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

THE MGF

In the spring of 1995, Rover Group finally launched its all-new MG sports car, the MGF. Although it bore little resemblance to the B, the F revived several concepts from the long-forgotten EX234 and ADO21, including a mid-mounted engine and Hydragas suspension. The MGF was a thoroughly competent effort, but it somehow lacked the magic of past MGs. It did reasonably well, selling around 77,000 units through 2001, but it could not match the popularity of the MX-5, in part because it was never sold in the U.S.

1997 MG MGF VVC front 3q © 2012 free photos (CC BY 2.0 Generic)
A 1997 MGF with the 1,795 cc (110 cu. in.) VVC (variable valve control) engine, offering 143 hp (107 kW). An MGF with the VVC engine had brisk performance and fine agility, although it draw complaints from some reviewers for its numb electrically assisted steering. (Photo: “1997 MG MGF 1.8 I VVC” © 2012 free photos; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

The F was revamped in 2002, trading its Hydragas suspension for steel springs and conventional dampers. Renamed MG TF, it survived until the bankruptcy of Rover Group in 2005. It was subsequently resurrected by Nanjing Automobile Group, which is now part of the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). As of this writing, it appears that TF is still at least nominally available in the UK market, although SAIC suspended production in late 2009. In 2010, there were reports in the press that a replacement would debut by 2013, but as of this writing, one has yet to materialize.

MG, so often at the bottom of the corporate pecking order, ended up the last survivor of the old Nuffield and BMC brands; Riley died in 1969, Wolseley in 1975, Morris in 1983, and Austin in 1987. MG also had the satisfaction of outlasting Triumph, which disappeared after 1984. Some of those marques may eventually return — BMW owns Riley and Triumph along with the MINI brand and we believe SAIC has the rights to the Austin, Morris, and Wolseley names as well as MG — but we wouldn’t be surprised to see MG outlive them all.

Whatever the future holds, the B will always be a huge part of MG’s legacy, not least because the MGB accounts for nearly one-third of all the cars MG has built since 1923. BMC’s sometimes erratic record-keeping leaves its production figures open to question, but Anders Ditlev Clausager estimates that total MGB production (including CKD kits, but not the MGB GT V8) was approximately 512,000. If we add the GT V8, MGC, and MG RV8, they bring the grand total to almost 526,000. To our knowledge, the only other sports cars to better that figure are the Chevrolet Corvette, the Mazda RX-7, the Nissan Z-car, and the Mazda MX-5, which topped the MGB around 2001. Even their fans, however, will readily agree that the ‘vette, Z, and RX-7 really aren’t in the same category and we’re not sure the Miata would even have been conceived if not for the earlier success of the MGB. The B was not a pioneer in any technical sense; in some respects, it was rather dated even when it bowed and it was positively antiquated by the time production ended. Nonetheless, it set a standard that continues to this day and it remains a milestone car.

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NOTES ON SOURCES

Our sources for the history of MG, BMC, and British Leyland included: “1.5 Millionth MG is a Golden Jubilee TF,” AutoWeb, 4 June 2002, www.autoweb. com.au, accessed 3 October 2010; Keith Adams, “Company timeline,” “Formation of an Empire: BMC is created,” and “Humble Beginnings: The principal players,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 21 August 2010; “An Interview with Don Hayter – Design & Development Engineer,” 2 January 2001, originally published in the Safety Fast Midget Newsletter August 2001, reprinted on the web at www.mgcars. org.uk, accessed 8 September 2010; the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “1953-1967 Austin-Healey 100 and 3000,” HowStuffWorks.com, 20 August 2007, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1953-1967-austin-healey-100- and-30005.htm, accessed 21 August 2010, and “MG Sports Cars,” HowStuffWorks.com, 23 May 2007, auto.howstuffworks. com/ mg-sports-cars.htm, accessed 9 September 2010; “Birth of the Octagonal Badge,” The Electronic Telegraph [c. 1994], www.mgcars. org.uk, accessed 21 August 2010; John Baker, “History of the Company,” Austin Memories, 2006, www.austinmemories. com, accessed 21 August 2010; Don Hayter’s recap of his career, c. January 2008 (Houston MG Car Club, houstonmgcc. com/hayter.htm, accessed 8 September 2010); F. Wilson McComb, MG by McComb (Colchester, Essex: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 1978); “MG T-Series,” WWW Enthusiasts, n.d., MGCars. org, www.mgcars. org.uk, accessed 26 August 2010; “MG VA Saloon,” The MG Owners’ Club, n.d., www.mgownersclub. co.uk/ mg-va-saloon.html, accessed 21 August 2010; “Prewar MGs,” WWW Enthusiasts, n.d., www.mgcars. org.uk, accessed 21 August 2010; Peter Thornley, “Remembering J.W.Y. Thornley OBE, June 11, 1909-July 15, 1994,” MGB Driver June-July 1999, www.mgcars. org.uk, accessed 3 October 2010; “Who was William Morris, Lord Nuffield?” Britain Unlimited, n.d., www.britainunlimited. com, accessed 21 August 2010; and the Wikipedia® entries for British Leyland (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Leyland, accessed 21 August 2010), Leonard Lord (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Lord, accessed 21 August 2010) and the MG SA (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_SA, accessed 18 September 2010).

