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Published: 31st May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


Buyer Beware

  • The deciding factor is always the condition of the body, the hidden structure as well as the outer panels. Front wings are bolt-on items that cost less than £300 new, but rear wings are more difficult to repair as they are welded on.
  • From 1970, bonnets were made of steel and rust at both front and rear corners. Prior to this they were aluminium, and are more likely to be dented as a result.
  • Rust in the boot floor usually extends to the rear spring hangers and chassis legs underneath and repair is an involved job.
  • Rust in the front bulkhead is not easy to repair properly, and might ignite dreams of areplacement Heritage shell.
  • Cover sills (look for poor seams where the ends tuck behind the wings) and plated castle rails (the U-shaped channel under the floor just inboard of the sills) are both bad news, suggesting major rot has been covered up rather than properly repaired.
  • Mechanical problems should not be a worry, so long as you cost the repairs and factor this into the price. Perhaps the only exception is the early three-synchro gearbox, for which parts are getting scarce. Converting to a later foursynchro box requires major body modifications.
  • Interior trim is all available and reasonably cheap, although a full retrim can still soak up the best part of a grand.
  • Avoid serious competition modifications for regular use, but telescopic damper conversions and uprated anti-roll bars improve the ride and the handling a good deal.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 3/5

    Not fast but adequate; handling antiquated but fun

  • Usability: 4/5

    Probably one of the most user-friendly classics around

  • Maintaining: 4/5

    As simple as an old bike and well within most capabilities

  • Owning: 4/5

    Couldn’t be easier or cheaper with vast specialist back up

  • Value: 4/5

    Usually good but some overpriced junk so shop around

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It’s the archetypal British sports car - tough, entertaining and timeless. But what is the MGB Roadster like to live with on a daily basis and is it your sort of sportster? Simon Goldsworthy investigates

The MGB is a remarkable car. Just consider the statistics: in production at the start of the Swinging Sixties, it lasted 28 years before finally bowing out in 1980 as Margaret Thatcher was bringing about her vision of utopian Britain. In that time, no fewer than 386,961 B Roadsters left the Abingdon lines. And after the factory closed, the B fuelled the growth of a remarkable industry geared solely to maintaining, improving and recreating the breed. Yes, some people will sneer that the MGB is ‘boring’, but that is merely blinkered nonsense brought about by the characteristic British fear of success. The MGB deserves to be at the top of the shopping list for anybody who is looking for a classic sports car that is practical and affordable as well as stylish. This is what you will get.

Which model to buy?

For a car that was in production for 28 years, the MGB changed remarkably little. The biggest visual change came with the introduction of the plastic bumpers for the 1975-model year. These are often slated in the press, but a minority of enthusiasts prefer them to chrome and they are well suited particularly to white, black and yellow cars and better motorway cruisers. Post-1977 cars were better to drive initially, but few of the early cars will still be running in unmodified form. All rubber bumper cars will be cheaper to buy, more resilient to knocks and slightly easier for occupants with aching joints to get in and out. Of the earlier chrome bumper Bs, few people go looking for one model or another and the decision usually comes down to the best car they can find for their budget in a colour they like. Having said that, the early threebearing cars are probably too rare to be considered as a daily driver and any B without overdrive will be tiring on long journeys. Given a straight choice, most people would plump for the early all-chrome grille as their favourite, with the chrome-and-honeycomb affair from late 1972 running it a close second. The gaping-mouth recessed grille does have a period charm though, particularly when allied to a body colour chosen from the Seventies palette of oranges, reds, browns and beiges.

Behind the wheel?

For a car that was in production for 28 years, the MGB changed remarkably little

First impressions are that the MGB is a typical sports car. Climbing in is a trifle undignified for anybody over 40 years old, and once ensconced behind the wheel you sit with your bum seemingly inches above the road and your legs stretched almost horizontally out in front. But you soon notice that this is not the cramped cabin of lesser rivals and settle in quickly. There is enough elbow room to mean you don’t have to be on intimate terms with your passenger, and even a Queen’s Guardsman will be able to slide the seat back far enough to get comfortable. And in an age when modern cars are designed ever more closely around a mythical average driver, those who are more vertically endowed than others will still find enough room for their bonce when the roof is up. The MGB was a decent performer in its day, but that day was some decades ago and most modern shopping superminis will be able to out-perform it on paper. Yet those paper figures are virtually meaningless in the real world. There are almost unlimited tuning modifications available to the B thanks to the popularity of historic racing, but even in standard trim it more than holds its own on the B-road hustle. It will bounce you around a bit though, an inevitable consequence of the classic suspension in a car that is both low and light and one that can be exacerbated by careless uprating. It is fun rather than teeth-crunching though, and you have to be pushing on pretty hard before provoking the tail into a very controllable slide if you carry too much speed into the corners. On A-roads and motorways, the B is equally capable. In a car fitted with overdrive, the engine will bespinning at a leisurely 3000rpm at 60mph and still only around 4000rpm at 80mph, making light work of long distances. The steering is obviously going to be heavier than most modern cars with their power assistance, but it is still light enough not to be character-forming even at parking speeds. And if you really must have your mechanical aids, a powered rack is an aftermarket option. Standard brakes are perfectly adequate, although they do require a firm shove on the pedal. If that unnerves you, then the servo fitted from 1974 lightens the load and this can be retro-fitted to earlier cars. Better pads are an easy upgrade and vented discs are a bolt-on replacement for added stopping power, but even in a standard car you are likely to lock up the front wheels before the anchors run out of grip - fitting modern and stickier rubber could be all you need for improved confidence. Travelling with the roof up is reasonably civilised at speed.

