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The B’s Knees Published: 5th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


Fast Facts

  • Best model: Roadster
  • Worst model: Rubber bumper
  • Budget buy: Rubber bumper GT
  • OK for unleaded?: Needs additive
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 153in x 60in (1962 Roadster)
  • Spares situation: Excellent
  • Club support: Superb
  • Appreciating asset?: Easing up these days
Trusty B-Series is bombproof. Check inner wings under the bonnet for ‘softness’ meaning serious rot Trusty B-Series is bombproof. Check inner wings under the bonnet for ‘softness’ meaning serious rot
Steering wheel too big for most but every piece of trim is readily available for period or customised look Steering wheel too big for most but every piece of trim is readily available for period or customised look
Most desirable MGB of them all is chrome bumper roadster although hood on early cars was fi ddly and time consuming to errect Most desirable MGB of them all is chrome bumper roadster although hood on early cars was fi ddly and time consuming to errect
Least loved but great value is the rubber bumper range Least loved but great value is the rubber bumper range
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Stylish, inexpensive to buy and run, great fun and much loved, everybody should own an MGB at some point in their lives

Pros & Cons

Style, character, ease of running, cost effectiveness
Moderate performance and handling, too common for some

With the exception of the Mazda MX-5, the MGB is the world’s best selling sportster – and for lots of good reasons. With its straightforward mechanicals, superb parts availability and low running costs,this is one of the most usable sporty classics ever, and one that’s ably supported by some excellent clubs. In short, it’s the most sensible classic sports car on the block, albeit hardly the most exclusive.


Henry Ford ii bought the last mgb shipped to the united states

The MGB’s launch in September 1962 was a seminal moment for this famous sports car maker. The new car was a radical break from its old sports ranges (and not before time too), featuring not only fresh styling that still looks good even today, but also unitary construction bodywork. Like its predecessor however, the B was powered by the familiar four-cylinder, BMC B-Series engine (after a proposed V4 was ditched on costs grounds), now expanded to 1800cc twin-carb tune and giving a quoted 95bhp.

The rest of the running gear was entirely orthodox too, with coil and wishbone type front suspension, lever style damping, rack and pinion steering, semi-elliptic rear leaf springs, and a front disc/rear drum braking system. Pressed steel or wire wheels held onto 14inch 165 tyres. All this for a pound under £950 looked decent value. Laycock overdrive as an option (January 1963) was an early amendment, as was replacing the three main bearing engine for sturdier, sweeter (albeit slightly slower) fi ve main bearing unit in October 1964. But the biggest news was the introduction of the ‘two plus two’ fastback GT a year later. Dubbed a poor mans’ Aston, the good looking, well proportioned fastback body featured a hatchback facility before it even became remotely fashionable, and the rear seats could be folded to provide additional luggage space. Somewhat heavier than the MGB, it featured a front anti-roll bar, stiffer springs and 5J rims as a result.

The only real change for ’66 was the Roadster gaining the same front anti-roll bar, but a year later saw the Mk2 introduced, benefiting from an all-synchro gearbox, or optional three-speed automatic transmission. An alternator along with negative earth also featured, while those nice early door handles were replaced with recessed types. October ’69 saw a new frontal styling, said to take its cues from the Ford Mustang (a lot of Ford staff made an exodus to British Leyland…), with Rostyle wheels just one of the other changes.

Mechanically, the only real difference was a lower axle ratio for automatic versions toimprove a hardly distinguished performance. Mark III versions (October 1971) gained cloth seats and the traditional chrome front grille was back for ’73, but the biggest chang of the 1970s came in October ’74, when the MGB lost its soul. Chromed bumpers were dumped in favour of energy-absorbing ‘rubber’ types, along with an increase of one inch in the ride height to appease US crash standards. Sadly the BL money pot was empty so MG engineers, who prided themselves in their skills, had to take the brutal bodge of simply fi tting special raising blocks to bring the front bumper height to the required level and re-cambering the rear springs. The anti-roll bars were deleted on the Roadster for some obscure reason, magnifying the problem, but GT-type seven leaf rear springs were fitted as compensation. Whatever, the once predictable handling of the MG was totally ruined.

