough to make it safe and acceptable for the MOT – for the time being you understand.

As anybody who runs an old car knows only too well, the annual MOT test is fairly nerve jangling and never more so when it concerns a motor you’ve only owned for two weeks. Happily our bargain B passed easily enough! Were we pleased or what! Actually, a quick squint while it was up on the ramps made happy viewing. It appears that a previous owner had spent a fair bit on routine maintenance and replaced all four dampers, fitted new front discs and pads plus a installed replacement clutch slave cylinder and petrol pump! It wasn’t all smiles however as the tester marked a few advisory points that need watching: slight surface rust on some brake pipes, a touch of wear on the left hand front lower trunnion that will need looking at soon and a rust hole the size of a Churchill Crown on the driver’s toeboard to be precise. It’s in no way structural but ideally needs to be patched at some point in the future. Cost of getting through the MOT including test? Just £42 so our roadworthy BGT had cost us less than £900 to put on the road. Technically.

And with that the car was towed back home!

Towed? Yes, well you see that in protest to being pronounced legal and fit for service our lazy B refused to start anymore by key alone or even jump starting. After checking all the electrical connections and earthing points (many were a bit ropey I’ll admit) plus – on the advice of one MG specialist – investing in a new pair of six-volters (from Lincon Batteries; original looking yet pack more punch due to modern technology and good value) I finally replaced the starter motor care of Colne Classics of Clacton, who also ran its eye over the car (see separate panel).

What’s it drive like?

We’ll admit that this MGB GT hardly drives like it just rolled off the production line but it’s no old banger either. Although the engine is past its best and pinks like murder, it pulls well and apart from some unwanted gear lever zizz at high revs, the transmission is remarkably serene. The overdrive works, even it does take a while to kick in (lack of use perhaps?). But the best thing about this BGT is how amazingly tight it still feels. There’s no rattles or sloppiness and it handles like an MGB should.

Cosmetic surgery

Apart from making the car fit for the MOT we also tackled some cosmetic surgery to make it look a touch more presentable, such as replacement MG wheel centre caps (£2 each), a new centre console to replace the old broken one (for £20 it’s the later type fitted with a neat courtesy light) and a new chrome strip for the bonnet, costing £12. For the sake of £37, our car looks a lot more presentable. Next will be a full valet from car care experts Autoglym to see if the lads can make our old manky MGB look magnificent…

More Info

Specialist view: ColneClassics

Simon Wilkinson was the first MG specialist to run his critical eye over the car and spotted a number of faults but still reckoned our buy was agood one. Simon pointed out that the MGB was fitted with a Marina TC engine (it’s the same, isn’t it?), there was appreciable play in the transmission, it appears to havehad a touch of bodging with filler to the rear of the car, the passenger door window fouled the rear quarterlight frame (very common on GTs said Simon – due to door hinge drop or even the car’s sills have been incorrectly aligned), very messy electrics (we knew that!) and evidence of local respraying, to name a few defects.

After a test drive he also pronounced that the engine needed a good tune up in unison with a well overdue oil change using quality classic lube plus noted sticking brakes and a slow clutch action; the latter due he reckons to the hose that feeds thenew slave cylinder ballooning and reducing the pressure. But Simon generally felt that it drove well for its age and price and that he had seen a lot, lot worse. “ I know of cars worse than yours that have sold for £2000,” he told us. And with that we drove away pretty happy…

So far so good?

Owning a presentable, roadworthy MGB for just over £1100 all in isn’t a bad deal in anybody’s terms. I’ve already been offered £1350 for the car by one neighbour as it stands, so we’re quids in already but I reckon with a bit more TLC we can push its desirability, usability and value up a fair bit more. So it’s drinks all round? Well not quite. You’ll have to read next month to see how disaster struck. What a ‘rip off’ classic carm motoring can be…

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