The rubber-bumper MGB is an unlikely, but plucky survivor. What was once a quick, agile and attractive sports car eventually became slow, clumsy and ungainly-looking. Emissions regulations sapped a third of its power, suspension modifications produced Buick-like body roll, it received one of the most awkward bumper treatments ever to be foisted onto a car, and it suffered from notoriously poor build quality. Yet despite those obstacles, MGBs kept on selling. Over an 18-year model run, nearly 400,000 roadsters were produced – one-third of which were “rubber bumper” models like our featured car. Rubber-bumper MGBs are love-’em-or-hate-’em-cars… though whichever side you’re on, it’s plainly amazing that this car muddled through and fought against all odds to survive nearly two decades in production.
I saw this 1978 Pageant Blue roadster in an unlikely location – atop Scotts Bluff National Monument in western Nebraska. Park rangers heard this car sputtering and clamoring its way up the 1.5-mile Summit Road long before they saw it, and were astonished (as was I) to see the MG sporting Louisiana license plates. Driving such a car 1,200 miles from the Bayous to the Great Plains doesn’t sound appealing to me. But these cars were never meant to appeal to everyone; the MGB survived by finding a core group who could put up with, and enjoy, its eccentricities.
Though MG’s history stretches back to 1925, and includes numerous sedans, in North America the brand is overwhelmingly known for its sports cars. In fact, MG effectively created North America’s sports car niche, courtesy of World War II servicemen who returned home with an affinity for the brand’s TC roadsters. Despite being quite dated, “T-type” MGs remained popular through the end of their production in the mid-1950s. Remaining popular even while offering products rooted in an earlier time became a repeated theme for MG over the next three decades.
The 1955 MGA represented a leap into modernity for MG – still far from the leading edge of design or engineering, but fun and contemporary enough to keep buyers’ interest. Produced for seven years and exceeding 100,000 units, the MGA became the most successful sports car of its time. But competition was tough and rival Triumph was gaining in popularity, so MG began planning for a replacement not long after the A was introduced. That replacement became the MGB.
Debuting in late 1962, the MGB represented a thorough evolution of the MGA. Clean and crisp lines kept pace with early 1960s design trends – details like the prominent fenders or the tiny tail fins may seem oldfangled when looked at individually, but the overall design was exemplary. For many enthusiasts, the early MGB’s lithe profile remains the very embodiment of what a sports car ought to be.
Advancements over its predecessor included a unibody construction (replacing the A’s ladder-type frame), roll-up windows, easier ingress/egress, and much more interior room thanks to a wider body. These were important factors in keeping the sports car creed thriving through the 1960s.
The MGB’s drivetrain wasn’t quite as transformational. Its 4-cylinder engine was an enlarged-bore version of the A’s powerplant (increased to 1798 cc vs. 1622 for the later As), with a strengthened block and crankshaft. This yielded a much smoother driving experience, even though early MGBs still used the A’s transmission (not upgraded to full synchromesh until 1968). While the B’s engine remained largely the same over its 18-year production run, there were some changes – mostly having to do with emissions regulations, and none of them improved the car’s performance.
1960s-era MGBs were fun to drive, with sharp handling (helped by a 50/50 weight distribution), responsive steering, and an engine whose 94 hp was enough to move the B to 60 mph in a respectable 12.5 seconds. The decade of the 1960s was the apotheosis of MG’s market status: The company’s products were modern, competitive, and participated in a growing market segment… none of these would be the case for much longer.
After receiving enthusiastic reviews, the B did what it needed to do: It succeeded in North America. While many view this as a quintessentially British car, its home market was of peripheral importance. For the MGB’s first 5 years, under 20% of roadsters stayed in Britain, while nearly two-thirds found homes in the US or Canada. North American customers appreciated these small, agile cars that were a welcome counterpoint to the era’s heavy and ponderous domestic offerings. MG cashed in on this enthusiasm.
The 1965 introduction of the hardtop MGB/GT provided a boost to home-market sales (over half were sold in the UK), but even so, the vast majority of MG’s overall output ended up in North America. Unfortunately, MG would have to navigate the turbulent 1970s with the same cars that took it through the 1960s. That would have been tough for even a well-run car company to pull off, let alone one owned by a corporation renowned for its ineptitude.
