Nostalgia. MG B, the greatest success of the English brand

There is a logic among car manufacturers: the MG B succeeds the A model. The big difference is that the design is modern and the success is there: more than 500,000 roadsters and coupes cross the roads of Europe and the United States.

The MG story does not begin with the 1956 MG A but long before, in 1923, when Cecil Kimber built the first MG: a modified Morris with Carbodies bodywork built in Coventry and Oxford.

Heir to the post-war TC and TF, the MG A uses a modern pontoon line that will stun fans of the brand. It wasn’t a sports car and it was rough to drive but it would lay the foundation for the B model.

1962, arrival of MG B

The MG B caused a sensation when it arrived, it was beautiful and efficient… At 3.89 m long, it was as thin as an Italian, but it was designed in-house by designer Don Hayter.

It was the first roadster to benefit from a monocoque structure; the MG B was also equipped with rack and pinion steering. All this will provide good stiffness and good trajectory precision. For safety, the front brakes are disc.

Question motorization, the BMC series B cast iron engine of the previous MG A returned to service. It is mated to a 4-speed gearbox, the first of which is not synchronized. Its displacement of 1.8 l generates 95 hp which, combined with a measured weight of 920 kg, allows a top speed of 170 km/h.

The price is part of the success

Oh, of course, the mechanics are very classic, especially the rigid rear axle suspended by leaf springs and the engine maintaining a lateral camshaft. But it has a price advantage: 15,950 francs in 1963 (equivalent to 23,703 euros in 2022), it is not excessive. Success was rapid in Europe, including France, and the United States.

From its release, the MG B evolved slowly: there were four versions Mk 1, Mk 2, Mk 3 and Mk 4 over a period from 1962 to 1980. From 1962 to 1974, the small that the model is only known to change, such as the addition of bumper brackets or slightly different grilles.

The MG B GT arrived in 1965. The hardtop avoided many of the frustrations of deploying a soft top. For everyday life, it’s practical, but nothing beats the feeling of air. Photo MG

From roadster to coupe

In the first year, 23,308 copies were registered. From 1963, the MG B had, as an option, an electric overdrive in 3rd and 4th gear. In 1964, a more modern engine was installed; it is less powerful (89 hp) but more reliable. Finally, in 1965, MG added a coupé version to the MG B range; this is the MG B GT.

In shooting-brake style, it received bodywork designed by PininFarina. On the same mechanical basis, the weight increases to 988 kg with the roof. At one time, the leaf spring strengthens the rear axle. From this model, the oil cooler is universal. It used to be an option on models intended for the domestic market and on the series for export.

From 1966, the front axle was equipped with an anti-roll bar. In 1967, with the arrival of the Mk 2, the gearbox was fully synchronized and an alternator appeared in place of the dynamo.

A V8 for fun

In 1969, engineer Ken Costello modified and produced “Costello tuning” MGB GTs with 150 hp Oldsmobile V8s. Maximum speed: 200 km/h. It would sell 190 copies between 1969 and 1974, only in the coupé version, which would inspire the MG a few years later. 1969 was also the year that British Leyland bought the MG.

For the American market, the main outlet for the MG B, a third wiper appeared and the dashboard was modified to make it more absorbent in the event of an impact.

In 1970, the bumper now received a rubber stopper. The grille is black, surrounded only by a chrome strip and the seats are in vinyl. The fenders got the BL monogram for British Leyland. The Mk 3 has arrived.

For enthusiasts, the adoption of polyurethane bumpers and the depollution of the block sign the end of the real MG B. The refined and pleasant little car has been transformed.  Photo MG

For enthusiasts, the adoption of polyurethane bumpers and the depollution of the block sign the end of the real MG B. The refined and pleasant little car has been transformed. Photo MG

The British Leyland years

In 1973, MG took Ken Costello’s idea and added the MG B V8 to the catalog (Roadster and coupé were eligible for the V8). The car gets a Buick-Rover 3.5L V8 with 137 hp. The weight, despite an aluminum block, rises to 1,100 kg.

The following year, the GT disappeared from the American market, but the worst was yet to come. To meet American safety and pollution control standards, the MG B received a monstrous polyurethane bumper. The ground clearance is raised by 3 centimeters and the depollution causes a lot of horsepower to be lost: the 1.8 l goes from 95 to 69 hp.

For enthusiasts, this is the end of true MGs.

An ugly ending

With its large bumpers, the little MG B lost a lot of aesthetics. Its safety innovations better protect its passengers. A retractable steering column was even installed, but with the added weight it didn’t hold the road as well. A problem was compensated for in 1976 by the addition of a rear anti-roll bar, while from the previous year, an overdrive was delivered as standard.

Between 1979 and 1980, the date of MG B’s extinction, the Limited Edition appeared. These were the last models produced: 6,682 black roadsters, 420 metallic beige roadsters and 580 GT metallic pewter.

The MG B will be produced in a total of 514,852 copies. Only the Mazda MX-5 will do better.

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