So, you want an MGB. Maybe you've always wanted one and now the time seems right. Maybe you just saw one on the corner lot and it filled you with lust. Maybe you're just curious. I just went through the process of searching for my MG, and now I have a nice, although imperfect, 1973 MGB Roadster to show for my troubles. I paid $2500 for it and they are out there!
MGB Parts and Accessories Catalogs
Call and order these catalogs, so you have an idea of what parts cost. The diagrams contained in these catalogs are a good reference too! The catalogs are free, but the parts definitely are not!
There are many more suppliers listed in the MG Experience Directory, you may find it convenient to find a business that is close to you, for shorter shipping time and lower cost. Many local British car repair garages also double as authorized Moss distributors, so you'll probably want to get the Moss catalog regardless.
|Company||Phone Number||Website / Email|
|The Proper MG||1-800-711-3368|
|The Roadster Factory||1-800-678-8764||www.the-roadster-factory.com|
Study the catalogs and you will have the knowledge to "haggle from the high ground" when the time comes by knowing how much that brake job or new carpeting is going to cost.
Keep in mind that other small British Automotive shops may have better service and better prices than the larger companies listed above, smaller company also tend to be more willing to give technical advice when you have a problem.
MGB Books, Manuals, and Reference Material
Lindsay Porter's DIY Guide to MGB Purchase and Restoration is THE critical reference. Buy this book if you can and follow Mr. Porter's advice!
Buy the MGB Haynes shop manual as a good, inexpensive start; for serious work on an MG, buy the Bentley Manual when you're ready to "dig in" to your car. The Motorhead catalog (mentioned above, they're in Virginia, USA) has a good checklist for inspecting an MG as well.
Another critical reference for any MGB or MGC owner is Original MGB by Anders Ditlev Clausager, detailed photographs and text take of original cars. It's an excellent book!
All of these books can be purchased in the MG Experience Store
Choose Your MGB - Rubber or Chrome Bumper? Roadster or GT?
This decision is all about you. Decide what YOU want, then look for it. Don't settle for less than what you want, or you'll just end up selling it because you aren't happy. There are all sorts of material out there about the various years, advantages and disadvantages. Here's a quick summary. Reminder: this is just me talkin' and strong opinions abound about every model. Personally, I think that if it's an MG, it's great! My decision came after driving both roadsters and GTs, I preferred the "wind in my hair" feeling provided by the convertible. You decide. It's your money!
You can see many photos and examples of different models, years, and color combinations in the MG Experience Registry
Chrome Bumper MGBs (1962 - 1974 1/2) are lower to the ground (better handling), have all that pretty chrome, and aren't encumbered by all the emissions stuff, so there is a bit more horsepower, as they were built in England. A key improvement was the move to a 5 main engine block in 1964 and an all-syncro gearbox in 1968. There were many other changes to the engine along the way during this time. Chrome Bumper MGBs generally more desirable in the big scheme of things.
Chrome bumper MGBs are considered more desirable than rubber bumpers and therefore the prices are higher, in particular the MK1 cars (1962 - 1967) are becoming very popular with collectors, as their prices are rising. The very early pull-handle MGBs are especially collectable.
MGB GTs (1965 - 1974 1/2 US, 1965 - 1980 UK) are the hatchbacks, they come in chrome bumpers only in the U.S., with the exception of a run of 1247 rubber bumper MGB GTs exported to the US in what is now termed the 1974 1/2 model year. MG prompted pulled the GT out of the North American market in 1975. The GTs have beautiful lines and are cozy in nasty weather. The MGB GT V8 is quite rare in the US, only 14 are believed to exist in North America, to the lament of all British car enthusiasts. If you can find one for sale, you'll pay accordingly.
Rubber Bumper MGBs (1974 1/2 - 1980) was MGs answer to the US's cumbersome emissions and safety regulations that MG was now forced to comply to. However, the later MGBs are newer, and naturally that may be an advantage. Some like the interior enhancements that come with the later model cars, while others feel that the interiors in the later cars do not pay homage to MGs heritage. Their ride stance was raised, big bumpers were installed and emissions controls and new carburetors (Zenith Strombergs) installed on the engine. The raised height effected the handling, and the smog controls and carburetors hurt the performance.
Just because you don't see these cars all the time doesn't mean they aren't out there! Owners generally pamper them and keep them inside, driving them only when it's sunny and dry. However, many MGBs are daily drivers and are driven thousands of trouble-free miles a year.