MG’s parent company, British Motor Holdings (formerly British Motor Corporation), merged with Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968, creating a new entity – British Leyland. With a wide variety of products, Britain’s largest automaker was theoretically well poised to take advantage of its brands’ unique attributes. In reality, though, British Leyland was disastrous from the outset.
Chaotic labor relations, unprofitable products, lack of R&D investment and unfocused management crippled the company’s ability to meet market demand, and resulted in legendarily poor quality control. The company lasted only seven years before being taken over by the British government, which didn’t help much. In 1977, a government official said that BL was “in danger of bleeding to death,” which was an accurate diagnosis.
Furthermore, since the consolidated company contained both MG and rival Triumph, one of these firms would get neglected in terms of future product planning. It wound up being MG.
An MGB replacement had once been planned, but was eventually shelved after British Leyland’s takeover, and by then the B was at the age where car models require major upgrades or replacement. In 1970, Road & Track noted that the MGB “has led a long, successful life, but… the end is in sight.” The magazine that was passionate about this sports car in 1962 added that it now seemed “consistently unimpressive.”
R&T writers wouldn’t have believed that the MGB’s long life was less than half over by that point.
British Leyland did make some changes to the B in the early 1970s, although MG enthusiasts often dismiss this as stingy “Leylandization.” For example, leather upholstery was replaced with Ambla (vinyl) basketweave-pattern seats, and the aluminum hood replaced by steel. More memorable changes concerned US safety and emissions regulations, which were often met in somewhat unpleasant ways. The MGB’s major modifications came for the 1974.5 model year.
The most obvious change was to the bumpers. To meet 5-mph bumper mandates, MGBs received large, molded rubber bumpers – though “rubber” is somewhat of a misnomer because they were actually polyurethane covering a steel skeleton (and weighing about 75 lbs. apiece). Most awkward was the front bumper, a one-piece affair with two nostrils separated by a prominent septum, making the car look as if it wore a protective facemask.
While the rubber-bumper look appeared ghastly to many who were familiar with the original MGB, the design creatively integrated into the B’s contours. On darker cars, or if the bumpers are painted to match the body, the visual discord is diminished substantially. If MG had painted these bumpers instead of leaving them matte black, much of the vitriol hurled at these cars over the years may never have materialized.
US regulations also stipulated a minimum bumper/headlight height, which British Leyland met by adding 1½” to the car’s ride height. Combined with the big bumpers, the car now resembled a cross between a Bumper Car and a Dune Buggy. Handling suffered with the increased ride height, yielding excessive body roll. While the earlier MGB’s relatively simple suspension setup (live rear axle with leaf springs and A-arms with coil springs in front) provided for entertaining cornering, the rubber bumper model’s handling was about as impressive as a malaise era Detroit product. Handling improved somewhat after a rear anti-roll bar was added for 1977, though the rubber bumper cars’ handling would never be considered agile.
Engine changes occurred around this time as well, with MG redesigning the cylinder head, going from two carburetors to one, and adding the obligatory catalytic converter. Not surprisingly, power output plummeted. By 1978 when our featured car was produced, US-market MGBs developed only 63 hp, and if that wasn’t bad enough, weight had increased by 250 lbs. The now 2,300-lb. roadster could amble to 60 mph in a yawn-inducing 18 seconds.
Given all of these downsides, it’s amazing that the MGB managed to survive. And not just survive, but to actually sell in decent numbers until the bitter end in 1980.
Total MGB production fluctuated dramatically year-by-year, due in part to labor disputes that resulted in extended periods of lost production. However the general trend shows rather steady demand throughout the years – remarkable for an aged car besieged with drivability, appearance and quality struggles. This chart also shows the outsize influence of North American sales (shown in red), and explains why cash-strapped MG had little choice but to conform worldwide production to US standards.
The condensed chart above shows annual production averages for the MGB roadster’s three major eras (full model years only, excluding 1974). While annual production remained relatively consistent, the proportion of North American sales increased dramatically from what were already high percentages. For the roadster’s six final (rubber bumper) model years, a whopping 88% of production sailed across the Atlantic. (GT models faced a different trajectory – less than half of GTs came to North America in the early 1970s, and BL pulled the model from US & Canadian markets after 1974. For the GT’s final years, over 90% stayed in the UK.)
