The B was an epochal car for MG. During its 18-year production run, it became the world’s best-selling sports car, and went on to define the concept of the open-topped British sports car for enthusiasts across the world. And since it went out of production in 1980 (by which time, it was already a classic), an entire support industry has grown up around it.
When launched in 1962, a upto-the-minute specification meant it was a delight to drive compared with its rivals, as well as being a significant step forward from the MGA. There was plenty of power on tap, thanks to its recently upgraded 1.8-litre B-series engine. Four-speed gearbox (with overdrive available), rack-and-pinion steering, independent front suspension, and disc brakes were standard fitments right from the start.
In 1965, the B’s appeal was considerably widened with the launch of the GT. Its fastback roof, designed by Pininfarina, followed conventional GT styling cues but resulted in disarmingly good looks. The raised windscreen height and side windows meant that there was a realistic amount of headroom for those in the front, although the rear-seats were really only useful for luggage. Under the skin, the GT was pure Roadster, and that meant tidy handling and excellent performance.
In 1967, the B was upgraded to Mk2 specification. The four-speed gearbox received synchromesh on all forward ratios, and an optional Borg-Warner automatic gearbox became available. In 1970 the Mk3 was given a (not universally popular) BL-style front end, which did away with the chrome grille and slats. The new look didn’t last long, and the return to chrome ushered in the Mk3, which received a number of further improvements to keep the MGB looking fresh.
In 1974, North American regulations forced a raised ride height and polyurethane-covered bumpers onto the once-delicate looking MGB. Although condemned at the time by fans, the federalised MGB was actually a successful styling job compared with its Italian rivals, such as the Fiat Spider and X1/9. Later B-series engines in North America were reduced to a single Zenith Stromberg carb, emissions equipment and a catalyst – leaving the poor MGB as one of the slowest cars you could buy new in the USA.
In 1980, the MGB came to an end – and its second life as the world’s favourite classic car began in earnest.
Reviews, blogs and news stories
The MGB is probably the world’s best-loved classic car – and if you’re looking for a weekend toy, you’ve probably already considered one. However, we take a contemporary view of the legendary sports car, and trace it’s long history, and how it slipped out of view in 1980. B is for Bestseller o this day, […]
Ask anyone with even the most cursory knowledge of classics to name their favourite cars, and you can guarantee that the MG name will come up time and time again. Keith Adams takes a short tour through the history of this great marque…
Safety first: A close look at the Safety Research Vehicles (SRVs) produced by British Leyland in the 1970s reveals some very prescient ideas. There were, of course, a few blind alleys, too. Following Ralph Nader’s 1965 report Unsafe At Any Speed, which highlighted the poor handling and/or crash-resistance of numerous cars sold in the US, the […]
The MG EX234 project was developed in 1964 as a proposed replacement for the MGB. Under the skin lurked some very interesting engineering solutions… The EX234 project was instigated in early 1964 when the Abingdon engineering team’s thoughts turned to the issue of revising the MGB in order to give it a degree of chassis […]
The MG Car Club’s MGB Register has found and rescued a works-backed MGB that contested the 1968 London to Syndey Marathon. UMD 534F was not a works entry, though the car received significant support from the BMC Competitions Department and was driven by Jean Denton. Jean was well-known for her rallying exploits, spending three years […]
The replacement for the Austin-Healey 3000 never took off, thanks in part to a poor press launch, says Keith Adams. First published in The Independent, 4 July 2006. Classic boo-boo BRITAIN in the 1960s was a brilliant place for a single guy with money in his pocket and a hankering for something sporty to park […]
Work on a new MG sports car was a running theme within Austin Rover and the Rover from 1984 onwards. The success of the MG “M” models had kept the flame of the Octagon alive, but what people wanted – and what market researchers repeatedly told the company was that the public wanted – was […]
Mike Humble Ever said those fatal words “yeah, I can do that, no problem” and wished you hadn’t? It’s something we all say, all get burnt with and never ever seem to learn from. A very good friend of mine, who also supplied me with Project Partridge – aka the 800 Vitesse coupé, is a real Brit car […]
Mike Humble (still drying out!) Well, as we all know, the MGB celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year. MG Live! kicked off the celebrations at Silverstone, but MGB50 at Blenheim was the biggie and just for that model alone. Sadly, rain fell on the parade and I was almost inclined to turn back on the M40 […]
Even though it’s celebrating a half-century, the MGB is still a common sight if you look hard enough. Syd Enever’s answer to affordable sports car motoring sold in colossal numbers with well over 500.000 units trundling out of the South Oxfordshire plant in Abingdon before the sad and well-publicised factory shutdown in 1980. The smaller […]
Classics Monthly magazine has secured the world-exclusive first look at the limited edition MGB LE50, in association with Frontline Developments. Unveiling the car to the world on its stand at November’s NEC Classic Motor show, the first pictures of the body shell are revealed in the November issue on sale this week. Frontline Developments is […]