Monday 25th March 2019,
Inopian

MG B GT 1965 – 1980: The incredible story of “Lucky”

The MGB-GT arrived in 1965. It was a 2+2 sports coupe version of the MGB Roadster. It was an all-new car though. The MGB-GT only used suspension and steering components from the MGA and Morris Oxford parts bins. It was well received at a time when many British makers were producing medium-sized sports cars. It was very well engineered and had little competition until the Triumph GT6 appeared.

The Triumph GT6 was prettier, better upholstered and more expensive, making it a favourite with executives but not with the sports car purists. By comparison the MGB-GT was a sharper handling car and generally more `wild`. To pre-empt the `reader criticism` of my sweeping remarks I should say that the Triumph GT6 was a much nicer car but cost a lot more money. You know we do not indulge in hyperbole at Inopian!

The MGB-GT`s styling was superb and nothing to do with the Abingdon factory. Pininfarina was engaged to design it. Making two versions of the same car, one DHC the other FHC can be very tricky. Some makers like Jaguar had no trouble with the E type. Both models were superb but almost everybody else couldn`t get their roof-lines right. Jaguar came unstuck when they tried to turn the E type FHC into a 2+2. To get enough height for rear passengers they fitted a much taller, nearly vertical windscreen and raised the roof-line. It wasn’t a bad car but it was plug-ugly. They had done the hard part building two beautiful models and then shot themselves through the foot trying to attack Aston-Martin`s market share.

So… the MGB-GT was an excellent machine, beautiful too. A true hatchback with little folding rear seats, very neat but you needed very undernourished kids to wedge two of them in the back! It`s biggest drawback was the weight of the B-series engine. Later in the MGB-GT`s life the unit was replaced with the Buick/Rover V8 to make the MGB-GT V8 variant. The V8 motor was 60 kg lighter than the all-iron B-series engine which made all the difference. Speaking from personal experience I can tell the reader that with all moving parts removed the bare engine block is extremely difficult to carry very far!

This was a pity because the monocoque design with front and rear crumple-zones was quite light, sadly spoiled by the heavy lump in the front. On contrary it still went very well and handled superbly. The brakes were deadly unless the previous owner had had the sense to fit a brake servo. MG got around to fitting said servo a few years later. With the servo fitted the stopping power was quite impressive. In later life the MGB-GT was modified and spoiled by the demands of the US market. Big, heavy rubber bumpers were the classic example.

The author has owned a lot of sports cars in his long life and it must be said, in retrospect, that the MGB-GT was one of the best of them… More of my B-GT later/below!

It`s all-round performance and very cheap parts-supply make it a great classic to own today. Both the GT and the roadster had their batteries fitted under the rear floor, not very accessible but excellent for weight distribution and keeping the bonnet line low. Early cars used two six-volt batteries in series, later cars had a single twelve volt battery. Even more difficult to change!

I will interrupt myself and advise the reader that if you are looking for MGB Roadster, MGC or MGB GTV8 you are on the wrong article! Those three cars will appear in their own chapters later.

Back to the plot; The specifications and upgrades of the MGB GT are many. I will try to get them all but it will take a lot of writing/reading. Nevertheless in true Inopian tradition I will grind it all out.

MGB-GT MKI (1965-1967)

Five main-bearing crankshaft, 1798 cc, 4-cylinder inline engine with pushrods. Wind-up windows with quarter-lights. Useful boot/loading deck… Steel disc wheels (14 inch) with chrome hubcaps. Gearbox was 4-speed, no synchromesh on 1st gear. Simple dash, steel with black-crackle finish. Single stalk with little green light on the end worked the indicators and headlight flasher only. The dipswitch was foot-operated. Optional extras; overdrive on 3rd and 4th gears (not popular because of the dash-mounted switch). Most owners fitted a sliding switch into the gear-knob, a practice that MG copied later. Wire wheels, either chrome or silver painted were also an option.

MGB-GT MkII (1967-1972)

The MkII had the all-synchromesh gearbox with revised ratios. A Borg-Warner automatic was an option, not many owners availed themselves of that! A new tube-type rear axle was fitted and an alternator replaced the dynamo. The car was now negative earth. The steel wheels were replaced by Ro-style sculptured wheels with the wire-wheels optional, and in 1970 reclining seats were fitted. In 1971 a matt black radiator grille was fitted, not for long though. In 1972 the last cars had a new chrome grille with black honey-comb insert.

MGB-GT MkIII (1973-1980)

Facelifted to align the car with US spec. New plastic and foam `crash-dash` with rocker switches was mounted and a hideous rubber bumpers as with the roadster version. Headlights were too low for US so the ride-height was raised. This ruined the handling which was further affected by the removal of the anti roll bar due to cost. Saving money never worked with any cars, look at Peugeot.

