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The MGB is loved by all manner of owners – from dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts who know every nut and bolt of their car, to those who couldn’t give a monkey’s about the oily bits and are in it to simply enjoy open air driving in an easy-tomaintain classic car.

As well, the fact that virtually all mechanical parts are readily available from dozens of MG specialists both here and abroad means that the MGB – in all its forms – is still a relatively common sight on our roads and a mainstay of virtually every classic car show. This year the MGB celebrates its 60th anniversary and the MG Car Club is planning a major event in September to mark the occasion (for details see sidebar).

With this in mind – and with MG’s 100th birthday also on the horizon – it seemed like a very appropriate time to gather together a group of MGBs, chat to their owners and scribble down a potted history of this evergreen British sports car.

1962 mgb roadster phil le gros camleggettphoto 3


Although the first MGB would not roll off Abingdon’s production line until May 1962, MG’s development team, led by Chief Engineer Syd Enever, began working on a replacement for the MGA as early as 1955 with the first concept logged in as EX205 in June 1957. Initially the team concentrated on evolving a new body to place atop a modified version of the MGA’s separate chassis, but by 1958 thoughts had turned to monocoque construction. The suitability of this new approach was confirmed with the introduction in 1959 of the Sunbeam Alpine; Rootes basing their new sports car on the monocoque underframe of the Hillman Husky.

MG were not prepared to let Rootes steal a march on them by not only introducing a stylish sports car – something that MG felt was their specialty – but one featuring more modern engineering. Under the watchful eye of Enever and in his role as MG Project Engineer, Roy Brocklehurst readied the first MGB prototypes – with Pressed Steel-produced bodies – during June 1961 with the first production car, a LHD Iris Blue example, built in May 1962, the same month that the final MGA was produced.

Although, like the Sunbeam Alpine, the new MG featured up-to-the-minute unitary construction rather than a traditional chassis, in usual MG fashion the parts bin was raided for mechanicals. The venerable Morris three-bearing B-Series four-cylinder engine was pressed into service, its capacity enlarged to 1798cc with a commensurate rise in power to 71kW. On October 4, 1962 the MGB roadster was official unveiled at the Paris Salon.

More compact than the MGA, the new MGB sported a four-speed manual gearbox with the option of overdrive on third and fourth, a much-improved driving position and a more spacious and comfortable cockpit. With precise steering and sporty handling, the new sports car was an instant hit around the world – and the MGB even earned fans on our side of the globe with Australian assembly beginning in April 1963; 9085 roadsters were assembled from CKD kits by the time downunder production finished in February 1972. Less well known is that 1004 MGBs were also assembled in Belgium between 1964 and 1968.


The MGB was winning friends around the world, making its US motorsport debut at Sebring and clocking up its first entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1963, finishing first in class. Although unable to repeat that feat on their return to Le Mans in 1964 and 1965, MGBs finished second in class both years. MGBs also scored class wins on the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally; 1966 Sebring 12 Hours; 1966 Spa 1000 and a first and second in class on the 1966 Targa Florio. In addition to the primary objective of class wins, the MGB also achieved some outstanding outright performances, including a first (and very nearly a 1-2) on the 1966 Marathon de la Route 84 Hours; 1965 Guards 1000 (1st); Targa Florio 1966 and 1967 (9th) and 24 Hours of Le Mans 1964 (11th).

Back at the MG factory, the development team were already planning the next move. Quite possibly inspired by the appearance of a Jacques Coune-designed MGB coupé displayed at the 1964 Brussels Motor Show, the factory shipped an MGB to Pininfarina in Italy for the noted designer to work on what would become the MGB GT. Back in Blighty, from 1964 the venerable B-Series engine was fitted with five main bearings. In October 1965 the new MGB GT coupé broke cover, Pininfarina’s design earning much praise for its well-balanced lines. The GT’s novel rear opening door was a nice touch that was not only stylish but also increased the coupé’s luggage carrying capacity.

As compared to the roadster, the GT’s maximum speed and acceleration were slightly down as a result of the coupé’s increased weight. On the mechanical front, due to the internal dynamics of a fixed head coupé, a quieter rear axle was fitted to the GT. In 1966 MG came up with a new variation on the MGB – the six-cylinder MGC – but we’ll examine that car in Part Two. In 1967 a MkII version of the MGB was introduced, although largely unchanged, this model received an all-synchro manual gearbox while an automatic transmission was made available for the first time.


The following year, politics began to play a larger part in MG’s world. MG’s parent organization, British Motor Corporation (BMC), had already merged with Jaguar in 1966 to form British Motor Holdings (BMH) and in 1968 BMH merged with Leyland to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). Under new management, MG became little more than a badge and further development of the MGB was mostly cosmetic although in 1974 the car received US-style rubber bumpers – along with an increase in ride height. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom; despite Syd Enever – ‘Mr MGB’ – retiring in May 1971, just a few months later the first Rover V8-engined MGB GT prototype appeared, with the first production cars rolling off the line at Abingdon in December 1972.

