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Published: 5th Mar 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


Buyer Beware

Rust is the main concern and you’ll find rbs bodged more than chrome cars due to their lower values. Sills are notorious. If the door windows clip the rear post then that’s a sign of poorly fitted sills.

Look for soft inner wings (press) the panel in the engine bay as a quick check and while you are there inspect the chassis where the steering rack is located. This can stress crack. Check the back of the front inner wheelarches, and while you’re checking the rear wheelarches, also take a look at the spring hangers, which may well be rotten.

Swapping those rubber bumpers (that add 70lb to the car’s weight) isn’t a simple job as there’s some fairly major bodywork surgery involved. It can be costly too if a professional does it; £1500 perhaps.

The B-Series engine isn’t normally all that quiet, with tappet noise evident even when set up properly. With the engine at tickover there should be 15-25psi oil pressure and at 3000rpm this should rise to 50-65psi.

If the engine isn’t burning the lubricant, it’s probably leaking it. First places to check are the front and rear crankshaft seals, and replacing the latter means removing the engine first. Also look at the tappet chest side covers behind the exhaust manifold for leaks.

These later emission-strangled engines are prone to running on and ‘pinking’ under load so don’t be overly concerned about this, unless it’s really bad.

Overdrive doesn’t really give problems although the electrics can play up and the oil level can fall below the minimum, both of which will stop it working.

Unless lubricated every 3000 miles the suspension wears, kingpins usually cost £50 each plus fitting. The front wishbone bushes also perish and collapse. Some say dampers and springs wear out quicker than ‘chrome’ MGBs – perhaps due to strain of higher ride height?

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Why it’s time to stop erasing a rubber bumper MGB from your thoughts as a classic worth owning

Take the evergreen MGB, add thick rubber bumpers and jack up the suspension to vertigo inducing heights and what do you have? Quite possibly the best one for you needs and certainly your pocket! Ever since it was launched almost 40 years ago, this MGB has been given a bad press and short shrift among enthusiasts. So at Classic Motoring we feel it’s time to set the record straight.


Blame the Yanks for messing up our MGB. To meet ever stringent US crash laws for 1975, the 13 year-old design needed serious redeveloping and the installation of crash-proof bumpers. Predictably BL was skint, so MG had to bodge it by simply jacking up the ride height by a whopping 1.5inches to bring the front bumper height to the required level. Re-cambered road springs were fitted and the anti-roll bars deleted on the Roadster.

To many the rubber bumper MGB’s history ends right here but that’s not the whole story and in fact many long overdue improvements were dialled in at the same time. Take the adoption – at long last – of a proper 12-volt battery instead of the expensive twin six volt jobs. Also, the electric petrol pump was now relocated from its underside position to the boot area and smarter MGBGTV8 instruments were fitted. The later the car, the better it became. By September 1975, the body panels below the bumpers were black painted and a year later, a rather neat GT badge finally, neatly masked an ugly body moulding seam.

The biggest change occurred that September for 1977 year cars when at last MG did something to put some sting back in the poor old B and improve the seriously spoiled handling qualities, which were never that high in the first place. Anti roll bars were reinstated in conjunction with older -type six leaf rear springs. A slightly lower steering ratio to allow a smaller steering wheel to be used; 3.5 instead of 2.9 lock-to-lock, made the steering appreciably lighter.

These revisions by and large put back what was lost in terms of handling while installation of an electric cooling fan saved a couple of welcome bhp too as well as cutting down the intrusive fan din. And hallelujah, the dash-mounted overdrive switch was relocated on the gear lever so you didn’t need to use both hands to swap cogs anymore…

Other changes included a neater dashboard with improved heater controls, better quality carpets and even a glove box that you didn’t need a key to operate – something owners moaned about for 15 years! Roadsters benefited from a better hood with a zip-out rear window while tinted glass now adorned the GT.

For 1979,  door speakers were fitted as standard and the wiring was altered to accept an optional stereo. Special alloy wheels – fitted to US cars – became optional with 185/70 x 14 tyres. A year later, 1980 rear fog lamps were fitted under the bumper.

Nothing major then and certainly not significant enough to actively go and buy a specific year car, although the suspension mods for 1977 are very welcome, not least dual circuit brakes.

