MGB: the First 50 years of Immortality
by Peter Egan, from Road & Track
While driving to the bookstore last night and discussing how to best celebrate my upcoming 64th birthday, Barb suddenly turned to me and said, “isn’t there a Beatles song called When I’m Sixty-Four?”
Time does slip away, as I was reminded for a second time that night when we walked into the bookstore. I headed over to the magazine rack and immediately noticed a British car magazine with a cover blurb that said, “The MGB Turns 50!” Naturally, I had to buy a copy to add to my fairly sizable bookshelf of MGB lore – which includes several grease-stained shop manuals.
I’ve owned three of these cars, you see, and spent a couple of years in the early ’90s doing a full restoration on a 1973 roadster in British Racing Green with a tan interior. I bought this car from Patti Baron, wife of R&T Design Director Richard M. Baron, just before Barb and I moved back to Wisconsin in 1990.
I drove this car, trouble-free, for about two years before I foolishly sold it to buy an 18 foot trailer for my Reynard Formula Continental. The sad truth is, I’d owned two other MGBs before this one – 1970 and 1971 models – and sold them both to defray the cost of racing.
Thought the MGB came out in 1962, I didn’t actually get a ride in one until 1968. I had a summer factory job and met a fellow worker named Pete Shannon who had an MGB. He gave me a short ride in the car, and I was quite impressed. Ride quality in the MGB was good, too and it seemed to handle well, as it sat lower than the MGA.
The MG was a model I grew to respect for being well built and well engineered. Which is not to say the car didn’t have a few problem areas.
But whenever someone asks me what classic sports car, I would choose as a retirement project and a “keeper” that remains permanently satisfying to drive and maintain, the two cars that always come to mind are the MGB and the Lotus Seven – though the Lotus would be less practical as a road car, and more expensive.
There were so many MGBs built – more than a million between 1962 and 1980 – that most of them remain in the $4,000 to $12,000 price range depending on condition. They are, as my fellow serial MG-restoring buddy John Jaeger remarked “A noble car that wasn’t built just for the nobility. Almost anyone can afford one.”
There’s a huge aftermarket parts industry for these cars, and nothing – other than a little machine shop work on the engine – that can’t be done by a reasonably skilled home mechanic with a tool kit. Outside help or expertise is seldom needed; you can fix these things forever, by yourself, in your own garage.
And so can the next owner in case you end up wearing a cardigan sweater and pulling up weeds for a hobby. We are frail, but the MGB just may be immortal.