Mechanical Specification;

Installed was the good old BMC B-series engine, 1798 cc, water-cooled, push-rod, 4-cylinders inline with 5 bearing crankshaft. Twin 1.5 inch SU side-draught carburettors were still used to produce 95 bhp, 110 ft/lbs of torque with compression ratio (CR) 8.8-1. The MGB GT was a little slower off the mark because of it’s heavier body compared to the roadster. The result was 2 seconds slower 0-60 mph. For those who did see our MGB roadster article; the MGB GT has a 0-60 mph of 14 seconds. Top speed however was superior on the GT due to better aerodynamics.

Chassis;

Front suspension; independent coil and wishbones, anti-roll bar. Rear suspension; live axle on semi-elliptic leaf-springs. Lever-arm Armstrong dampers. Rack & pinion steering. Brakes were Girling discs (11 inch) on the front, drum brakes on the rear. The suspension originated with the Morris Oxford saloon by way of MGA. BMC insisted on staying with the horrible lever-arm dampers which were very high maintenance. Also the Oxford prop-shaft was used, resulting in long-term unreliability.

NOW… are you sitting comfortably? Then I will tell you the story of my beloved 1969 MGB-GT. Affectionately know as `Lucky`. I swear this story is true… every word.

I was working out of London, driving my big truck. A man I had done some work for owed me some money so he gave me the B-GT in lieu of payment. It was Teal Blue and a veritable shed! I parked it in another transport yard while I went away on a trip to Greece. While I was away a truck reversed into it, crushing the tailgate. When I got back the car was gone. The boss of the company was very sorry (not as much as I was) and had sent it off for repair. He generously resprayed the whole car which was just as well because, rather than buy 1 litre of Teal Blue he`d mixed up three different blues to get enough to paint the car.

It looked awful, sort of airforce camouflage blue. I took it to Dover (UK) where I then lived and let my then girlfriend use it. After a while we broke up and I moved to the far north (Cumbria, UK). She asked me if I would lend her the MG until she found a new car. I said `why not?`A few months later I arranged to go to Dover and collect the car.

What a vision of despair! Too lazy to put the MG in the garage she`d parked it in the road. A drunk-driver then obliged me by ripping the front right wing off. The neighbour had called the police and so I had an insurance claim against the drunk. I nailed the front wing together with rivets and set off to Cumbria. When I got home I parked it in the garage and went back to work. After about 6 months I decided to take a few months off work to tackle some of the work at home. I finally got to the MGB-GT, a sorry sight by now, I dismantled it (every nut and bolt) fitted two new front wings and sprayed it BMW Koral red. When it was done I was very proud of it. Black leather interior, wire wheels, overdrive on the gear-knob, stainless exhaust, Motolita steering wheel… wonderful.

So my girlfriend of the day wanted to use it for driving to work, soooooo I said `why not?`, again. About two months later she had an argument with her boss, stormed out and reversed the MG round the corner at high speed. Sadly someone had parked a lorry there and she smote it… hard! Fortunately the truck`s bumper missed the tailgate but it punched the right tail-light 12 inches forward! Luckily I knew a scrapyard where an MGB-GT was `resting` so I did a deal and cut the rear half of the wing away, crossed the man`s palm with silver and took my trophy home.

I got home about 12 noon, it was a Saturday. I toiled away cutting the damaged wing off, cut the new one to size and welded it all together. I had plenty of paint from the respray so on Sunday afternoon I peeled the masking off and… perfect!! So my grateful girlfriend toddled off to work on Monday morning. The guys she worked with couldn`t believe it!!

However, a few weeks later the weather changed and her boss phoned me one afternoon with bad news. The GF was out in her van, the MG was `safely` parked in the yard but the place next-door was a builder`s yard. The wind lifted a heavy sheet of plywood and dropped it, edge first on the car`s roof and put a huge dent in it! GF went bananas when she saw it! Builder-man said he would pay so I got an estimate for the repair. A lot of money! He paid up and I pondered how to fix this roof. There was no way to knock the dent out perfectly. Then the penny dropped! The dent was in the right place for a Webasto sliding sun-roof. I knew where to find one too. I went back to the three-winged MGB-GT in the scrapyard and an hour later walked out with a Webasto under my arm for very little money. I made a template out of paper, cut the hole in the roof and fitted the sun-roof all in about 4 hours. Not bad.

Then the time came around for the MOT (Ministry of Transport) test. I put the car in the garage to check the handbrake and the car caught fire! The back half of the car was badly charred and the garage was destroyed. The nice insurance man came to see it and said: “We`ll give you £ 1600 and you can keep the car”. The whole leather interior was wrecked plus the rear window. All the switches and the steering wheel had melted… sad.

