24 July 2015

Secrets of the MGB

With almost 400,000 MGBs built over the course of 18 years, you’d think that there would be very little left that the entire world didn’t know about MG’s most prolific model.

Of course there’s no secret when it comes to the engine, transmission and suspension, which were heavily based on those of the MGA. And, it’s equally well known that unlike the MGA, the MGB used unibody construction. But here are a few things you probably didn’t know.

  1. One of the reasons the engine bay of the MGB was so wide was to accommodate the Twin Cam cylinder head of the MGA Twin Cam. But many development and reliability problems sent BMC scurrying away from the powerful but problematic engine.
  2. The MGA coupe works development car, registered KMO 326, served as a high-speed test bed for the MGB’s revised front suspension and disc brakes.
  3. A disproportionate number of early MGBs destined for North America were finished in Iris blue, a light blue shade carried over from the MGA.
  4. Although the MGB/GT design was prepared by Pininfarina, the original concept for the car came from MG General Manager John Thornley, who conceived the fastback as a poor man’s Aston Martin.
  5. Although North American-bound MGBs received a new padded dashboard without a glove box beginning with the 1968 model year, UK market cars continued on with the less-yielding metal dashboard.

[Hagerty's MGB Buyer's Guide]

There are plenty other little bits of trivia about the MGB that might not necessarily be considered secrets.  For the North American market, 1969 was the first year of reclining seats and the last year of leather seating surfaces. In 1973 and 1974, U.S. market B/GTs received fabric upholstery, while roadsters used vinyl.  And of course there were those unsightly rubber bumpers that were introduced in mid-year 1974 as the most expedient way to meet new 5-mph crash regulations. The solution to meeting the new federal headlight requirement was even less elegant: raise the ride height until the lights were legal. It didn’t do much for the handling, but the car continued to sell until the bitter end in 1980.

6 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Steve Traverse City, MI July 27, 2015 at 09:38
    Like most people, I prefer the look of the chrome bumpers better than the later rubber ones. However, I actually think MG did a more elegant job of integrating 5 mph bumpers than many other car companies at the time. Look at the chrome and plastic battering rams most others added (e.g. Mercedes SL, Datsun 280z, etc.) and the smoothly molded urethane covers on the MGB don't actually look half bad.
  • 2
    Robert Northwest January 26, 2016 at 15:08
    They made over 523,000 MGB's A great amount of them were exported to the U.S. Probably a little known secret to the author of this article on secrets of the MGB
  • 3
    phil Sacramento, CA February 26, 2016 at 15:55
    The reason all post 1974 1/2 MGB's have the radiator moved towards the grille was to fit the Rover (ex Buick) V8! Unfortunately the gas crisis killed that model which was not imported to the US, although a few home market right hand drive cars have made there way to the states and many more US 4 cyl. cars have been uprated to V8 spec!
  • 4
    John Giannasca Long Island NY April 12, 2016 at 13:33
    The decision to put left over Austin Healy six cylinder engines into MGB's and call it the MGC coincided with Old Speckled Hen Beer on sale in Abingdon that month. A little known secret of MG history from my personal archives.
  • 5
    Randy McGruther Alva, FL June 7, 2016 at 21:46
    I was always a critic of the rubber bumper Bs. But now I find them with the increased ride height a lot easier to get into and out of for my older (and heavier!) self!
  • 6
    Michael RIchard NC June 21, 2016 at 18:18
    I have always heard that the width of the MGB engine bay was due to a planned 2 liter V4. Though I have always suspected that the B engine bay width was simply due to its design. Just how much narrower could the car itself have been?

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