Final Parking Space: 1973 MG MGB

Murilee Martin

During the 1970s, American car shoppers looking to commute in a two-seat European roadster at a reasonable price had two obvious choices: the Fiat 124 Sport Spider and the MG MGB. I see plenty of discarded examples of both types during my junkyard travels, but genuine chrome-bumper MGBs are much harder to find in car graveyards than the later “rubber-bumper” cars and any Fiat 124 Spiders. Today we’ve got one of those cars, spotted in a Pull-A-Part in Columbia, South Carolina recently.

1973 MG MGB grille emblem
Murilee Martin

One of the first cars we saw in this series was an MG, but it was a U.K.-market 2005 ZT 190 from the final days of pre-Chinese-ownership MG. You can buy a new MG in many parts of the world right now (in fact, MG’s 100th anniversary just took place last year), but the final model year for new Morris Garage products in the United States was 1980. That was when the final MGBs were sold here, a year after we got our last Midgets.

1973 MG MGB badge
Murilee Martin

MG was part of the mighty British Leyland empire from 1968 through 1986, and many BL products received these badges for a time during the early 1970s.

1973 MG MGB rear three quarter
Murilee Martin

The MGB was the successor to the MGA, and one of the best-selling British cars ever offered in the United States. Sales of the MGB began here in the 1963 model year and continued through 1980.

1973 MG MGB top
Murilee Martin

At first, all MGBs were two-seat roadsters. A Pininfarina-styled fastback coupe called the MGB GT first appeared in the United States as a 1966 model.

1973 MG MGB interior
Murilee Martin

I owned a British Racing Green 1973 MGB-GT as my daily driver while I was in college during the late 1980s, and that car— which I loved, most of the time— made me a much better mechanic.

1973 MG MGB engine
Murilee Martin

Like this car, my B had a 1.8-liter pushrod BMC B engine rated at 78.5 horsepower (yes, British Leyland claimed that half-horse in marketing materials). These cars aren’t at all fast with the stock running gear, but they are fun.

1973 MG MGB interior shifter
Murilee Martin

In theory, some MGBs were built with Borg-Warner automatic transmissions, but every example I’ve ever seen had a four-speed manual. An electrically-actuated overdrive unit was a much-sought-after option in these cars.

1973 MG MGB wheel tire
Murilee Martin

This car has the optional wire wheels, which would have been bought within days of showing up in a U-Pull junkyard 30 years ago. Nowadays, though, most MGB owners who want wire wheels have them already.

1973 MG MGB steering wheel detail
Murilee Martin

In 1973, the MSRP for a new MGB roadster was $3545 (about $25,991 in 2024 dollars). Meanwhile, its Fiat 124 Sport Spider rival listed at $3816 ($27,978 after inflation).

1973 MG MGB engine
Murilee Martin

The 124 Sport Spider for ’73 came with a more modern 1.6-liter DOHC straight-four rated at 90 horsepower. That was quite a bit more than the MGB, but the Fiat also scaled in at 200 more pounds than its English rival. The MGB was sturdier, while both cars had similarly character-building electrical systems.

1973 MG MGB dash gauges
Murilee Martin

British Leyland also offered the Triumph TR6 and its 106 horsepower for 1973, with a $3980 price tag ($29,180 now). If you wanted a genuinely quick European convertible that year, your best bet was to spend $4948 ($36,277 in today’s money) for a new Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce… which took you into the same price range as a new Chevrolet Corvette.

1973 MG MGB front three quarter
Murilee Martin

This car is reasonably complete and not particularly rusty. Why is it here, just a few rows away from a Toyota Avalon that came within a hair of hitting the million-mile mark on its odometer?

1973 MG MGB interior radio
Murilee Martin

Project MGBs are still fairly easy to find, so cars like this often sit in driveways or yards for decades before being sent on that final, sad tow-truck ride.

1973 MG MGB front
Murilee Martin

Still, the 1973 and early 1974 MGBs are the final models before federal crash-bumper and headlight-height regulations resulted in MGBs with big black rubber bumpers and lifted suspensions. This car should have been worth enough to avoid such a junkyardy fate, but perhaps South Carolina isn’t much of a hotbed for MGB enthusiasts nowadays.


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    Kinda sad to see the photos of this MGB waiting to be crushed. Looks like there are lots of parts on it that could be harvested for use on other MGBs. One of my first cars I had was a 1967 “B” and it was a truly fun car for a high school kid, I learned a lot from that car but most importantly I learned how to take care of a car and it introduced me to the satisfaction of fixing and working on cars which is something I still enjoy to this day.

    This car should be saved. There is no way the expense and effort would be justified economically, but it looks like there’s enough there to assemble a fun toy car. That is provided the floors, rockers and other sheet metal aren’t completely toast.

