By the early 1950s, love of European sports cars had filtered down from those
with a lot of money to those who were on a budget. Helping to fuel the initial
craze for these nimble little two passenger cars were the fabled TC, TD, and TF
MG-roadsters built between 1947 and 1955.
In 1956, MG released its next generation with the MGA roadsters. Sporting
larger engines, modern styling, and economical performance, the MGA was produced
from 1956 through the 1962 model year.
Then came the MG-B, the one model that would carry the MG badge for the
longest span of time. Introduced in the fall of 1962, the MGB was available
initially only as a convertible, (marketed as a "roadster"), and was
an immediate hit. Built on a wheelbase of 98", with an overall length of
just 153" and low curb weight, its in-line four cylinder engine motivated
the B quite nicely. Through dual "SU" semi-downdraft carburetors the
BMC provided 1,798cc (109.7ci) in-line four was rated at 94 bhp at 5500 rpm.
When the original MGB hit the market it was hailed for its modern styling and
smart looks. Featuring a slab sided body, the front end sported a bright chrome
grille with thinly spaced vertical bars, punctuated by two headlights that were
recessed into the front fenders, and a real chrome bumper. The rear styling was
simple and functional with vertical taillights and a chrome bumper. Under the
car, coil springs supported the A-arms in the front, with conventional
elliptical springs in the rear. The B was well appointed with leather bucket
seats, and a snug fitting top. The colors available were limited to typical
British hues such as dark green, dark blue, black, and red.
Through its run of eighteen model years a number of advancements were made.
The majority of these were in improving handling, while some convenience items
were also added. There was even a couple of variations to the MGB with a short
run of six-cylinder models, and an even smaller number of V-8 equipped cars. The
MGB would also mark the last product to date to be imported into the United
The B almost always saw detail changes each year.
For 1964 the Laycock de Normanville overdrive unit was made available but
found limited acceptance in the U.S. market. The following year saw a major
improvement in the engine when the crankshaft went from three to five main
For 1966 a coupe model was added and dubbed as the MGB-GT. Aimed at American
car buyers, these little coupes actually found more acceptance in MGs
homeland of England.
1967 brought the second generation MGB, the Mark II. Its newest feature was a
fully synchronized four-speed transmission.
1968 model retains chrome grille, adds new side market lights
1968 saw the addition of the federally mandated side marker lights and the
availability of MGs first automatic transmission. Not a particularly
successful configuration, only about 5,000 of these clutchless shifters were
installed until the program was discontinued in 1973.
For 1969 there came the MGC, basically the MGB fitted with an in-line six
cylinder engine. The new "six" was actually based on the four and
displaced 2912cc, used seven main bearings, and put out 145 bhp at 5,250 rpm.
However, the MGC was not very popular in the U.S. and finding one originally
shipped to this country new is a rare find. A common misconception is that this
motor is the old Austin-Healey six.
1971 B with steel wheels, blacked out grille
As the 1970's dawned the MGB received a major facelift. A new grille (missing
the "MG" logo), "Rostyle" cast wheels as standard, and a
leather steering wheel. However, the genuine leather bucket seats were replaced
with genuine vinyl bucket seats this same year. 1971 saw the addition of even
more "black-out" trim and a locking steering column.
In 1972 the Mark III MGB was introduced. Most notable of the changes here was
the new instrument cluster and that all engines were de-tuned to accept the
low-octane and unleaded fuels that the federal government was mandating.
The following model year, 1973 brought yet another new grille, and for the
first time since 1969 the "MG" logo was proudly displayed up front.
1974 saw "buck-tooth" black rubber bumper guards attached to the
chrome bumpers to try and meet ever tightening government requirements regarding
low-speed impact damage rules. While the in-line six didnt reappear that
year, a new MGB V8 was introduced. Using the BMC/Rover 3.5 liter unit an
impressive 137 horsepower (net) was produced. The V8 was never officially
imported into the States.
1977 model with those ugly bumpers, non-stock wires
The last generation of the MGB came to the American shores in 1975. Dubbed
the Mark IV models, they featured a single Zenith carburetor rather than the
twin SUs. Most recognizable on the Mark IV models was the large black
combination grille and bumper assembly made from plastic. In addition, the car
was raised on its suspension to meet federal bumper height standards.
Many MG fans felt this totally ruined the look of the car and sales of these
model declined quickly. For the last five years of its life there were few
changes. In 1976 the last V-8 models were produced, while 1977 saw a zip-in rear
window used on the convertibles. 1978 found the cooling improved with the use to
two electric fans. In 1979 and 1980 there were virtually no changes as the last
models were built, bringing the total 18 year run total to 513,272 units.
One of the nicest things about the MGB is the affordability of ownership for
these cars. Obviously, the pre-1975 model years are the most desirable due
mainly to their clean, sporty looks. These are cars that one can drive without
fear of being while looking for spares. In 1988, British Motor Corporation (MGs
parent company), started to reproduce new sheet metal replacements for the MGB,
and took the position of helping owners keep their cars on the road.
FINDING THE RIGHT "B"
When looking to buy an MG there are several things to watch for. Due to the
cars unibody construction, dont rely on just a visual inspection of the
sheet metal to determine if the car is solid. Check the under carriage and other
concealed areas of the car for signs of rust out or replacement sheet metal.
Look for clues such as mismatched or wavy paint, sloppy welds, or suspicious
looking panel fit.
On the early models of the B one of the more popular options was a set of
wire wheels instead of the standard pressed and welded steel wheels. That alone
can command up to a ten percent price premium on fully restored cars and are
well worth having for collector value. But wire wheels require periodic
maintenance and may require some attention.
Other areas of particular concern deal with under the hood. Make sure the
proper carburetion system is employed as finding the right mechanical parts can
be a little time consuming.
As with any collector car, getting involved with an organization that
recognizes these cars is always a wise investment of time and money. For MGB
owners there is the North American MGB Registry. They offer help to members both
through the mail and on the internet. (See information box).
Prices on MGBs range from the low $2,000 range for "fixer uppers"
to around the $13,000 mark for mint restored early examples with all the right
and original parts. Prices on these cars have seen a strong rise. based on
recent market trends due to the numbers of novice collectors finding English
sports cars from the 1960s and early 1970s an economical way to enter the hobby.
Much less desirable are the 1975-1980 models with the big black rubber nose
cones. These cars will languish at least 50% behind their early brethren in the
For latest values, click here.
Replacement and spare parts should be available for quite some time in the
future, for while the MG nameplate has disappeared from the American shores, the
company is still serving its homeland. Fact is one of the most popular little
sports cars found in Great Britain these days is the sport little MGF.
About the nicest thing one could say about the MGB models is that they
continued the tradition of simple motoring fun. While technical advancements
have made the idea of road side tinkering an almost impossible task, these cars
and a set of wrenches are almost always an enjoyable way to spend the weekend. -
DID YOU KNOW?
The letters "MG" represent Morris Garages, the founder of the
The MGB was produced by British Motors Company, LTD, also known as BMC.
Edsel Bryant Ford purchased the first MG ever brought into the United
States in 1928. His oldest son Henry Ford II, bought the last MG brought
into the United States, a black MGB.
NORTH AMERICAN MGB REGISTRY INFORMATION
P.O. Box MGB
Akin, IL 62805
(c) Copyright 1999, VMR International, Inc.