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mmosbey
mmosbey Reader
1/12/12 2:33 p.m.

So, I've been wanting to get some sort of classic roadster to fulfill an interest in low-fi, low-tech, disconnected road-tripping. I want to strap proper luggage to the trunk and drive. I confess to subscribing to the romantic ideal of "motoring" that is partially informed by the marketing around classic roadsters, and partially informed by the adventure imbued by the reality of their reliability.

To that end, I've had my eye on an early MGB. Not many are cropping up nearby that are in the state of disrepair I'd prefer/\can afford.

This, however, is close to me: http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/?item=280803832361

also, bigger photos at

http://northlakeautobrokers.com/mobile/mImagesAll.aspx?cmb=0|146036068|346839

I'm worried about all the rust I'm seeing. I don't have emissions testing here, but I don't want to own something on borrowed time against new legislation, or a liability should I decide to move to a emissions testing area. An early MGB would be exempt from the testing, sit lower, and have the less-ugly interior.

Any opinions? Ideas on price and/or warnings on condition? I hope to make the half hour drive over to check it out soon.

mmosbey
mmosbey Reader
1/12/12 2:41 p.m.
MG Bryan
MG Bryan HalfDork
1/12/12 2:55 p.m.

I think everything from '77 back is pretty much exempt everywhere. Not sure on that though.

Which one to buy depends entirely on how much you want to do it and rust. A V8 pretty much bolts into that - a one armed blind man could probably handle that swap.

Check the doors for the crack of doom - the door skin basically tears at that back of the vent window.

The castings for the later heads are pretty poor. The engine is a dog in stock form.

I'll post pictures of what a rusty B looks like if you want a point of reference. The sills rust from the inside out; if you can see rust in them, expect to have some welding to do.

Are you just looking for one to cruise around in? What's the end game?

Woody
Woody SuperDork
1/12/12 3:04 p.m.

The main problem with old MGBs is $2500 Miatas.

MG Bryan
MG Bryan HalfDork
1/12/12 3:08 p.m.
Woody wrote: The main problem with old MGBs is $2500 Miatas.

I've done both. The Miata is better car a thousand times over. The MG is different experience. This brings us back to the question of what's important to Mmosbey. If the goal is a cheap convertible sports car, the Miata is the answer.

GTwannaB
GTwannaB Reader
1/12/12 3:15 p.m.
MG Bryan wrote: I think everything from '77 back is pretty much exempt everywhere. Not sure on that though.

Don't move to CA. Anything 76 or newer is smogged.

Alan Cesar
Alan Cesar Associate Editor
1/12/12 3:26 p.m.

There's tech tips on page 88-89 of the Classic Motorsports January 2011 issue. Probably not a bad investment. https://classicmotorsports.net/issues/details/171/?KeepThis=true&TB_iframe=true&height=480&width=700

Rust isn't discussed, but there's lots of tips to owning and fixing them and some of the problems they can have (including fires!). If it doesn't scare you off, you can call any one of the four MGB experts we got the tips from and ask for more advice. They let us publish their phone numbers, after all.

93EXCivic
93EXCivic SuperDork
1/12/12 3:28 p.m.

If you are going into the '70s, the TR7 is cheaper and a better car IMHO.

MG Bryan
MG Bryan HalfDork
1/12/12 3:37 p.m.
93EXCivic wrote: If you are going into the '70s, the TR7 is cheaper and a better car IMHO.

Stock for stock, yeah. The aftermarket for the B is better though. If you look at it that way though, you should buy a Spridget.

93EXCivic
93EXCivic SuperDork
1/12/12 3:45 p.m.
MG Bryan wrote:
93EXCivic wrote: If you are going into the '70s, the TR7 is cheaper and a better car IMHO.

Stock for stock, yeah. The aftermarket for the B is better though. If you look at it that way though, you should buy a Spridget.

If you can fit in a Spridget, it is a good option.

Woody
Woody SuperDork
1/12/12 4:03 p.m.
MG Bryan wrote:
Woody wrote: The main problem with old MGBs is $2500 Miatas.

I've done both. The Miata is better car a thousand times over. The MG is different experience. This brings us back to the question of what's important to Mmosbey. If the goal is a cheap convertible sports car, the Miata is the answer.

I've owned both as well. Each time I see an MGB, I smile and then I get a little sad. I loved the leg room, but I'll never own another.

Karl La Follette
Karl La Follette Dork
1/12/12 4:23 p.m.

Take off the bumpers and retro chrome ones on it , supercheap to re furb . Find a parts car and enjoy life .

NOHOME
NOHOME HalfDork
1/12/12 4:25 p.m.

I owned the same Miata twice. And sold it twice. The MGB has been in the garage since 1978. That's all I have to say on that.