By this time, MG had effectively been sidelined by British Leyland, who were now looking at the Harris Mann-designed Triumph TR7 as their best bet as a corporate representative within the sports car arena. With MG’s star beginning to wane, an attempt was made to revive the marque by Aston Martin Lagonda in 1979. Alas, this move came to naught, fizzling out the following year. Still sporting those unloved black bumpers, the MGB soldiered on until 1980 – the 500,000th MGB, a black roadster – was built on January 17, 1980 with the very last MGB rolling off the line at Abingdon on October 23, 1980 with the MG factory closing its door forever the following day.

However, just over a decade later in 1992, the MGB was given one final chance to shine with the appearance of the MGRV8 – a limited production model that was essentially little more than a thorough revision of the MGB’s by that time defunct design. Between 1962 and 1980, 523, 836 MGBs (of all types) were built making it the world’s biggest selling sports car – an honour it held until Mazda’s MX-5 sports car eventually took over the top spot.

[Part 2 of our MGB 60th feature in the next edition of NZ Classic Driver will look at the six-cylinder MGC and a trio of V8-engined cars. Thanks to the NZ Warbirds Association for permission to use their Ardmore facilities for our photo-shoot.]


Find the image of this MGB in our Classic Driver Sep/Oct 2022 Issue

Phil’s MGB roadster is believed to be car number 3321 of MG’s production line and one of the first right hand drive cars and was built on 26-30 November 1962. Delivered from the factory on December 12, 1962, this MGB was first sold at a list price in the UK of £949 (including purchase tax). It was fitted with the optional heater (£17) and ashtray (£1/7s/6d) and was originally painted in Chelsea Grey with red trim and a packaway hood. Alas, the MG’s initial history in New Zealand is largely unknown, with earlier registrations ceasing in 1981.

Phil acquired the car in 1990 at which time he described it as a “rolling rust heap.” The MG’s 1.8-litre engine was also in bad repair with a broken crankshaft. The car’s restoration began in 1991. As the MG’s body was slowly stripped down to a bare shell – exposing lots of rust in the lower body – an entire rainbow of previous paint colours was revealed from the car’s original grey through to red, blue, yellow and green. Once the old paint had been stripped away, the rusty panels were replaced with new items, with Phil choosing to finish the car in white but retaining the MG’s original trim colour.

As part of mechanical rebuild, Phil added in an oil cooler and an anti-roll bar, which were originally optional extras. The MGB was returned to the road in 1995 in time to be entered for that year’s Ellerslie Intermarque Concours, where the car was part of the MG Car Club’s second-placed display team.


Find the image of this MGB in our Classic Driver Sep/Oct 2022 Issue

Paul needs little introduction and, through his long-running business – Paul Walbran Motors – he is well known and respected in MG circles. Paul’s involvement with MGs goes all the way back to his schooldays and his very first MG, a 1939 WA 2.6-litre saloon. Today, he owns an MGF fitted with a VVC engine – and currently being fitted out with a supercharger – and an MG Midget which he and his partner, Bronwyn, keep in the UK for European touring and competition use.

However, when it comes down to cars, the MG most associated with the Walbrans is this ’63 MGB. “We have owned this car for almost 45 years,” says Paul, “and it is part of the family.” And as part of the Walbran family, all five of Paul and Bronwyn’s boys learnt to drive in this car, starting out in paddocks as soon as they were tall enough to see over the dashboard, and progressing to hillclimbs once they had reached the minimum age of 12. During its time with the Walbran family, the MGB has been continuously active in MG Car Club and other clubsport events. Entered in the 1985 Rally of NZ, the car finished in 31st place (out of 70 starters) in what was the last entry by an MGB in a world championship event, and the only time an MGB ran under FIA group B rules. Since then, the MG has competed on the Silver Fern Rally in 2006, 2008 and 2012 and is the MG record holder at the Bald Hill Road hillclimb setting one of the fastest outright times ever at that venue.

During its long competition career, the MG has been rolled on two occasions, both in rallysprints and both at high speed – 120kph the first time, 150kph the second time. The MG was rebuilt following both of these incidents, and a third time following an all-corners altercation with another car at Hampton Downs. As you would imagine judging by its long use as a competition car and Paul’s business, the MGB has been the subject of a number of modifications over the years. The car runs a 1950cc five main bearing MGB engine and although it normally produces 112Kw (150bhp), Paul currently runs the engine in a lesser tune – 97kW (130bhp). Whatever the power output, it is delivered to the car’s limited slip differential via a BMC Special Tuning close-ratio, straight-cut gearbox. The MGB’s original three main bearing engine is safely stored away.

