All the Way from A to B: The History of the MGB, Part Two

THE END OF ABINGDON

The MGB’s twilight should have been its golden years in terms of profit, but BMC’s arrangement with Pressed Steel back when the ADO23 was first launched meant that the tooling costs had never actually been paid and thus could not be paid off. Instead, Abingdon was (according to Wilson McComb) still paying a flat per-car fee for each body shell just as the factory had been at the beginning of production.

As with the Mini, the MGB left BL in a cruel bind. The roadster was no longer profitable and it didn’t sell well enough to justify any substantial changes, but it was too popular to kill, at least without risking a dealer revolt. Even in its declining years, the B still accounted for more than 30% of British Leyland’s U.S. sales and regularly outsold the much-newer Triumph TR7.

This dilemma was exacerbated by shifts in the sterling-dollar exchange rate. After dropping sharply in 1976 — a crisis that forced Britain’s Callaghan government to seek a £2.3 billion ($3.9 billion) line of credit from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — the value of the pound had increased so much relative to the U.S. dollar that BL was now effectively selling its North American cars at a substantial loss despite repeated price increases.

By the time the 1980 models bowed in mid-1979, the disparity had reached alarming proportions. In the U.S., an MGB with overdrive started at around $8,200, which at the time was equivalent to perhaps £3,800. In the UK, a similarly equipped MGB tourer started at about £6,100, the equivalent of more than $13,000! The discrepancies in wholesale costs were not quite that bad, but by the end of the year, British Leyland admitted it was losing £900 (nearly $2,000) on every MGB sold in America. Even the most robust automaker couldn’t sustain such losses for long and British Leyland was anything but healthy.

1979 MGB roadster front 3q
The black-bumper MGB was almost an inch (23 mm) shorter than the “Sabrina” model of 1974, but was quite a bit heavier: Curb weight was now more than 2,400 lb (1,095 kg). Unrestricted British cars still had 97 hp DIN (71 kW), but by 1975, North American Bs were down to 62.5 net horsepower (47 kW), making for rather sedate straight-line performance. Abingdon planned to address that shortfall in 1981 by switching to the 1,994 cc (122 cu. in.) O-series engine, but the MGB was canceled shortly before production was to begin.

By 1979, the political climate was also changing. Since 1975, British Leyland had been essentially a ward of the state, with 95% of its shares owned by the British government. The general elections in May 1979 brought a new prime minister and new Conservative government that was eager to distance itself from its Labour predecessor’s policy of nationalization and direct subsidies to industry. The new Thatcher government could not afford the political fallout of an immediate divestment, but Secretary of State for Industry Keith Joseph made it clear that there would be no more government money until British Leyland staunched its losses and brought its spiraling costs under control.

In September 1979, British Leyland staged a two-day gala to mark the golden anniversary of the MG plant in Abingdon. Few of the attendees realized it was actually a wake. The following Monday, BL chairman Sir Michael Edwardes announced that Abingdon would be closed at the end of the 1980 model year as part of a plan to cut BL’s workforce by 25,000 jobs. The factory’s demise would bring with it the end of both the Midget and the MGB.

The announcement was greeted with howls of protest, including public demonstrations and a letter-writing campaign, organized by former managing director John Thornley, asking MG dealers to oppose the closure. Some North American dealers threatened legal action if the MGB was canceled. J. Bruce McWilliams, the head of British Leyland’s North American organization, pushed to keep the B alive through at least 1984, but it was to no avail.

Edwardes later admitted that he hadn’t really grasped the loyalty that the MG brand commanded, but something had to give and Abingdon was among the least critical of British Leyland’s plants. The new pressure from Whitehall meant that the company’s first priority had to be mainstream products like the much-delayed Metro, so low-volume sports cars were once again deemed secondary. The MGB’s internecine rival, the Triumph TR7, would survive, although the Canley Triumph Works were also slated for closure; TR7 production would be transferred to the Rover plant in Solihull.