Buying an MG is a lot like buying a puppy. You have to go into the process knowing that you'll have to take care of it. It should be a part of your life, "to have and to hold, for richer or poorer", er...well, that's marriage, but hey, it's like that too. MGs don't do well with neglect, but they are very reliable if you practice preventive maintenance. If you aren't ready for greasy fingernails and skinned knuckles, then you should be ready to pay a mechanic for the privilege. Otherwise, maybe this isn't the car for you. These are NOT older, cheaper Miatas! They have souls!
Seriously, though, MGs can make very reliable daily transportation cars, even for the technically "handicapped", but with proper maintenance and loving an MGB will be just as reliable as most new cars. And you can fix them yourself for a lot less money.
Above all, DO NOT fall in love and buy the first car you see. Take your time. There are plenty of nice MGs out there, honest! Do lots of reading and net surfing to familiarize yourself with these cars.
Frequently Asked Questions by Prospective Buyers
[Ed. Note - this information can vary quite a bit by region and prevailing economic conditions]
MGB Model Prices
Decent, driveable MGBs in the USA can be found starting at around $2000, but they'll need some work (they all need work, no matter how much you pay). $4000 is a good average for a B needing only minor work. In other words, don't blow your entire wad on the purchase -- save some for an initial outlay to get the car safe and driveable. They tend to go up from there to the concours quality or original low mileage cars worth $10k - 15k. Rubber Bumper Bs are generally worth less than the older, chrome bumper Bs. Read lots and lots of various classified ads to get an idea of prices in your area and around the world. Disregard "Blue Book Value" other than for a general idea of later models! The value of the car is driven by what buyers will pay for it and what the sellers will take! That's capitalism! Supply and demand! Patience and study are absolutely critical to finding the B of your dreams, so study those classified ads to get the big picture.
|Models||Restoration Project||Road-ready Driver||Concours Winner|
|MGB MK1 (62-67)||$0-1500||$3000-6000||$9000-15000|
|MGB MK2 (67-74 1/2)||$0-1000||$2000-5000||$7000-13000|
|MGB MK3 (75-80)||$0-1000||$2000-4000||$6000-10000|
Shopping for your MGB
First, have a look at the MGs For Sale on The MG Experience
Read the local classifieds, go to a newsstand and buy a local Auto Trader and a Hemmings Motor News. There are many classified sources on the Internet as well; Auto Trader Online, Classifieds2000, and the MG Enthusiasts Site are just a few. You may not find anything in your neighborhood, so decide on a practical "search zone" that works for you. I finally found my B about two hours to the South in Nashville after many miles of travelling up to Ohio and elsewhere, but it was worth it.
Call, Look and Drive
Avoid used car dealerships, they may not have the same passion for British cars that you have developed if you're really serious. They won't be as knowledgeable about the car or its history as a private owner. They also have all the time in the world to wait for the "emotion sell", which you must avoid! This doesn't mean you can't find a good buy at a dealership, just be aware of the factors involved here as with any used car purchase. Don't forget the human dimension of buying a car like this. It may sound mean, but most MG sellers really don't want to sell the car, but personal circumstances force them. Use this to your advantage. You must be a shark (a friendly one), and talking to the seller will give you a chance to find out if there's "blood in the water".
Call up the person and ask them some questions, then find out the "why". Anyone who owns a car like this loved it at one time, and probably still does. Convince them you will give it a "good home"-- they won't feel good about selling the car to an ignoramus, and will be more likely to honestly tell you all the problems with the car. Also, winter is a better time to buy, if you can wait until winter. All sports cars are generally fair-weather cars. Spring has a way of making folks yearn for a sports car on the weekends. Likewise in the cold months, sellers with garages don't like using up that warm space for a car they've lost interest in. Make it work for you!
Use your instincts but don't rule out common sense. After you've driven a few different MGs, (see below) you will get a feel for how they behave and some common traits and "challenges" (not problems!). Size it up at first glance. Does it sit well? Does it look and "feel" content? sad?, angry?, or just hopeless? Take a few minutes to let the car "talk" to you (figuratively speaking, of course). This may sound strange at first, but you'll understand what I mean after a while. I'll say it again because it's so important: DO NOT buy the first one you see! No matter how great you think it is! The first one may be the one, but give some others a chance first.
What to look for, And How to Check
Some critical tools to take with you are a magnet, compression gauge, some rags, a critical mind and the willingness to walk away. Run the magnet along all surfaces -- where it doesn't stick means BONDO! (Body filler). Look along the surface for wavy lines. Run a compression check on the engine or take it to a nearby garage. The test takes no more than 10 minutes and it is time well spent. Readings should be above 100 psi on all cylinders. If they're low, this indicates a worn head, piston rings, or both, and either a minor or major rebuild is looming in the near future. An engine rebuild is A LOT cheaper than bodywork, though!
