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MGB, 50 Years On

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by John Gunnell  More from Author

These sporty British imports made waves in America.

The MGB was introduced at the 1962 London Motor Show. If they were still building MGBs, this would be the 50th year of production. With boxy modern styling and power, the MGB became a very popular car. The “B” spent four years on the drawing board. Both a roadster and a GT coupe were in the plan, but only the roadster was sold until 1966, when the hatchback MGB GT arrived.

Four basic MGB/MGB GTs were produced over 18 years. The only major styling change was a switch to black rubber bumpers after 1974. The 1963-1966 “Chrome Bumper” car is called the MKI. The 1967-1971 “Chrome Bumper” car is the MKII. A chrome bumper continued on the 1972-1974 MK III, but heavy front bumper guards were added in mid-1973 to meet stricter safety standards. The Series IV “Rubber Bumper” cars were sold in model years 1975-1980.

The B was the best-selling MG ever. MG made 387,675 roadsters and 125,597 GTs from 1962-1980. Hambro Automotive Corp., of New York City (later Ridgefield, NJ) was the U.S. distributor and brought in 300,274 road­sters over 18 years. Today, these British classics are an appreciating asset for car collectors.


1963-1966 MGB/MGB GT MKI
The slab-sided MGB had a rectangular profile with full-length horizontal body side moldings and flat rear wheel openings. The headlights sat back a bit from the full-width grille with vertical blades. Rectangular front parking lights and vertical taillights were seen. The pancake-type hood was hinged at the rear.

Inside were two individual, leather-upholstered, adjustable bucket seats. The “roadster” had wind-up windows and was really a convertible. It featured outside door handles and ventipanes. Behind the seats was an open luggage area, where the removable soft top stored. A tonneau was provided to hide it. Full instrumentation was provided. Although small, the MGB was roomy inside.
The MGB used unibody construction with double-box-section door sills. This made it light and strong. The suspension had front control arms and coil springs and semi-elliptic rear leaf springs. Lever-type shock absorbers were standard. Disc wheels and Dunlop tires were standard.

A diaphragm clutch linked the engine and gearbox. The early MGB four-speed manual transmission had overall ratios of 3.63:1 in first, 2.21:1 in second, 1.37:1 in third and 1.00:1 in fourth. The standard final drive ratio was 3.91:1. In 1964, a Laycock de Normanville overdrive that operated on third and fourth gears via a toggle switch became available. It took longer to arrive on U.S. cars.

In 1965, the MGB got a five-bearing crankshaft to replace the former three-main bearing shaft that “whipped” in racing applications. An electric tachometer was adopted. The Port of Entry price dropped to $2,607 as production took off and MG realized some volume production efficiencies. The 1965 engine was the same, but the compression ratio rose to 8.8:1 and output inched up to 98 hp at 5400 rpm. Torque was rated 110 lb-ft at 3000 rpm. More power raised top speed to 105-110 mph. Zero-to-60 took 11 sec. and you could run the quarter in 18 sec. The 1965 MGB was also good for 22-28 mpg.

In 1966, the MGB GT arrived with a Pininfarina hatchback coupe body. The front end and rear fenders were like those used on the roadster, but a higher windshield raised the roof line. A small, fold-flat rear seat suitable for children was added. A hinged tailgate with large rear window opened to a rear cargo area.

MK I FACTS (1963 *)
Models: MGB Roadster/MGB GT Hatchback
Roadster Price (POE NYC): $2,658
MGB GT Price: $3,095 (1966)
Price With Wire Wheels: $100 more

MK I DIMENSIONS (1963 *)
Wheelbase: 91 in.
O.L. Length: 153.25 in.
Weight Roadster: 1,920 lb.
Weight MGB GT: 2,190 lb. (1966)
Height: (Roadster): 49.4 in.
Height: (Hatchback): NA
Width: 60 in.