1980 MGB Limited Edition front 3q
For 1980, North American MGBs were back up to 67 net horsepower (50 kW) and 94 lb-ft (127 N-m) of torque, although they were still much slower than the old Mk 1 and Mk 2 cars. According to engineer Terry Mitchell, if the planned O-series engine had gone into production for 1981, U.S. Bs would have had about 95 net horsepower (71 kW), British cars a healthy 127 hp (95 kW). Abingdon also experimented with a turbocharged O-series engine, which would have up to 160 horsepower (119 kW).

The decision to kill the MGB was particularly frustrating to Don Hayter, who had replaced Roy Brocklehurst as MG’s chief engineer in 1973. Embarrassed by the B’s increasingly anemic performance, Hayter had obtained permission to replace the elderly B-series engine with the new corporate O-series four, a 1,994 cc (122 cu. in.) OHC engine also used by the Austin Marina and later the base Rover SD1. North American Bs were to have Lucas Jetronic fuel injection, finally enabling them to pass their EPA tests with some honor intact. The O-series engine was originally slated to appear for 1977 along with an extensive cosmetic revamp known internally as ADO76, but the facelift was canceled and the new engine was pushed back to the 1981 model year. MG built about two dozen Bs with the O-series engine and Hayter says they had already completed U.S. emissions and crash testing when British Leyland brought down the ax.

In October 1979, Alan Curtis, the chairman of Aston Martin Lagonda, assembled a group of businessmen in a last-ditch effort to save the B. They offered British Leyland £30 million (about $70 million) for the Abingdon plant, the MGB’s design and tooling, and the rights to use the MG name. Their plan was to give the B a quick facelift courtesy of Aston Martin’s William Towns and continue production with minimal interruption. British Leyland’s initial enthusiasm for this idea was not high and it took around six months for the parties to reach an agreement. By then, Aston Martin was having financial problems of its own and was no longer able to put up its share of the money. The deal collapsed in the summer of 1980.

Perhaps the bitterest irony of the Aston Martin negotiations was that they derailed an internal plan to repurpose the Abingdon plant, adding a production facility for CKD kits and a new special vehicles unit. That plan would have allowed about a third of Abingdon’s workers to keep their jobs, but according to David Knowles, it was shelved when an agreement with the Curtis group seemed imminent. By the time the deal fell apart, British Leyland had made other arrangements and Abingdon was finished.

1980 MGB Limited Edition wheel
The North American MGB Limited Edition was introduced in 1979 and eventually sold nearly 6,700 copies. All American Limited Editions were black with silver tape stripes, five-spoke alloy wheels, and an under-nose spoiler. The 1981 British Limited Edition had the same spoiler and wheels, but was offered only in bronze or pewter.

The last MGBs came off the line on October 23, 1980. British Leyland marketed a final 1,000 cars as 1981 Limited Edition models, priced at £6,445 (around $13,000) for the roadster, £6,937 (about $14,000) for the GT. The final U.S. MGB, a North American Limited Edition, was presented as a gift to Henry Ford II, who donated it to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. (It has changed hands several times since then and is now privately owned.)

THE RESURRECTION OF THE MGB

The demise of the Abingdon factory, the MGB, and the Midget did not mean the end of the MG name. British Leyland promptly applied it to the new Metro and later to the Maestro and Montego, where it survived through 1991.

Although the MGB was no longer in production, it still had a loyal following. The B had its faults, but it was a known quantity and both cars and parts were still in ample supply. By 1988, even complete body shells were once again available, thanks to David Keith of British Motor Heritage, a new division of the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust, British Leyland/Austin Rover/Rover Group’s museum and historical archives. Keith was able to salvage much of the MGB’s original tooling, allowing BMH to begin manufacturing small numbers of complete roadster (and later GT) bodies for high-end restorations.

A major reason for the MGB’s continuing popularity was that there were few modern equivalents; with the market’s newfound appetite for GTs and hot hatches, traditional sports cars had become rather thin on the ground. However, that suddenly changed in February 1989, with the arrival of Mazda’s MX-5 Miata. Although it looked more like an early Lotus Elan than an MG, the MX-5 was roughly the same size and weight as the old chrome-bumper MGB roadster, combining similar virtues with modern ergonomics and reliability.