BUT… I knew where to find those bits! I spent a day in the scrapyard and got all I needed for about £ 50, including another Webasto roof. Back at home I stripped the body back to metal, primed and painted it, fitted the new interior, window and sun-roof all in 5 days. Amazing!

A few months later the GF wanted to buy her own van, so I decided to sell poor old `Lucky`. I advertised it and two guys turned up with a pocket full of magnets to check for body-filler. Experts! I told them that they were not going to drag their magnets all over my new paint and I told them where the body-filler was, well most of it. They haggled and haggled and got me down from £ 2000 to £ 1600. Too cheap…

So off they went rejoicing. Lucky, however had other ideas. An hour later the phone rang. “Got a problem”, he said. “I was driving down the motorway and I thought I`d try the sun-roof. The wind grabbed it, ripped it out of it`s tracks, it went over the back and smashed the rear-window!!” I said: “how fast were you going?” “Only about 70 mph”, he said. “Why are you calling me?” I said. “Well, I only just bought it from you”, the idiot responded. I had a lot of difficulty not laughing out loud so I just told him he`d just bought a £ 2000 car for £ 1600 and now he`d found a good use for his £ 400!

Eventually I worked out the history of that car. Total cost of car and all repair parts = £750. Five accidents only one with the car moving. £ 2600 in insurance settlements. Sale price £ 1600. Total = £ 4200 less £ 750. Lucky?, I should think so!!

MGB GT 1965-1980
 
 
Body Type2+2 seater coupe
Engine PlacementFront
Drive TypeRear wheel drive
Brakes
FrontDiscs
RearDrum
Dimensionsmminches
Length3893153.3
Length (1973-1980)4021158.3
Width151659.7
Height127550.2
Wheelbase231191
Cargo Volume272 L9.6 cu. Ft.
Engine1.8 B-Series BMC OHV
CylindersInline 4
Displacement1798 cc109.7 cui
Power72 Kw97 bhp5500 RPM
Torque141 Nm104 ft. lb2500 RPM
Power/weight88 bhp/t
FuelPetrol
Top Speed169 km/h105 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph14 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Urban10.227.7
Extra-urban7.637.2
Combined8.533.2
Gearbox4 speed manual+overdrive3 seep automatic (from 1967)
Weight1108 kg2443 lb
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About Bev Roberts

Speed, the smell of hot oil, the roar of a straight-through exhaust and the scream of an engine at max revolutions. They have all been a large part of my life for almost 50 years. It is time to share my experiences with you, dear reader. Do you want to know more? Read on through my `Full Bio` and many articles.

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I was born in Hereford UK in 1948 and brought up in Gloucester UK. I played Rugby football internationally as a schoolboy. At the age of 17, a new and wet driving license in my paw, I entered motor racing. I was supported and financed by my parents and so my journey began.

In 1965 I bought a 1293cc Mini-Cooper `S` and campaigned it for a season. Having quickly made some good friends in the racing fraternity, several interesting opportunities came my way. I joined a sports-car team and raced in the Le Mans 24 hours in 1968 and 1969 in a Lola T70. Mechanical failure defeated both efforts. During that period I owned and raced a `D type` Jaguar and an AC Cobra. In those days cars like that were available and not too expensive, now they reside in museums and private collections. I had a chain of interesting cars through my youth including Jaguars, Minis, Mustangs and Lotus-Cortinas.

As a young driver I had my share of accidents too. Often the car would only be worth scrap-metal value by the time I got it home! I worked for an Aston-Martin/Jaguar dealership for a while, which enhanced my experience and gave me the opportunity to sample some very exotic machines, Ferrari, Facel-Vega, Iso and Maserati to recall a few of them.

At the end of 1969 I moved to South Africa to work on my uncle`s farm but the S.A. government had other ideas and drafted me into the army. After five years had passed I was thanked and released from the service. While I was there I bought a beige Cadillac Eldorado, previously the property of Marilyn Monroe. While I was away on a patrol my girlfriend had it re-sprayed pink! I was unimpressed by both the joke and the bill for the work!

When I returned to UK in 1974 I left it behind. On my return I found that the once-mighty British motor industry was in decline and was headed for oblivion. Motor racing was now very expensive so I turned to commercial transport. Driving large trucks gave me freedom and a chance to see some of the world. I don`t remember ever making a career choice but for the next thirty years a truck was my home. For about ten years in that period I owned two trucks of my own.

I also owned a famous MGB-GT, known as `Lucky`. If you`d like to read `The Story of Lucky` there is an article in Inopian`s archive. I finally retired, due to ill-health, in 2008. Since I had varied knowledge and many experiences on our subject I decided to share the stories of the cars I enjoyed (and hated) with the new generation.

Enjoy Inopian… it is constructed and written for you.

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