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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/21/22 11:17 a.m.

Why does the Miata work so well? It’s a reliable, open-top sports car that you can buy today for very fair prices. The MGB is pretty similar, but in an older, traditionally British package–more chrome, more charm. In a world where ’60s icons can easily cost more than a three-bedroom house, the MGB provides an affordable path to classic sports …

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1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
7/21/22 1:06 p.m.

This hardly needs to be repeated, but the reason the Miata was such a hit was that it offered the roadster experience in a package that didn't break down every day.  The only reason someone would acquire an old MG today is brain damage, a tendency towards masochism, or an inordinate affection for chrome.  Or all three.

Not that there's anything wrong with that....

jimbob_racing
jimbob_racing SuperDork
7/21/22 1:08 p.m.

In reply to 1988RedT2 :

I couldn't have said it better myself. 

Tyler H
Tyler H GRM+ Memberand UberDork
7/21/22 1:46 p.m.

I always know when the vintage British car meet is in town, because I see them by twos and threes....usually sitting on the side of the interstate, (probably) loving every minute of the experience.  

There is a whole generation of car enthusiasts that won't appreciate that just arriving at your destination is an accomplishment. :)

NOHOME
NOHOME MegaDork
7/21/22 2:01 p.m.

Funny how as cars get better the human race gets wussier. I have been driving Brit cars since the days when they were just another car on the road. Year round in Canada. They were no better or worse than a lot of the NA offerings that toottled along with one wheel drive every time it snowed. The tiny cabin actually warmed up quick once the car was warm. 

 

MGBs failed to make the money train when poorly built cars like the Healey that went on to make bank for those that kept one around. 

RobMason
RobMason New Reader
7/21/22 4:15 p.m.

A properly restored MG is just as reliable as a well cared for Miata. However a  "crap"box is a " crap"box no matter what year or manufacturer. The MGA was specifically cited by Tom Mitano for the driving experience he wanted in the Miata. The shifter - shared with the MGB with a slightly longer shift lever - was singled out for being excellent. The MGA and later the MGB was the quintessential cheap, fun, easy to work on, car. Which has also happened with the Miata. As the owner if both a autocross prepared MGA and an NB, handling and feel between the two is very similar. 

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
7/22/22 8:59 a.m.

Alright, I'll bite. I've owned MGBs since the 1980s and like NOHOME used to daily drive them as much as 25000 miles per year (in Michigan winters, too). They took about as much maintenance as any other car at the time and I always contend the main issue with reliability was that the carbs and some of the electrical equipment was just different enough that repairs or workarounds from inexperienced people caused most of the reliability issues. 

These days I have an embarrassing number of cars and some days I play Which Car Will Start and my 1978 MGB always does (so do my other British cars).  It sees about 1000 miles a year these days and I change the oil every year, look at the brakes every 5 years or so, and occasionally some little thing breaks, like a window winder. 

 

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/22/22 1:37 p.m.

I find it hard to believe no one openly labled Lucas with the 'prince of drarkness' moniker.      Or openly cursed the su carbs.... i will say i never owned one but had friends who did and openly turned the air blue all too frequently when referring to these 'features' whether in polite company or not.

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
7/22/22 6:30 p.m.

The MGB is a decent enough sports car - I have owned a couple - but the MGA is a classier body style, though you have to go for the coupe version if you want modern weather gear.

There is one version of the MGB I did take to though - The MGC, which looks like an MGB ith a bump on the bonnet and carries a completely different (torsion bar) front suspension and a 6 cylinder engine, unhappily throttled by smog provision - supposedly they have 145 bhp but really have around 130.

I built one for my wife to drive and modified the engine lightly - triple carbs and mild cam etc., plus hand made headers - result was 175 bhp and 130 mph top end.  The way the factoruy should have done it in the first place.

 

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/22/22 6:53 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

Funny how the independent front suspension is exactly what was introduced in 1950 with the MGTD.!  Well, disk brakes instead of drums but if you wanted you could put those drums on the MGB.   Then just for the sake of not wasting parts you could put those disk brakes on that MGTD  or a TF, MGA?   I love the MG parts bin.  

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/22/22 7:08 p.m.
livinon2wheels said:

I find it hard to believe no one openly labled Lucas with the 'prince of drarkness' moniker.      Or openly cursed the su carbs.... i will say i never owned one but had friends who did and openly turned the air blue all too frequently when referring to these 'features' whether in polite company or not.

