“MGB: The First 50 Years of Immortality”… writes Peter Eagan in the May issue of Road & Track.
Although the MG brand has been around since 1924 — yes, I was there — the MGB is Eagan’s favorite, among others he has owned. Compared with the MGA, quality has been improved…
“Ride quality in the MGB was good, and it seemed to handle well, as it sat lower than the MGA. With its new all-steel unibody design, rather than the traditional MG body-on-frame with plywood floors, it felt solid and well bolted together.”
We’ll get back to Peter Eagan’s MGB summation, but, first, this column’s Crack Research team was assigned the task of relating MG’s early history. Nobody can state with certainty when the first MGs were produced, although the honor should probably be given to the six Raworth-bodied, two-seater sports cars the founder, Cecil Kimber, commissioned to be built on Morris-Cowley chassis in 1923.
That was while Kimber was still manager of Morris Garages — from where the MG name originated. The Hotchkiss-engined car so often erroneously referred to as “Number One” did not, in fact, appear for another two years. That was Kimber’s first attempt at building a car solely for competition.
The first model to be built in any volume (about 400) was the 14/28 Super Sport, which came with two or four seats and open or closed bodies. From there until 1952, the prolific little firm produced countless sports and saloon cars for both road and track, breaking record upon record on the way.
The firm became aligned with the Nuffield group and later was amalgamated with the Austin Motor Co., to form BMC.
Thanks, Research Team, which, too, will retire from the automotive scene on May 12, 2012, along with The Boss.
Today, all MGs are sought after, including the early racers and the 50-year-old MGB. Peter Eagan has the last word:
“They’re great cars for the hobbyist; just not so good as a loaner for your in-laws to use over the weekend. As I discovered some years ago, MGs require an owner who watches and listens.
“Though the MGB came out in 1962, I didn’t actually get a ride in one until 1968 … a fellow worker owned an MGB and gave me a ride and I was quite impressed. It had more room than the MGA, the trunk was larger and the big aluminum hood gave better access to the engine.
“I’ve owned three MGBs and spent a couple of years in the early ’90s doing a full restoration on a 1973 roadster in British Racing Green with a tan interior.
“But whenever someone asks me what classic sports car I would choose as a retirement project and a “keeper” that remains permanently satisfying to drive and maintain, the two cars that always come to mind are the MGB and the Lotus Seven — though the Lotus would be less practical as a road car and more expensive.
“The post-1974 federally raised and rubber-bumpered MGBs are particularly cheap, as you have to try to backdate a car with roly-poly suspension and drastically reduced power. Worthwhile, but not easy.
“There were so many MGBs built — more than half a million between 1962 and 1980 — that most of them remain in the $4,000-$12,000 price range, depending on condition. They are, as my fellow serial MG-restoring buddy remarked, ‘A noble car that wasn’t built justly for the nobility. Almost anyone can afford one.’
“There’s a huge aftermarket parts industry for these cars, and nothing — other than a little machine shop work on the engine — that can’t be done by a reasonably skilled home mechanic with a decent tool kit. Outside help or expertise is seldom needed; you can fix these things forever, by yourself, in your own garage.
“And so can the next owner — in case you end up wearing a cardigan sweater and pulling up weeds for a hobby.
“We are frail, but the MGB just may be immortal.”
Dr. George G. Spaulding is a retired General Motors executive and distinguished executive-in-residence emeritus at the School of Business at the College of Charleston. He can be reached at 2 Wharfside St. 2A Charleston SC 29401.