The U.S. has seen a number of British invasions, the best one being the MG-led post-WWII invasion by English sports cars. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe MGB-GT is ready to invade your driveway, but will its price call off the attack?
Ebola, Gonorrhea, Donald Trump's attention - according to you there are apparently worse things to have than yesterday's 1982 Buick Riviera convertible, but not many. The 82% Crack Pipe vote indicated that not only would few of you justify paying twelve large for the white whale, but many of you would require recompense just to get within 100 yards of it.
MG first turned out low-slung saloons, coupés and sports cars in the mid-1920s. Located in Abingdon, just south of Oxford, the company became best know in the U.S. when returning servicemen began flying around the burgeoning suburban sprawl in ones they brought back with them, after having grown a taste for the willowy swoop-fendered cars while stationed in England. The company built on that initial opportunity to lead an incursion into what was the predominantly domestic-only landscape of the U.S. car market. Seeking to address the American penchant for comfort, the MGA supplanted the quaint-looking T-series in 1955 and offered modern fixtures such as a full body and non-exposed fuel tank. Proving that MG was not leaving tradition in the past, the MGA continued to sport side curtains and a roadster top that was worthy of a Boy Scout badge to erect. For those seeking anonymity or the painfully shy, a coupe version was also offered.
What MG lacked in nomenclature imagination was more than made up for in strident adherence to strict alphabetical order, and as such the MGA's successor was unsurprisingly denoted the MG ‘B'. The new car maintained a lot of what made the A such an engaging sportscar, including excellent rack and pinion steering, front disc brakes (a mid-life addition to the A) and an enlarged 1,798-cc edition of the A's BMC B-series OHV four. The B did break from the tradition of the A in major ways by eschewing the earlier car's body on frame design for a full monocoque structure, and featuring roll-up glass in its doors. In many ways the MGB became a smaller, less expensive alternative to the contemporary Jag XKE.
Originally introduced as a convertible, the B gained an enclosed edition in 1965 with the introduction of the Pininfarina-designed B-GT. The GT featured an elongated roofline and sloping hatch that nestled between the subtle fins of the brakelamp-topped rear fenders. Typically when a car design is modified to either remove or replace the roof things can go off the rails, however in the case of the MGB, what was at first simply a pleasing design on the roadster became one of the most handsome and perfectly proportioned cars ever conceived when in GT form.
This 1974 MGB-GT may not be a 12-cylinder drift monster, but it does come from the final year of chrome bumpers and hence sports a ride height not emblematic of a circus stiltwalker. And in Ferrari Red, the classic chrome accents on the gunwales and window trim still stand out proudly. The Rostyle wheels are period appropriate, although B's look so good with either wires or Panasports they're a little underwhelming. As noted, this is a chrome-bumper ‘74, although it lacks the big rubber ‘Sabrina' bumperettes of that year, or the later full-on rubber end caps. Those later cars also were afflicted with an increased ride height that brought the B into U.S. headlight height compliance, but created deleterious effects to the car's handling and fender gaps you could fly a Concorde through.
That makes this one on the right side of the DOT divide, and its appearance and handling are all the better for it. Inside, the ‘74 cars got a blast from the past with the re-introduction of a glovebox in the dash. GTs also received cloth faces to the seats that year, indicating that the pair here have been recovered. Their light biscuit color goes well with the darker brown of the door panels and carpet, and matching the shift boot to the seats is a nice touch. Overall the car appears to be ready for daily driver duty as far as the cockpit is concerned. Somewhat alarming is not necessarily the claim of ‘some rust' on the door sill, but the seller's admission that he can provide lots of information about sill replacement. Dude, not reassuring! Another weak spot on the B is what is referred to as the crack of doom that appears in the door at the base of the vent wing, and which is caused by that structure pushing against the outer skin when the door is closed and the frame is pushed against the windshield pillar.
Under the hood resides the iron maiden B-series, fed by a pair of inch and a half SUs. This was also the last year for that layout, the following year getting a single wheezy Stromberg 175 CD2. Regardless this twin-carb car came from the factory with 87-bhp, a modest drop from the 95 horsepower of the pre-smog versions. A quick glance under the hood shows the air pump and injectors have been removed on this B, but as the car is a pre-'75, you could even license it in California with that modification. That glance under the hood also reveals what looks like a patina of even more rust, covering every square inch that isn't engine or accessory. It may of course be just an unfortunate choice of engine bay paint. The later B-GTs came with a synchromesh four speed, and some had the desirable option of a Laycock de Normanville LH-overdrive, operated by moving the signal stalk forward and backward. The seller doesn't say whether this one has that, but it's an easy addition, and makes highway cruising much more enjoyable.
The seller does say that he's plunked nearly nine grand into the car in recent years, including that interior re-do, a new exhaust system and tires, making for a reasonably fresh presentation, even with its claimed 125,000 miles. Much like the swirling whirlpool of a recently flushed loo coalesces everything deposited there, so too did British Leyland absorb much of what was England's automotive industry, and to similar end effect. Despite the BL badge on its flank, this B-GT should remain robust and relatively low maintenance for years to come - seriously, I used to own a ‘69, these are incredibly tough and easy to work on cars. That's because much of what makes up the B pre-dated BL, and in fact when this ‘74 was built, the MGB marque was already 11 years old. That doesn't mean they weren't still wonderful cars to own and drive, and that holds true today. Despite modest aspirations, the MGB-GT is as much a Grand Touring car as any E-Type or Aston Martin. And the price of entry is significantly lower than either of those two brands ever were, or command today.
And in the case of this MGB-GT, that price is $7,000. Sure, it has only been bid up to $4,750, but you know the real eBay action doesn't occur until the last minute before close. And if someone didn't want to waste all that time and the chance of losing the car over a penny-shy bid, the By It Now option is the only way to go. But is it the right way? What do you think, is $7,000 for one of the last of the proper Bs reasonable enough to allow an invasion of one's bank account? Or, does that price mean the GT in this B's name stands for Grand Theft?
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