MG’s buzzing B has always been there for me

John Batterton’s MGB has been thoroughly modified and modernized for his new venture, Snake River Classics. Stefan Lombard

In July 1966, I was walking through an MG dealership in Cleveland when I saw a new white MGB with black leather seats. It was parked outside in an overgrown lot, and an impressively large weed was coming up through the battery access door, tickling the inside of the top. Despite the car’s forlorn state, it was love at first sight.

That was the beginning of my devotion to British sports cars. The thrill of driving an MG was addictive, with handling beyond anything I had ever experienced. I drove that car in gymkhanas and road rallies. I drove it in hailstorms and blizzards. I drove it on my honeymoon. Yes, I had all of the usual problems with its electrical system. And yes, the day I sold it, I was miserable.

Years passed and life changed, with family and a career. Shortly after I retired, I decided to rekindle my passion for British cars, so I bought an Austin-Healey 100 M to restore. I was pleased to see that parts were easy to come by. I also spent a decent amount of time on eBay finding the not-so-easy parts. I finished the Healey and won the first of several awards from various events. I was hooked for good, and I completed a succession of concours restorations, including an MG TF 1500 and a Morgan Plus 8. I rarely drove the cars I restored to concours levels. They were perfect, and most seat time was limited to parking them on show fields. I viewed them as objects of beauty, only to behold.

Following a cross-country move to Boise, I bought a Sunbeam Tiger in rough shape. By this point, my age limited my involvement in its restoration, and being more hands-off allowed me to see that car differently. Rather than planning to make it perfect, I started thinking about how to make it better. Thus began my own “restomod” phase.

Snake River MG MGB Restomod rear three quarter owner
Stefan Lombard

The passion is deep in my family, and concurrently, my son purchased a 1967 MGB to restore. He, too, wanted to improve the experience and included many suspension parts from aftermarket suppliers. Then it hit me: Why not do a thoroughly modern version of the MGB? I searched for potential partners, knowing that I would not be doing the actual mechanical work. It turned out the company that was rebuilding my Tiger’s V-8, Throttleworks, right here in Boise, was interested, and we entered into a relationship to develop our own version of an MGB.

Throttleworks specializes in tuning, fabrication, and development of vehicles both domestic and foreign. Our personalities were compatible, and Throttleworks was willing to take on the business risk with me. Our shared vision was simple enough: Keep the look of the classic MGB but transform it in all other ways with modern performance, reliability, and creature comforts so it could be fully enjoyed on today’s highways. Our new enterprise, Snake River Classics, began with the purchase of a 1980 MGB, and immediately, we dismantled the entire car.

Snake River MG MGB Restomod garage
Stefan Lombard

We did a pencil study to determine which engines would fit in the B, and the GM LTG 2.0-liter turbo emerged as the logical choice because of its availability, tune-ability, serviceability, weight, cost, and fit. It was compatible with two excellent transmissions (a five-speed manual and a six-speed automatic), and the power potential of that engine was more than adequate—no need to shoehorn a V-6 or a V-8 that would change the basic character of the car. Plus, an MG-GM pairing just had a nice feel to it.

Snake River MG MGB Restomod engine bay
Batterton’s MG utilizes modern suspension geometry in order to harness the power from its 2.0-liter turbocharged GM LTG motor. Stefan Lombard

It would have been easy to simply select suspension components off the shelf, but we determined that the power generated by the new engine would require a complete redesign of the suspension given the torque generated at low rpm. We used computer modeling to engineer thoroughly modern front- and rear-suspension systems that were not limited by the original geometries of the decades-old setup.

All the other systems (brakes, electrical, etc.) were assessed and redeveloped. The body was reshaped to incorporate flared fenders in order to support the increased tire width. The dash was redesigned to be a variation of the original, younger-looking first-generation MGB. And other details were designed to enhance the look of the new body structure yet remain consistent with the look of the original MGB.

Snake River MG MGB Restomod side profile
Stefan Lombard

The development process of our 1980 roadster took three years and included fully documenting the transformation for follow-on vehicles. This was a time of great patience as the work started to come together. The old mantra, “Do it once, do it right,” is the only way to go. And yet, my own anticipation grew weekly as we started to put everything together.