There were some real benefi ts though. A proper 12-volt battery was fi tted, the electric petrol pump was relocated from its underside position to the boot area and GTV8 instruments were fi tted. By September ’75, the body panels below the bumpers were sprayed in black to tidy up appearances while in ’76, a neat GT badge was designed to fi t by the rear windows to mask a body moulding seam. The biggest revise occurred that September for ’77 year cars. At last MG did something to put some sting back in the B with the refi tting of both front and rear anti-roll bars for the Roadster (along with older six leaf rear springs) and GT in conjunction with a slightly lower steering ratio to allow a smaller steering wheel to be used. An electric cooling fan saved a couple of welcome bhp and reduced the mechanical thrash of the now ancient engine. Moving the dash-mounted overdrive switch to a neater gear lever top location was not a moment too soon. The dashboard was redesigned with a more modern look, better heater controls, tinted glass on the GTs, better quality carpets and even a glove box that you didn’t need now a key to operate!

Roadsters also benefi ted from a better hood with a zip-out rear window. For 1979 the car received altered wiring and standard door speakers to accept an optional stereo, the instrument faces were standardised and special alloy wheels – as seen on US cars – were made an option, sitting on 185/70 x14 tyres. In 1980 rear fog lamps were fi tted under the bumper. In the US, the very last MGB was bought by…Henry Ford II no less. But for classic B lovers the big news must have been the arrival of the Heritage bodyshell in 1988 – a move ensuring that no matter how rotten a B became, it was never going to be beyond saving.


An oldie (in terms of design) even when new, the MGB became archaic by the time it was dropped almost two decades later in 1980. Already gaining classic status by then, time, as they say, is a great healer and the inherent classical feel of the MGB – which was so slated by the 1970s – is now a mainstay of the car’s appeal. MGBs aren’t fast or particularly fl eet of foot, but what it lacks in speed and cornering precision it makes up for in utter predictability and userfriendliness; you can have fun even at 30mph in this sports car. That much-needed revise for 1977 with the reintroduction of (thicker) anti-roll bars together with a slightly lower geared steering to lighten the heavy tiller, put back a lot of what was lost a few years earlier and there’s an enormous amount you can do to make an MGB perform very well – whatever your budget (see
separate section). The MG’s real saving grace on today’s roads is a lorry load of low speed torque; the complete antidote to modern 16-valve screamers? Pace isn’t great; 0-60mph was as tardy as 14 seconds according to Autocar in its 1977 test, but in terms of comfort and refinement the car is still pretty civilised for touring purposes.

Overdrive is virtually essential as it cuts down the engine revs and aids economy (up to 30mpg isn’t unrealistic) although the legal limit is always a fussy affair due to excessive wind noise. Hoods on early cars were fiddly and time consuming, but the GT has always been extremely practical and fairly family-sized. One area where rubber bumper cars score over their earlier ‘superiors’ is in the cockpit, which was improved regularly up right until its 1980 demise. And while the raising of the ride height does the handling no favours (although how many really drive their classics that hard?) that extra inch certainly makes entry and egress easier for the elderly enthusiast. It also makes the ride more
agreeable, especially on motorways. To sum up, the MGB is ideal for those who want an easy going classic that’s very drivable – but if you want pure cheap fun then the smaller Midget does it rather better.


Where do you start (or end) with this car? Everything you could want, from full house race spec to Rolls-Royce style leather and wood-clad trim is available so you can bespoke a B to your heart’s content. Generally though it’s the handling and brakes that require priority attention; uprated dampers and springs (modern telescopics are best all round even if they harden the ride) along with poly bushes is the fi rst step, but if the funds allow then the MGR V8 with its double wishbone suspension is the ultimate. One mod that’s worthwhile on any car is to fi t a caster kit to reduce steering effort as the MGB was originally designed to run on cross-ply tyres. The B-Series can produce a lot more power and be enlarged up to an even lustier 2.1-litres, although better breathing with improved head and camshaft can work wonders on standard 1.8s. That said, the best all round mod has to be fi tting a Ford Sierra fi ve-speed ‘box which not only allows a long legged gait, but the intermediates are far better suited to the B-Series torque delivery and get rid of that annoying gap between second and third gears.


