To B, or not to B: that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The Nice Price or Crack Pipe of outrageous cost, or to take arms against a sea of car trouble. . .
Yesterday's zombie slayer Landcruiser woke the Crack Pipe dead to the tune of 83 brain-splattering percent. Today, we're going to be looking at a contender from a lifeless, but ambulatory maker, one that was still trying to eke out the coolness- like a 20-year old who is still trolling the high school.
Morris Garages was founded in 1910. In the 1920s they began producing MG cars- light, quick, saloons and roadsters that were praised as being some of the finest handling cars of the time. For the next sixty years, MG continued this tradition, until time and British Leyland caught up with them.
The A replacing B was originally intended for a 5 year model run. Budgetary and dysfunctional management issues turned that into an 18 year slog, with the last six or eight being particularly embarrassing for the little car. The Bs were always fun, good-handling little cars, but by the mid-seventies they were still rocking 50s technology, and all attempts to bring them into compliance with U.S. safety and emissions standards only served to make them less relaibale and more ungainly. The massive black rubber bumpers overwhelmed the design, and after a couple of years of living in smog-filled environs they turned into eraser-textured marks-a-lots. Bumper and headlamp height regulations required MG to raise the car 1.5 inches, compromising the handling and making them look like an unhappy dog getting a bath. Sturdy and reliable, the 1,798 cc cast iron four originally pumped out a healthy 98 bhp, making the car good for 100 mph+ cruising. Due to emissions compliance, the double inch-and-a-quarter SUs were replaced by a single Zenith Stromberg 175CD5T, like most everything arriving to the U.S. from Great Britain. This, along with an air pump, catalytic convertor and lowered compression took the B to a wheezy, but still freeway-capable 68 bhp. Fun now came with a lowercase 'f'.
Today, we have a survivor from that era, a '76 MGB convertible with a claimed 22,xxx miles on it. We don't know if that means it was only ever driven by a porn star, or if the odometer broke some time ago. Knowing the durability of the Leyland cars, the latter is more likely. This was the first year that overdrive came standard, so this car should be so equipped, which makes highway driving a lot more enjoyable for both car and driver.
Despite the inequities suffered upon the B in its twilight years, they still can be fun cars to drive, as long as you know, and are respectful of, the limitations. As an example of that fun, here's a couple of prideful owners showing off their cars- and in the first instance, of how to properly wear a backwards cap:
Angeles Crest Highway:
See, doesn't that look like fun? And that could be you, in your backwards cap, for only $5,000. Five grand- what else could you buy for so little that would offer such classic top-down fun? But, is that too much for a nice two seat droptop with performance and handling that would be shamed by a Kia Rio? Or is that a price that makes you want to MG-B happy, and don't worry?