Curmudgeon
Curmudgeon SuperDork
1/12/12 4:38 p.m.

For just cruisin' the B wins hands down. If you think you might want to do the odd AX or track day get a Miata. A B can be as fast as a Miata but $$$$.

I like the '77-'80 interior and dash best. That car actually looks pretty decent, it's got some nice aftermarket wheels, the pictures don't show any floor pan or rocker rot but the front edge of the hood looks bad. The catalytic converter and single Stromberg carb have been replaced with a downdraft Weber and some sort of aftermarket manifold and that has eliminated the #1 source of MGB fires.

It does sit higher than the early cars. Dropping it to correct ride height is not difficult. Spacer blocks for the rear axle and an early chrome bumper front crossmember and rack, then a Saturday afternoon of twirling wrenches and you are low ridin'. If you are so inclined, it's even possible to notch the late B crossmember but it's easier to just source a early piece and if you do go the notch route you still need either an early rack or make a custom steering shaft.

EDIT: That car has air conditioning. It's an aftermarket unit, you can see the added vents at the bottom of the dash on each end and the control box just to the left of the center console.

The rust bubbles on the trunk lid are in a hard to fix spot, you'd find it easier to just keep an eye out for a good trunk lid.

EDIT TO THE EDIT: It also has a factory rear sway bar. That's good.

If the motor needs rebuilding, they are actually very simple.

MG Bryan
MG Bryan HalfDork
1/12/12 4:43 p.m.
Curmudgeon wrote: For just cruisin' the B wins hands down. If you think you might want to do the odd AX or track day get a Miata. A B can be as fast as a Miata but $$$$. If you go with a later B, dropping it to correct ride height is not difficult. Spacer blocks for the rear axle and an early chrome bumper front crossmember and rack, then a Saturday afternoon of twirling wrenches and you are low ridin'. I like the '77-'80 interior and dash best. If you are so inclined, it's even possible to notch the late B crossmember but it's easier to just source a early piece and if you do go the notch route you still need either an early rack or make a custom steering shaft.

And it will only take an afternoon if you're doing more drinking than wrenching. Bs are stupidly easy to work on.

Raze
Raze SuperDork
1/12/12 6:55 p.m.

A man after my own heart! I was in the same boat a couple years ago, and I went with a Fiat 124 Spider but my CL searches included (in no particular order): MGB, MGA, Jensen, Healey, Austin, (you'll get why I searched like this after you do it), Triumph, Fiat, Alfa, Alpha (common misspell = cheap cars), TVR.

I agree with the Miata better car since it learned and compiled all the best lessons from all the aforementioned cars, and I've driven an NA, NB, NC as friends have them all, but guess what, there's nothing like classic looks and classic sounds, if you want driving experience only, buy a Miata, know it'll start (almost) every time, and not rust to dust. If you want to drive something unique, stir emotions of random strangers everywhere you go, and smile every second you're driving it because it's different, buy a classic, you won't regret it...

mmosbey
mmosbey Reader
1/12/12 11:27 p.m.
MG Bryan wrote: Are you just looking for one to cruise around in? What's the end game?

The goal is a road-trippable semi-daily that I can maintain and repair easily, and entirely on my own. There may be an autocross, but that's not a significant priority.

To that end, I'd like it to start, stop, and turn reliably, and keep up with traffic.

I'm not going to do a full restoration. Once it's running, I might try a roller paint job and some of GRM's advice.

mr2peak
mr2peak Reader
1/13/12 7:10 a.m.

The whole point of old school road-tripping is the fact that you might break down and actually have to fix something. That's when you are thankful that you bought an MGB and it's easy to fix ;)

93EXCivic
93EXCivic SuperDork
1/13/12 7:18 a.m.

What kinda price are you looking at?

MGB, TR7, Spitfires, Spridgets will all be at the lower end of the price range. More unique choices, Morris Minor convertible (but don't expect to get anywhere quickly), Jensen Healey.

Try to find out if you have a local British car club they may know of cars for sale.

spitfirebill
spitfirebill SuperDork
1/13/12 7:22 a.m.
93EXCivic wrote:
MG Bryan wrote:
93EXCivic wrote: If you are going into the '70s, the TR7 is cheaper and a better car IMHO.

Stock for stock, yeah. The aftermarket for the B is better though. If you look at it that way though, you should buy a Spridget.

If you can fit in a Spridget, it is a good option.

Except they desparately need a fifth gear or OD.

Curmudgeon
Curmudgeon SuperDork
1/13/12 7:33 a.m.

Woody made a good point: B's have an enormous amount of legroom. The word is that Syd Enever (the designer) was 6'2" and hated being cramped. It also seems the original concept car was some 4" shorter and the car was stretched at his direction to achieve that, all the extra length was added between the doors and the rear fender openings. My J-H has a similar amount of legroom.

