by Chris Cowland –
There was a chap in my village known as John the Pig. Not the best-looking male in Eton Wick, and his nickname was not a reflection of his table manners, but his job, which was to feed the pigs at a local farm.
He could never sneak up behind you in the pub, unless you had
a heavy cold, as his miasma emanated a good 10 feet around him.
However, John was rarely seen during the summer months
without a female companion, and most of the lads put this down to his ownership of a beautiful new yellow MGB. With the top down, and wind rushing through his hair at over 30mph, he presented a
very dashing figure. The rainy season was a different story.
MGBs were beyond my budget when I was a youth. They first came out in 1962, and so were relatively new when I got my driving licence. The factory eventually produced 523,836 units until it ceased production in 1980. The early magazine advertisements featured a female police officer tearing up a speeding ticket she had just written to a male driver, with the wink-wink caption “You can do it in an MG.” When they fitted rubber bumpers and raised the ride height for the U.S. market, it was suggested they change the caption to “You can do it under an MG!”
Most MGBs were exported to the North American market, and there are literally hundreds of surviving examples here on the Island. They are easy to work on, and spare parts are cheap and plentiful. If you are thinking about investing in a fun collector car for under $5,000, an MGB would be my suggestion. Forget the $100,000 E-Types and Big Healeys; the MGB is a great affordable everyday user car.
There were two main versions of the MGB: the convertible and the hard top GT. The GT was designed by no less than the famed Italian coachbuilders Pininfarina who also designed the Ferrari Testarossa. It had beautiful flowing lines, unlike some ungainly GTs of the time like the hunchbacked E-Type 2+2. You can fit golf clubs in the back through the ample hatchback, and a couple of small kids in the back seat. With a top speed of 105mph/168kph, it can hold its own on modern highways, though the zero to 60 acceleration is humbled even by a Prius.
Three of my kids own MGBs: two tourers and one GT. There are numerous local car clubs and many annual car shows, and I can’t think of a better family event than to attend one, without having to lie about the cost of restoration to your spouse.
If you are looking to buy one, remember that it will be between 37 and 55 years old, so rust can be extensive. Watch out for one kept in a heated garage, or more likely, an abandoned restoration where all the cutting and welding has been done already. The chrome bumper versions are most popular, and wire wheels and an overdrive are sought-after options. There was a complete engine and gearbox on UsedVictoria last month for free, and another for just $200, so don’t worry about the cost of a mechanical restoration. Just beware yellow convertibles with a strange smell of bacon.