By far the best rubber-bumper Bs are the run of special editions to celebrate both car and company, the latter which celebrates 90 years during 2014. The first was the 1975 Anniversary; a BRG GT with gold side-flashes, golden – coloured V8 wheels with 175 section tyres,  a gold Octagon for the steering wheel boss, better carpets, tinted glass and standard overdrive. Some 750 were made. To mark the end of an era, 1100 LEs were sold: 420 Roadsters and 580 GTs, all identified by their metallic paint, front spoiler (that really suited the car well) spoked alloy wheels (some 200 cars were fitted with wire wheels) and unique side stripes down the lower flanks.

These are the rubbers worth their higher values because in general ‘rbs’ lag some way behind ‘chrome’ cars and we can see this gap increasing now the chrome 1974 cars fall into the revised VED tax let off – all rbs have to pay their way on the road.

But look what bargains they remain – you can pick up a pretty decent GT for around £2500 and a great car for less than double this and we’ve yet to see even a top-notch Roadster touch five figures – projects on the other hand still go for a grand or even less.

You can convert rubbered cars to chrome but it’s involved and costly to do properly. More importantly it doesn’t make it a true chrome car say MG specialists so shouldn’t command higher prices.


We know what you’re thinking – just how dire were these MGBs? Make no mistake, hoisting the suspension seriously impaired the B’s already old fashioned handling, making the car wallow and roll excessively. The 1977 rehash did improve matters considerably and returned the status quo although they are never as sharp and predictable as ‘chrome bumper’ cars.

As Autocar put it in a 1977 test of the updates: “They are reminiscent of the facelift on an ageing film star – they cannot hide all the cracks”.

But it depends what you want from your MGB. If it’s just to quietly cruise then you may find the raised height set up more to your liking as it made the ride more comfortable at speed. By the same token, the new steering ratio is lighter.

Road tests at the time had a BGT struggling to 60mph in 14 seconds and barely topping the ton, the result of those bumpers adding a hefty 70lb to the MGB’s weight plus further emission-led strangulation to the B-Series lump.

Thankfully, that impressive low speed pulling torque remained intact, and it is still this MG’s saving grace on modern roads. The overdrive switch relocated to the top of the gear knob means that you can work those handy six ratios by a single hand!

Another area rubber bumper Bs score over earlier cars is in the cockpit, which was steadily improved up right until the car’s demise. The added ride height (if it remains, as many cars were subsequently lowered by their owners) certainly makes getting in and out a bit easier for the elderly and they ride those nasty road bumps better.


At the risk of repeating ourselves from the last section, you simply can’t go wrong with an MGB. Everything that you need from a washer to a new bodyshell are available off the shelf and its simple design is made for DIY maintenance, which should always include liberal use of the grease gun on the front suspension to keep the trunnions okay. Add electronic ignition to do away with contact breaker points maintenance along with good quality larger-gapped spark plugs – perhaps with a sports coil to make for fatter sparks – and you’re laughing.

A yearly inspection of the car’s underside and inner wings together with a spray of anti-rust agents is a wise move and you should expect a Roadster to ship in some water during heavy rain so keep an eye on the floorpans. Apart from this, the MGB is okay to be used all year round.

You don’t need to needless flashing the plastic to give this MG more sting. Start with the suspension and after making sure it’s okay (many aren’t), lowering it back to original height is the first step although you may need to remove the rear anti roll bar to prevent it being too darty. Uprated springs and dampers are desirable. A fuller account of how to tune an MGB appeared in last month’s issue. Back copies are available.


Along with the likes of the Morris Minor and the Mini, there can’t be an easier or more suitable classic to put to daily use. Even a standard car has enough poke for today’s cut and thrust. and on good tyres handles and brakes acceptably within its limits.

Many cars are modified to some degree which makes them even more suited while the GT, with its plus two seating, usable hatchback, snug, comfy interior, decent heater and perhaps heated rear window (worth fitting) is a good all year rounder.

Overdrive is essential on any MGB and easily retrofitted. It’s as good as a five-speed conversion and makes for equally calm cruising – or it would be if windnoise, even on the GT, wasn’t so loud above 60mph. Best invest in a good stereo?

We Reckon...

It’s time to give rubber bumper MGBs their due. Yes, the revisions hardly did this much-loved sports car any favours but many of the criticisms relevant when contemporary are of less significance as a classic car. They still offer all that’s good about this MG but at bargain prices. As a starter classic or just a cheapie to daily drive in, they take some beating. So don’t erase the thought of owning a rubber bumper MGB from your mind just yet…

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