MK I ENGINE SPECS (1963 *)
Engine: In-line 4-cyl
Bore x Stroke: 80.26 x 88.9 mm
Displacement: 1798-cc
Compression Ratio: 8.75:1
HP @ RPM: 94 at 5500 rpm
Torque @ RPM: 107 lb-ft at 3500 rpm
Carburetion: Twin S.U. carburetors
Top Speed: 103-105 mph
0-to-60 mph: 11-12.5 sec
Quarter Mile: 18.1-18.5 sec. at about 75 mph

MK I CHASSIS SPECS (1963 *)
Front Suspension: Wishbones; coil springs; lever shocks
Rear Suspension: Rigid axle; semi elliptic leaf springs; lever shocks
Brakes: Front disc/rear drum
Tires: 5.60 x 14 Dunlop
(*) See text for important year-by-year changes.



1967-1971 MGB & MGB GT MK II
Late in model year 1967, MK II versions of the MGB roadster and MGB GT hatchback coupe became available. With British cars, such a designation usually meant a bigger, more powerful engine, but MKIIs had the same engine. The big change was an all-synchro gearbox with better gear ratios. This dictated a wider transmission tunnel, which hinted at the use of an automatic transmission.

Almost all other specifications were unchanged. A dressed-up “First Anniversary MGB GT Special” included special equipment at no extra cost. Dealers received the goodies as a kit to add to cars in inventory. It’s impossible to say how many got it, and there’s no evidence the MG factory in Abingdon, England built First Anniversary Specials. The kit included special nameplates, a wood-rimmed Moto-Lita steering wheel, wooden shift knob, streamlined, racing-style outside rearview mirror on the left front fender, wire wheels and white walls.

The 1968-1969 MGBs were little-changed. Even though the compression ratio remained at 8.8:1, advertised horsepower fell to 92 at 5400 rpm due to new emissions controls. Torque remained 110 lb-ft at 3000 rpm. About 5,000 automatic transmissions were installed before this new option was cancelled in 1973. The 1968 roadster sold for $2,670, and a GT was $3,160. In 1969, despite a de-tuned engine, MGB/MGB GT prices increased to $2,817 and $3,202, respectively.

More than 20 styling changes were announced for 1970 models. Most were less obvious than a new, recessed, and blacked-out grille with a center emblem that was set inside a thin, bright surround molding. Amber rectangular parking lights again stood below the recessed headlights. Models destined for the U.S. had side marker lights ahead of the front fenders. New York POE prices were $2,875 for the 1,920-pound roadster, and $3,260 for the 2,190-pound coupe.

For 1970, MGBs got Rostyle mag wheels with 155 x 14 radial tires (165 x 14 on MGB GTs). Standard features included reclining ambia bucket seats with adjustable head rests and vinyl (not leather) trim, padded sunvisors, a leather-cov­ered steering wheel, three-point seat­belts, a heater and defroster, front and rear side marker lights, a cigarette lighter and ashtray, map pockets, fit­ted carpets, rubber floor mats and door sill kick plates. MGs came in Flame Red, Bronze Yellow, Brit­ish Racing Green, Blue Royale, Pale Primrose and Glacier White.

By 1971, U.S. models got rubber-tipped bumper guards and a new, redesigned black-out-style grille. A steering-column lock also became standard equipment. Prices took a substantial leap to $3,075 for the open car, and $3,435 for the GT. Weights also rose to 2,303 and 2,401 pounds, respectively. Options included a removable hardtop, Dunlop 60-spoke center-lock wire wheels (painted or chromed), a heater, an electrically-heated GT rear window, overdrive, a solid-state AM or AM/FM radio, a center console with electric clock, a center armrest, a wood-rim steering wheel, a wood gearshift knob, rubber floor mats, white sidewall tires and an array of Sports Car Club of America approved racing parts.

The “smogged” MGB had a top speed of 105 mph-plus. Its 0-to-60-mph acceleration was 11.8 sec. and it did the quarter-mile in 18.45 sec. at 77 mph.

MK II FACTS (1967 *)
Models: MGB Roadster/MGB GT Hatchback
Roadster Price (POE NYC): $2,615
MGB GT Price: $3,095

MK II DIMENSIONS (1967 *)
Wheelbase: 91 in.
O.L. Length: 153.25 in.
Weight Roadster: 1,920 lb.
Weight MGB GT: 2,190 lb.
Height: (Roadster): 49.4 in.
Height: (Hatchback): NA
Width: 60 in.

