MGB GT REVIEW

Is the rubber-bumpered 'B the most rational classic car that money can buy?

The MGB GT in rubber-bumpered form is still your cheapest way into 'B ownership. Given how aghast aficionados were at its Federalised bumpers at the time of its launch, we can see how that's happened. But it's funny how the passage of time has really softened those controversial looks - a testament to the design department at Longbridge, which oversaw the installation of those bumpers on the 1975 cars.

In reality, the MGB's modifications were superbly executed, and despite being huge, the bumpers flow well with the existing car's styling. We're not kidding - look at a Seveties Fiat X1/9, BMW 2002 or Lancia Montecarlo to see how bad Federal bumpers can look.

The relative lack of wide appeal for these later models can work in your favour: prices are low compared with older chrome-bumpered cars and you get pretty much the same package. What's not to like?

 

VITAL STATISTICS

Engine: 1798cc/4-cyl/OHV

Power: 84bhp@550rpm

Torque: 105lb ft@2500rpm

Maximum speed: 105mph

0-60mph: 12.2sec

Fuel consumption: 22-26mpg

Transmission: RWD, four-spd manual

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Smoke on the water

The OHV 1798cc B-series engine is known and loved in the specialist fraternity. It's strong, easy to work on and simple to tune. Major problems are quickly diagnosed and often simple to fix - a little burning oil could well be a faulty crankcase breather rather than anything more serious. But don't discount worn valve guides - if so, you'll need a new cylinder head, or, if you're really unlucky, you might need a bottom end rebuild. Look out for oil leaks from the front and rear crankshaft seals - replacing the rear one is an engine-out job. This is rare, though, and the B-series can rack up six-figure mileages.

 

Driving me wild

The four-speed transmission is tough, long-lived and well up to the task of hauling the relatively lightweight MGB, but it whines in first and second gear ('They all do that, sir'). If you want overdrive, look for a car that's been retro-fitted and ensure it engages and disengages smoothly. Don't worry too much if the overdrive is not working properly - it may be a poor electrical connection or a low oil level.

 

Spring is around the corner

Ask if the front suspension has been re-greased every 3000 miles, because, if not, the kingpins can wear out rapidly. Satisfy yourself that the brakes are working correctly. Wear in the master cylinger or servo seal failure should be sorted very quickly, but they're easy jobs.

Rear leaf psrings can sag with age and bushes only have a finite life, so assess these carefully, along with the condition of the rear spring shackles. Lever-arm dampers can leak, but reconditioned items are available.

 

Does it have a beautiful body?

This is the area that sorts out a good MGB from a bad one, so be careful. Rust can hit just about anywhere, but new panels, repair sections and even entire bodyshells can be bought off-the-shelf from specialists and at reasonable prices. GTs suffer from water ingress and it rots out the floorpans rapidly. Sills are tough to fix effectively, so don't be dismissive of corrosion in this area, and be suspicious of cover trims.

Underneath, take a good look at the rear spring hangers and battery boxes. The box sections at the top of the front inner wings rot readily and it's a tough repair. Scuttle edges also corrode, affecting the base of the windscreen and turning a good car into a basket case.

 

Love it inside out

The interior is basic and solid, but take care that everything is working as it should and there's no annoying minor damage. Nylon seat trim is of indifferent quality, but easily replaced, and door trims tend to survive well, but watch out for rips. Complete new interiors are available off the shelf, although they don't tend to be cheap. Wet carpets could be down to a leaky heater or water getting in through poor seals.

 

OUR VERDICT

If you really need to be told why you want one, then you've been living on Mars since 1965. The MGB is Britain's most popular classic car with good reason: it's widely available; has great parts and specialist support; and as long as you're not too demanding an owner, they are really good fun to drive. And let's be honest, that B-series engine sounds good when rasping through the exhaust system.

The appeal of the later cars is not just their lower prices - although that's a big part of it - but you also have the added advantage of BL's infamously garish colour palette inside. Russet Brown and Harvest Brown are back in fashion, aren't they? 

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