So, what was the appeal? MGBs may have been clumsy, slow, antiquated and shoddily-built… but they were fun, in the way only a small convertible could define that term. In the malaise-ridden 1970s, that counted for a lot, particularly among the niche of buyers who would even consider an MG. Late 1970s MG buyers didn’t covet speed, new technology, or Toyota-like build quality. Instead, they sought pleasure such as that derived from a relaxed drive in an open-top car… and with an MGB they could get that.
While not exactly trouble-free, by the late 1970s the MGB had seemingly been around forever, ensuring ready parts availability and ease of repairs. Occasional repairs just came with the territory, and MG’s characteristically young and optimistic clientele didn’t seem put off by that fact. Helping this along was that MGBs were relatively straightforward and simple cars, with that simplicity adding to their allure.
While British Leyland is often castigated for a seemingly endless series of blunders, they did get some things right. The MGB’s interior, for instance, was updated tastefully – certainly not with the highest-quality materials, but it looked relatively modern. Though based on its 1962 ancestor, the late-1970s B featured many items added as time went on: new door panels, proper carpeting, fresh air vents, etc. In later cars, a console was added atop the transmission tunnel, integrating rather well into the dashboard and even featuring a lift-up center armrest. The dashboard and instruments were redesigned for 1977, featuring hard plastic dash components along with a four-spoke steering wheel. Upgrades such as these helped keep the B from becoming too reliclike for the general population.
Another score in BL’s favor was marketing. MG perfected the art of selling an aging product to young people. Ads didn’t shy away from pronouncing their products as living classics – many ads might well have been titled “This Is Your Father’s MG.” It’s doubtful such a tactic could work in every era, but in the 1970s, Dad’s sports car memories were still considered in vogue. Another feature of MG ads was the copious use of attractive young women. Men were rarely shown alone in MGB ads – the ads either modeled fun-loving couples or beckoning-looking women.
MG needed all the help it could get. Compounding its other challenges was an unfavorable exchange rate, leading to hefty annual price increases and taking the MGB out of the value-oriented market. Most 1978 MGBs sold for about the price of a midsize American sedan.
The rubber-bumper MGB’s unlikely longevity is explained, however, not by statistics, value, specifications or marketing, but by something less quantifiable. Automotive historian Anders Ditlev Clausager noted that the MGB “was just a workaday, mass-production, road-going pleasure machine,” and that hits the nail on the head. Later MGBs like this one can’t be thought of strictly as sports cars – yes, they were two-seat convertibles, but more importantly they were everyday cars that provided something interesting.
MGB tapped a niche: Young, relatively affluent, childless customers who yearned for a convertible (it also picked up some market share when its BL stablemate, the Triumph TR-6 was discontinued in 1976). MGB buyers weren’t overly interested in sports car dynamics, they were well-off enough not to be excessively concerned about high operating costs, and though some thought this car ugly, it was distinctive. MG once ran an ad campaign in Great Britain titled “Your Mother Wouldn’t Like It” – and that sums up original buyers’ mindset. So what if other people didn’t understand? That was part of the appeal.
The MG name alone was a great asset, but of course this car couldn’t last forever. Young people in the late 1970s increasingly gravitated towards closed cars with more creature comforts, and while there was still modest demand for British roadsters, the formula was getting timeworn. This change in preference spelled certain doom.
Despite the steep price increases, BL still lost an estimated $1,950 (!) on each MGB exported to the US in the late 1970s. Badly overstaffed, the company built 5.8 cars per employee, about half the rate of other carmakers. Additionally, development costs that could have gone into a new MG went instead to the Triumph TR-7, which ended up selling poorly. BL finally pulled the plug on the MGB in 1980.
I assume this particular car eventually made it down from Scotts Bluff and on to its eventual destination. After all, MGBs have a certain tenacity about them. While some people may cringe at the sight of a rubber-bumper MGB, looked at another way we can see an almost personified sense of determination to survive. And just like in the 1970s, not everyone understands the appeal. That’s probably just fine with MGB owners.
1967 MGB: To B Or Not To B Paul Niedermeyer
Photographed at Scotts Bluff National Monument in Nebraska in June 2018.