1990 Mazda Miata front 3q
A first-year Mazda MX-5 Miata (chassis code NA). The original Miata had a 1,598 cc (98 cu. in.) DOHC four, making 116 hp (87 kW) SAE with manual transmission, 105 hp (78 kW) with automatic. With a curb weight of only 2,100 lb (955 kg), it was capable of reaching 60 mph (97 km/h) in around nine seconds and won much acclaim for its steering and handling response. Cheap, economical, and definitely cheerful, the MX-5 was an immediate hit: Mazda sold 250,000 of them in only three years. Total MX-5 production has since reached more than 800,000 units.

The debut of the Miata was undoubtedly frustrating for MG fans, since the company formerly known as British Leyland (it had become Austin Rover in 1982 and Rover Group in 1986) had not offered a proper sports car since the demise of the Triumph TR7 and TR8 in 1981. There had been plans for a new MG Midget back in 1984, a much-publicized 1985 concept car called MG EX-E, and a design study for a Maestro-based FWD convertible, but none had come close to production. It was not until the debut of the Miata that Rover Group, now owned by British Aerospace, actually committed to developing a new MG sports car.

At the time, British Motor Heritage was already thinking of offering a complete turnkey MGB as a way to promote sales of its body shells. Since an all-new MG sports car was still at least three or four years away, Rover’s newly formed Special Products group (RSP) decided that a ‘new’ B would be a useful interim model. They took over the MGB revival project in the spring of 1990.

RSP’s plans soon evolved into a new car called Project Adder, based on the British Motor Heritage MGB roadster body. Since the project’s entire budget was only £5 million (about $8.5 million), RSP could only afford new fenders, a new front clip, and a revised interior with wood trim and a modern stereo system. With the old B-series engine long dead, Rover again opted for the aluminum V8 from the Range Rover, now with electronic fuel injection and a five-speed gearbox.

The new roadster, dubbed MG RV8, made its public debut in October 1992 and went on sale in early 1993. Press reaction was mixed. Most critics thought the RV8 was nicely executed and just seeing the MG octagon on something other than a family hatchback brought a nostalgic glow, but the updated interior and powertrain could not disguise the age of the basic platform. With an MSRP of £25,440 (around $42,000), the RV8 cost as much as some far more sophisticated modern sports cars and even many MG enthusiasts found the price hard to justify.

1993 MG RV8 front 3q © 2009 Gazh Photography (used with permission)
Although the MG RV8 was based on the British Motor Heritage MGB body, it had new fenders, bumpers, and grille. It was 4.5 inches (114 mm) longer than the original MGB roadster on a fractionally longer 91.7-in (2,330mm) wheelbase, retaining the B’s live axle and rear drum brakes, but adding trailing arms to help locate the axle. With a manufacturer curb weight of 2,825 lb (1,280 kg) and 190 hp DIN (140 kW) from its 3,947 cc (241 cu. in.) V8, performance was brisk. Rover claimed 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in less than 7 seconds and a top speed of 135 mph (217 km/h). (Photo: “MG RV8 (A newer and more grown up MGB)” © 2009 Gazh Photography; used with permission)

Rover had always represented the RV8 as a limited edition, but sales were disappointing nonetheless. Only 1,983 were built and more than 1,500 of those went to Japan, which also absorbed a similar percentage of Mini production. Since Rover no longer had a North American dealer network — its Sterling brand had expired in August 1991 — there was no attempt to federalize the RV8.

The final RV8 was completed on November 25, 1995. It was the last direct descendant of the MGB, although the continued availability of the British Motor Heritage shell meant that a sufficiently motivated fan could conceivably build a ‘new’ B from the ground up.

32 Comments

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  1. Excellent article …as usual!!

    Interestingly, the MGB seems to never die! Nearly all new parts are still easily available at surprisingly reasonable cost from companies like Moss Motors.

