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Author Topic: 1979 MG MGB LE ~~~ What do I need to know BEFORE I buy???  (Read 13510 times)

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cpeter

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1979 MG MGB LE ~~~ What do I need to know BEFORE I buy???
« on: February 08, 2008, 02:27:59 AM »
Hi folks,

I recently moved to Venice, CA and am looking for a short-distance commuter car that has character.  I have always loved the look of the MG and came across an advertisement on Craigslist that looked 'too good to be true.'  The car in question is listed at $3500.  The problems listed include: front engine mounts 'starting to sag', needs paint (thin, fading, and cracked in spots), and
needs a new timing chain cover gasket (slow oil leak).  I guess the first question is, are any of these items red herrings of bigger and more devastating problems or are they common (read: cheap) fixes?  Second, are there any members on here from the LA area that know of a good, reliable mechanic in the area who could do an appraisal/evaluation on my behalf?

I have begun the search for a reliable mechanic in the area for it, but before I even bother getting to that step, I wanted to know if anyone had any tips for buying a first MG, what to look for, what to avoid, etc...

Any help at all would be extremely useful!

Thanks,

Craig
ctoennies@gmail.com

Art

  • chfwrench
  • AMGBA Club Tech Staff
  • ****
  • Posts: 260
  • Memberhsip Number (if known):: 91-10014
  • MG information: '73 red B roadster
Re: 1979 MG MGB LE ~~~ What do I need to know BEFORE I buy???
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2008, 09:39:00 PM »
Hi Craig,

There was a recent post on this board about evaluating an MG for purchase.  I call this the "3-side" approach - inside, outside & underside.  Look it up and it should be helpful.   I'd first look at it for general tips on reveiwing your potential MGB buy.  The car that was being questioned also happened to be a later model, so much of the comments specific to that car would be the same for your LE model.  A good mechanic to review the car is also worth the time and cost.  It could save you a lot later. Sorry, I do not know anyone there, but others in your local club might be willing help.  It's always a good idea to contact the local club.  They may even know abot the specific car.

Some fast comments possibly not in those articles:

Before you buy, make sure you arm yourself with a couple of recent parts catalogs (Moss and Victoria British, for example), the pictures are often better than the manuals and with the prices help you understand what's involved with what you are seeing, and a sevice manual (i.e.: Haynes or Bentley).

The paint and appearance items you mention may be typical, but beware of hidden rust and body sag.  If the sills are rusted or weakened, the car will sag at the middle, evidenced by a narrowing of the gap between the doors and the body at the top by the handles.  Also look under the car and poke around to see if the floor boards are weak.  Roadsters, even in sunny California, can often get rain and moisture into the interior through leaky tops and just getting caught in the rain with the top down.  The carpet and padding act like a sponge and can actually help the deterioration process.

Motor mounts are not that expensive or difficult to replace and, after 25+ years, probably a good idea to do.  A tip I picked-up working a club shop day is to get a set of stubby (short) box/open-end wrenches to use for this because of the tight clerances and spacing.  Husky makes a good set and is available at any Home Depot fairly cheap.  However, because the mounts are held in with flex-lock nuts, if you can borrow (or afford) the ratcheting type stubbies, it works even better.  I had made a set by cutting down old wrenchs I bought at a garage sale for $1 each, but ended up borrowing a set of Craftsmen wrenches at the shop meet.  What a difference.  The Craftsmen tools run about $65-$70 a set of 6 versus less than $20 for the Husky solid wrenches.  I did not see them sold separately as you really only need 1 or 2 sizes to do this.  Also, taking off the alternator to get cear access to the near side of the engine and using a wood block and hydraulic jack to support and raise the front of the engine makes the job much easier.  The mounts and bolts are accessible from the top (engine compartment), so climbing beneath the car is only necessary if you drop something.  I had a lift to use doing my car, but doing others, I took off the front wheels and rested the front crossmemeber on a couple of 4X4's, making it easier to lean over the fender for long periods and to raise the engine.  Doing this with the car on its wheels means you have to lift higher due to the springs and suspension travel as you take the weight off them.  It take about 1 1/2 hours.  It is easier if the engine is already out of the car, so keep reading and see the articles mentioned.

On the timing chain cover leak - check the front and rear main seals as well as the oil pressure.  Seal leakage often indicates more severe wear to the engine, primarily to the main bearings.  In the Tech Section is an article on oil pressure that should help you with this.  The reason to be concerned about seal leakage, is that as the main bearings wear, the crankshaft drops a bit and is now not centered on the seals, leading to uneven wear to them and the very classic leakage at the front and back of the engine.  The timing chain actually has a tensioner that should take-up this minor difference, but if you are removing the timing cover to replace the seal and gasket (if that is all this issue is) or dismantling the engine, it is a good idea to replace the timing chain.  The mains and the rear seal cannot be replaced with the engine in the car.  And if you remove the engine, you may find more to be done or just want to do a full overhaul, as the cost becomes mainly parts as labor is not much more once the engine is out of the car and dismantled.

The price seems more than reasonable (low) for a car that could be a ready driver with just the issues noted.  If it looks "too good to be true", it probably is.  Be prepared for possible other costs and issues to arise.  The value is still there even if more work is needed and you intend to use it as a daily driver, it leaves open the potential for modifications that would make it more comfortable and reliable to use while replacing the worn parts. 

As examples, the later MGB was equipped with a single Zenith-Stromberg 175CD carberator and Lucas electronic ignition.  Neither the best items, from either a performance or maintenance standpoint.  If worn, there are replacements available that work much better.  The ignition is fairly easy with Pertronix making an inexpensive bolt-on that fits the Lucas distributor or Mallory, Crane and others offering complete distributor kits.  For the carb, there are replacement units, the best being the new EFI conversion offered by Moss (which is CA legal).  None are cheap, but saving a few dollars may not get you where you want to be.  Many of these alternatives are not CA approved, so mske sure they are leagal before you buy.

I hope that helps you.  Good luck and welcome to the club!

Safety Fast!

Art
Art Isaacs
AMGBA Tech Staff
chfwrench@aol.com

Art

  • chfwrench
  • AMGBA Club Tech Staff
  • ****
  • Posts: 260
  • Memberhsip Number (if known):: 91-10014
  • MG information: '73 red B roadster
Re: 1979 MG MGB LE ~~~ What do I need to know BEFORE I buy???
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2008, 12:01:28 AM »
Hi Craig,

It is the post "MG Sitting 3 Years" on this message board that has the evaluation tips.  Hope it helps.  Post or write if I can be of any assistance.

Art

chfwrench@aol.com 
Art Isaacs
AMGBA Tech Staff
chfwrench@aol.com


 

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