Agree with Anders Clausager’s appraisal of the MGB. A friend’s father had one, pre-rubber, and he let me have a drive in exchange for me letting him drive my 1971 Alfa Romeo 1750 coupe. Worlds apart in feel for what were largely similar sized cars released around the same time.
It was the wind in the hair that fed most of the MG’s appeal on that drive, not its performance. Still seeing a lot of them now, but the for-a-while more ubiquitous rubber noses are now fewer and farther between.
1200 miles in an MG is truly an indication of love of the car and the sport of driving. Once the top is down and the car is running flawlessly, soon forgotten are thoughts of breakdowns and the availabillity of parts. But again, that’s just part of the Leyland adventure.
Speaking of MG advertising, Hagerty recently had an article in their print magazine about an MG ad campaign during the 70s – and one of the pictures here alludes to it.
The thought was to drop a parachuted MG onto the desert floor where a diver would then get in and drive away. The first attempt was not successful as the parachute on the car did not deploy. Crunch. The second attempt was flawless.
My first ever convertible experience was in a dark blue MG, so seeing this MG brought back a few otherwise lost memories.
Found the story on line.
Thanks for posting the link — amazing story there. I guess the Parachute ad was successful enough that the tagline “Still one jump ahead” was used on the 1974 ad above, like Jason mentioned.
This phrase from the Hagerty article caught my attention:
I wonder if that’s still the case?
Also, I like the quote that the ad director could “only be fired once, whether he destroyed one car or two.” That’s some great career advice!
I bought a 1974 1/2 rubber bumper MGB in 1980 and drove it for 4 years. I preferred the rubber bumper look….I think it gave the a car a more solid look.
It was by far the most fun to drive car I’ve ever owned. I loved the car AND I sold it because it was nickel/diming me to death. The mechanic I went to probably sent his kid college on what I spent.
At time it was my only car.
In my opinion the MGs were not meant to be daily drivers. They were meant to be fun Sunday drivers and when it was running well it was a blast to drive.
A truck masquerading as a sports car.
The first thing that caught my eye was the license plate of the state I grew up in, and obviously in a land with very un-Louisiana-like topography. Qu’est-ce que c’est “hill?”
That’s one brave owner, assuming that the 41-year-old MG made it to Nebraska under its own power. Sure, they can be made reliable, but I’d imagine a breakdown in this part of the US can’t be remedied with a quick visit to O’Reilly Auto Parts.
The nearest mechanic who knows MG is probably in Denver or Kansas City. I hope he arrived at his destination!
The modern equivalent, of course, is the Miata. I’ve got to find a NA while they’re still cheap before they start appreciating.
I think it’s a blessing that BL had limited funds to update the MG. Look what they did to poor Triumph!
There are still a lot of rubber bumper MGs around in Canada. My Dad’s neighbor two doors down has one, a bit ratty but a fun weekend driver.
A co-worker of my wife contacted her because her husband was having difficulty selling his classic car, and she thought maybe we would want it. Mrs DougD said it was an MG sports car.
I asked her to find out if it was a rubber bumper MGB. Indeed it was, I said “Yes that explains why nobody wants it. I’d take it if it was free, but I wouldn’t spend money on one.” Never did hear if they finally sold it..
The MGB rubber bumpers aren’t so bad if they’re affixed to a dark-colored car. But on a lighter color, they’re simply awful. Replacing them with the Moss Motors chrome bumper kit, along with the lowering kit, would remedy the two biggest appearance issues with the later cars.
Then, removing the Rube Goldberg emission controls would actually make them a rather nice return to the halcyon days of the sixties’ cars.
Is it legal in the U.S. to convert one of these to chrome bumpers and regular suspension ? It does happen in the UK.
Some US states have emissions checks but mine does not, and there is no federal inspection apparatus that I am aware of. With no emissions checks there is never a reason to submit to an inspection of any kind, and I cannot imagine how anyone would ever catch you even if it was unlawful. I do not know if there is some kind of age exemption on compliance, but even if there is not I would suspect that this sort of thing happens commonly.
Quite a few people do it. One of the big MG restoration parts suppliers, Moss Motors, sells an entire Chrome Bumper Conversion Kit for example:
…and a lowering kit:
I suspect that even though the resulting car may technically run afoul of federal regulations, like JPC notes above, I’m not sure most state inspections would even check for things like original bumpers or headlight height for vehicles of this age.