  2. I think Jetronic is a Bosch trademark–or did Lucas plan to take out a license from Bosch?

    Sounds like British Leyland had the same problem with the per-body fee for the B that Hudson did with the Jet.

    1. [quote]I think Jetronic is a Bosch trademark–or did Lucas plan to take out a license from Bosch?[/quote]

      They did. The system Lucas created for the O-series MGB was essentially one third of the system used in the contemporary Jaguar XJ-S V-12, which was a licensed version of Bosch’s D-Jetronic.

      [quote]Sounds like British Leyland had the same problem with the per-body fee for the B that Hudson did with the Jet.[/quote]

      Yup, a similar situation.

  3. [quote=Administrator]The system Lucas created for the O-series MGB was essentially one third of the system used in the contemporary Jaguar XJ-S V-12, which was a licensed version of Bosch’s D-Jetronic. [/quote]
    Even this shows how sadly "behind" BL was. The original D-Jetronic system first appeared on the 1968 VW Type 3 cars, and by the mid-1970s was already on its way out. The much simpler electro-mechanical (as opposed to electronic) K-Jetronic system was in common use from 1975 onward, and even that was in the process of being replaced by the fully electronic L-Jetronic system by the time the O-series engine was intended to be released.

    1. [quote]even that was in the process of being replaced by the fully electronic L-Jetronic system by the time the O-series engine was intended to be released. [/quote]

      This is also true, although Andrew Bywater of AJ6 Engineering notes that part of the motivation in using the older system was probably a desire for greater reliability. If you’re going to build something under license, I suppose it makes sense to choose a product that’s a well-known quantity with a substantial service history. Bosch may also have offered a significantly better deal on the D-Jetronic system than their brand shiny new L-Jetronic, which would have been attractive to cash-strapped British Leyland.

  4. In another example of BL’s horrendous management, Pressed Steel-Fisher, the MGB’s body supplier, had been a wholly-owned subsidiary of BMC/BMH/BL since 1965. In fact, it was BMC control of Pressed Steel that pushed William Lyons into the BMH merger, fearing threatened by having Jaguar’s bodies produced by a direct competitor in the luxury arena.

    All it would have taken was a few strokes of the accountant’s pen to write off PSF’s tooling investment and supply MG in a normal internal fashion. BL would have taken a small, immediate accounting charge, and the B would have been more profitable for the remainder of production. Either an example of a general lack of interest in MG versus Triumph, or total incompetence.

    1. I talked a little about the Pressed Steel/Jaguar situation in a sidebar in the article on the E-type Jaguar. I don’t know how threatened Sir William felt by BMC’s buyout of Pressed Steel before Donald Stokes offered a merger with Standard-Triumph later that year. The number of BMC products that competed directly with Jaguar was still relatively limited — the Vanden Plas Princess 4-litre R, perhaps the big Healeys — but Sir William decided that if he merged with Standard-Triumph, BMC’s principal rival, there was a strong chance of retaliation. According to Keith Adams, Sir William also looked at the merger craze spreading through the industry and realized that if Jaguar were acquired, it might not be by his choice. In that light, cozying up to BMC seemed prudent, and it certainly allowed Jaguar to retain more of its identity after the merger.

      I’m not an accountant, and my knowledge of British law is limited to the viewing of the odd BBC drama, so I have no idea what kind of fiscal implications would have been involved in restating or writing off the tooling costs; that probably would have been an additional concern.

      I suspect the real problem was finding someone in a position to actually authorize it. One of British Leyland’s biggest problems was its sheer size — more than a hundred different companies, with offices and factories scattered throughout the UK. (The fact that many of those companies had recently been bitter rivals certainly didn’t help.) If something involved multiple divisions, it almost certainly had to be authorized and supported by someone quite high up the food chain; I assume neither MG, Austin-Morris, nor PS-F had the authority to make such a change. By most accounts, senior BL officials were often quite overwhelmed by the scope of their responsibilities, and it was easy for that kind of relatively minor accounting detail to be lost in the shuffle. That in itself wouldn’t necessarily be a sign of either incompetence (except insofar as it reflected the inadequacies of BL’s management systems) or favoritism. There are instances where the latter was clearly a primary factor (like Lord Stokes’ instance that the winning Austin-Morris design in the corporate sports car competition should be built as a Triumph, not an MG), but I think the larger problem was that BL was so unwieldy and its executives spent so much time doing triage that the forest was often lost for the trees.