The moment of truth for me was the first time I got behind the wheel of the nearly completed car. It had no windshield, so the tears streaming down my face as I accelerated hard were a mix of the wind and my own joy. The raw power and incredible handling of this essentially brand-new MGB were overwhelming. And even in its incomplete state, the build quality was outstanding, and I could tell this was something special. Dyno tuning (260 horsepower/270 lb-ft) and autocross testing took place as the build progressed until, finally, it was ready for an all-important photo shoot so we could get a website up and running. Snake River Classics was now live.

Snake River MG MGB Restomod owner portrait vertical
Stefan Lombard

In the meantime, we started transforming a second car, this time a B GT, to test the reproduction process. Our first outing of the prototype and the 385-hp GT (in process) was for the Idaho British Car Club in 2021. I felt incredible pride showing off what we had developed. The Portland All British Field Meet, one of the larger British car shows in the U.S., followed, where we received so much positive response.

Driving the Snake River MGB is a blast, with confident handling and exhilarating acceleration MG never dreamed of. The sensation of disbelief takes me back to my first drive in the white ’66 so many years ago. It would seem my love affair with the MGB has come full circle. And even though I am not physically doing the work anymore, I take great pride in helping other enthusiasts enjoy the rush of a modern, dependable classic sports car. To those who look down on the MGB, we will see you in our rearview mirror!

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    The red MG reminds me of the little green Triumph my mom had when I was a young kid back around 69-70. I’m almost afraid to ask what one of these Snake River Classic MG resto-mods would cost (ballpark estimate). Am I correct to assume the buyer needs to find and provide a suitable vehicle – or does Snake River handle or at least assist with that?

    I salute the effort, and innovation, although I prefer the original. As a TR6 owner, its the basic character of a classic that draws me. But each to his or her own. Great story, though!

    I started out with a 1960 MGA with a B
    engine with overdrive in it. Then I got a
    a 1962 MGA MK ll . From there I joined a
    MG / Jaguar club in Burnaby B. C. Canada. While I had the MG A I bought a 1973 MGB. I fell in love with the roll up windows and the excellent heater and defroster. The club had many members who had Jaguars as well as MG s and as footitis gets boaters I really
    liked the E type so I found a 1970 regency red E type ots, After the first Jag. I went on to get a 1962 3.8 MK 2, fixer upper, then onto a 1966 3.8 s in beautiful shape, these jags I had all at the same time, so after two years and driving them all to all the British car shows it was time to sell the MK 2 and
    3.8 s as another E type was available , it was a 1972 V12 coupe , I drove the V12 for a couple of years and sold it for a good profit. On to another E type , a low mileage 1970 E type coupe, good for 2 little children and still stylish for mom and dad . When two more girls came along it was time for a 1972 XJ6 sedan.
    After a few years and still driving my first MGB which I told everyone that a
    MGB is the best little sports car for the
    Money. At the present time I have a 1971
    Series ll ots brought back from California in concours condition in 2005. My love for the E type has never ended as I’m looking at a 1974 V12 ots
    for this years toy, but will not sell my ‘71.

    I had a ‘63 which had the three bearing crank. Pretty good for SCCA racing but not as good as the later 5 main engine. Had a lot of success in E production Midwest. Blackhawk, Wilmot, RA, MAR and Stuttgart. War Bonnet, Green Valley etc. Current daily, C6. Much more like a regular car, and fun.

    I most agree with the attitude that Resto-Mods are better than letting the cars rot away. If not for a resto-mod project a friend suggested, my ’68 GT6 would still be in a storage unit 30 years after it last ran. There will always be concours enthusiasts, so they’ll keep examples of the marks pure, but a running classic, even if modified a bit, is better than nothing. BTW: The GT6 is now a 5-speed convertible with triple ZS150s, updated suspension, redesigned custom dashboard, and a Hell of a lot more. It was a great, years-long project and not only do I have a neat little roadster to drive, but I enjoy it much more than I did as a stock GT6. Let’s just keep these things on the road – no matter “how” we do it.

    I have a hard time thinking of turning a simple to work on car into a high tec. monster with fuel injection. My old tech. collector cars don’t puzzle me and don’t break nearly often enough to warrant hard to get at fuel pumps in gas tanks, overhead cams and sensors mounted all over the place that quit working. I got 36 m.p.g. in my 1973 Midget the same as my hard to work on 1990 Miata. Simple is better. M. G.s are my favorite beautiful sports cars in stock form.

    Did y’all consider the Honda F20C VTech engine? A Greenville SC guy did a BGT upgrade with one and it fits great! My Honda S2K has great performance, ~240 hp, great 50-50 weight dist., Runs fantastic. RestoMod MG should too.

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