I considered these an abomination when they first appeared, but then I was never an English sports car kind of guy to begin with. As the decades have worn on these have appealed to me as a cheap, fun weekend car. But then I have a Miata, which is pretty much all of the thrill and none of the hassle. And you make an excellent point that painted bumpers would have helped these.
I knew a college professor who bought a 1980 Spitfire about 1982. It would drive just fine until the fuel system got too hot and it would then shut down with vapor lock. Let it rest a bit and it would start right back up. Rinse and repeat. BL didn’t have the money to do adequate cars by the late 70s in any case, so I would imagine that trying to meet tightening US emissions regs was a killer for them.
The Miata is what I thought of while reading the article. While its looks are based on the Lotus Elan, the Miata’s spiritual successor seems much more to be the MGB and strongly suspect the Miata’s appeal is that of a reliable, well-built MGB.
In that context, it’s very easy to understand the wild success of the Miata. It was an affordable, fun, open sports car that (for once) the owner didn’t have to worry if it was going to get you back home.
I believe it was R&T that had an article in the early 90s regarding the success story of the Miata, much to the dismay of the author. It seems that many folks back then took it for granted that a sports/import/fun car would spend an inordinate amount of time and money in repairs. They found joy in the misery of the faults, like a true masochist. The Miata surprised the author of the article in that it did NOT require the upkeep and maintenance, nor did it break down at the most opportune moment. However, the buying public finally had a small sports car that one could own and drive with minimal fuss, thus the runaway success.
I suppose there is some merit to the classic idea of a maintenance-intensive sports car. The way it was most often described was it gives the vehicle ‘character’, as opposed to a sterile, no-fuss, ‘appliance’ sort of ride.
And, then, there’s the tinker aspect. I can definitely see some (many?) owners deriving a sense of satisfaction at encountering and overcoming mechanical gremlins. Someone mentioned in another article about the TR8 how they would much rather have roadside assistance from a passing motorist driving a somewhat unreliable vehicle since it’s more likely they’d have to have a higher level of mechanical expertise, given their choice of transportation.
I get that you are talking about working on an older car, but the trope was based on new car purchases. Okay, not picking on you, but the old “it gives the vehicle ‘character’” argument only works if you think buying a new Alfa is only creating character when it breaks down and tell everyone to go out and buy one of those Alfas.
And tinkering? Perhaps 40 year ago when these MGs were new, but who exactly is tinkering with a new car today? One can buy aftermarket doo dads and reflash the computer, but I doubt that any significant changes would be made to a modern car. Hell, most guys don’t even know how to change their oil, or pay someone else to do it. The masochistic attitude that a car is only fun or worthwhile if it leaves you stranded is so ingrained in a lot of memories of old sports cars that it has to have more than a kernel of truth to it. But if a new car breaks down or a part fails, there is hell to pay on the part of the OEM.
Eric, this is a fine piece of writing. It made me daydream about seeking out and fixing up (at this age, a viirtual necessity) an MGB or similar British sportster.
Looking at the underhood shot, someone found an MG with air conditioning? Or is that some kid of pollution pump?
My uncle has a red 75 MGB, pretty fun to ride in. Went to a British car show last summer and there were probably about 50 or so of these there.
The Abingdon plant that built these and the Midget was interesting. It was not a moving assembly line but rather the workers moved them from station to station on rollers where the next crew had 10 minutes to perform all the jobs on the car they were assigned to do. This method gave the workers more say in how the assembly process went (kinda like the stop the line handle in a japanese style plant) and lead to a more happy workforce,,,in BL terms anyway. The plant never had a work stoppage throughout the 70s which is pretty amazing. You’d think BL would have learned from what worked there for the rest of BL but instead they just saw another outdated assembly-only plant with a money losing product that as simply not cost effective to update. It was one of many wasted opportunities but when you look at what BL looked like in the 70s it was probably only direction they could go in. Far too many plants and not enough product that people wanted. They simply didn’t have the capital to update Abingdon with a newer product.
Then the GTI came out and started the hot hatch revolution which ended the brittish roadster for good.
