My Classic Car: Jack’s 1954 MG TF-1500

First love rediscovered: A 1954 MG-TF | Jack Long photos
First love rediscovered: A 1954 MG-TF | Jack Long photos

When I was in junior high school, I read a Scholastic paperback called The Red Car by Don Stanford. It told the story of a teenager in Colorado who bought a wrecked MG TC, rebuilt it with the help of a mysterious mechanic named Frenchy, and raced it in an early road race. I was very taken with that story and identified with the main character, Hap.

A few years later I started working after school for a car dealer who also had a storage garage. In that storage garage, covered with dust, sat a small red MG. I know now that that MG was a TF model, not a TC, but for me it was The Red Car incarnate. Continue reading

Pick of the Week: 1960 MGA roadster

The MGA has one of the sleekest and purest sports-car forms of the 1960s
The MGA has one of the sleekest and purest sports-car forms of the 1960s

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, and what better way to enjoy the warmer weather than at the wheel of a vintage British roadster. Wind in the hair driving, along with lusty engine sounds, sharp steering and responsive handling, are the things that make little British sports cars enduring favorites. Continue reading

Beaulieu celebrates MG’s 90th anniversary at Simply Classics show

National Motor Museum to celebrate 90 years of MG at Beaulieu's Simply classics & Sports Car
National Motor Museum to celebrate 90 years of MG at Beaulieu’s Simply classics & Sports Car

Now with a new name — Simply Classics & Sports Car — the fourth-annual road rally and car show takes place August 24 at Britain’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu./p>

The road rally part of the program involves whatever routes people and their classics and sports cars take through the New Forest to arrive at the museum. The event is open to any pre-1989 classic or sports car.

“British sports car manufacturer, MG, is this year celebrating its 90th anniversary and will be the featured marque at Simply Classics & Sports Car,” the news release reports.

The scene last year
The scene last year

“In a special display area at the event, MGs of all ages will be on show from early VAs and TAs to the ever popular MGB and Midget, as well as modern classics such as the MGF and MG TF, plus the current MG3 and MG6 models, with displays from regional MG clubs and individual owners as well as a number of trade stands.”

A special parade of MGs will take place in the afternoon, and in addition to a Beaulieu Trophy for the People’s Choice award, there will be a second such trophy presented to the People’s Choice just among the MGs.

Entry fees for car owners and their passengers include admission to the museum, the World of Top Gear, Beaulieu Abby and the Palace House and gardens.

Our Classic Car: Peter and Kerith’s ’round the world 1978 MGB GT

Across one of the bridges of Madison County | Buckingham photos
Across one of the bridges of Madison County | Buckingham photos

We drove our car, a 1978 MGB BT, around the world.

In 2010 we shipped the car from Australia to China and drove from Beijing to London with 5 other couples, all of us in MGs. It was a”private” trip, organized by the participants. We drove through 17 countries, including four of the “-stand” and Iran. 23,000 kilometers in 3 months.

Last year, my wife and I decided that as we had already driven three quarters of the way around the world, we should complete the drive. We shipped our car to Vancouver, British Columbia, and drove across North America to St. Johns, Newfoundland. 10,000 more kilometers in 2 months.

We then turned around and drove back to the West Coast via Chicago and Route 66. We finished at Santa Monica Pier and then shipped the car back to Australia. Another 23,000 kilometers, and in only 1 more month.

Some interesting figures from this trip: One set of tyres, and they’re still on the car. No punctures, and the spare is still new in the trunk.

No mechanical failures other than replacement of front brake pads in Switzerland, and the replacement of the electric fuel pump in Canada.

We did a couple of “on the road” services, oil changes and replacement filters, new spark plugs and points — all items carried on board except the oil.

Our car attracted a lot of attention as we traversed the North American continent and we were constantly interviewed by local newspaper journalists, which was rather entertaining, particularly the several TV and radio interviews we did. There was constant amazement that we had travelled so far in such a small car, and were made very welcome by various MG car clubs along the way.

In Newfoundland
In Newfoundland

I ran a daily newsletter email to a few friends which soon multiplied to over 60 recipients, including Moss Motors (MG parts distributor), our insurance agent (Hagerty) and several of the MG people we met along the way.

Channel 7 network in Australia did a live cross from their LA studio when we completed the trip, which ran for over 6 minutes, the theme being that “Grey Nomads” were still active. I’m 69 and Kerith is 66.
Goodyear tyres are looking at doing a promo on our trip and we’re now considering doing a North-South trip next year from the bottom of South America to the Arctic Circle.

