As many of you know I have owned a few British cars as well as other affordable classics but never an MG. The MG B was one of the classic cars that first caught my eye as a young boy and I have always admired the handsome styling. I even tried to buy a grotty old B GT as my first car when I was sixteen or so. My parents nixed that, which looking back was the right call even if I did not see it that way back then. I did briefly own an extremely ugly MG based kit car but it was bought as a parts car for my Lotus Seven clone project. So why have I never owned one? Maybe the right deal never came along? Or maybe it is just too common?
After all if you go to any British car show it always seems that MG Bs are in the majority with perhaps the Triumph TR6s a distant second. Being common surely has its benefits when sourcing parts and knowledge, but I have always been attracted to the oddballs. Given that I have always thought if the right deal came along and there was space in the garage I would jump on a B. A few days ago the right deal came along, so my fifty-second vehicle purchase is my first proper MG.
The climate of southern Alberta in April can bring anything from beautiful summer-like days to snow. It snowed a bit in the morning so I did what any reasonable person would do and went out and bought a convertible.
Seller was very nice guy and had a few more treasures including a 1974 B he was restoring for a friend. He wanted a fast sale on the blue 1975 driver as it was taking up a spot in the garage where he wanted to pull in another B shell he was restoring for himself. He was very straightforward with me pointing out both the flaws and good points that he was aware of. The price in the ad was stated to be firm but was more than fair. I handed over the cash and we quickly got the paperwork done. If only every transaction could be so smooth and straight forward.
The particular car is a 1975 model which ranks right down at the bottom of MG B desirability. The car features the infamous black “rubber” bumpers which are actually polyurethane over steel. The weight gain of around 70lbs total is often overblown but it is placed at the worst possible locations, at the extreme ends of the car. Unlike the majority I actually do not mind the looks of the impact bumpers. In fact I think they look quite sharp especially with darker paint colors.
The most unfortunate change was the impact to the car’s handling from raised suspension (to meet minimum headlight height requirements) and the deletion of the front roll bar for 1975/1976. The roll bar was still available as an option and was later again standardized. The engine saw a single Zenith Stromberg fitted instead of dual SU carburators which resulted in a dip in power. Later MG Bs benefited some refinements to the interior, brakes and suspension making these transition cars a little unloved.
So while my 1975 is the “worst” year, all is not lost. This particular example is fitted with a down draught Weber which is not the high-power racer’s choice but offers more power and less fuss than the Zenith Stromberg unit. The engine feels quite strong for a smog era motor.
It is easy to lower a later MG B to the earlier car’s ride height. The roll bar can be retro fitted but involves swapping the front spindles. Sadly my example is not yet blessed with a roll bar but I think it will be on the to do list as the body roll is comical. My car must be a later 1975 build as it already has a brake booster which the earlier cars lack.
One of the oddities I have found of car buying and selling is people’s unwillingness to drive to the smaller surrounding centers. This MG was located in a small town about 50 kms (30 miles) outside the city. If it was offered in town I likely would have been beaten to the purchase. Usually I am a little more prepared but in this case I came right after work so I could be the first to look at the car and was still in my work dress clothes and had no tools with me. Not ideal for driving home a cheap and untested forty two year old car. Fortunately my friend, Rod, gave me a ride out to pick up the car and he had a small tool kit with him. We enable each other to buy these clunkers which is nice. So with no preparation other than filling it up with gas I set off for the drive back home.
The engine runs at about 3200 rpms at 90 km/h (56 miles per hour). Like most British cars of the era without overdrive it is best to take the back roads, drive slow and enjoy the scenery.
Although it was still really too cold for top down driving I would have liked to lower the roof anyway. I had a vague memory that there was a bit of a trick to lowering the roof on these MGs and not doing it correctly can cause damage. My memory did not extend to the proper way to accomplish this so reluctantly I left the roof in the upright position. Best not to push the car until we get to know each other better. Luckily the drive went smoothly and the engine ran flawlessly as the seller promised it would.
Ahoy captain! We have lots of body roll! I need that anti-roll bar for anything close to “spirited” driving.
So what did I get for about the cost of a set of tires on my wife’s truck? Well the photos are rather flattering to the paint job as it has lots of cracks, scratches and flaws. But it does look great from about twenty feet away. It appears to have been a very Seventies yellow/green then red at previous times in its life. There is a little bit of floor rust in the car. I will need to crack out the welder there but the trunk is nice and solid. The brakes were done last summer as well as poly bushes in the front suspension. The top has been repaired with black tape in a couple spots which is not a big worry as I don’t plan to have it up often. Front bumper appears to needs some alignment.
I did hear some noises from the brakes. Perhaps a little air in the system from sitting over the winter or the leak from one of the booster lines so that will need sorting right away.
The biggest issue (and a big reason for the low price) is the synrco on third gear is weak. Double declutching works but the seller included a spare gearbox to be swapped in sometime soon. I plan to document the restification of this beater B in future segments. Note the use of the word restification rather than restoration. The values of 1975 MG Bs and my own interest level do not support a proper restoration, but this car is a perfect candidate for a summer cruiser while fixing a few issues along the way.
My summer plans now involve trying to spend as much time as possible behind this wheel.
Related reading: CC 1967 MGB: To B Or Not To B PN