  5. Hi and thanks for a very interesting read. I read about the MGb O series a little while ago and was lucky enough to get my hands on an O series engine complete with twin carbs from an SD1. After a little fettling I mated it to a standard B box. The car pulls extremely well and is very capable against modern cars. If I could do it with just a few hobby tools and a small workshop then why on earth BL did not try it is beyond me. Thanks again Mike.

    1. In some ways, swapping an engine into a single car is simpler, because you can just keep fiddling until it works properly. Certainly, there’s a lot less paperwork! It wasn’t that fitting the O-series was a great technical challenge, it’s that it required a commitment of engineering resources, including adapting the Lucas Jetronic injection system for the U.S. cars and going through the various certifications for crash testing and federal and California emissions standards, including the EPA’s 50,000 mile (80,000 km) durability tests. The irony is that BL did ultimately do much of that work, only to cancel it at the last minute anyway.

    2. I’m interested in your O Series conversion. Could you send me your email address as I have a few questions…..cheers Rob

  6. Hello Aaron,

    let me first of all congatulate you with your fantastic website: it is very nice indeed!

    Secondly I am very pleased with the picture you put in it.

    For fun I also gave you the webadress to have a look on some more pictures of my car.

    Best regrds,

    Axel Volker
    Leusden, the Netherlands

  7. great article. Is it correct to say that only 1,000 1980 Mgb limited edition were shipped to the USA.

    1. No — the 1,000-unit figure was for the British-market Limited version that closed out production. I think there were significantly more than 1,000 U.S.-market Limited Editions.

  8. I’m sorry it took me five years to come across this, but I was very interested to see the thread about Jim Stimson, who used to work for Syd Enever but had started off at Cowley. Jim was always insistent that he had drawn up a coupe MGB with a higher roof but that when Syd Enever showed the result to (I assume) Harrimann, he was told to ship a roadster and his drawings out to Pininfarina. I have to say that other former colleagues of Stimposon’s were often unsure of what had happened (they weren’t necessarily involved in some of the forward prototype work, and Stimpson worked in the Boilerhouse at Abingdon, away from prying eyes) but Jim was quite assertive about it, and I wrote more in my recent “MG V8” book. Stimpson also claimed detailed authorship of the long nose used on the MGB at Le Mans.

    1. If he did come up with the idea first, I can certainly understand his exasperation with seeing it attributed to Pininfarina! I’ve seen various examples in other organizations in which ideas are suddenly taken more seriously when an outside consultant says them, even if the consultant is really just repeating things the staff have said or suggested previously. While I obviously don’t know for sure if that was the case here, it certainly happens often enough to seem plausible.

      1. I should perhaps clarify the point about Pininfarina; their work unquestionably transformed the MGB GT into the good looking car that it became – even Jim Stimson was keen to acknowledge that. Sergio Pininfarina personally told me that in his opinion, the MGB GT was the best looking design for BMC that came out of his company. Meanwhile those interested in the story have looked for more evidence; suffice to say I have found some, and it will be in my next MGB book, due for publication in 2020…

  9. Does anyone have any info on the missing MGB Targa. Its not mentioned here and Im trying to gather up info on the car to be able to build one. I have been hunting photo’s and to date have 5 and 2 newspaper article, thats taken 2 yrs. I have all the google stuff. but anything else would help, thanks.

    1. Do you mean the Jacques Coune Targa?

  10. I had a 1971 MGB GT which I purchased 18 months old from a daughter of the President of the Ferrari owners club. I was told it was one of 6 made in Italy by Alfa Romao who were going to build them ( under licence) but then the agreement fell through for some reason.
    Not sure now whether story was true or just sales talk by owner.
    However it did have an aluminium bonnet & boot lid. I put a Downton conversion on it that made it quicker than a friends MGC
    Sold it in 1976 due to arrival of 2nd babs. Great car !!