Fuel line repair
Fuel line repair

P.S.: We are car lovers and have 9 vehicles, although we’ve sold the two Porsches that we rallied for 15 year. Kerith drove a 1963 Porsche 356C in major events here and in Targa Newfoundland. I drove a 1965 Porsche 911 in the same events, including Targa Newfoundland.

 

Future classic: MGB built for fun

his 1972 MGB convertible was upgraded with 72-spoke polished wire wheels | Barrett-Jackson
This 1972 MGB convertible was upgraded with 72-spoke polished wire wheels | Barrett-Jackson

 

Extremely popular in its day, the MGB of Great Britain has never had great value as a collector car even though there are many thousands of owners and drivers in the U.S. who still enjoy them for what they are: fun little runabouts that look good, make the right noises and dart around curves.

Not particularly quick or sophisticated, the MGB is a sports car in true British fashion, simple and solid, emphasizing finesse rather than performance. Power is provided by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that was a straightforward development of the 1.5- and 1.6-liter engines that powered its predecessor, the MGA.

MG purists cried foul when MGB first arrived with its heretical unibody construction, roomy interior and rollup windows. But the affordable MGB charmed the young people of America, and millions of them were sold.

MGB styling hit the spot in the ’60s | Rudolf Stricker
MGB styling hit the spot in the ’60s | Rudolf Stricker

MGB had a long production run, starting out with the 1963 model (its 50th anniversary was celebrated in September 2012) and overstaying its welcome through 1980. By then, federally mandated pollution controls had strangled the life out of its engine, and massive rubber bumpers fore and aft had damaged its looks.

Rubber-bumper Bs, which entered the scene during the 1974 model year, will always lag in value compared with the earlier chrome-bumper Bs. The MGB-GT hatchback coupes are attractive and practical but typically bring less than the roadsters.

The most desirable MGBs are the earlier ones, especially the first year, although mechanical and electrical upgrades in subsequent years made them into better cars. Most MGB people agree that the sweetest spot was the 1967 model year, when the upgrades were completed but the car was still all original before pollution and safety regulations stepped in. This was also the last gasp before the MG Car Co. was swallowed up whole by the British Leyland empire.

A pristine MGB roadster from 1967arguably the best year | Barrett-Jackson
A pristine 1967 MGB roaster, arguably the best year | Barrett-Jackson

While the engines and drivelines are strong and easy to maintain, MGBs are prone to rust, which can weaken their unibody structures. Lucas electrical systems are notoriously problematic, particularly switches. Consistent maintenance, including chassis and front-end lubrication, is important.

Since MGBs are reasonably priced even in pristine restored condition, it’s practical to target the best ones out there, which generally top out at around $15,000-18,000. For $8,000, you can get a nice one. There are usually plenty of ratty MGBs available at cheaper prices.

Go for chrome-bumper MGBs from its first decade. Wire wheels add style and value, though they can be a hassle, and avoid the rare automatic transmission. Cars with electric overdrive added to the four-speed stickshift are definitely preferred.

There is also a six-cylinder model, the 1968-69 MGC, which is rare and fairly valuable. Nearly identical in appearance aside from a hood bulge, these are faulted for being nose heavy and offering less-agile handling, but they are praised for their increased engine power and for their long-legged highway drivability.

Six-cylinder MGC-GT with distinctive hood bulge | Barrett-Jackson
Six-cylinder MGC-GT with distinctive hood bulge | Barrett-Jackson

A small number of MGB-GTs were built in 1973-76 with V8 power using a small, lightweight Rover engine, though never officially imported to the U.S.  These are rare and relatively valuable cars today. Occasionally, you come across an MGB that has been converted to V8 power, preferably with the small Rover V8. They are cool hot rods if the conversion has been done properly.

MGB parts are plentiful and inexpensive, with a number of companies carrying extensive catalogs of reproduction items ranging from camshafts to entire bodies. There’s also a great deal of club support in most areas of the country.

Nobody expects MGBs to gain tremendously in value in the near future – they’re just too plain and plentiful – though they should experience steady gains along with the collector-car market in general.

So buy one only because you like it and want to enjoy it, not as an investment.

Full disclosure: I have owned a 1970 MGB convertible for more than four decades. It was originally my daily driver. I’ve never sold it because I couldn’t see parting with it for a few thousand dollars.

In recent years, the little convertible has played second fiddle to other, more-desirable collector cars in my garage. But the MGB has been a constant. My son and daughter-in-law used it as their wedding getaway car.