 Those SU carbs are easier to work on than a lawn mower carb.   Once properly adjusted last for decades if not messed with.  95% of the carb problems are simply failure to set the point gap properly.  
   Same with the SU fuel pump.  Beat on it with a stick idiots say. Smart owners keep a piece of ultra fine emery paper filed over and with every oil change slide  it through  the fuel pump points.    Mine is going on 40 years without a problem.  Oh, it does add 2 minutes to the oil change time.  
     My MG is going on  70 years old ( same suspension ) and it's all original.  See you have to grease those parts. Not periodically replace them.  Like modern cars. 
  As far as Lucas parts.   Again a little bit of knowledge will get you trouble free life.    Most "Lucas" problems are simply poor connections.  Those little bullet connectors have no weather proofing. So periodically  you take them apart, remove the corrosion,   coat them with a high dielectric grease and get another decade out of them.   While you're at it check the grounds.  Copper on steel will corrode over time so clean and grease those as well    One rainy afternoon in the garage  will keep any British car happy for a year. Seems like a fair deal to me. But then I've owned my MG since 1962. Raced it at least 20 times in vintage sports car races. And put over 50,000 miles on it since 1974. 

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/22/22 7:12 p.m.
Carl Heideman said:

Alright, I'll bite. I've owned MGBs since the 1980s and like NOHOME used to daily drive them as much as 25000 miles per year (in Michigan winters, too). They took about as much maintenance as any other car at the time and I always contend the main issue with reliability was that the carbs and some of the electrical equipment was just different enough that repairs or workarounds from inexperienced people caused most of the reliability issues. 

These days I have an embarrassing number of cars and some days I play Which Car Will Start and my 1978 MGB always does (so do my other British cars).  It sees about 1000 miles a year these days and I change the oil every year, look at the brakes every 5 years or so, and occasionally some little thing breaks, like a window winder. 

 

Well said. Those SU carbs are simpler than a lawn mower carb.   They don't deserve  ignorant mechanics messing around with them.  
  Please set the ignition properly before touching the carbs. Please, please please!!!!! 

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/22/22 7:20 p.m.

In reply to 1988RedT2 :

I've owned  my MG for  60 years now. I'll deem you worthy of respect when you own your Miata that long.  
  Just because you don't know how to work with ignition, fail to properly set pint gap or fail to use high dielectric grease on its rotor  doesn't give you any right to  denigrate an MG.  
     I'll tell you what.  Let's take your battery out of the Miat, set the parking brake properly   and let's see you get that Miata running.  
     With an MG you just use the hand crank provided. ( up to 1967)  see the generator  will provide enough voltage to get it fired off and once up to speed the motor will provide voltage for the electric fuel pump.  Look Ma no battery

   Actually the reason the Miata was a hit is it  looked like and performed like the Lotus Elan it was patterned after !      ( and Priced around what a MGB would  have cost.). 

NOHOME
NOHOME MegaDork
7/22/22 7:46 p.m.

As to the SU carbs. They are a brilliant design let down by a simple flaw. 

The throttle shafts wear after about 20k miles and become a variable vacuum leak. You can adjust the fuel mix to compensate and get a decent idle, but then you will run rich the rest of the operating range.

Of course, since the worn throttle shaft never goes back to the EXACT same location, your bodge-adjustments wont really give you a great idle. 

If you have no $$$ a better idea is to idle just over 1000 rpm where the shaft air leak becomes less significant in the overall air volume. 

 

As to running an MGB today, it is worth knowing that the method of adjusting the fuel level in the float bowl does not always work. I do not know why. I use an empirical method that observes the level in the jet holder. It has solved several SU issues that were driving me nuts and is now one of the first test I do with a car that is not running right.

Speaking of shaft wear, Frenchy's advice to adjust timing is spot on. Just be aware that the distributor shaft is probably just as worn as the throttle shafts so do attend to that. Few MGBs show a steady timing mark under a light.

With time as a constant, I see a lot more electrical problems with 50 year old domestic wiring than I do with MGB wiring, Switches can be a problem since relays were not a thing and they tried to pass high current, but no worse than domestic cars of the same age. 

An early MGB with a late 4 sync gearbox is a perfect specimen. The early boxes were filled with paper-mache and the non-synch 1st never grown on you to be  other than annoying. 

Suspension-wise, they are not worth modifying. A full rebuilt front and rear will have amazing results. Most of us judge upgrades against worn out original, but reality is that the factory did a great job except for the front a-arm bushings; use V8 ones.

Performance-wise, I would also stick to factory just so that you have a manual that could get you out of trouble should you ever read it. Once you go to cams and whatnot, all the manual's advice goes out the window.

If you want to restore one, it is going to cost you 35 grand; if you do the work yourself. That does buy you one hell of a nice Miata of comparable quality.  Or buy an already restored one for 15k, that being about the top of the MGB market.

alfadriver
alfadriver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/22/22 8:25 p.m.

In reply to Carl Heideman :

Just like Alfas, MG's suffer for their need of maintenance.  And who/how it's done.  The biggest problem for Alfas has always been the ham fisted work done by PO's.  Which I imagine is the exact same for MGs.   My GTV has been incredibly reliable, but when there was a sniff of a head gasket problem- that had to be done immediately- and it had to be done right, otherwise it would leak- which has a ton of side effects.  That, and the SPCIA is a pretty skilled tune up.

