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Retro

What’s the most MG car in the back catalogue?

The MGB was a sports car for the masses, bringing affordability, desirability and simple fun for everyone to enjoy

Published: 22 Jan 2024

Ford might claim that its uncouth Mustang is the bestselling sports car in history, but the MGB is the most successful sports car of our hearts. Or something to that effect, anyway. Sure, it’s got that waxed jacket/flat cap vibe going on, but it was an endearing humble runabout when new and remains an appealing classic even now.

Mazda might have based its iconic MX-5 package on another British shed-built classic, the Lotus Elan, but the sporty little Japanese convertible can very much be seen as a spiritual successor to the MGB. The Birmingham car was a sports car for the masses, bringing affordability, desirability and simple fun for everyone to enjoy.

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In fact the MGB was the most successful MG in the marque’s history, with over 500,000 shifted in the 18 years the car was on sale. Sales of the chic Pininfarina-styled car started off in October 1962 with the convertible roadster variant, and the hard-top coupe (the MGB GT) came on sale in 1965. There was even a lairier V8 version of the coupe on sale between 1973 and 1976 with Rover’s venerable 3.5-litre unit grumbling under the bonnet.

The everyday MGB got a slightly less impressive newly developed 1.8-litre version of BMC’s workhorse B-series engine that developed 95bhp for a sprightly 0–60mph run that took just over 11 seconds. The gearbox was a four-speed manual transmission, while a three-speed automatic was an option in the UK market. It got disc brakes up front and drums on the rear, while servo assistance for the stoppers wasn’t standard until 1975.

That was also the year that the car was detuned in the US to meet new emissions regulations, as well as getting kitted out with the now infamous rubber bumpers to meet crash rules. The headlights were also too low under American legislation, but instead of changing them MG simply opted to lift the suspension by 25mm instead. Nice bit of lateral thinking from the Longbridge folks there.

One of the great things about owning an MGB is that you can opt in to a well established ecosystem of parts and advice with collective millennia of experience. There won’t be an issue that comes up that no one in your friendly local owners club hasn’t seen before. Get in there early enough and they might even be able to give you advice on buying a good example – one with the minimum of rust damage, for instance. Unless you can weld, in which case you’re sorted – they’ll all be calling you.

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The last MGB rolled off the line in Abingdon in October 1980 and it was the end of an era for MG – it would be another 15 years before another all-new MG sports car would roll off the company’s production lines, and the MG F ended up performing a similar role for the firm. But the MGB signalled the end of MG’s time as a significant player in the mass market

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