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Fancy owning a motorsport legend? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their name on rally stages and race tracks, and still provide a fine drive today

You can imagine the furore late in 1962 when the MGB was launched as a replacement for the much-loved MGA. Good heavens; it had wind-up windows, proper door-handles and no separate chassis. To many it was no less than a two-seat, soft-top, twin-carb Morris Oxford! True, the chunky B was a radical departure from what came before - and in the comfort stakes light years removed from the ‘traditional’ T series sports cars. But it did have an (unburstable) 1798cc engine that could easily be tuned, a rigid (unitary) bodyshell, front disc brakes and a tweakable, if not exactly exciting, suspension system. The MGB went on to be a best seller – with nearly half a million four-cylinder cars sold over an 18-years period - and no mean motorsport tool either. In fact, in some ways its track and rally stage successes have multiplied in recent years with the advent of classic competition. Back to ’63. When the Beatles first UK Number One track was “From Me To You” and the first factory prepared B took to the race tracks. In fact (unlike that of John, Paul, George and Ringo) the car’s debut was inauspicious, both entries for the Sebring 12 Hour race in the USA retiring with engine failure due to oil surge on fast corners. But Paddy Hopkirk and Alan Hutcheson put matters right a few months later at Le Mans, winning their class and finishing 12th overall, despite Alan spending an hour digging the car out of the sand trap at the end of the Mulsanne Straight! In period, the B was best as a long distance racer; toughness and reliability triumphing over sheer speed. Class placings continued – at Sebring in several years, Hopkirk took second at Le Mans in ’64 and ’65, and Timo Makinen and John Rhodes won the punishing Targa Florio in 1966, with John Handley and Andrew Hedges runners-up in class. Hedges and Julien Vernaeve won the 84 hours Marathon de la Route at the Nurburgring that same year. Hot shots in private entries included Roger Enever and Alec Poole. Roger’s dad, Syd, actually designed the MGB and the pair saved an ex-development car from the crusher and used it to good effect. As a rally car, it didn’t have a chance. The mighty Healey 3000 was still being effectively campaigned, and the Mini Cooper was emerging (like the Beatles?) as the greatest talent the world had ever seen. Morley twins, Don and Erle, took a factory MGB to 17th overall on the ’64 Monte, and Tony Fall struggled to 34th place on the Welsh the following year, retiring from Monte in ’66. But for all its efforts the old-fashioned sports car could not keep pace with front wheel-drive. And Minis. Swansong for the factory MGBs was the 1967 Targa, when Hopkirk and Makinen finished ninth in the super-light MG GTS, which was actually an MGC prototype but with a special four-cylinder 2004cc B-Series power unit. But the story doesn’t end in Sicily. Come the classic car revival and the B has shown itself to be an easily modified, relatively low cost way to go club racing - both the major MG clubs run championships - and many people have used cars to good effect on navigational rallies. Stirling Moss got behind the wheel of one for the 1990 Classic Marathon, and Ian Paterson won the Safety Devices Historic Rally Championship in 1998.

MGB Summary


Four-cylinder models (roadster and GT) 1962-1980 : 447,810


Engine: BMC B-Series in-line, four-cylinder, pushrod, 1798cc. 2 x SU carbs. 95bhp.
Gearbox: Four-speed, with optional overdrive. (Few autos made.)
Drive: Rear wheels.
Suspension: Front, independent with coil springs and lever shock absorbers;
Rear: live axle with half-elliptical springs and lever shock absorbers.
Steering: Rack and pinion.
Brakes: Front discs, rear drums (Servo on later cars).

Claim to fame

Long distance racer with numerous class awards at classic circuits – Sebring, Le Mans, Targa Florio. Overshadowed by Mini as a rally car. Famous names: Andrew Hedges, Alec Poole, Roger Enever, Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Makinen, John Rhodes, Tony Fall, Julien Vernaeve.

Where to buy

Anywhere, even local paper ads for good value buys. Check the excellent marque club web sites and publications such as Safety Fast, MG Enthusiast Enjoying MG - and Classic Cars for Sale, naturally!

What to look for

Rust (of course) almost anywhere, but particularly in door pillars, sills and rear spring attachment points.Worn lever shocks can (and should) be replaced by telescopic conversion) and noisy rear axles. Engines and ‘boxes largely bullet-proof although rarely silent. Heritage bodyshells available for big projects but cost around £3500.

What to pay

Early (pre-’68) cars are most sought after as classics. Pay from £3000 for a project to £10,000 for a prime example. Pay £5000 for a nice early MkII (‘67-’71) but less for a later impact-bumper type. There’s plenty of GTs around for well under a grand but most will be well worn for this money.


MG Car Club:; MG Owners Club:

Classic sport

Good for navigational rallies and for club racing (new panels cheap if you bend it!). Outclassed by most things on stage rallies, not as nimble as a Spridgets for sprints, autotests and hillclimbs.

Maintenance, tuning and sport

Very easy to tune and loads of parts available from many specialists: try and get hold of the old BL Special Tuning booklet for ideas. Five-port head restricts power, but 150bhp still possible for a highly tweaked engine on a single DCOE Weber - and around 200bhp for full race units. Early three bearing cranks (pre-’67) rev better, but not so strong as five bearing. RV8 front end is good swap.

Competitive Rating: 6

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