Due to weight of numbers and levels of popularity, MGB prices can be a tad unpredictable although unless you pay over the odds or mega bucks on a nut and bolt restoration, you’ll be unlucky to lose on one. Best bargains are the rubber bumper models where good sub £3000 buys are plentiful. Chrome bumper cans are in the region of £3000 - £5000 depending upon spec, with GTs worth, on average, £500 lower. Top (or previously restored) cars can easily break the £10,000 barrier from a dealer, which given the cost of restoring one to as new standards is a bargain – and there’s plenty around to choose from!

In terms of desirability, it’s the original Mk1s that command most interest and value. Funny-faced post ’69 cars are least wanted, along with rubber bumper cars, which at least have the benefi t of some nice special editions. The thing about MGB buying is to take your time and shop around as there’s loads to choose from.

10 Things you never knew about the MGB

1T he name ‘MGB’ was originally conceived as the name for the MGA Twin Cam.

2The MGB is always identifi ed with the equally classic BMC ‘B’ Series engine, but when the MGB was being conceived, MG parent BMC was also hatching plans for a whole new family of V4 and V6 engines. The MGB was to have been the recipient of the two-litre V4, but when the new engine project was scrapped, it was back to the trusty old B-Series.

3At fi rst, the MGB was going to have the old 1622cc engine, from the MGA. Early testing showed, however, that an MG with this unit would have been slower. Fortunately salvation came in the 1798cc version being developed for the Austin-Morris ADO17 1800 ‘Landcrab’.

4The height of the MGB windscreen was dictated by international racing rules for the class in which it might compete; without those rules – and MG’s competition aspirations for the MGB – the MGB might have been easier to see out of for taller drivers!

5When the MGB was launched, there was a bit of kafuffl e over at Renault, who claimed that MG had pinched their design as the front end of the MGB. The Renault Floride was a short-lived rear engined French sports car, and it could be argued Renault had ‘copied’ its design from a 1955 Ferrari. The argument soon went away…

6When MG designers started to think about what became the MGB GT, they just couldn’t get it to look right. Eventually, with the help of Pininfarina, they realised that the problem was that pesky MGB roadster windscreen. By lifting the top of the screen, the problem was soon solved and a classic look evolved.

7T he grille aperture of the 1970 MGB – fi rst of the British Leyland sports car facelifts, and known to detractors as the ‘black hole grille’ – was inspired by that of the 1968 Ford Mustang. At the time, many of Ford stylists had joined British Leyland…

8 The best ever sales of the MGB were in 1977 – at a time when incentives were being introduced in the USA for the TR7!!!

9 The ‘O’ Series engine was chiefl y designed for the MGB – but apart from prototypes, the MGB never received the new unit. The later Rover SD1 ‘2000’ had a twin-SU in-line ‘O’ Series with engine tune similar to that envisaged for the MGB.

10S tudies into a proposed turbocharged two-litre MGB ‘O’ Series later fed into what became the MG Montego Turbo.