Which is really where the Miata is different.  Other than easy to do work (oil, plugs, fluids) the next work is the timing belts- which many are happy to farm out.  

Better/worse- it depends.  If working on the car is a big deal, MG's are great if you like it, Miatas are great if you don't.  

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
7/22/22 8:29 p.m.

In reply to frenchyd :

Easy there, big fella!  I've actually never owned a Miata. laugh

Randy_Forbes
Randy_Forbes New Reader
7/22/22 8:57 p.m.

"Brain damage..."

Really?

The article's opening picture looks a lot like this one I took on the morning of Saturday, September 1st, 1973, after giving the brand new MGB I took delivery of the afternoon before its first bath.  I would add the trim-rings later, as the $3949.00 the car cost ($950 dn & $97.33/mo for 3-yrs) was all I had.

Having owned a number of MGBs (and B GTs, 1966-1980) after getting this first one, I wholeheartedly agree with the other informed posters that state the SUs, Lucas, et al, suffer more from uninformed owners/mechanics than they do by design.  Makes me wonder if all the LBC detractor's MO is fix it until it's broken...?

 

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
7/22/22 9:29 p.m.

While I've never owned one I've had  friends who have and as long as you maintain them they're fine.

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/22/22 11:02 p.m.
NOHOME said:

As to the SU carbs. They are a brilliant design let down by a simple flaw. 

The throttle shafts wear after about 20k miles and become a variable vacuum leak. You can adjust the fuel mix to compensate and get a decent idle, but then you will run rich the rest of the operating range.

Of course, since the worn throttle shaft never goes back to the EXACT same location, your bodge-adjustments wont really give you a great idle. 

If you have no $$$ a better idea is to idle just over 1000 rpm where the shaft air leak becomes less significant in the overall air volume. 

 

As to running an MGB today, it is worth knowing that the method of adjusting the fuel level in the float bowl does not always work. I do not know why. I use an empirical method that observes the level in the jet holder. It has solved several SU issues that were driving me nuts and is now one of the first test I do with a car that is not running right.

Speaking of shaft wear, Frenchy's advice to adjust timing is spot on. Just be aware that the distributor shaft is probably just as worn as the throttle shafts so do attend to that. Few MGBs show a steady timing mark under a light.

With time as a constant, I see a lot more electrical problems with 50 year old domestic wiring than I do with MGB wiring, Switches can be a problem since relays were not a thing and they tried to pass high current, but no worse than domestic cars of the same age. 

An early MGB with a late 4 sync gearbox is a perfect specimen. The early boxes were filled with paper-mache and the non-synch 1st never grown on you to be  other than annoying. 

Suspension-wise, they are not worth modifying. A full rebuilt front and rear will have amazing results. Most of us judge upgrades against worn out original, but reality is that the factory did a great job except for the front a-arm bushings; use V8 ones.

Performance-wise, I would also stick to factory just so that you have a manual that could get you out of trouble should you ever read it. Once you go to cams and whatnot, all the manual's advice goes out the window.

If you want to restore one, it is going to cost you 35 grand; if you do the work yourself. That does buy you one hell of a nice Miata of comparable quality.  Or buy an already restored one for 15k, that being about the top of the MGB market.

 

  There are oversized throttle shafts available for all SU's  and I've seen  bushings so you can go back to original shaft sizes. 

I should tell you about how to keep throttle shafts in SU's.  Keep the throttle shafts meticulously clean and after wiping it clean squirt engine  oil  on the shaft at the joint between shaft and carb body ( both sides)  prior to starting.  The vacuum draws just enough lubrication in to prevent wear. I do that with every oil change. 
   I've never owned a set of new SU carbs. But I understand at first you have to hand choke the carb while  cranking it over. 
 

 I do agree that the distributor shaft wear on MG's is difficult to deal with.  I've had the body ( cup part) of the distributor fall off the shaft.  Fixing that is the reason I bought my distributor machine.    Eventually I gave up and simply use ones I find with a tight body. 
      On the other hand Jaguars the old cast iron block 6 cylinder have a oil path (if properly reassembled ) to eliminate that problem. However the V12  needs its advance mechanism oiled periodically.  One of the reasons Ford went to the distributor less system on the Jaguar   before Chevy did. 
 One of the flaws in MG's suspension is there is no camber gain on roll so overly stiff  front sway bars are used in completion.   That works semi decently  but can be improved  with a little camber gain. A way to detect it is look at the. Sway bar. If it looks like a stock one and the car rolls a significant amount in the corner check the spring pan. If it looks a little bit like it doesn't fit,  he may be running longer lower control arms.  Not something  you can really see if he's careful but if you measure it you'll see.  Another way you can detect it is if he's replaced the lever arm shocks he'll have fabricated upper arms. They will be shorter than the lever arms off the shock absorber. 

