by That Car Guy
Writing Car Lust posts are a privilege, especially when they bring back memories of vehicles I have either personally owned or that have been in the family. Such is the case of a 1973 terracotta-colored MGB that my sister had for a few years until her family outgrew the car, which didn't take a lot of outgrowing to do.
What attracted us to the MGB was that, as small as it was, the car was larger than a Triumph Spitfire or MG Midget. I wanted a Spitfire at the time, but this wasn't going to be my car. I believe this is the only picture of "our" MG that we have left. That's Snoopy right behind it, and my first car, a 1972 Vega :( .
My favorite excentricity of the MGB was that it had three windshield wipers. The "windscreen" was low and wide, and two wipers just weren't up to the job. Only American MGBs had three wipers; all others had two. One night I got caught in a thunderstorm in the canvas-roofed car, and those wipers gave their all to let me see. I was minoring in Aerospace Technology at the time, and driving the roadster was not unlike flying a Cessna 150, except that no pilot is stupid enough to fly a 150 in a thunderstorm.
The best memories I have of the car are during the week I got to take it off to college. People actually lined up to get a ride around the block in it! Oh, if I could go back and do that day again, with the little honeys that waited for a ride in that car...
I'm getting ahead of myself. The MGB Mark I (1962-1967) was very advanced at its introduction. One of the first cars to have crumple zones for crash safety, it was also a unibody to save weight, unlike the Triumph TR6 and Spitfire.
Powered by a 1798cc B-Series I-4 engine with 95 horsepower, it was carried over from the MGA, but enlarged. The MGB made a then-respectable 0-60 time of 11 seconds. This 3-bearing engine was upgraded to 5 main bearings in May, 1964.
But this roadster was first and foremost known for its great handling. Maybe it's a coincidence, but the MGB's 91-inch wheelbase is virtually identical to a 2009 Miata's. A rare MGB option was a small rear seat for the kids.
The MGB Mark II (1967-1972) got a 4-speed synchromeshed gearbox (An automatic was an option in the UK), a new rear axle, and an alternator, replacing a dynamo, or generator. The floorpan and driveshaft tunnel sheet metal were new, producing a flatter floor. For the US market, a padded dash, nicknamed the "Abingdon pillow", was introduced.
The MGB Mark III (1972-1980) was built with a new fascia and a better heater. At no time during MGB production were any major exterior body panels changed significantly. The addition of rear back-up lights in March, 1967, was a welcomed stamping improvement.
I remember that "our" car had two batteries just behind the seats. Each was a 6-volt, connected to make 12 volts, and were placed on each side of the driveshaft tunnel. These helped balance the car. In 1974, MG builders went to a single battery, which produced more amperes, or cranking power.
Most of the MGBs made were sold in the United States. But like the Spitfire and Midget, the 1974 MGB became a victim of US bumper and emissions laws. Same story, different car... raise the thing, add large "rubber" bumpers, and choke the power in return for cleaner air.
Limited Edition MGBs were built to signify the end of the car's 18-year run. They were all black with silver lower body stripes and tan interiors. Limited Edition equipment included a front air dam, 5-spoke alloy wheels, a 3-spoke leather-covered steering wheel, special "MG" badges on the wheels and steering wheel, and a "Limited Edition" plaque on the glove box. 6,668 were made in 1979 and 1980.
Some call the hardtop MGB GT a shooting brake. I can see this. Designed by Pinin Farina, launched in October, 1965, and built until 1980 (Though export to the Colonies here stopped in 1974), the car gave you a tiny back seat and a bit more luggage space accessible through its rear hatch.
The engines and driveline were the same as the MGB. But the springs were stiffened, and anti-roll bars were added due to a bit of top-heaviness. The MGB GT was 5 miles per hour faster than its roadster sibling due to much better aerodynamics. Some folks even thought they handled better than the roadster, having the stiffer body due to the solid roof.
The MGB GT V8 was a monster! Made from 1973-1976 and only with right-hand drive, they were never brought to America by MG. Using Rover's 3528cc V-8 that was also used in the Buick Special and Oldsmobile F-85, this was the lightest V-8 in mass production. Having all-aluminium block and heads, at 318 pounds, it actually weighed 40 pounds less than the iron MG 4-cylinder.
These cars would do 0-60 in 8 seconds and top out at 125 miles per hour! The press loved the GT V-8, but British Leyland became concerned that the car would overshadow their Triumph Stag, and production was halted. 2,591 MGB GT V8s were made.
In 1967, the MGC was released. It was available as either the open roadster or GT coupe. Sold through 1970, the MGC had a 2912cc straight-6, producing 145 horsepower. A 4-speed manual with overdrive was standard, and a 3-speed automatic was optional.
Changes were made to the engine bay and floorpan for the 209-pound increased weight and engine size. The hood had unique bulges for the relocated radiator and carburetors.
With a top speed of 120 miles per hour and a 0-60 time of 10 seconds, these cars were no slouch for their time! But originally their handling was in question, caused by the heavy, off-weighted front end. Later, tire and suspension tweaks made its driving up to par.
The last MGB and MGB GT were built on October 22, 1980. They were shipped to British Leyland's Heritage collection at Gaydon, England, now called the Heritage Motor Centre.
Using only about 5% of the original MGB parts, it was offered in roadster and coupé forms. The underbody stampings of the original car were retained, as were the trunk lid and doors (Minus the vent windows). But all-new body panels were formed to create this proud steed over the original MGB British Motor Heritage body shell.
Bits and pieces of other cars made their way to this MG. Headlights from a Porsche 911, door handles from a Jaguar XJS, and CDO instruments from a TVR blended in quite nicely.
The Rover 3950cc V-8, with 190 horsepower and a 5-speed stick, rocketed this car from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds. Top speed was 135 miles per hour.
Rear drum and front disc brakes were used, as well as a live rear axle. Front coil and rear elliptic springs with dual roll bars kept the RV8 well-planted in the curves.
One might think the RV8 could pass as a little Bentley! All interiors were Stone Beige colored, with rich Connelly leather, Burr Elm veneer woodwork, and thick cut pile carpeting, even in the trunk. Ten body colors were offered. All MG RV8s were built as right-hand-drive, but one left-hand-drive RV8 is known to exist.
Only 2,000 examples of the MG RV8 were made between 1993 and 1995. They were not sold as new in North America, but three are known to have snuck in. The Japanese market loved these cars- 330 RV8s were sold in Great Britain, 1,579 went to Japan. Being right-hand-drive, they were tailor-made for Japanese roads.
This brought total MGB Series production to 525,836 cars. It was the most popular sports car of all time until passed by the Mazda Miata. Other MGs followed, including the MG F and TF, but these probably deserve a post of their own.
Driving "our" MGB was always a pleasure. In a lot of slight curves, you didn't turn the steering wheel so much as you put pressure on it towards the corner. We didn't have the reliability problems a lot of sports cars had back then, but it was only three years old when we got it. I remember the car had some kind of radio; convertibles and audio systems do not mix. Raising and lowering the ragtop was a bit of a chore, as levers and snaps were everywhere.
Sis sold the MGB and bought a '73 Olds Cutlass as her family car, the perfect vehicle for them at the time. But at least I will always remember that day on campus when all the darlings were lined up to go for a ride...
The black & white MGB photo is from my scrapbook. The interior photo is thanks to mzaff.com. The MGB GT image is from Sjoerdwm flickr. The MGC photo is from Wikipedia. MGRV8.com provided the MGRV8 photo. Cartype.com supplied the MG logo. British Motor Heritage supplied inspiration as well.
--That Car Guy (Chuck)