Posts Tagged ‘Until Japanese’
Is there anyone in the world who has not seen, admired, driven or owned an MGB? Until Japanese cars like the Datsun Z-class, and the Mazda MX-5/Miata finally racked up higher figures in the 1990s, the MGB was the world’s best-selling sports car. Announced in 1962, made steadily until 1980, yet recognizably the same at the end, as in its beginning, the four-cylinder MGB notched up sales of 513,272. Along the way, another nine thousand six-cylinder MGCs, and 2,591 MGB GT V8s were also built. Nor was that all, for in the early 1990s the Rover group briefly revived a restyled, V8-engined version of the car, calling in the MG RV8, and selling most of them to Japan.
Conceived as BMC’s mass production sports car for the 1960s, and to replace the successful MGA, the MGB had a sturdy new monocoque shell, and a style devised by Abingdon (Italian influence was not needed), the running gear being a developed version of that used in the old MGA. With 95bhp from 1.8-litres, and a more slippery shape, the original roadster was capable of more than 100mph. Overdrive was optional (it would not be standardized until the 1970s), automatic transmission eventually became a short-lived option, and from 1965 there was even a smart and extremely successful fastback coupé/hatchback version called the MGB GT.
Like many a previous MG, the sporty, stylish two-seater shape hid positively mundane running gear. Properly maintained by any competent mechanic or BMC dealer (which was one charm of this car, especially when being run thousands of miles from Britain), an MGB could go on forever, with saloon-type running costs. Engine and transmission were both shared with other mass-production BMC (later, British Leyland) cars, while the chassis, with its coil spring front suspension and beam axle/leaf-spring rear was extremely conventional, but here was a sports car which was more than the sum of its carts. The fabled ‘Abingdon Touch’ was certainly applied to this model.
Not only did it look good, but it handled well, and tuners soon found that race-prepared cars could be made to go very fast too. Although not outstanding on the track, the MGB still figured in endurance racing – the ‘works’ motor sport department, for instance, preparing a succession of long-nosed cars to content, and complete, the legendary Le Mans 24 Hour race.
Although a new all-synchromesh gearbox was fitted from late 1967, and there were regular cosmetic retouching in the 1970s, the MGB was really allowed to go on too long without a major update. For 1975 it was necessary to fit vast, controversially styled, rubber bumpers for the car to go on selling in North America, at which point the ride height went up and the road holding suffered.
By the late 1970s British Leyland had lost faith in it (they also favored the in-house rival, Triumph, at this time), American emission rules had strangled the engine too far, and an overhead-camshaft engine transplant was ruled out. The consequence was that the MGB finally died of senile decay. The good news, though, is that body shells were later remanufactured in numbers, all parts were available through the 1990s, and the MGB was as much of an icon in the 2000s as it was all those years ago.
Kenny B. Simpson
Longstanding British car enthusiast Edmonton auto dealer specializing in Mazda cars including the RX7