Visibility is good too, but only if the plastic rear screen is clear - driving one where you can see nothing out the back will unnerve anyone except lorry drivers who are used to it. But most people buy a Roadster because they want the top down. The heater will be able to keep your feet warm when cruising al fresco at 50- 60mph, but pressing on at higher speeds will have the onrushing air whipping through the cabin faster than the heater can warm it. It will still manage to keep the screen clear, but especially in winter you’ll need to make your own arrangements when it comes to personal comfort - lots of layers and a warm hat! Fitting a removable hardtop (£200-300 secondhand) in winter will give you a glass rear window and cut down on wind noise, but there’ll be no going spontaneously topless on those glorious winter days when the sky is as blue as the frost is crisp.

The Daily Option?

The MGB was a decent performer in its day, but that day was some decades ago and most modern shopping superminis will be able to out-perform it on paper

The MGB is such a popular classic choice because it simply ticks all the right boxes. It is cheap enough to consider as a daily driver, and it doesn’t arouse the same kind of jealousy in others that something like a Porsche or Jaguar can. Everything you need to keep a B running sweetly is freely available. Heck, the supply is so good that you buy everything you need to rebuild a complete wreck and the many competing suppliers ensure that parts are excellent value. The slightlyantiquated running gear is perfect for regular use, too. There is nothing complex under that timeless skin and the B-series engine is like a faithful Labrador - always willing, eager to please and with a lazy torque that is a million miles away from the high-strung tantrums of other exotica. It might take a few miles before you can push in the manual choke, but once warmed up a well-sorted MGB will be as docile in the stop-start of the commuter crawl as it is on the open roads you bought it for.

Ease of Ownership?

As we have already noted, it is quite possible to buy a wreck of an MGB and restore it at home to better-thannew condition - the parts are available and nothing is beyond the capability of the competent DIY mechanic. It can be cheaper to buy one that somebody else has already spent the time and money on, although you are then taking a gamble on the quality of their work. But it would be wrong to think that you could buy a good ‘un and use it everyday with the same lack of attention that most owners lavish on a new car. Ask yourself whether you feel comfortable peering under the bonnet of a car, whether you know what a grease gun is (and how to use it!). Because although anybody can service a B, it will be more maintenanceintensive than a modern Eurohatch. Engines can be modified to run on unleaded petrol, which is one less thing to worry about. But oil and filter changes every 6000 miles, valve clearances that need measuring every12,000 and contact breaker base plates that need lubricating to keep the timing spot-on all go with the territory of running a classic. Are you willing to put in the effort? The whole experience will be so much more rewarding if you do.



Production starts in May of the MGB, a monocoque successor to the separate-chassis MGA. Official launch takes place in September. Engine is new 1798cc stretch of the B series engine with three main bearings, fourspeed gearbox has synchromesh on top three ratios only.


Factory hardtop is available by the start of the year, with overdrive joining the options list in January.


Stronger five-bearing crank developed for the Austin 1800 in September found its way into the MGB a month later.


Pull-out door handles are changed for push-button items on safety grounds. Stylish GT fastback version is introduced


June/July the stronger and quieter axle first seen on the GT communised on roadster. MkII MGB arrives in November, with a new all-synchro gearbox developed for the MGC.Wider transmission tunnel needed to accommodate this makes room for unpopular automatic option.


The 1970 model year arrives with a ‘Ford style’ recessed matt black grille, squarer and bolder rear lights and vinyl seat faces instead of leather. British Leyland badges added to each front wing…


The 1971 model year changes include a new design of folding hood with slightly better aerodynamics.


Late in the year, the MkIII is introduced with few modifications.


October sees the unveiling of the 1973 model year. Unpopular recessed grille is replaced by the original chrome surround married to a black plastic honeycomb centre


September sees the arrival of black plastic bumpers and a raised ride height of over an inch to comply with legislation in the crucial North American market. Anti-roll bar is omitted to save weight, and handling suffers as a result.


Overdrive becomes standard from Jun


Raft of improvements include dual circuit brakes, new anti-roll bars and a lower geared steering rack. Interior revisions include the provision of striped 'deck-chair' fabric for the seats and an overdrive switch moved to the more logical position of the gear stick knob. Final 'British Leyland' badge disappears in December (from the nearside front wing).


Last car is produced at Abingdon, and the factory is closed in October.


First Heritage body shell is unveiled in April.


First MG RV8 is show to the public, based on a Heritage MGB shell with styling tweaks and Rover's V8 engine. Production continues until November 1995.

We Reckon...

Although hardly cutting edge, exclusive or road burning the MGB holds great appeal. There isn’t a more user-friendly sports classic around and they are easy-peasy to maintain and repair. B’s are more than a classic car; they have become a way of life.

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