Rick and Andrew Huber's 1975 MGB with TR8 3.5L V8

(originally published in British V8 Newsletter, Volume 8 Issue 1)

By: Rick and Andrew Huber
City: Baton Rouge, LA
Model: 1975 MG MGB
Engine: 1981 TR8 3.5L V8

How It Was Done

Car: 1975 MGB that had the engine/transmission removed for a rebuild in 1984 and left sitting since. It had been kept in an aircraft hanger and amazingly here in Louisiana, it was virtually rust free - a couple of little spots that repair and Waxoyl will hopefully permanently eliminate. Bonnet was damaged and replaced.
Engine: Rover 3.5L V8 from a wrecked TR8 with 15,000 miles. Rebuilt by John Roper as a spare for his TR8 race car. Hotter cam, narrowed oil flow passages, and new rings and bearings. Bought engine with GM water pump and distributor. Had to later buy a shorter nose water pump and different distributor because the drive gear/oil pump tang didn't work in the Rover block. Engine mounts from Glen Towery - non A/C version.
Transmission: Rover 5 speed from the same wrecked TR8. Rebuilt by John Roper. Also purchased clutch, bellhousing, and flywheel with the set-up. Transmission mounts from Glen Towery installed on modified MGB transmission support crossmember. It really took a tremendous amount of work to alter the transmission tunnel enough to fit the transmission - first two trial fittings were unsuccessful and I ended up chiseling out the ridge because hammering just wasn't going to do it.
Clutch: TR8 with new MGB master cylinder and TR6 slave cylinder purchased with adapter hose from Glen Towery. Silicone fluid.
Drive Shaft: Rover, set up by Glen Towery.
Rear End: stock 3.9:1 MGB with Rover driveshaft flange. 1st gear is a little short and 5th turns the engine 3700rpm at 70mph. I may swap it out with a 3.09 rear end after a couple years.
Exhaust: mild steel block hugger headers from Kirk Racing, via David Griffith. Single baffle Flow Master muffler with custom installation at a local Midas shop. Impressive sounding machine.
Induction: Buick aluminum intake manifold and Carter 500 carburetor, with electric choke, from Woody Cooper of the Wedge Shop. Heat shield, necked down to 400cfm with Glen Towery adapter plate, Mr. Gasket low rider air filter. Originally bought a Holley 390 carburetor, my preferred choice, but with 3/4" adapter needed to mount the Holley to the intake manifold, the hood would not close. So I switched to a Carter which needed no adapter plate.
Fuel System: replaced gas tank with non-vented '68-'69 vintage tank and removed canisters. Drilled hole in non-vented gas cap. Original sending unit and gauge. Borg Warner continuous run fuel pump with in line filters before and after pump.
Cooling System: late model MGB radiator modified for V8 installation. Short nose Rover water pump with 45 degree heater outlet nozzle from Glen Towery. Metal fan on water pump pulley. Crankshaft pulley reground by Glen Towery to match alternator and water pump pulleys. Temperature switch to run 12" front mounted electric fan that may not be enough to cool once the water warms up. I may switch to the stock fans. MGB temperature sending unit adapted to the Buick intake manifold and to the MGB gauge.
Electric System: Rover alternator on a Glen Towery mounting adapter. Switched to the smaller gear reduction starter from Dan LaGrou after the larger, cheaper GM starter solenoid failed and I disassembled it in place to remove it. Stock MGB coil. Accel silicone spark plug wires.
Distributor: Mallory electronic ignition distributor with 3-wire hookup from Woody Cooper. GM distributor needed a longer drive gear to turn the oil pump, realized very late in project, and I switched rather than trying to fix it. Anybody need a GM distributor?
Suspension: stock MGB shocks. 2" lowered springs front and rear from Moss. Bought a used set of Addco sway bars for front and rear but later found that they are for an earlier model car so not installed yet. I have the traction bars/torque arms from Glen Towery but not installed yet. I don't do cutting and welding.
Wheels/Tires: 15 x 5.5" Minilites from Moss with 195/50 - 15 Z-rated Bridgestone Potenza tires. Very sticky but probably won't last very long. I went with the 15" wheels to lower RPM a bit on the highway. They look marvelous on the black car.
Brakes: rebuilt MGB master cylinder, new slave cylinders, rebuilt calipers, new hoses, semi-metallic pads/shoes and silicone fluid. With the car lighter than the stock 4-cylinder engine, I don't see any reason to upgrade the brakes. Just make sure they are in top condition.
Instruments: stock speedo and tach, rebuilt and recalibrated by Palo Alto Speedo. All other instruments are stock.
Interior: bought the 70-80 biscuit leather seat and interior kit from Vicky Brit through Dick Burger of the British Parts Connection. Biscuit zip out rear window from Moss.
First Impression: the car looks stunning in all black/biscuit. Bumpers are painted to match the car color, and the lowering and adding the Minilites really make the car look spectacular. The handling is tight and crisp much better than I expected with a rubber bumper car. It's a little rough, but there's less body roll and it really sticks to the road due to the lowered suspension and sticky tires.
Estimated Cost: approximately $13,000, including body work, paint, leather seats, and all new interior as well as the engine / transmission conversion. My original budget was $8,000. It's amazing how much I spent on little bits and pieces that I didn't consider originally. More time reading and planning would have helped. I wouldn't have started the project if I had thought it would cost $13,000, but once near the end I couldn't stop and ended up buying the more expensive Mallory distributor and gear reduction starter for easier access / better reliability.

Overall it's been a great project and such a thrill to have given an abandoned MGB new life, with the engine British Leyland should have provided us years ago.

Lessons Learned:

This is a great project for me and my teenage son to do together. Like the Master Card commercials, the time with him and the memories are priceless. We have both learned a tremendous amount about MGBs and cars in general. If I had it to do over again, I would spend more time reading, studying, talking, and deciding on what would and wouldn't work before starting the work. I ended up buying and installing two water pumps, distributors, starters, carburetors, air cleaners, and sway bars. (I haven't bought the second set yet.) That made the project much longer, harder and more frustrating than it should have been. This was my first car work and I thought I could do the job with standard tools like wrenches, pliers, hammers, and screwdrivers. It cost a lot more money because I couldn't do any cutting, grinding, and welding that needs to be done to make the project work. Doing it again, I'd stic to one adviser and one parts supplier. I needed a lot of help along the way and I had to keep up with what parts I bought from whom to ask questions about installation or operation.

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