If you aren't mechanically savvy, bring someone along who is. Most MGs leak at least some oil! Do not let this scare you. If its not leaking a little oil, don't give the car the benefit of the doubt. It may not have any oil! Likewise, it shouldn't be wallowing in the stuff like a pig in mud either.
Open the hood and take a good look. Check the oil level and condition. Does it look like it came from the LaBrea tar pits? Open the oil filler cap on the valve cover. There should be no foaming under the cap. Open the radiator cap (CAUTION!!! - don't open when the engine is hot!) How does the coolant look? Does it look like maintenance has been done? Are the oil filter and other tune-up parts new? Likewise, beware of a motor that has been freshly cleaned and "fancied up" if the overall condition of the car doesn't match -- a common practice with used car dealers. Maintain your critical mind and common sense.
Rust is the enemy of all British Cars! Look for indicators of rust, if you don't see it right off the bat. Everything else can be fixed, even a bad engine. Since MGBs have unibody construction, rusted sills are devastating, and fixing them is very expensive! All old cars rust, British cars are known for it! Beware of the evil rust monster! Look UNDER the car. Pay very close attention to the sills (the section under the doors) and all the fenders, especially behind the fenders.
Think to yourself -- where does the water, salt and mud splash into? Open the doors and look into the "tunnels" where the hinges are. Beware of the step plates on the sills. They may hide rust underneath. Check the alignment of the doors. If the top vertical edge of the door is closer than the bottom edge of the door to the body, this MAY indicate a sagging frame. Open the trunk, if there's rust in there, its probably coming from the other side and the gas tank may be rusty! Lift the carpets and check the floorboards. Can you see the ground below? The MGB's Battery compartment is behind the seats. Lift the carpet, unscrew the plates you see there and look inside. Battery compartments are natural hiding places for rust! (Insert Pictures of rusty MGs!)
Drive it - This goes for any car you are thinking of buying. A car can look nice just sitting there. Does it start? Does it run? Does it create a smoke cloud worthy of its home country's fog? Does it scare the hell out of you when you drive it?
Starting - Go ahead and let the owner start the car. Watch from outside the car. Does it smoke badly? Blue smoke is burning oil; white smoke can mean water in the cylinders. Don't let this scare you either way unless the asking price warrants it. Just note that some work will be in the future and use it to negotiate the price. MGs may run a little rough until they're warmed up, so take note along the way.
Electrical - British cars have a bad reputation when it comes to electrics, sometimes unfounded. The wiring is relatively simple on these cars, but they are OLD! If you're lucky like me, someone has spent the time to go through all or most of the electrical system already. Check all the gauges, switches, lights, flashers, etc. and don't be afraid if you don't know what that little switch does (although this knowledge would help), just look for something to work when the switch or knob is flipped. Don't be turned off if everything doesn't work. Its just the car's way of saying "Buy me, I need help!" On the other hand, if A LOT of things don't do what they're supposed to, you may be in for some frustration unless you're an electrical whiz.
Going - once the car is warmed up, you're ready to drive it. Does it stumble? This could be fuel, electrical, or both. If it backfires you probably have a leaky exhaust there, no big deal in the scheme of things. It could also mean the carbs need work. These cars are not powerful. Don't expect it to accelerate like a Corvette. They don't. On the other hand, a good MG should be able to move out quickly. It just won't snap your neck back.
Stopping - All the cars I looked at had brake problems. Some are squishy and won't stop the car, some are hard as rock and won't stop the car. About $200 will buy most of the parts you'll need to rebuild the brake system and its fairly simple work that is good for a novice to get the hands greasy on, so don't worry. If this is needed, it MUST be first on your "to-do" list. Remember the MG motto: Safety Fast!
Buy the best you can afford. This has been said so often, but it's good advice. Figure out how much you can spend, don't forget some "padding" to take care of an initial tune-up at a minimum, then stick to it. Remember that you may be spending even more money just to get it safely driveable. Just because you pay less now, doesn't mean you have a great deal. It may just mean you'll spend more on spare parts later!
Negotiate - Haggle, if you must. If you follow these tips, you'll have the knowledge to do so. Don't be turned off by the asking price. The owner may have delusions of grandeur! You won't know until you study up and see the car.
This is by no means the final word on MGBs. There are tons of sources for info on the Internet and in books about these great cars, so use them. Don't believe anyone who says, "they all do that", or that they are "unreliable, hassle-filled junk". It's simply not true! With some TLC the B is a very reliable car. Take your time and enjoy yourself! This is an opportunity to enjoy a variety of different cars.
Article by Dan Ray, with edits and additions by Skye Nott