In contrast to their spotty reputation, this MGB has been stone reliable and has never left me stranded. OK, once I had a flat and my spare was also deflated. But that doesn’t count.

Plus, the MGB has never failed to deliver on its promise of being totally fun to drive.

Vehicle Profile: MG MGB

1972 MG MGB

MG is the moniker for “Morris Garages” of Oxford, England, which began in 1924 or 1925 at a dealer of Morris brand vehicles. The discrepancy regarding the actual year that MG was established varies according to which historical records about the company one refers to. MG modified different Morris brand vehicles into various special sports car style bodies.  The emblem for MG was created in March 1928, officially establishing the brand.

Sir William Morris, an engineer and Cecil Kimber, a designer, co-founded MG. The MG brand lasted for more than 50 years, surviving a number of changes in ownership, as well as a number of mergers between 1924 to 1980. The brand continually produced vehicles during its lifetime, with the exception of the WWII era, when all manufacturing efforts were focused on the war.  The MG brand also survived the loss of one its co-founding members, when Kimber died in an obscure railway accident in 1945.

MG released the first, of their last series of sports cars to be made in 1962, the venerable MGB models. The first MGBs, referred to as MkIs (1962 to 1967), were all 2-door roadsters with convertible soft-tops and 1798cc, 4-cylinder engines and rear-wheel drive.  In 1966, MG released a 2-door hatchback coupe with 2+2 seating, called the MGB-GT. This model also featured the 1798cc 4-cylinder engine, a trend that lasted through 1974 in the U.S. market and continued through 1980 in Europe.

The MGB-GT soon spawned another vehicle in the MG line-up, the MGB-GT V8. This vehicle was designed to compete with the more powerful vehicles of the day. It featured a shoe-horned version of the Buick/Rover designed, 215-cid, V8 engine. This model was only produced for 3 years, from 1973 to 1976,  with very few units actually crossing the “pond” and landing in the states. MG also went so far as to release a version of the roadster called the MGC for a short period of time (1967 to 1969). The MGC featured a 2912 cc, in-line 6-cylinder engine, which was an ill-fated design that offered lackluster performance and handling due to the added weight of a V6 engine.

The MkII MGBs were produced from 1967 to 1971 with the 1798cc, receiving several upgrades along the way, including: dual master-cylinder brakes, negative earth (ground) electrics, an alternator instead of a generator, a fully synchronized transmission and an automatic transmission option (mainly in the European market).

The MkIII MGBs were produced from 1971 to 1980, remaining basically unchanged, with the exception of several minor upgrades to creature comforts, which were for the most part considered detractors for an otherwise nice looking little sports car. For instance, in 1974 a large, rubberized front and rear bumper fascia was added to comply with new safety laws that were imposed, which dramatically diminished the sleek look that previously existed when chrome components were still being used for the bumper assemblies.

The MGBs were innovative at their time of inception with their unique monocoque chassis design, making them lighter, stronger and even less expensive to manufacture. Most other vehicles of the time were based on the tried-and-true body assembly bolted to a chassis/frame assembly. They had plenty of legroom and were actually quite comfortable, even for taller people. Performance was snappy with a 0 to 60 mph rating of just over 11 seconds and handling was superb with good, balanced weight distribution.

Front braking chores were handled by more than adequate 11-inch disc brakes, with Girling dual piston calipers, rear were standard drums. Electrical system components were mainly supplied by the Lucas Electric Company (affectionately referred to as the “Prince of Darkness” by those of us who have had a love affair with these great little cars over the years). In terms of safety, the MGBs were some of the first production cars to incorporate “crumple-zones” into their body design in order to protect passengers in the event of an impact with an immovable object at 30 mph.

The last MGB units rolled out of the Abingdon Factory in 1980, after which the company closed its doors forever. Overall units manufactured in the entire run of the combined MGB models was 523,836 in just over 18 years. The U.S. market was largely responsible for the demise of the MGB. Our ever changing safety laws and emissions regulations were forced on all manufacturers, which many times reduced horsepower ratings and added weight; two things that don’t bode well with sports cars.

MGBs were (and still are) raced very successfully in many events, venues and series including the Monte Carlo Rally, winning the GT category at Sebring in 1964. MGBs also won in 1963, 1964 and 1965 at the grueling LeMans 24 Hour endurance race while beating many more powerful vehicles at the same time. These affordable classic cars are readily available on the market today and are a big bang-for-the-buck.