Hey you with the squashy nose!
as published in BritishV8 Magazine, Volume XVI Issue 2, October 2008
Re-printed unedited by exclusive written permission of "Custom Car".
This article originally appeared in their issue for November 1975.
by Peter Dron
Twelve years on and the MGB is still with us. Ten years on and the MGB GT
is still with us. Two years on and the MGB GT V8 is still with us. When am I
going to wake up amazed to discover that (formerly British) Leyland have
introduced a sports car of the Seventies? They introduced the TR7 a while ago,
and I went back to sleep. In the absence of amazement, read on, especially if
you're a Yoga expert, because you-and you alone-can actually do it in an MG.
No question about it, the B is an old lady. Take just about any decent modern saloon, add three passengers and their luggage, and you'll get through bends more quickly and in greater comfort than the man in the MGB. Of course, if he has the V8 version, he'll probably be able to tank past you on the straights, but is that what a 'sports car' should be like? Yet in spite of everything the MGB still manages to sell in quite reasonable numbers. Curiouser and curiouser.
Since it appeared two years ago, the only major alterations to the B V8 have been the switch to Federal bumpers and an accompanying 1/2in increase in ride height, about which more below. A new dashboard is on the way, and about time too. One of the main reasons we wanted to borrow the car was to make a comparison between it and our Pickup, which as you all know has the same engine in considerably more potent form.
Ken Costello showed BL that it was possible to slide a Buick/Rover 3.5 into
an MGB, and when the then ailing company (since the Ryder Report, of course,
everything is rosy, fab, and hotsy totsy dandy) decided to produce their own
version they opted for as few mods to the basic car as they could get away with.
The front of the bulkhead and the inner wheel arches had to he bashed about slightly, the exhaust rerouted, and a few other changes were necessary, but it was mainly in the area of the induction system that rethinking was required in order to avoid the ugly 'power bulge bonnet of the earlier and much-forgotten MGC.
By keeping the same panels, mucho money was saved. To achieve this, twin SU HIF6 carbs were mounted right back by the bulkhead, separated from it only by a plenum box fed by a large air filter on each side. The air enters the filters by way of a special thermostatically-controlled flap device. When the engine is cold, the flaps are up and hot air from around the exhaust manifolds is allowed in; when it warms up, bi-metal valves lower the flaps and slightly cooler air from above is sucked into the works.
When the air finally finds its way into the SUs, it is introduced to the
five-star gas which arrives by an equally tortuous route. But this is not
the end of the story by any means.
The resultant mixture must then find a route through a complex inlet manifold, and by the time it reaches cylinders one and two it must be feeling quite knackered.
This setup is not the most efficient induction kit ever devised. Give me a four-barrel Holley and an Offenhauser manifold every time. But then of course the Marina engine bay permits the fitting of such an excellent device without recourse to bonnet mods.
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Even with this encumbrance and a restrictive exhaust system, the B V8 is no
slouch in a straight line, reaching 0-60mph in under eight seconds and the
standing quarter in less than 16. It finally runs out of steam at a little
more than l25mph. The midrange acceleration is good too, and unless you're
trying to break records, and perhaps your neck as well, you can just stick
it in fourth gear and still move around quite rapidly. This in fact is what
the car's all about-it's for ok men who like to get places smoothly and
rapidly without ever quite reaching the limits of either acceleration or
The handling is, well, antiquated. In the initial design the car was raised 1in. over the standard 1.8-litre car's ride height. The additional 1/2in. was so the Fed nerfers would comply with the American regulations, but it's had the effect of increasing the roll considerably. The machine still slides its front wheels first, losing adhesion at very moderate speeds, and although this is still followed by oversteer, the transition is now accompanied by a great deal more roll from the back end. Cornering is less tidy than was once possible, and it never was very tidy anyway.