    And also provided you’re not worried about your significant other’s response.

    This is a an amazingly complete car and should be salvaged. Despite the apparently decrepit condition, it is amazingly complete. I have restored several MGBs and Midgets that started in far worse shape that this one. Too bad it’s so far way.

    There’s probably somebody, somewhere, with enough skill and tools to swap in a Toyota or Honda aluminum 4-cylinder and mate a lightweight RWD 5-speed to it, to make this a really fun driver.

    My first car was a 1973 MG Midget. I bought in 1980. It was the closest thing to a motorcycle. I was big into dirtbikes and I wasn’t allowed to get a streetbike until I was 18. That thing never started. It had weird carbs filled with oil. I would get it out of the shop. Drive it to school. Hop in at 3 and it wouldn’t start. I would have a few guys bump start it. Off I would go. Those things were only good to drive on nice Sunday afternoons after tickering with it all week. I was going to trade it flat out for a Kawasaki H2 triple. My mother stopped that. She knew I would ride that in the winter in NJ and I would borrow her car. H2s were a dime a dozen back then. Fast as hell. But my 125 was fast. Higher top end.

    I think the engine is a mid 60’s version by the hard canaster oil filter. I have a 73 which has eh usual spin on filter and my 66 has that hard can with a cartridge filter inside. Still a beautiful looking car and most every part is available now to restore them. Lots of events you can take them to as well.

    16, first car MGB, Blue, I called her Trix, if i took a hard left the passenger door flew open! Starter went out, jumped from the solenoid. I could fit 6 of us to go to the beach. Added rack on back to hold surfboards. I loved that car! Best of memories! Sorry, 1964, soft top. This was 1975 thru 1978.

    I have the sibling, the same year burgundy twin to this car sitting patiently in my shop awaiting my attention, it was a one owner barn find … She will ride again!!

    Had one of the last Alfa Romeo Spiders (1991) with an automatic transmission in Los Angeles; the dealers were going out of business almost overnight. Despite my true love for the last gasp of an ICE two seater roadster in 2024 America (Mazda Miata’s ND2 and 3 series) the Alfa had that Italian Pinafarina elan that no longer exists, along with the British flair of MG/Triumph roadsters of the 60’s and 70’s that is no longer a part of our reliable yet souless machinery, if not our entire present moment of spiritual malaise and yearning for a more creatively exciting past, of which this automotive death brings back to one’s memories with an unforseen and terrible melancholy.

    Uhhhh Murilee, the Fiat 124 was actually a cabriolet with 4 seats, the Alfa was a 2 seater, I had a ’71 124 1600 in the early 90s when in college.

    You should post a link to a copy of the CarFax, especially for the Avalon with 946,000 miles you wrote about.

    If that MGB could talk, it would say: “it was swell but the swelling is gone!”

    Too bad, it would make a great project for someone that’s got MGB fever, the real one.

    Au contraire, mon frere. I have a 72 MGB GT that is my summer daily driver here in Canada. Once sorted properly (and once you understand the basics of SU carbs), they are very reliable dailies. Of course, the 68 roadster that I bought for $200 when I was 17 was a much different story, since I didn’t know WTF I was doing back then.

    I disagree, my 68 was not the greatest looking but for 3 years other than oil changes and a starter I did nothing but drove it, and in 2 winters. Now that was fun!

    I disagree, I could daily drive mine for 2 weeks at a time before another electrical issue (usually a ghost) would sideline the car until the problem was temporarily solved.

    the first thing you did with these cars was ditch the old wiring harness, Upgrade that alternator to a higher German one. Electronic ignition. and all new spark plug wiring. If it was sitting for too long replace the gas tank. with these done its a pretty dependable car. (you can also upgrade the fuel pump to a modern one) its also very easy to hot rod up.

    I would also disagree. I drove my 1972 MGB-GT (Aqua) as a daily driver for almost 30 years. In that time I put over 370,000 miles on it. I rebuilt the engine when it had 150,000 miles and again at 300,000 miles. It is now waiting for me to restore it – the head finally cracked when it had 433,000 miles. It was the most reliable car I had driven before getting a red block Volvo. With four Michelin 165-14 snow tires on Datsun 240 wheels, it made a great snowmobile. I will admit that when I restore it, I’m going to add A/C, it was hot to drive in the summer.

    Bought a 67 B in 1971 when in high school. My dad had found a 70 Mach 1 but I wanted MG. B was bought in Germany by serviceman and brought back to states. Red with factory wire wheels, electric OD, and AM radio with shortwave band frequency. Loved driving it. Ended up selling to buy a 69 Vette … back when they were cheap.

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