BUYING GUIDE:// The MG-B

I have always been in love with classic motors, sixties British sports-cars in particular. So when the opportunity arose I bought one . . . an MG-B; in British racing green.

2010 MG-B Road cars/mgb-1970 [small]I'm not alone in loving the little MG-B roadsters and GT's! And there's a good reason why: there were more half a milion produced, it's got all the sexy and classic looks of a sixties British sports-car and besides that, a front engined rear wheel drive roadster configuration is so much fun to drive and it's easy to maintain. Treated to proper maintenance it is quite reliable, therefore friendly for your wallet and it's even a strong enough performer to compete in historic races. In brief: this car has so much going for it.
Still not convinced? Ask any classic car enthusiast to name 5 sixties sports-cars and and the MG-B is on the list with all of them; guaranteed. Right then: time for the MG-B buying guide in this feature of Classic Cars Monthly.

"Yeah yeah sure" I hear you say; "Your alias is MG Robin, you actually own an MG-B. . . Aren't you way to biased to write this article"? Well that's why I asked Terry Bower owner of 'Historic Motorsports Consultancy" to help me put down this MG-B buying guide. Terry has life long experience in maintenance, restoration, and race driver tuition. In his automotive career he has worked on many classic cars ranging from Bentley's to Ferrari's and form TVR's to Healey's. But the MG-B's robust and straight forward design makes it one of his favorites.

History - a little

MG-B-mark-I-interiorThe MG-B replaced the MG-A in 1962 which was somewhat outdated by then. To keep up with competition, the B had to offer greater levels of comfort and performance. And so it did; making it the best selling British sports-car.
Apart from styling the biggest change for MG-B was the monocoque or unitary body structure. This made the B lighter, stronger and enabled a shorter wheelbase to improve handling. The interior was more spacious and comfortable and attractive leather seats, wind-up windows complimented the interior. So thumbs up for comfort and handling.
Engine-wise not much was changed from the MG-A. It was still the B-series engine but the capacity was enlarged to 1798cc, producing 94 horses. Together with the lighter - well, than it would have been with a separate body and chassis design - this made quite some sports-car out of the 2,000 lbs (920kg) weighing MG-B back in '62. So another thumbs up in the performance department, making the MG-B an instant success especially in the United States.

2010 MG-B Road cars/page_01 [large]

During its 18 year production the MG-B was produced as mark I, mark II, mark III and he so called rubber bumper variation. The Mark II being the only official one. However don't think of it as the face-lift or phase today's cars get halfway their production cycle. When enough modifications were implemented, the engineers and probably the marketeers from Abbindon decided it was time for the next mark. As a consequence a distinct mark of an MG-B isn't easily recognizable. Except for the rubber bumper of course.

Choosing the B of your liking

So when you are out looking for an MG-B, the different marks aren't relevant really. Better decide what you want to use your B for. Any MG-B is perfectly fit as a daily driver. The 1800 CC power unit isn't the quickest, but produces enough grunt for today's traffic. It isn't a really thirsty car in respect to it's age and there is the fun factor of the rear wheel drive. Terry says he drove his 1964 FIA racer as a daily driver for a while. "I even drove it to venues like the Spa Six Hours - raced it - and drove it back home again".

2010-12 MG-B Racers/mg-b-spa-6-2010---2 [small]So the pre '65 examples are the most sought after, since they comply to FIA race specifications. The '74 and on rubber bumper MG-B's are the least desirable. Not only because of the absence of all the lovely chrome, but also due to the fact that they have power limiting emission control gear fitted - American cars in particular; and they don't handle as good as the pre '74 cars due to the higher ride height.

"If you want to go quicker consider the MG-B's siblings" says Terry. "The much maligned straight six engined 'MG-C' is a very strong performer, and no . . . it doesn't handle badly like the motoring journalists wrote back in 1967. They just couldn't drive really. The C just needs a firm hand - a driver who lets it know who's boss. The best of the bunch is MG-B V8, which isn't as heavy as it sounds. In fact the aluminum V8 is only a little heavier than the iron 1800CC four pot, making it a very sweet performer indeed".

Repairs and maintenance

Repairs and maintenance is not the most glorious topic, is it? The words alone could even sound somewhat scary and expensive with some classic cars. But don't worry with the MG-B. According to specialist Terry, annual repairs and maintenance will cost approximately the same as that of a medium sized family saloon, with average classic car use. That is: the occasional meetings and shows, a few rally trials and the Sunday outings through the countryside.
"The biggest cost you will face are probably with the body-shop", says Terry. "It will be the labour that is most expensive. Not the panels, or bolt on wings or valences. So do take care of the body if it is in a good nick."
"The engine and basically the rest of the car is relatively simple and apart from the usual timing equipment no special tools are required. So if you are reasonably competent wielding a set of spanners, there really is nothing beyond the 'Home Mechanic'". And even if you are not comfortable getting your hands greasy, there are plenty of MG specialists around. Don't worry your car will be out of commission for months or even weeks, while you are searching for parts either. I bet you can order an MG-B in new parts on E-Bay - will cost you though, but the point is; its all available!

2010 MG-B Road cars/Mk-I-MG-B-GT-Old-English-White [large]

What to check when buying

I always stop reading a buying guides immediately when it tells me to look for rust in the obvious places. Unless you are a specialist, or you have previously owned such a car - you don't know what the obvious places are, do you. So here is our shortlist:

Engine checks

The engine should start easily and it is not uncommon to have a small amount of blue oil smoke when starting from cold. It should clear in a short while. If it doesn't it could indicate worn valve guides or worse; damaged or worn bore or piston rings.
There shouldn't be any 'rumbling' sounds or UN-tracable ticking when you give the throttle pedal a bit of a push. If there are - this is a good time to walk away, unless you are planning to rebuild the engine anyway.

Transmission and running gear checks

All gearboxes should be crisp in operation, some 'whining' in first gear is quite normal but there should be no nasty clunks or grating sounds at any time.

2010 MG-B Road cars/mgb-wire-wheel [small]Body and chassis (where to check for rust) checks

The most obvious rust-spots can easily be covered up. So always take a magnet with you to check for rust even if the skin looks pristine. Pay attention to the following spots in particular: Check above the headlights, the underside of the doors, the sill's and the rear wheel arches.
Also take a torch and have a thorough look underneath. Take special notice of the floors, the castle sections (castlerails are what makes the monocoque rigid) and pay close attention to the battery boxes.

Prices

In this MG-B buyers guide pricing we'll stick to the four pots only. The much rarer MG-C's an MG-B V8's are obviously more expensive than the original 1800. In general the higher prices are to be paid for the more desirable early pre '65 cars. The lower prices are for the rubber bumper cars.

Expect to pay GBP only 1,000 to 2,000 for a 'to be restored' or 'project' example.
Usable to presentable cars change hands from GBP 2,000 up to 10.000.
Really mint MG-B's fetch from 10K for a very good one to 15K for a concourse winner.

MG-B photo gallery

Words: MG-Robin 
MG specialist: Terry Bower - Historic Motorsports Consultancy