The steering feels like it was taken from a Foden semi-trailer unit with the power assistance removed, so it's just as well they give you a steering wheel to match. The rack and pinion is quite positive, and you'd better be too. Everything about the car is on the heavy side. The clutch takes a lot out of your left leg in traffic, and the gear lever isn't for sissies either-though apparently this is one component which loosens up with use. The gear box is very much the same as that or the ordinary B but it has an altered bellhousing and ratios from the C. Spacing of the gears is admirable, and once your left leg and arm are up to the task quite quick changes may be achieved.
The brakes are also designed for men of heroic proportions. The system is
conventional-discs at the front and drums at the rear, with a servo-and
there is no appreciable fade. Unless you hammer them persistently they
won't play up at all, but the effort required to slow the car down is
The ride of the B is harsh and jarring, especially at low speeds. It bounces all over the place on a bumpy road, making life uncomfortable for the passenger and difficult for the driver, as there is a fair amount of bump steer. One of the main problems is the fitting of lever arm dampers all round. The front end isn't so bad, as it has wishbones and coils in conjunction with an anti-roll bar, but the live axle and very stiff rear springs create an extremely vintage feel. Who says they don't make them like that any more? It could be interesting to try a B kitted out with softer springs, telescopic dampers and lowered suspension. Go on, amaze me.
The MGB GT may have three doors, but it very definitely has only two seats. One cannot complain about the rear seats-how can you complain about something that doesn't exist? The front sets have both fore-and-aft and rake adjustment and are quite comfortable, if a little lacking in lumbar support. There's plenty of leg room for both driver and passenger. The driving position generally is good, and although the dashboard is rather botched up, most of the instruments can be seen clearly. Not quite so good is the pedal layout, which renders heel-and-toeing tricky if not quite impossible, a major penalty with such a stiff gearchange.
There's really no need for a heating system on this car, as the engine releases a large amount of heat into the interior. We had the car during the hottest part of the summer heat- wave, and it was a case of fried feet and sweaty brows. Oddly enough, this is a problem we haven't encountered with the Pickup. Presumably that's because of the slightly larger engine bay. One of the ventilation controls had half broken, and in my attempts to repair it in traditional Heath Robinson style using matchsticks and bits of string, I bust it completely. One can only hope that a new heating/ventilation unit will be installed along with the new dash. I expect my friend Vic Hammond and his chaps have been working overtime on that one.
Engine noise in the car is not excessive even at high revs, but the GT has
always suffered from absolutely unspeakable sealing problems, and our test
car was no exception. As soon as you get above crawling speed the whistle
sets in and its pitch and intensity rise in direct proportion to road speed.
On anything more than a trip to the shops this is a real drag, and no pun
intended. I must say it's quite nice to find a car that still has quarterlights
these days, even if the things are not exactly thief-proof, arid all-round vision
is just fine. The rear windows are hinged, but they blow shut as soon as you're
on the move.
That rear 'seat' is irritating in that the backrest takes away some of the loading space. If I owned a GT, that would be the first thing to fly over the garden wall. I think my neighbours must be building a car by now, as none of the gear ever gets thrown back. Another source of annoyance to all MGB owners has always been the use of two six-volt batteries in series, mounted under a plate beneath the rear 'seat'. Difficult to get at, almost impossible to top up, and just plain bloody silly in this writer's opinion, as they say in all the trashy mags.
Engine accessibility is rather better than might be imagined, although once again it doesn't match up to that of the Marina Pickup. The sparking plugs may be a bit tricky to get at, but most other components can be played around with quite easily. Thank heavens for self-supporting bonnets too-there aren't many rnanufacturers who fit them these days.
Most people seem to agree that the Fed bumpers have done little to enhance the appearance of the B-for one thing they don't fit terribly well, especially at the rear. However, they could look quite good if they were sprayed the same colour as the bodywork. Well, they'd look quite good until someone scraped a bit of the paint off while you were parked.
I quite like the B V8. It's nearly a very good car indeed, but some of its faults are deep-seated. But if you want V8 power with overdrive as standard, are not too worried about carrying more than one passenger and you have £3226.86 to spare, then this could he the car for you, you big butch hunk of he-man you.
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