Monthly Featured Classic Car: MGB Roadster

By Kurt Buttress - August 26, 2019

We previously featured the MG Midget as one of our featured classic cars. That feature is incomplete without us also featuring its sibling - the MGB Roadster range.    

An Icon in the Making: History of the MGB Roadster Series

MGB Roadster 1968 cover

An interesting history, the MGB is the successor to MG’s MGA range. A combined manufacture of four variants, the MGB and its various iterates were produced between the 1963 – 1980 period. After a long twelve-year hiatus, the MGB would resurface in two new guises, the MG RV8 (of which just 2000 were manufactured), and again in 1995-2011 as the MGF (not reviewed as part of the MGB range). 

Plagued by issues due to different manufacturing handovers, production of the MGB came through the hands of British Motor Corporation (BMC), British Leyland and the Rover Group.  Assembly took place in England and Australia.  

MGB Roadster 1971 cover

Much like the Midget, the idea was to manufacture a sports car that would satisfy the smaller saloon market but would come in at a more economic price point while (consistently) improving on performance.   

A direct challenge to the Triumph Spitfire (last month’s featured classic car), the MGB Roadster was designed to offer an even more spacious and smooth ride, while still emphasising performance as a sport’s car. Let’s learn more about how MG set about to create that delicate balance through the evolution of the MGB.  

MGB Roadster – 1962 – 1980 

1968 MGB Roadster Overdrive cover

A step up from the MGA, the Roadster was a more refined piece of machinery, and the first iteration of the MGB.  

The small, sporty two-door boasted a soft suspension for smooth ride, a four-speed gearbox and a large engine for higher top speeds. Smart interior design meant that even at three inches smaller than its predecessor, the MGA, the Roadster was still able to offer up more passenger and luggage space. 

Specs:

Engine – 1.8L, B-Series 14 

Transmission – 4-speed manual / 3-speed Borg-Warner 35 Automatic (only in the UK) 

Style – Two-door Roadster 

MGB GT – 1965 – 1980 

MGB GT

A hard-top, fixed-roof version of the MGB, the MGB GT was very reminiscent of the Aston Martin DB5 in its aerodynamic design. Marrying the style and shape of a coupe class with a sweeping rear window and boot, gives the MGB GT the look of a sporty hatchback with the leg room and space of a small station wagon. 

Even though top speed was improved upon by 5mph with this version - its bigger size contributed to an increase in weight resulting in it actually being slightly slower than the roadster. Other than the hard top and hatch, all basic components were kept fairly similar, with differences to suspension springs, anti-roll bars and a windscreen update featured as “upgrades” as well.   

Specs:

Engine – 1.8L, B-Series 14 

Style – Two-door Hatchback Coupe 

MGC – 1967 – 1969 

1969-mg-mgc-gt

The MGC was a direct competitor to the Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III. Entering as an MGB update, meant it was very removed from what the Roadster or MGB GT had to offer. Similar body design ensured a family resemblance. The biggest aesthetic difference was a rounder bonnet bulge to house the relocated radiator, a teardrop design for the carburettor clearance, and 15-inch wheels to accommodate the updated brakes.  

Internally, the MGC was an entirely different car to the MGB. Superficially, these changes were palatable, but in the drive could be immediately distinguished. With an engine weighing as much as 209 pounds more than the MGB engine, and new “upgraded” suspension, the MGC’s handling was vastly different to the MGB. Sitting neither here, nor there (not a replacement to the Austin-Healey 3000, and not really an improvement on the MGB), production was halted after just two years. Like the MGB, a roadster as well as GT version was available.    

Specs: 

Engine – 2.9L C-Series I6 

Style – Two-door Roadster / Two-door Coupe 

MGB GT V8 – 1973 – 1976 

MGB GT V8 1969 red

With a reputation as being the lightest mass-produced V8 in the world. MG would again assert themselves with the GT V8, and seek to make amends for the lacklustre MGC range.  

Powered by the iconic Rover V8 engine, this impressive entry matched the style and sleek design of the MGB GT but differed in its impressive performance. A more robust engine would not slow down this iteration as, unlike the MGC, the newly introduced V8 did not need major chassis changes or affect its handling. The aluminium cylinder block and heads meant it rivalled the MG’s previous four-cylinder iron engine and came in at a whopping 40 pounds lighter.  

Specs:

Engine – 3.5L Rover V8 

Style – Two-door Coupe 

MG RV8 – 1992 – 1995 

MG_RV8_(1994)

A modern take on the GT V8, the RV8 went into production shortly after the release of the Mazda MX-5 proved that there was still a resounding interest in the sporty roadster category, and who better to revive the classic than us. Our restoration arm, British Motor Heritage was overseeing the production of restoration products for classic MGB body shells when Rover decided to update the MGB in 1991. We worked hand-in-hand to help update the classic.  

Watch as we set about restoring an MGB Roadster at the British Motoring Heritage garage. 

Differences to the RV8’s aesthetics and performance came in the form of a slight suspension upgrade, the engine being a 3.9L update to the aluminium Rover V8, sleek body design and new grille with limited-slip differential fittings. Not a particularly popular entry to the contemporary market at a time when manufacturers were offering modern tech with a modern driving experience, the MG RV8 would not reach notoriety like its original predecessor.  

Specs:

Engine – 3.9L Rover V8 

Style – Two-seat Sports / Racer 

The MGB Roadster and its consecutive versions can still be seen tearing up the track as a classic saloon racer at your local motoring event/exhibition. The classic is still relevant and a beloved heritage collectible which occasionally rears its head at local autojumbles as well.  

Here you can watch our man John Yea putting our British Motor Heritage restored MGB through its paces at Brands Hatch in 2014. We finished 12th position overall in a fully restored MGB we constructed from the ground up.

If full-scale restoration is on the cards, or you’d like to revive your classic car collectible – you know who to get in touch with. Explore our full range of spares and accessories or reach out to us for a bespoke project. 

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