Information on the MGA came from the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “1953-1967 Austin-Healey 100 and 3000,” HowStuffWorks.com, 20 August 2007, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1953-1967-austin-healey-100- and-30005.htm, accessed 21 August 2010; “1953-1958 MG Magnette,” HowStuffWorks.com, 17 October 2007, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1953-1958-mg- magnette.htm, accessed 20 August 2010, “1955-1962 MGA,” HowStuffWorks.com, 15 October 2007, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1955-1962-mga.htm, accessed 5 August 2010; Rob Higgins, “The MGA: How it came to be,” MGA Register, www.mgcars. org.uk, accessed 21 August 2010; “The M.G. A 1600 Two-Seater (The Motor Road Test No. 21/59),” The Motor 2 September 1959, pp. 71-74; “The M.G. A Hardtop Coupé (The Motor Road Test No. 30/57 (Continental),” The Motor 7 August 1957, pp. 18-21; and John Price Williams, The MGA (Dorchester: Veloce Publishing, 1997).

Additional sources on the history, design, and performance of the MGB included: “40th Anniversary of MGB” [press release], 26 July 2002, MG Rover, www.carpictures. com, accessed 25 August 2010; “1962 MGB Sebring,” Sports Car Market, 30 November 2004, www.sportscarmarket. com, accessed 25 August 2010; Keith Adams, “B is for Bestseller,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 5 August 2010, “Middle-market mainstay,” AROnline, 2 May 2010, austin-rover. co.uk, accessed 21 August 2010, “The Aston MGB,” AROnline, 12 February 2009, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 8 September 2010, and “The MGB is reborn: the MG RV8,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 20 August 2010; Yan Alexandre, “Pio Manzù: Catalogue Raisonnable,” BlenheimGang, 2 May 2011, www.blenheimgang. com, accessed 28 January 2012; “Autocar road test 1899: M.G. MGB 1800 1,798 c.c.,” Autocar 26 October 1962, pp. 737–741; “Autocar Road Test Number 2069,” Autocar 4 March 1966, pp. 429-435; “Auto Test: Costello MGB GT V8: Tiger Tamed,” Autocar 25 May 1972, pp. 34–37; “Auto Test: MGB 1,798 c.c.,” Autocar 5 April 1975, pp. 45–49; Rusty Blackwell, “Collectible Classic: 1966-1974 MGB/GT,” Automobile February 2009, www.automobilemag. com, accessed 2 August 2010; “Brief Test: MGB,” The Motor 22 January 1972, pp. 14-16; Anders Ditlev Clausager, Original MGB: The Restorer’s Guide to All Roadster and GT Models 1962-80 (Original Series) Third Printing (Bideford, Devon: Bay View Books Ltd., 1998); Mike Covello, Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946-2002 Second Edition (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2001); Dolbel Enterprises, “MG RV8 Story,” MGRV8. com, 2 January 2010, www.mgrv8. com/ story.php, accessed 21 August 2010; J.P. Donnay, “Prototypes expérimentaux et de records MG Ex,” Le site MG de JP, 27 June 2003, geomatique-liege.be/ MGJP/ Pages/ Prototypes.htm, accessed 1 October 2010; Robert Edwards, Aston Martin: Ever the Thoroughbred (Haynes Classic Makes Series) (Sparkford, England: Haynes Publishing, 1999); Enrico Leonardo Fagone, “Pio Manzù – Pioneer of Car and Transportation Design,” Auto Design, 1 April 2010, autodesign. socialblog.us, accessed 28 January 2012; “Giant Test: Capri RS3100, Lotus +2 130/5, MGB V8,” Car January 1974, pp. 30–39; Matt Gresalfi, “The Last MGB!!” JaguarMG. com, January 2004, www.jaguarmg. com, accessed 25 September 2010; Orin B. Harding, “MGB Production Modifications,” Autochart. com, 24 May 1994, www.autochart. com, accessed 3 October 2010; John Heilig, MG Sports Cars (Enthusiast Color Series) (Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing Company, 1996); “History of the MGB,” MGB Register, n.d., MG Car Club of Victoria, mgb.mgcc. info, accessed 5 August 2010; Curtis Jacobson, “MG’s EX186 Prototype: The Ultimate ‘Modified’ MGA!” BritishRacecar. com, n.d., www.britishracecar. com, accessed 25 September 2010; “Ken Miles and the editors of Car and Driver road test six sports roadsters,” Car and Driver September 1966, reprinted in Car and Driver on Datsun Z, 1600 & 2000 1966-84 (Brooklands Books), ed. R.M. Clarke(Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1986), pp. 7-16; David Knowles, MG: The Untold Story (Osceola, WI: Motorboks International, 1997); F. Wilson McComb, “MGB GT: Last of the Bargain-Basement Gran Turismos,” Special Interest Autos #103 (February 1988), pp. 36-43; Mark J. McCourt, “Humanitarian on Four Wheels,” Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car #21 (December 2006); MGB LE, The MG Owners’ Club, n.d., www.mgownersclub. co.uk, accessed 22 August 2010; “MGB Convertible Roadster,” The MG Owners’ Club, n.d., www.mgownersclub. co.uk, accessed 22 August 2010); “MGB Restoration – MGB Tourer and MGB GT Technical Specifications,” n.d., www.middlebank. co.uk, accessed 24 August 2010; MGB GT V8 ad, Autocar 16 August 1973, www.britishv8. org, accessed 26 August 2010; “MGC GT,” MG Owners’ Club, n.d., www.mgownersclub. co.uk, accessed 13 September 2010; “More Safety Fast (‘Motor’ Road Test No. 7/66: MGB GT),” The Motor 19 February 1966, pp. 17-22; Jan P. Norbye, “Sports Cars of the World,” Popular Science Vol. 189 No. 2 (August 1966), pp. 46-53; Skye Nott, “MGB Performance Data,” The MG Experience, 2 April 2006, www.mgexperience. net, accessed 25 August 2010, and “MG Racing Results 1963-1978,” The MG Experience, n.d., www.mgexperience. net, accessed 3 October 2010; Rainer Nyberg and Gary Davies, “Marathon de la Route,” The AUTOSPORT Bulletin Board, 8 September 2006, forums.autosport. com/ lofiversion/ index.php/t46815-50.html, accessed 10 September 2010; “R&T Comparison Test: Four Sports Cars,” Road & Track June 1970, pp. 27-32; Robin Weatherall, “Ken Costello and the MGB-V8,” MG V-8 Newsletter Vol. IV, No. 2 (August 1996), reprinted at www.britishv8. org/ Articles/ Ken-Costello-MGB-V8-1.htm, accessed 17 October 2010; Rainer Wilken, “Special BGTs: The most historically important, exotic, spectacular and stylish MGB GTs packed into one page…almost,” garage24. net, n.d., www.garage24. net, accessed 8 September 2010; and Rene Winters, Dutch Rover Archives, n.d., www.rover-v8. nl/ dutchroverarchives/ index.html, accessed 26 September 2010.