MK II ENGINE SPECS (1967 *)
Engine: In-line 4-cyl
Bore x Stroke: 80.26 x 88.9 mm
Displacement: 1798-cc
Compression Ratio: 8.8:1
HP @ RPM: 98 at 5400 rpm
Torque @ RPM: 110 lb-ft at 3000 rpm
Carburetion: Twin S.U. carburetors
Top Speed (**): 105-110 mph
0-to-60 mph (**): 11.0-11.8 sec
Quarter Mile (**): 18.0-18.5 at about 77 mph
(**) Lower performance numbers for 1968 and later “smogged” MGBs/MGB GTs.

MK II CHASSIS SPECS (1967 *)
Front Suspension: Wishbones; coil springs; lever shocks
Rear Suspension: Rigid axle; semi elliptic leaf springs; lever shocks
Brakes: Front disc/rear drum
Tires: 5.60 x 14 Dunlop
(*) See text for important year-by-year changes.



1972-1974 MGB/MGB GT MK III & MG V-8
The MGB/MGB GT MKIII was introduced in model year 1972 with modest changes including a new center console and armrests. A restyled instrument panel incorporated a locking glovebox. The seats in the GT coupe had leather inserts. Three new body colors were added: Gold, Aqua and Dark Green. Prices continued to rise. The engine was de-tuned for use with low-lead or regular fuel. Twin S.U. HIF carbs designed for improved emissions continued to be used.

In 1973, the grille was revised with the MG emblem returning to the upper grille molding. Thick new bumper guards were required and added to the car’s overall length. Prices also took a sharp jump. By late 1973, Abingdon announced its new V-8 model. It was identified by V-8 badges in the grille and ahead of the doors and lasted longer than the earlier six-cyl­inder MGC (which looked much like the “B”). However, V-8 production was lower than MGC production.

A Rover-built 3532-cc alu­minum-block V-8 was used. This engine evolved from a Buick design of the 1960s. It weighed less than BMC’s cast-iron four-cylinder. Only slight modifications were required to squeeze the V-8 into the “B.” The bulkhead had to be slightly re-shaped, and a low-rise exhaust manifold was required. The suspension did not have to be drastically changed, but the V-8 did ride an inch higher. An MGC gearbox with slightly modified gear ratios was used.

The V-8 engine installs were performed at the MG factory and resulted in an MGB with an 88.9 x 71.1-mm bore and stroke for 3528 cc displacement. The engine ran an 8.25:1 compression ratio and twin, horizontal S.U. carbs. It produced 137 hp at 5000 rpm and 193 lb-ft of torque at 2900 rpm – enough to send a V-8 model to 60 mph in close to seven seconds. The V-8 had a top speed of 121 mph. Fewer than 2,600 MGB V-8s were produced between 1973-1976.

While retaining a 91-in. wheelbase, the new “B” with its rubber-coated overriders was slightly longer at 159.2 in. Both the front and rear treads were now uniform at 49.5 in. The Rostyle sculpted steel wheels carried 155SR14 radial tires on four-cylinder roadsters, larger 165SR14 radials on four-cylinder GTs and still larger 175HR14 radials on V-8s. Overall transmission ratios also varied according to engine. Standard rear axle ratios were 3.91:1 for the standard car, 3.07:1 for the V-8 model and 3.307:1 for the V-8 with overdrive.

MK III FACTS (1972 *)
Models: MGB Roadster/MGB GT Hatchback
Roadster Price (POE NYC): $3,320
MGB GT Price: $3,615

MK III DIMENSIONS (1972 *)
Wheelbase: 91 in.
O.L. Length: 159.2 in.
Weight Roadster: 1,920 lb.
Weight MGB GT: 2,190 lb.
Height: (Roadster): 49.5 in.
Height: (Hatchback): NA
Width: 60 in.

MK III ENGINE SPECS (1972 *)
Engine: Inline 4-cyl
Bore x Stroke: 80.26 x 88.9-mm
Displacement: 1798-cc
Compression Ratio: 8.0:1
HP @ RPM: 78 at 5500 rpm
Torque @ RPM: 94 lb-ft at 3000 rpm
Carburetion: Twin S.U. carburetors
Top Speed: 92 mph
0-to-60 mph: 15.3 sec.
Quarter Mile: 19.9

MK III CHASSIS SPECS (1972 *)
Front Suspension: Wishbones; coil springs; lever shocks
Rear Suspension: Rigid axle; semi elliptic leaf springs; lever shocks
Brakes: Front disc/rear drum
Tires: 155 x 14
(*) See text for important year-by-year changes.



