The MGB – celebrating a national treasure

By Classic Yorkshire correspondent Tony Lofthouse.

What does screen hero James Bond and the equally dashing MGB sports car both celebrate in 2022? Answer, their 60th birthday as national treasures.

To many classic car lovers the latter is forever a diamond too! It’s affordable, fun to drive, reliable and comes with a plentiful spare parts market.

This sleek ‘open top’ two- seater was launched in 1962 by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and came with the company’s trusty B-series engine.

It might not have had the ‘bells and whistle’ spec of a costly Aston Martin but the little sports car was lauded for its style and ‘grand touring character’. The MGB would deservedly become one of the world’s best loved sports cars.

More than half a million MGBs were made, appealing to drivers looking for an exciting alternative to a more sensible four door runaround.

By 1965 a hardtop version with a hatchback tailgate – the MGB GT – designed by Pininfarina, was added.

All MGBs to 1967 used a four-speed manual gearbox with optional overdrive available. In 1968 the gearbox was upgraded with a fully synchromesh unit.

Further models were rolled out, including the six-cylinder MGC and eight-cylinder GT V8, but over the years its basic body shape would remain unchanged.

By the mid 1970s rubber bumpers would replace the B’s lighter chrome fitting, largely in response to US safety regulations. The restyling of its nose would bring mixed reactions from enthusiasts.

Many MG owners saw the bumper modification as a step too far but for others a bit of rubber trim still couldn’t detract from the car’s classic appeal.

Production of the MGB and its variants at the company’s Abingdon base sadly ended in 1980 as the Uk motor industry faced its own challenges including lack of investment and overseas competition.

A Rover-produced limited edition reappeared briefly in 1992 in the guise of the MG RV8 – a 3.9 litre model based on a remanufactured MGB body shell. Nearly 2,000 of the RV8 were produced with many snapped up in Japan!

Specially tuned MGBs proved popular in motor sport, winning the Grand Touring category in the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally and circuit success at Brands Hatch and the Nürburgring.

In terms of driver experience the ‘B’ gives lively acceleration with a gearbox offering a good shift action.

The low cockpit is able to nicely accommodate the taller driver and interior appeal also includes smart dashboard dials, knobs and switches.

On the downside, corrosion can be an issue but again sections of the body work can easily be replaced with suitably sourced parts.

Roger Illingworth, Chairman of the Harrogate MG and Classic Car Club, drives a 1979 MGB roadster and a 1967 MGB GT and explains his love for the car:

“My roadster is the later rubber bumper version with synchromesh on all four gears, whilst the GT only has that luxury on three gears.

“Both are ex American versions and have been converted to right hand drive. They are great fun to drive and always turn heads when out on the road. The steering on both is very heavy at parking speeds but once on the move they give a good feel of the road.

“When the rubber bumpers were introduced for the American market the suspension was raised by an inch and a half to complete the requirements of the US legislation. The outcome of this transformation is that the rubber bumper cars have a much softer ride than the earlier cars.

“Purists claim that road holding suffered with the introduction of the modification but this is not noticeable at normal road speeds, especially as I limit progress to 3000 rpm. At these engine speeds the later car easily keeps up with modern traffic when overdrive is used. Without overdrive the earlier car becomes a little noisy at these revs so motorway cruising can become a little tedious if speed is not reduced.

“Both MGs are easy to work on. They are straightforward and spare parts and accessories are plentiful both brand new and second hand. In my view, running an ageing MG sports car can fit any pocket and is an excellent way to start your journey into the classic car world.”

Interested in buying an MG? With over 13,000 MGBs still on the UK roads there are real opportunities to pick up a nice example. Prices start at under £3,000 for a restoration project, whilst a restored example is likely to cost you anything from £6,000 to £20,000.

In celebration of the MGBs 60th anniversary the British Motor Museum at Gaydon in Warwickshire are inviting enthusiasts to bring their own MGs to a special event on Sunday, 25 September. For more information go to http://www.britishmotormuseum.co.uk/whats-on/mgb-60th-anniversary

Locally, the Harrogate MG and Classic Car Club will be showing the largest display of MG cars in the North at Pateley Bridge on Sunday, 7 August. For more information click http://www.harrogatemgclub.org.uk

For details of MG events around the country visit http://www.mgownersclub.co.uk

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