The MG’s revised suspension geometry – raised by one inch – includes uprated springs and half-shafts as well as Bilstein shock absorbers. The car retains its standard front disc brakes – with Mintex F6 pads – while the original rear drum brakes have been converted to discs along with a hydraulic handbrake. In order to strengthen the car for rally use, the MGB is also fitted with underbody shields while its body features lots of seam welding.


Find the image of this MGB in our Classic Driver Sep/Oct 2022 Issue

Having given up motorcycle racing in the mid-1960s and in search of a new hobby, Garth bought a 1932 MG J2 that was sitting on the side of the road in Otara. An F-Type MG was included as part of the deal. The J2 was eventually restored, with an almost completely new body. Garth joined the MG Car Club in 1968 and subsequently entered both club and local events such as gymkhanas, trials and the Riverhead Forest Rally. Along with his partner, Gill, Garth used the J2 as an everyday car for several years, eventually covering 85,000 miles in the car during their ownership of it.

In 1974 he fitted a supercharger to the J2 which didn’t do any favours for the car’s economy, but Garth enjoyed the additional power. The F-Type that had been part of the J2 sale was eventually collected from Feilding in 1970 – 12 months later Garth picked up another F-Type from a swamp north of Dargaville. Since those early days, Garth has owned three ZA Magnettes, two 1931 F-Types, a J1, 1928 M-Type, a 1934 PA, 1970 MGB roadster, and an MGA 1500. Away from MG, Garth also restored a 1934 Buick Club sedan, although he sold it three months after completing the car as it was too hungry for petrol.

In 1976 he purchased the 1966 MGBGT featured here. At the same time, Garth became self-employed, fixing vintage cars and servicing MGs from his home. This proved to be a successful venture and by the mid-1980s he was so busy that he opened his own workshop in Stock Street, New Lynn. Through his business, Garth’s involvement with the MG Car Club increased, organising the very first Intermarque Concours at The Sunken Gardens in Cornwall Park. During that same period, he would compete in autocross meets at Worral’s Farm, racing at Bay Park Raceway, Pukekohe, Manfeild Raceway and Taupō, and VCC hillclimbs – often in his MGBGT. Garth still enjoys driving his GT, it fills all his motoring needs and is economical to run and insure.


Find the image of this MGB in our Classic Driver Sep/Oct 2022 Issue

Mike had wanted an MGTC since he was a teenager and in 2018 he acquired a 1949 MGTC that had been stored for around 30 years in car collections in South Africa and Auckland. During its time in New Zealand the MG had never been registered and with the mileage on this car being incredibly low, he decided that its destiny included not being put back on the road in order to preserve its integrity. Mike’s partner was not happy with that decisions as she was keen to use the car and join the MG Car Club.

Having worked on MGBs, MG Midgets and Austin-Healeys while serving his apprenticeship with Seabrook Fowlds, Mike knew that MGBs were special cars and he’d always really liked them. With that in mind, in 2020 he finally gave in to his wife’s desire to own and actually enjoy driving an MG and he began looking for an MGB roadster. By preference, he wanted a car that was in original, unrestored condition. Mike’s search eventually led him to this 1977 rubber bumper MGB, advertised for sale in St Heliers. Following a thorough check-over, he decided that it fitted his criteria. The MG had been repainted four of five years before and the body looked sound.

The overall condition of the car appeared to confirm that its recorded mileage of 73,000 was genuine while the original black and orange upholstery, covered by sheepskins, was still in excellent condition as was the folding roof and carpets. Mechanically the MG was in top condition and with new tyres it passed Mike’s road-test with flying colours. “Sure – it’s not a chrome bumper model,” said Mike, “but I’m really happy with it.” Since buying the MGB, Mike has been in touch with a previous owner with a view to establishing more of the car’s history. However, he wasn’t able to help. He’d only owned the car for two years but had really looked after it, having it regularly serviced and keeping it up to scratch. 


Find the image of this MGB in our Classic Driver Sep/Oct 2022 Issue

Ross has owned this GT since 2003 and, rather untypically for a sports car, he is only the third owner since new. Originally sold in the UK, the MG arrived on our shores in 1984 when the first owner emigrated to New Zealand. The car was sold again in 1986, the second owner retaining it until Ross took over ownership. Since 2003, Ross has refreshed the MG’s engine – a standard 1.8-litre engine – boring out the cylinders and sleeving them back to retain the original capacity and fitting new rings, pistons and bearings.

While retaining the car’s original front suspension, Ross has replaced the rear Armstrong lever arms with more modern telescopic shock absorbers. The sills and lower sections of the MG’s body were replaced, with the car then being repainted in its original shade of orange. Ross uses his MG for weekend driving and club runs, and says that driving the car always results in a large smile.

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