Teh E36 M3
Teh E36 M3 UltraDork
7/23/22 3:05 a.m.

I have MG brain damage, but, objectively, a Miata is a better car in every single way. Unless you are a hipster who wants to be different (my name is teh E36 M3 and I am a hipster.  Hello teh E36 M3!). 
The Miata can be ignored and it will start and drive and give at the very least a facsimile of a great drive. No MG can be ignored. They are a needy mistress. They are a crazy- maybe addicted girlfriend who could do anything to you. A Miata is a good girl, pretty, goes to church and has good parents. The one you *should* date and beg to marry. The MG isnt even cool enough to have tattoos. Doesn't show up at family dinners. Not cool enough to smoke cloves. The MG is the D n D of girlfriends - not super attractive, garage or basement dweller, and all the dudes who like her are older guys.  But you love her for who she is, and if you are me, try to make her who she isn't with a Mazda/ford 2.0!

tr8todd
tr8todd SuperDork
7/23/22 5:08 a.m.

For 30 plus years I have tried very hard to warm up to the Miata.  Just can't do it.  Driven every version, some on the track as well as on the street, so really, I have tried.  There has been a string of British cars in my life and always will be.  The current British contingent of the collection is 11 TR8s, 3 TR7s, 2 MGBs.  At the moment there isn't a single Japanese car out there, and has not been for a couple of years.  Really crushing on either an XK8/XKR or a F-type at the moment, so that will probably be the next addition.  To me, every Miata feels like an imposter much like the Lotus Elan of the 90s does.  You should have to make concessions to own and drive a sports car.  Thats the charm in owning them.

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/23/22 9:24 a.m.

Well said.  
  Listen,  I'm a bigot.   I prefer British cars partially because they were our Ally during WW2  rather than our enemy. 
     Partially  because British cars started the sports car craze,  and because I worked on and learned on British cars. It's like your favorite girl.  A proper Gentleman doesn't just run off with the first cute younger girl. 
     These young wiper snappers just don't know the elegance of the XKE on a summer night as it hauls down the road around a buck fifty. 
    Or hugs the road with cat like grip ripping around corners with those Chrome wire wheels sparkling in the sunlight.  
     What I hear is how uninvolved Miata owners are ( Honda, Toyota etc)  neglect seems the common word. 
  Don't worry that same kind of person neglected MG's,   Jaguars,  etc 

  Yes we may be older-Old but we care!   
      
       

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
7/23/22 10:44 a.m.

Can't we just love them all and admit they all have quirks? It used to be MG vs Triumph and now it's old (and sometimes newer) sportscars vs Miatas. Miatas have quirks/issues, too. Not many, but some. Slave cylinders, power window mechanisms that gunk up and short out the switches, frozen e-brakes, crank sensors out of adjustment, clutches that fail after 150,000 miles, and of course bad repairs from the past.  I've enjoyed my Miatas as much as my British stuff, but for different reasons.

We can pick apart just about every car and decide which one is "best" or we can just note they all have plusses and minuses and then pick the plusses and minuses that match our personal preferences. That's what I do, and for some cars, the minuses make them fun (I own a Trabant, after all).

Anyway, lots of good points in so many of the above posts, but I don't get why we need to rank them. I don't rank my kids, I don't rank my bands*, I don't rank my foods, I just try to enjoy them all. 

 

 

*okay, the Ramones, Todd Rundgren, and the Beatles are at the top for my bands, but I can't say which is the best.  I can say that once, when someone stole my car stereo, they took the time to remove the Todd Rundgren cassette before taking the head unit, so maybe it's not him.

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
7/23/22 10:58 a.m.

LOL.  Well, I am truly sorry to have ruffled so many feathers.  But lets look at the bright side--we have here a spirited discussion of the MGB and other Brits that we might well not have had otherwise.  I do often tend to write the first thing that pops into my head and I also have a bit of a caustic wit, but I'm not about to apologize for that!  

To be fair, I've often denigrated the Miata as a hairdresser's car, and I have attended more than a few British car shows and enjoyed them immensely.  The MGB GT was long ago a car that I might have considered owning, along with the Triumph GT6 and the TR6, for which I've always had an affection.

And Carl, the Ramones look pretty darn sad when you compare them to the Beatles.  Just sayin'.  devil

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/23/22 10:58 a.m.

Carl;   
Such talk will get you labeled as the L word!!   Can't I enjoy my bigotry?;-)   I remember back in the Late 50's when Chevy's got put into 32 Fords, model A's & T's  Oh!  Such Language!!!  
     Don't worry. 

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