EDIT: That car may possibly have overdrive. It's hard to tell for sure from the transmission picture (crossmemember is in the way) but it has the 90 degree speedo cable adapter that normally indicates that. If it is so equipped, the O/D switch is part of the wiper switch, you flick it forward (like a high beam switch) to engage the O/D, then flick it back to disengage.

It's also been outside and pretty wet, the ashtray is rusty and the gauges are all clouded. The gauges are easy to disassemble and clean. The bezels will turn on the gauge body then come off. If you get the car and do this, do NOT clean the gauge internal faces with anything other than straight water on a soft cloth. The numbers etc are a decal. BTDT.

Woody
Woody SuperDork
1/13/12 7:59 a.m.
Curmudgeon wrote: Woody made a good point: B's have an enormous amount of legroom. The word is that Syd Enever (the designer) was 6'2" and hated being cramped. It also seems the original concept car was some 4" shorter and the car was stretched at his direction to achieve that, all the extra length was added between the doors and the rear fender openings. My J-H has a similar amount of legroom.

I think the reason that they have so much legroom is that they were still allowed to mount the fuel tank behind the rear axle. Then, of course, the Pinto had to come along and ruin sports cars for tall guys everafter.

Curmudgeon
Curmudgeon SuperDork
1/13/12 8:28 a.m.

Funny you should mention that: the B's tank mounting was ahead of others of the day from a safety standpoint. The trunk floor effectively seals the tank off from the passenger compartment. Fords (and other cars) of the era had an open trunk floor, when you lifted the carpet or pad you were staring at the top of the fuel tank. Only 22 ga sheet steel between you and immolation. Niiiiice.

I think MG could probably have squeezed the tank in ahead of the rear axle by moving the battery to the engine compartment, that would have freed up the space occupied by them. That was probably a dollars and cents (or pounds and pennies) decision.

In 1978 (IIRC) Ford moved the Pinto tank to under the rear seat floor pan, a lot of cars have been designed that way since.

MG Bryan
MG Bryan HalfDork
1/13/12 9:58 a.m.

In reply to mmosbey:

Looking at that car, and looking at your intentions, I'm think you'd you'll be happier if you hold a bit and spend a little more money than what that should go for.

Around here $2500-4000 dollars buys you a clean, running, driver. It will need work, but that's invertible unless you want to spend $10k+.

The quick and dirty break down is as such:

Mark 1 cars go to 1967. These all have a 3 synchro transmission. It's more or less a carry over from the MGA. Once you're rolling, you're basically driving a 3 speed. Overdrive was an option, but it's rare and very expensive. 5 speed conversions are possible as is the use of the later transmission. Early Mark 1 cars have pull-handle doors, and a 3-main engine. All of them except the GT have what's know as a banjo axle.

Mark 2 cars start in late 1967. The MGC transmission was adopted. It's larger and the transmission tunnel was changed as a result. First gear is now synchromesh. The GT/MGC axle was adopted for Tourers (The only benefits of this axle are heavier bearing and the ability to withstand a V8)

In '69 the hood(bonnet) was changed to steel. The steel dash ended in '67... None of this cosmetic stuff is important here though. In '70 the grill changed to the recessed black one; this signifies the beginning of the Mark 3. BL markings can now be found. (The downward spiral had begun)

In '74 rubber bumpers happened. These cars are jacked up an inch and half. They have a single 12v battery and the proper engine mounts for a V8 swap. Emissions changes and interior cosmetics evolved (or devolved depending on how you look at it) for the next 6 years.

Rubber bumper cars are the most common with overdrive. It's limited to 4th in these cars, whereas earlier cars operated od on 3rd and 4th. You can bypass the lockout.

I'll get into the engines for you too if you like, but a lot of them are a hodgepodge of parts. A late car, with an early engine, and the suspension put back to what it's supposed to be might be the best for you.

When you look at them check for rust everywhere. Check to see if the lever shocks are leaking. The steering racks can and do go wrong. If the leaf spring bushing are worn, and they probably will be, the rear can get a bit squirmy. The axles are actually offset in the car. Manual brakes are standard until '75. I've never found them inadequate on the road. If you're doing a lot of time in it, you'll probably end up wanting to change the seats. In GRM fashion, Miata is the common answer. Fiero seats work and so do TR6 seats. Anything else will require a bit more creativity on your part.

There's so much more to be said, but I'm not sure what you already know.

Edit: I would have one of the old guys around here would have covered everything by now.

Keith
Keith SuperDork
1/13/12 10:24 a.m.

I like my solution better - the looks of the MG with none of the moving parts

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