Additional information on the MGF/MG TF and the EX234 and ADO21, the planned successors to the MGB, came from Keith Adams, “EX234,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 24 September 2010, and “Project ADO21,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 24 September 2010; the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “Replacements for the MGB: Triumphs Were the Corporate Will,” Cars That Never Were: The Prototypes (Skokie, IL: Publications International, 1981), pp. 73-76; Paul Bailey, “The return of MG!” Auto Express News, 9 April 2010,www.autoexpress. co.uk, accessed 26 September 2010; Tom Ford, “Spring tide,” CAR March 2002, pp. 76-84; Mark Wan, “Mazda MX-5 (1989),” AutoZine. org, 25 August 2010, www.autozine. org/ Archive/ Mazda/ classic/MX5.html, accessed 26 September 2010, “Rover MGF,” AutoZine .org, 21 February 1999, www.autozine. org/Archive/Rover/old/MGF.html, accessed 26 September 2010, and “MG TF,” Autozine. org, 17 February 2002, www.autozine.org/Archive/Rover/old/TF.html, accessed 26 September 2010; and the Wikipedia entries for the E-series engine (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMC_E-Series_engine, accessed 24 September 2010), the Mazda MX-5 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mazda_Miata, accessed 26 September 2010), and the MGF/MGTF (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_F_/_MG_TF, accessed 26 September 2010).

Additional information on the Coune Berlinette came from Michiel van den Brink, “Coune MGB Berlinette,” Coachbuild, n.d., www.coachbuild. com, accessed 21 September 2010, Jörn-M Müller-Neuhaus, “No Waffle in a Belgian Tale,” MG Enthusiast February 2007, pp. 34-37; and emails between the author and Nicholas Lecompte of the Coune Registry, 21-24 September 2010.

The exchange rate values cited in the text represent the approximate equivalency in U.S. currency at the time, not the contemporary U.S. manufacturer’s suggested retail prices, which are cited separately. Historical exchange rate data for the dollar and British pound were estimated based on data from Lawrence H. Officer, “Exchange Rates Between the United States Dollar and Forty-one Currencies,” MeasuringWorth, 2009, https://www.measuringworth.org/exchangeglobal/; used by permission). Inflation estimates were calculated using the Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator, data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl. Please note that all exchange rate and inflation values are approximate; this is an automotive history, not a treatise on currency trading or the value of money, and nothing in this article should be taken as financial advice of any kind!

For the record, the author has never owned an MG or, for that matter, a Miata (although he has owned and even participated in owner focus groups on other Mazda cars).


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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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