Desirable early MGB roadster

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MGB
The MGB was the best selling of all British sports cars in the U.S.

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The MGB sports car is like a house guest who sticks around too long.  Initially charming and enjoyable, but growing tiresome after a while.

The British sports first rolled out in 1962 to much acclaim and sales were soon booming, although hidebound MG stalwarts objected to its unibody construction and fairly conventional styling.  Hundreds of thousands of MGBs were sold in the U.S., making them by far the favorite of British sports cars.

MGB
The B replaced the MGA roadster with a sports car that had roll-up windows

The little roadster, later joined by a hatchback GT coupe, was gradually improved over the years, though still retaining its pushrod “B-series” inline-4 that was designed in 1947, and with such archaic components as lever shock absorbers.  But those vintage aspects were appreciated by the British car buffs.

Improved, that is, through 1969 when the effects of DOT regulations started the car’s gradual decline.  By the time the moribund MGB passed from the scene in 1980, it had been saddled with massive rubber safety bumpers, a raised ride height that spoiled its once-agile handling and with the same engine choked down by emissions controls to about 62 horsepower from its original 91.

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MGB
An electric-overdrive manual transmission makes for relaxed cruising at speed

By the early 1970s, the cars needed to be updated and redesigned, something that MG company owner British Leyland was unwilling or, because of flagging financial resources, unable to do.

So MGB soldiered on, losing its luster and resulting in today’s disregard in the collector car market.  Despite being attractive and fun to drive, as well as simple and durable (OK, Lucas electrics can be a challenge), these remain in the bargain basement of imported sports cars.  No respect – if Rodney Dangerfield had driven a sports car, it would have been an MGB.

The Pick of the Day is from the good times, a 1964 MGB roadster that looks and sounds to be in very nice condition, and from when they were still being built as intended.

MGB
The 1.8-liter engine is fed by a pair of SU carburetors

The roadster has been extensively restored, with a freshly rebuilt engine, a fresh interior and gleaming red paint, according to the O’Fallon, Illinois, dealer advertising the car on ClassicCars.com.

“A great deal of time and money has been put into this MG to get it ready for the next owner,” the seller says, noting that the odometer was reset at the time of the rebuild. “With only 1,600 miles on a freshly rebuilt drivetrain and a stack of receipts detailing the rebuild and restoration, this 1964 MGB is one of the nicest examples left.”

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This one has the advantage of an optional electric overdrive, which the seller says actuates on both third and fourth gears of the 4-speed manual transmission, making it essentially a 6-speed.  This desirable feature allows for relaxed cruising on the open highway.

MGB
The restored interior is nicely appointed

While MGBs remain quite affordable and available – there were more than 300 for sale on ClassicCars.com last time I checked – the earlier ones are most sought after, so-called “pull-handle” models because of the outside door handles, which were changed to push-button in later cars.

There has been a glimmer of rising values for earlier MGBs in great condition as of late, and this one is attractively priced at $19,995.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

 

Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

2 COMMENTS

  1. MGB’s, both the roadster and the coupe, have such an irresistable charm. Thanks to the modern aftermarket and parts vendors, they can be restored to better than new condition, ridding the car of its original Lucas Electrics and finicky nature. With a more modern electrical system, the MGB can be made to be fairly reliable.

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