MGBs from the sixties are certainly fun to drive, at least over short distances and when everything works as planned. A family friend used to have a small business (or hobby) buying, fixing and selling used MGs. About 30 years ago he let us use one for a summer weekend; I want to say this one was a 1966 model, prior to the ugly bumper era for sure. The MG certainly wasn’t fast but was entertaining to drive, one sat low in the cockpit with your legs straight out and rowing through the gears was mandatory to maintain forward progress. The weekend was fun but I couldn’t see buying a MGB to use as a daily driver, and there was no way for us to keep one solely for warm weather weekends. On the other hand we decided that we liked having an open car so we ended up buying a Mustang GT convertible, which was my daily driver for more than six years.
Very enjoyable, comprehensive piece. I could almost hear this car “sputtering” and “clamoring” when I read that description. 🙂
If running correctly, a prolonged wheeze under full throttle. Exhaust manifolds glowed red quite a lot.
A good friend had one of these when we lived together in college in the mid 1980’s. It looked just like the subject vehicle but was rustier, and not likely to climb steep hills. It was an idiosyncratic vehicle, and an impractical choice for a college student on a tight budget. I think he liked the sports car styling, and suspect that he picked it up cheap from someone eager to part with a high-maintenance ride. My friend wasn’t very mechanical, but managed to keep the car moving despite its occasional resistance.
A feature I remember clearly was a red light that I believe served to indicate that the heater switch had been turned to the on position. On cold winter mornings we would take turns placing our frigid hands near the light in vain attempts to defrost our fingertips with heat from the bulb. The heater, perhaps inadequate to begin with, never gave us any warmth, and the leaky top provided the added benefit of wind chill. He called the car “Frosty.”
“Rusty” would have also been an apt moniker. Though not as oxidation-prone as domestic vehicles of the day, it had its share, including a well-placed hole in the passenger side fender that allowed rain to get into the ignition system and make it difficult to start. His solution was to keep a plastic bag containing a National Geographic magazine in the car and place it over the hole when he parked the car on rainy days. The magazine, once saturated, molded nicely to the shape of the fender, and was dense enough that it stayed put on windy days.
Though it looked a bit like a sports car, “slow and steady” was the operative mantra due to MG quality and the general state of vehicular decrepitude that was a result of my friend’s budget constraints and mechanical aptitude. It managed to start up most days, and, it did its best to keep us cold in the winter and wet in the rain. Despite this, our spirits were never dampened, and we still have warm memories of the little car that could (or at least tried, most of the time).
Frosty eventually proved too difficult to keep on the road and was replaced with an Escort. The Escort made up for deficiencies in charm and character by being, comparatively speaking, peppy and reliable.
Did they ever sell the MGC or MGB GtV8 in the U.S.A? Externally identical to the MGB but vastly different to drive. The C had a 3.0 6 cylinder while the V8 used the 3.5 V8 ex Buick engine and was a 125 mph car
The MGC, yes.
Unfortunately, the trade off with the big heavy six was a drastic reduction in handling, braking and steering feel. It was a big dud, in case you didn’t know.
The V8, no.
But plenty of MGB owners have swapped in Buick/Rover V8s, as well as Ford and Chevy small block V8s.
Excellent article, Eric, much I didn’t know. It always did mystify me that anyone kept buying it, but context is everything. The woeful acceleration, for example, wasn’t so bad in the context of giant V8 monsters malaising their way down the highway barely any quicker.
But my gawd, I never quite realised how choked it became – 63hp! And that’d be 63 stally, fussy, flat-spotty hp’s, and probably 18mpg just to add insult. Add the high heels and nose job, and the appeal is nearly zero until you realise there was nothing else like it anywhere near the price.
As for appearance, I’m with rudiger above: in dark colours, and with the Rostyle-type wheels (and if really well-kept), it looks passable, and for many folk in the ’70’s, would’ve looked more contemporary than chrome. Admittedly, the light and shabby one in the photos looks execrable.
But then again, the MGB is a conundrum to me. Just when I think it is a plain old Jane, a Jane who wore quite inappropriate rubber and black make-up and platform shoes in her last years, I see the 1963 ad photos of the white-walled sky-blue car, and think “What a pretty machine that is.”
The woeful acceleration, for example, wasn’t so bad in the context of giant V8 monsters malaising their way down the highway barely any quicker.
