the MGA had been announced in 1955, it had set new standards for MG in
terms of performance and styling, but by the beginning of the 1960's it
had become slightly out-dated. Sports car design had moved up a gear,
particularly in terms of comfort and the prospective sports car buyer was
demanding more sophistication than the MGA was able to deliver. For MG's
sake, the replacement needed to offer better performance and a greater
degree of comfort. History has now shown that the new car did have these
features, for it was the venerable MGB, a car which was to sell over five
times the numbers of MGA
Like the Austin-Healey Sprite and later the MG Midget, the MGB was to be
of unitary construction which brought a number of advantages. The design
of the body was such that the individual panels when welded together,
produced box-like structures of immense strength. The engine and
transmission came directly from the MGA, but the b-series engine had been
increased in capacity to 1789cc, which resulted in 94bhp, and a diaphragm
clutch was used between the engine and transmission. As standard, the car
was supplied with bolt-on steel disc wheels, similar to those of the MGA
but of a slightly smaller diameter.
When the MGB was introduced in 1962, it was a two-seat open roadster with
squared-off styling which was in the Midget mould, and was to endure. It
had a pancake-style rear hinged bonnet, full width grille, scalloped
recesses for the headlamps in the tops of the front wings, a separate boot
with a hinged lid, and canted rear lights in the ends of the rear wings.
The windscreen was a curved item, there was a removable soft-top, and the
doors had wind-up windows with hinged quarterlights.
In the cockpit, driver and passenger had separate seats, and full
instrumentation was provided, and a tonneau cover to cover the space
behind the seats when the hood was down. The MGB was a bit shorter than
the MGA, but the design was such that MG had managed to make the cockpit
roomier which allowed larger, more comfortable seats to be added.
A year later in 1963, among the options offered for the MGB were an
overdrive for the transmission, centre-lock wire wheels, and a folding
soft-top that could be stowed behind the seats. And in 1964 a much
stronger bottom-end for the engine, derived from the BMC 1800, was fitted.
In the tradition of the earlier MG sports cars, the MGA had been built
with a separate chassis to provide support and strength to the car, and to
carry all the mechanical components and the body. By the end of the 1950's
however, methods of car construction had moved on , and the days of the
separate chassis were almost over. Unitary construction was now the name
of the game, whereby a cleverly designed bodyshell constructed from a
number of metal panels with a reinforced floorpan, provided mountings for
all the mechanical components and absorbed all the loads from the
suspension etc. The advantage of this type of construction was that it
produced a much lighter car, which has obvious performance benefits for a
Hence, the MGB was to be built of unitary construction. At the front, the
inner wing panels, front panel, and engine compartment bulkhead formed one
box; the scuttle, bulkhead, and front floor formed another; while the rear
inner wings, boot floor, and rear panels formed another. Box section
strengthening pieces were added to the floor to stiffen it and provide
mountings for the rear suspension, while additional box sections ran along
the bottoms of the front inner wings for the engine and suspension
The front suspension and steering were much like the MGA, although there
were minor differences. At the rear were the familiar semi-elliptic
springs controlled by lever-arm dampers. The engine and transmission were
also MGA sourced, again with some minor changes.
1965 The MG B GT, a coupe version of the MGB, was launched which had an
attractive and functional closed version of the standard body. In
appearance, the front end, front and rear wings, and doors were
essentially the same as the roadster, but the windscreen was slightly
higher to allow for a higher roof line on the car. The roof ran back in a
gentle curve over the doors and rear side windows before sloping down into
the rear panel. In the place of the roadsters small boot lid was a much
larger hinged tailgate that provided access to the loadspace inside,
making it one of the earliest examples of the now popular hatchback car.
The MGB GT was not only a good looking car, but it offered saloon car
comfort levels with a sports cars performance. As a result, the GT became
very popular with those who wanted something more civilised than a
models continued until 1967, when the MGB MkII was introduced, still in
open and GT forms. The most significant difference was that the new model
had a new transmission with synchromesh on all four gears, and a better
set of ratios. This necessitated widening of the transmission tunnel,
which also allowed MG to offer the option of automatic transmission, which
may seem strange for a sports car but it was felt that new customers
attracted by the GT would take to the idea.
By the late 1960's, the MGB was beginning to be affected by exhaust
emission and safety legislation which required frequent modifications to
the cars specification. This was particularly the case with those models
destined for export, especially for the USA. Detail modifications
continued until 1970 when the most obvious change was to a matt black
recessed grille which, unlike the original grille, had no obvious link to
the MG grille of old. Other changes included modified rear lights, Rostyle
sculpted steel wheels, and revised interior fittings. There was also a
change to SU HIF carburettors in an effort to improve the exhaust
MGB GT V8
1973,the MGB GT V8 appeared on the scene. It was to be extremely well
received to the extent that demand far outstripped supply. But in spite of
this, this model disappeared after a relatively short production run.
A former Mini racer turned car tuner named Ken Costello set the scene for
what would follow when he uprated an MGB by ditching its heavy iron
straight four 'B-Series' engine in favour of the ex-Buick alloy V8 engine
which had been adopted by the Rover Car Company. It did not take the
engineers at Abingdon long to get wind of Costello's exploits - and indeed
no less a person than British Leyland boss Lord Stokes invited Costello to
demonstrate his prototype. Within a very short space of time, MG was given
the go-ahead to build its own prototype - work on which began in August
1971 - but between then and the launch of the factory MGB GT V8 two years
later, Costello was able to do healthy business. Naturally Costello stole
a march on British Leyland since he had no corporate "red tape"
to deal with - so while MG had to deal with the problems of type approval
and other modifications, Costello was able to shoehorn the engine into
place on a custom-built basis. When MG launched its own MGB GT V8, the
hitherto easy supply of parts essential to Costello's own conversion began
to be stemmed, but undaunted, Costello found it cheaper to buy secondhand
Buick engines from Belgium, which he brought back by the lorry-load and
rebuilt using new Rover parts.
The car made use of the 3532cc aluminium Rover V8 engine as was being used
in the Range Rover. Developed from an early Buick design, the engine was
very light in weight - it actually weighed less than the original B-series
MGB engine - and in standard tune offered a healthy 137bhp. It fitted
snugly into the MGB's engine bay after only slight modification to the
bulkhead, and with the development of a low-rise exhaust manifold allowed
MG to use the standard MGB bonnet. Furthermore, the engine could be fitted
without dispensing with the front suspension crossmember, so the
coil-spring type suspension could be retained. The standard suspension was
employed at the rear too, but the ride height was increased by an inch all
round. The engine was mated to the MGC gearbox and rear-end transmission,
although the ratios were slightly modified.
End Of The Road
1974, both roadster and GT versions (including the V8) received black
rubber bumpers and an increase in ride height, in much the same way as the
Midget had done.
The front bumper was shaped to merge into the grille which at least had a
token resemblance to the earlier traditional shape.
As with the Midget, the weight of the bumpers and increased ride height
did nothing to the cars handling, increasing roll and oversteer. An
attempt was made to rectify this problem in 1976, when stabilisers were
fitted to the front and rear suspension, this was quite successful and
considerably improved the cars handling.
The MGB continued in this form, with further detail changes to the
specification, until production finally came to an end in 1980.