What To Look For

  • The beauty of owning a B is the fantastic back up and support available from specialists and clubs. Almost every part you’ll ever need – right down to a gear lever knob – is available either new or used. It’s also a super simple car to work on and maintain at home. As a starter classic you couldn’t wish for a better car; as a fi ne period yet serious sports car, it also excels.
  • There are loads of supposedly fi ne looking MGBs around, but don’t be fooled by all that gloss. Rust can take its toll and the quality of restoration work carried out over the years by owners and specialists alike may not be good… Sadly some examples have been horrendously bodged, and in such cases rectifi cation can take longer, and cost more, than the car is worth.
  • Start with the sills; their condition is paramount for the MG’s structural integrity. Look for obvious signs of welding or fi lling, and for seams which have been smoothed over using body fi ller at the rear ends of the outer sills.
  • Examine also the pillars (including the door hinge mounts), fl oor pans, underbody outriggers and jacking points, plus the inner wings, under wing structures and ‘splash’ panels behind the wheels.
  • Scrutinise the wings, including the wheel arch lip sections and lower edges. Look along the car’s fl anks, ensuring that the gaps between adjoining panels are uniform (many badly restored cars won’t be).
  • Check the doors can be closed easily without their upper rear corners and the window panes fouling the rear wing panels. This may not be simply hinge wear: if the sills have been replaced incorrectly this will put door alignment out. The leading edge of the bonnet and trailing edge of the boot lid also require similar scrutiny.
  • The great news is that you can buy almost any panel and part for an MGB and of course this includes a new Heritage shell. Costing the thick end of £3000 it certainly cures the rust problem, although one MG expert we spoke to said their quality of fi t isn’t good and he has to spend days bringing it up to a decent standard.
  • The evergreen B-Series power unit is tough and tolerant, but watch for piston/ring/ cylinder bore wear (excessive smoking from the exhaust when accelerating hard). Check also for low oil pressure – you need to be seeing gauge readings of at least 50psi at normal road speeds, with the engine fully warmed up.
  • Rumbling Bs are not unknown (indicating crankshaft/bearing wear). By contrast it is not unusual, nor usually serious, to fi nd that the valve train more than a little rattly, normally due to excessive valve clearance gaps, and/or wear in the rocker shaft/bushes itself. Be more concerned about any heavier knocking from the camshaft region, audible at tickover – due to a worn shaft and followers.
  • Transmissions are as robust: problems are usually restricted to weak synchromesh, leaking oil seals and rumbling gearbox/ fi nal drive bearings – the latter which soldier on for ages it has to be said. See that the overdrive kicks in and out crisply and smoothly.
  • The front suspension incorporates king pins and bushes, plus threaded fulcrum pins, and regular lubrication is demanded for long life. Check for wear by raising (and properly supporting on axle stands) the front of the car, and attempting to rock the wheels in and out. Excessive trunnion movement signifi es wear (check this is not due to simple wheel bearing play), and an MoT test failure.
  • Ensure sure too that the shock absorbers are sound and not leaking, the rear springs are unbroken and haven’t settled and that the bump stops are still in place. Has a lowering kit or mod been already fi tted?
  • Wire wheels or steel rims? By the time the rubber bumper B was launched, the car wore steel Ro-Style sports wheels. You can still fi t wires although you have change the hubs over and in some cases even the rear axle assembly. If your B has wire wheels already retro-fi tted, are they okay? ‘Pinging’ with a pencil is a good quick check for looseness – if they are slack then usually they have to be overhauled rather than simply tightened. Splines wear too remember and a new wire wheel can cost around £300, with a complete conversion between £1500-2000, depending where you shop.
  • You can quite easily convert a rubber bumper B back to earlier spec. Dedicated conversion kits cost around £1700 fi tted; it isn’t simply a straight off and on fi t, but you can do it for a lot less using used parts and doing all the spanner work.
  • Rubber bumper MGBs’ handling can deteriorate quicker than chrome models so you need to keep the dampers and bushes in tip top order or the alreadylowly roadholding limits will further suffer.

Three Of A Kind

Sunbeam Alpine
Sunbeam Alpine
Launched before the MGB, the Alpine is a softer, more civilised alternative although the pair are similar in terms of character, performance and driving – even though it was based upon the Husky van platform. No offi cial GT coupe but many aftermarket hardtops were made, as was the Harrington conversion. Rust like mad and spares and support isn’t on par with MG, but the Sunbeam makes a nice, stylish alternative that’s a fair bit cheaper.
Triumph TR4
Triumph TR4
Launched around the same time as the MGB, the Triumph TR4 is the more macho, hardcore option. Performance is again similar and handling equally dated, but you can make a TR4 into a TR6-eater. IRS (TR4A) is softer, rides better but handles less positively and is slightly slower due to added weight. Rare Dove GT was a sort of MGB GT. Spares and support is as good as MG and values remain similar, but these TRs are on the rise.
Big brother to the MGB, the MGC is almost as inexpensive to buy, restore and run yet interest and values are rising faster. Lusty six cylinder lorry-like engine is faster yet doesn’t feel it, while handling is decidedly the more ponderous of the pair. Excellent as a relaxed smooth cruiser and very pleasant in auto form (something the normal MGB isn’t). Forget what you’ve heard about this misunderstood car; just try one and you’ll be surprised…


With thousands still on the roads, the MGB for you is out there - right now. With chrome or rubber bumper models, GTs or roadsters to choose from, the choices are seemingly endless. The MGB is a car that you can restore, tune and upgrade to suit your personal taste and despite their age and weight of numbers, are liked just as much now as they’ve ever been. Age has mellowed criticisms of its once middling driving capabilities and what this car lacks in speed, it compensates for in character and value for money. The MGB is a classic every enthusiast must have at least once in their motoring lives.

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