    1. Without some kind of documentary evidence, my inclination is to be skeptical of the story. BMC did of course have various local production deals, some in Italy — see also the Innocenti Mini — but I have a hard time seeing why Alfa Romeo would be interested in building the MGB GT, which would have competed with the Alfa Giulia Sprint. Also, by 1971, British Leyland was expecting the MGB to expire in the near future, replaced (along with the Triumph TR6) by the Triumph TR7. The auto industry is full of weird deals, so if somebody says, “No, no, funny story, but it’s true, look at this evidence,” I’ll take that, but my off-the-cuff response is, “That doesn’t sound right at all…”

      1. I agree. A good pub yarn without any hard evidence. Reminds me of the ‘genuine factory MGB Daimler V8’ which I found was no such thing. Last known in Switzerland in the ownership of someone who probably didn’t like discovering the truth.

  11. looking for my 1968 MGB red with black and red interior. with 6 cylinder Capri engine

  12. It is interesting to note that unlike the MGC and stillborn Big Healey version, an attempt was belatedly made to differentiate the MGB GT V8 Coupe from the MGB sometime in the early/mid-1970s though coming came of it, via a clay mock up on page 147 of David Knowles – MG: The Untold Story book with the overall shape intended as a sort of “junior” Jaguar XJ-S and the front end even featuring a Jaguar-like nose (though the lack of grille on the clay mock up is almost reminiscent of the Bristol Blenheim 3S/4S).

    1. Yeah, the MGB story is littered with interesting ideas — some perfectly reasonable, some perhaps a stretch under the best of conditions — punctuated by a lack of money and a low place on the list of corporate priorities.

      1. Indeed. Read also in same book of Aston Martin proposal eventual rebodies of the MGB had they been successful in acquiring the MGB from BL.

        Despite already being considered a success the MGB has always come across as a compromised design, due to neither featuring IRS let alone a 2-litre+ engine from the outset which could have further prolonged its production without the 13 year gap between the MGB and MG RV8.

        Could an MGB plus derivatives receiving the sum of proposed improvements have made it even more of success where outside of the occasional rebody or few, there is less of a need to replace it until a proper successor is developed?

        ADO21 was unviable outside of the styling which was used for the TR7 and the Healey WAEC needed a more potent engine, while the EX234 was a Midget replacement that could have taken over from the 4-cyliner MGBs (the latter featuring 6-cylinder / V8 engines), been updated with R6 Metro-type interconnected Hydragas (think front-engined RWD MGF predecessor) as well as carried over the styling of ADO21.

        1. The question is not so much, “Could the B have been improved or modernized to good effect?” — the answer to that is indubitably “yes” — but, “Would it have made a commercially meaningful difference?” The MGB was basically a late ’50s design soldiering on through the sales inertia granted the gradual extinction of most rivals. It was not unlike the position the Mazda MX-5/Miata has occupied in more recent years, where it had an obvious niche that was sustainable, but only so long as there was not a lot of direct competition. That niche was not about the MGB being a modern car or even a particularly good one by ’70s standards (much less ’80s ones), but about it being a cute small roadster for a not-horrendous price. Would customers, particularly American ones, have welcomed a bit more power and a less choppy ride? Sure. Would those qualities have persuaded more people to buy an MGB? I’m inclined to say probably not.

          I don’t doubt the MGB could have continued soldiering on through much of the ’80s had Aston Martin continued production, but my suspicion is that the more ambitious proposals would have ended up falling by the wayside because Aston was not exactly flush with cash and sooner or later someone would have done the math and grasped that the extra expense would just make the car less profitable (or possibly a money-loser) rather than more successful.

          Periodically of late, I see late-night TV infomercials for various skin creams that are supposed to fill in lines and hide wrinkles and baggy skin. The demonstration phase of those infomercials shows that, at least under those selective conditions, the cream or remedy does temporarily mask certain lines and create the appearance of smoother skin. What it does not do, and could not do, would be to make the subject look younger. Does a 70-year-old with four sets of visible creases around his eyes look better than one with six or eight sets of creases? Arguably, I suppose, but I’d be hard-pressed to say the reduction in wrinkle-count makes him look less than 70.