1975-1980 MGB MK IV
The MK IV bowed at the London Motor Show in October 1974 and hit the US late in 1975. It had black polyurethane bumpers. “Rubber Bumper” cars were shunned for years, but are now getting popular, since the last MGB is 30 years old. A new single-carb engine and new gearbox ratios were designed to increase gas mileage. An MGB GT Jubilee Edition with British Racing Green paint and gold V-8-style wheels was produced during 1975, before the GT left the U.S.

Production of the V-8 MG continued into 1976, but the bulk of sales still went to the fours. The roadster added a zip-in rear window. Standard 1977 colors were Brooklands Green, Chartreuse, Damask Red, Flamenco, Glacier White, Sandglow and Tahiti Blue. Interior color choices were Autumn Leaf or Black.

By 1978, the MGB was a $5,649 car that weighed 2,338 pounds. Standards features of later editions included twin electric cooling fans, a tonneau cover, power front disc brakes, a four-spoke steering wheel with padded rim, 165SR14 tires and a zip-out rear window. In 1979, the MGB price rose to $6,550.

MG’s last year was 1980, when you got $50 back after handing a dealer $8,000 for a B. Production halted in October 1980. The last U.S. model was the 1980 “Limited Edition.” It was all black with gunmetal-gray stripes along lower body and a front spoiler. The last 1,000 “Limited” models were built for the home market only and included 420 Bronze roadsters and 580 Pewter GT coupes.
MK IV FACTS (1975 *)
Models: MGB Roadster
Roadster Price (POE NYC): $4,350 (4-cyl)

MK IV DIMENSIONS (1975 *)
Wheelbase: 91.1 in.
O.L. Length: 158.3 in.
Weight Roadster: 1,920 lb.
Height: (Roadster): 51.0 in.
Width: 59.9 in.

MK IV ENGINE SPECS (1975 *)
Engine: Inline 4-cyl
Bore x Stroke: 80.26 x 88.9-mm
Displacement: 1798-cc
Compression Ratio: 8.0:1
HP @ RPM: 62.5 at 5500 rpm:
Torque @ RPM: 86 lb-ft at 2500 rpm:
Carburetion: (1) Zenith carburetor:

MK IV V8 ENGINE SPECS (1973-76)
Engine: OHV V-8
Bore x Stroke: 88.9 x 71.1-mm
Displacement: 3528-cc
Compression Ratio: 8.25:1
HP @ RPM: 137 at 5000 rpm
Torque @ RPM: 193 lb-ft at 2900 rpm
Carburetion: Twin S.U. carburetors

MK IV CHASSIS SPECS (1975 *)
Front Suspension: Wishbones; coil springs; lever shocks
Rear Suspension: Rigid axle; semi elliptic leaf springs; lever shocks
Brakes: Front disc/rear drum
Tires: 165SR14
(*) See text for important year-by-year changes




Yellow 1969 MGB GT MK II provides a good look at the early style grille. It shared the roadster’s fenders and hood, but had a higher roofline.



By ’71, MGBs had a black grille with badge, and rubber-tipped bumper guards.



A new MK III arrived for 1972 with a red grille badge and a “smogged” engine.



The ’72 interior had a new center console, armrests, and a new locking glove box.



In ’73, a larger MG emblem returned to the upper grille surround.



This ’76 MGB at Hawkeye Downs meet in Cedar Rapids, IA had a fiberglass hardtop.



This Tahiti Blue ’77 roadster had a new zip-in rear window, at least when it was new.



When this red ’78 MGB was new, its buyer had to tolerate a big price hike.



The very last MGB sold in America was a black 1980 Limited Edition with gray stripes and a spoiler.



The last 1,000 Limited Editions for England included 420 Bronze roadsters.



The MGB four started at 94 hp in 1963 and wound up with 62.5 hp in 1980.



Mecum got $15,000 for a 19,000-original-mile MGB at the May 2010 Indy auction.



MGB AND MGB GT CLUB
American MGB Association
P.O. Box 11401
Chicago, IL 60611
773-878-5055
www.mgbclub.net

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