In 1978, a big Chevy Caprice/Impala with the popular 350 V8 would go 0-60 in just about one-half the time (9.5 seconds) that it took this MGB. The lighter Malibu with the 350 would be even quicker. And most of the rest of the V8 cars on the late 70s weren’t nearly that slow either. Things got a bit worse after 1980, but I wonder if there’s any V8 that took 18 seconds to 60, other than the Olds diesel.
18 seconds is pretty seriously slow. A 1970-1971 VW Beetle was about that fast.
That’s being a bit selective, surely? Ford LTD panther of 1978 with the 351 (18.5 kg per kw) would do 0-60mph in 14.3 secs: the NA MGB (22.8 kg per kw), 16.1, according to Automobile Catalog. The 305 Impala is about 13 secs, and the 350 is 11. None of which makes the MGB anything other than slothful (and likely even slower in real driving, no instant torque), but in the absence of EFI, US-market unleaded cars were still slow for the huge engine sizes. And I reckon that if the Rubber B was compared to some of the humungo-GM’s from when it came out in 1974, there’d be some V8’s not too far in front of it at all (and I kind-of meant the whole malaise era anyway).
Was it on this site that a C & D test of a Spitfire, a Rubber B and some others was republished? I remember being struck that the mag didn’t really criticise the performance as being abysmal despite the 18 sec 0-60, although they did say it ran badly.
Only the US models got the hp strangle the rest of the world got the raised ride height but the cars went as well as ever not that they were every very quick.
As to the MGB drop in horsepower, we have to remember that its original 94 hp was a gross hp rating, and the ultimate 63 hp was a net rating. I’m going to guesstimate that those 94 gross hp equal about 77-80 hp net, so the drop was not quite as huge as it might appear at first glance.
What propelled the MG’s success for all those years is simply the residual power of the 50s and early 60s sports car boom, when the MG became an icon of that, an enduring brand. Folks didn’t buy them for any logical reasons, the sports car boom was long over, and the guys who had bought MGs in the 50s and early 60s had long moved on to something like a BMW or such.
A lot of women bought these, as they were “cute”. And they didn’t care much about how they went or handled.
Swapping out the rubber bumpers for the chrome bumpers and grille is often done over here, and the car lowered as well. Visually, it works as well as you’d expect it to but it does not make the car a real sports car again, even allowing for its age. The power was not there, the B series was never really a sports car engine anyway, the handling and road holding still weak.
But the visual appeal was definitely there – the basic styling was so right little needed to be done to fix it. Sadly, anything that was done didn’t – additional marker lights and fog lights, the rubber bumpers, hideous interior trims. But the black bumpers did work with some of the bright 70s colours.
Here in the UK, in reality, the MGB was shown the way to go by the Ford Capri by 1970. Almost everything the MG did or said was better done by the Capri, except for the open roof and we buying MGB GTs then anyway.
A text book case of what happens if you do not invest in new product. BL knew that, and tried to address it with various schemes, culminating with the TR7, but had no (immediate) strategy for the convertible and/or the MG brand. So they carried on producing it at a loss instead, competing with the TR7…..
As they say, go figure.
Now a very prominent and popular part of the UK classic car scene – every show will have multiple MGBs and you buy every spare up to and including a newly manufactured body shell.
I have a rubber bumper 1979 MGB that my dad bought new. The car sat for 27 years in my grandparents garage. I rebuilt the engine, had the gas tank cleaned, and replaced the gas pump, among some other things. Now I wouldn’t hesitate to drive it from where I live in Las Vegas to Nebraska, other than the original BL air conditioner doesn’t work. Most say it was dealer installed; my dad says it was on the window sticker.
As for the bumpers, I personally like them, however, I can see the appeal of chrome over rubber. when I removed them to have the car painted, they certainly did not feel like 75 pounds. I didn’t weight them and I could be stronger than I think, but they felt more like 35.
The handling isn’t terrible. Up until last month, my daily driver was a 2010 BMW 328i coupe with the sport package and the MG wasn’t too far behind it in handling. Acceleration, is wouldn’t stand a chance.
A few days after this was published and a few days before I read it, I happened by the Muhlenberg County Music Museum where Don Everly’s restored ’77 is displayed.
That’s great! Somehow I see that as being a fitting car for one of the Everly Brothers.
I can picture Don driving it through the rolling hills of Kentucky, singing “All I have to do is dream (that I have more than 63 horsepower)…”