          As a separate matter, I don’t think history has validated the merits of Hydragas. Even the MGF, much more modern than the proposed MGB successors/evolutions, did not demonstrate any particular ride or handling advantage over a well-tuned conventional suspension, certainly not enough to justify the cost and repair/replacement issues. There is a tendency to throw technology at automotive suspensions when something less elaborate would serve as well or better if the designers would hire some competent chassis tuning experts who can properly sort the balance of springs, dampers, bushings, and tires. It’s only been quite recently, in a historical sense, that features like adjustable shock absorbers, air springs, or active anti-roll bars have become more than just a costly brochure gimmick, and I can’t help suspecting that they’d be less worthwhile if not for the modern fad for giant, heavy wheels with ultra-low-aspect-ratio tires.

          1. While an argument can be made about the merits of Hydrolastic / Hydragas (IMHO its potential was constrained by BL’s financial problems and was said to work very well in both the Rover Metro/100 and the Minki-II prototype), EX234 does give an idea as to how the MGB could have been replaced.

            Essentially EX234 would replace both the Midget and the MGB featuring 1300-2000cc 4-cylinder engines, with an upscaled 6-cylinder and V8 version replacing the MGC / GT V8. Meanwhile the gap below EX234 could be filled by the Mini-based prototypes like ADO34 (plus ADO35/ADO36) and ADO70 featuring 1000-1300cc engines.

            You are probably correct that such models (sans Mini-based sportscars) would likely feature conventional (ideally all-independent) suspension, OTOH it is possible there would be two different versions depending on which side of the Atlantic they are sold at.

            In terms of suitable styling for the 1970s and beyond it is a dilemma, the Pininfarina styling of EX234 needs more work IMHO though quite like the look of the ADO21 (particularly at the rear) sans rear flying buttresses and pop-up headlights though a composite of the former with the styling of the Rover SD1 (particularly at the front) could work (especially since the latter was such a departure for Rover from the P6 in the same way the TR7 was for Triumph from the TR6 with both SD1 and TR7 styling actually being better suited for MG).

            As for the MGB itself would have been content with it receiving a 106 hp 2-litre B-Series (possibly even a 112-115 hp 2-litre B-OHC), IRS as well as either a 2.4-3-litre B-Series 6-cylinder or a properly-developed (and significantly lightened) C-Series for the MGC prior to gradually being replaced by the early/mid-1970s. One could make a case for a reliable properly developed version of the MGA’s 1.6 B-Series Twin-Cam engine that grows to 2-litres and spawns inline-6 variants, yet the Twin-Cam was still likely to be a limited-run engine as opposed to a genuine productionized challenger to the Alfa Romeo Twin-Cam.

          2. Well, as the article says, BL did the work on putting the 2-liter O-Series in the MGB, although that didn’t come to pass.

            I don’t know that the EX234 would have found a strong market. It had its interesting points, but Bruce Williams’ remarks about the American market also applied. The Toyota Celica (q.v.) ended up being more what U.S. buyers wanted in a sport coupe; it was uncomplicated (and the U.S. didn’t get the twin-cam or injected versions), economical, affordable, and well-built, which went a long way toward making up for its lack of verve.

          3. That is true. However BMC did look at a 106 hp 2-litre B-Series OHV a few times during the early/mid-1960s, yet by the time they actually considered putting a 112-115 hp 2-litre B-OHC into production it could not be built due to the tooling being past its prime.

            Am not 100% sold on the EX234’s Pininfarina styling though it could have potentially had a fairly long production life due to being more sophisticated compared to both the Midget and MGB as well as indirectly taking over from the original Lotus Elan (prior to the original Mazda MX5). Cannot say whether EX234 would have would spawned a 2+2 GT coupe or even have enough room in the engine bay for the Rover V7, yet would not be surprised if either is the case.

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