By on April 7, 2009

I once met a girl in a complicated and unfulfilling dream. But it was so vivid, that for years afterward, I had trouble remembering whether she had been a real girlfriend or a figment of my nocturnal imagination. Stumbling across this 1967 MGB-GT brings up the same confusion: did I actually own an identical “B”, or was it too just a dream?

If dreams are projections of our desires, the MG certainly fit that. Of course, I lusted after all kinds of cars as a kid, but the hunger for MG’s increased palpably after my older brother bought an MGA during his college years. I duly observed (and documented) his valiant but ultimately futile efforts fighting the triple dragons of rust, Lucas electrics and perpetual non-motion. His losing battle gave my MG desires pause, but then pauses by nature are transitory.

Anyway, my MG dreams were always for a B. Yes, a pristine A is cute and seductive, but after that curvaceous body inevitably rusts away, one confronts a frame, suspension and mechanicals only barely changed from its roaring twenties-evoking predecessors. The MGA was “transitionary”; but with the B, MG finally, sort of, entered the modern world, leaving Morgan to the ash-frame traditionalists.

Up until the B, the classic English approach to sports car design was a flexible-flyer ladder frame and very stiff suspension. Unintentionally (I presume), the frame functioned as a major suspension component. It was the exact opposite of the Porsche (or Lotus) approach. And it was not conducive to precise (or predictable) handling over anything but smooth roads. Fun, in a go-cart sort of way, but then go-carts usually stick to smooth tracks.

The semi-revolutionary B introduced a (relatively) stiff unibody, softer suspension (“heresy!”), a bigger engine, and disc brakes. But the icing on the cake was the styling. Rarely has a car achieved such timeless good looks. Good thing too, since the MGB stayed in production for almost twenty years—and then briefly resurrected as the mangled RV8 in 1993.

Sadly, the B got progressively uglier as time went on, until it was an abomination sporting giant black rubber bumpers, riding on stilts (jacked-up suspension), and with all of 79 (!) horsepower. At least in America.

Back in Britannia, the faithful were enjoying the MGB-GT V8, the ultimate B. Thanks to the “special relationship,” the MG finally had the engine it always deserved. The ex-Buick Rover V8 even weighed sixty pounds less than the stalwart 1.8-liter four. How (non-ferrous) ironic is that? The 3.5 V8 gave a new (lend-)lease on life to a whole gaggle of rapidly aging English cars.

The MGB’s B-block four had been its biggest liability, lusty torque aside. The long-stroke chuffer was more suitable for agricultural work, due to its poorly breathing cylinder head.

At least it got five main bearings in 1965, and by 1967, a proper fully-synchronized transmission backed it up. That makes the ’67 featured here the golden year for Americanized B’s. By 1968, the terminal decline due to safety and smog controls was already underway.

The real seed of my MGB-GT lust was the exquisiteness of Pininfarina’s deft hand. That roofline created a perfect wholeness to the B’s already good looks. I was already an avid collector of the Italian master’s work, in the form of numerous Peugeot 404s and a 403.

We were living in an apartment in Santa Monica with a gaggle of Peugeots, some of which were self-propelled, whereas others relied on foot power to move them each week for the street cleaner. The immovable 403 sat in our one parking space. But through some quirk, another space opened up. Time for a new addition to the fleet!

The late seventies in LA was a nirvana for young men with car lust. Every conceivable aging sports car or exotic was just waiting to be plucked (cheaply) from the weekend LA Times classifieds. One of my more ambitious co-workers picked up a well-aged Aston DB-2 for small change. They might be afflicted with endless mechanical challenges, but rust, at least, wasn’t one of them.

And so I stumbled upon a 1967 MGB-GT, in need of a valve job. It ran just enough to limp home. And there it sat, and sat, and . . . sat. Right after I got it, I received a double promotion: to fatherhood and management.

A couple of years later, I had to get rid of it because we were moving. I had a buyer, but for a running car. I finally took the head to the machine shop, put things back together, and drove it to his house. Only then did I realize that my six foot-four frame was not a size B, and the drive otherwise was underwhelming. I was quite happy to wake up and know that the dream was over.

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28 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1967 MGB GT...”


  • avatar

    Another classic classic piece. Thanks Paul. Ah memories. . .

    My brother’s girlfriend arrived from college in an MG MBGT one weekend. Barbara Jean Murchison could have afforded any car. The MG was the ne plus ultra Ivy League college chick car, I guess. I remember the sound the engine made (unlike anything I’d ever heard), the way the car rocked under idle and those flat gauges. It was impossibly exotic, but I wasn’t convinced. There was something cramped and cheap and flimsy about it. (And no, I’m not projecting backwards.) I much preferred Daddy’s jet.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Hmmm – girl in my college writing class had one of these. Open top, British racing green.
    http://www.mgcars.org.uk/1980mgb-brochure/index.html

    Enjoyed that very much. Didn’t notice that the car was too small for me, and that it was sardine-can solid. That fall was spent touring – we loved it. Think hers was the last model year? Though I agree as to the comment about the black, solid bumpers they were fitted with later – wads of licorice at either end of a sporting car is not a feature, it’s a flaw.

  • avatar

    Having worked on Brit iron for a while (Triumph, BSA, Norton), I’m constantly astonished at the sheer rose-tinted nostalgia associated with old Brit junk. Yes, they are pretty and classic designs. But the engineering was atrocious and out of date when they were new, the dynamics range from passable to death trap, the build quality was communist-bad, and they cost a mint to keep running (5-7K for a proper engine rebuild, ever 20K or so, assuming the oil pump doesn’t die or the passages clog with sludge). But the owners continue blithly adoring their old crocks and sinking oodles of money into keeping them alive.

    I should note that this disdain comes from someone who owns a Ducati 916. If you know the history of that bike (ie, it’s Italian), you will know why my comments are saying a lot.

    I nearly fell into the trap in my impressionable days – the Triumph GT6 still makes my heart flutter. But under the pretty skin horror lurks.

    • 0 avatar
      G-Man

      These posts are quite interesting to a person like me.  I have owned numerous muscle cars, BritCars, and moderns from a variety of manufacturers.  One thing you can say about MGs and such is that they appeal at a visceral level, not a rational one.  As such, they are quite immune to those who malign them for unreliability and lack of power. 

      Nevertheless, I have driven them daily for over 25 years, and would not dream of replacing them with something modern and humdrum.  I have had many needy BritCars, including some 40+ MGB and MGC variants, but this was primarily due to PO errors and neglect, a prominent feature of these cars.  People with little knowledge can really foul up a car, even if it is pretty bullet-proof at its inception.  Fortunately, I have the will and the skills to fix those problems, and happily drive my 67 MGB GT and my 69 MGB Roadster on a daily basis with few problems and a lot of gratification!

      As another commenter said already, go ahead and hate these cars so those of us who don’t can continue to collect, drive and enjoy them!  I wonder where those Miatas will be in 30 years or so…

  • avatar
    grog

    After the thing sat in your garage for a couple of years, how big was the resultant oil spot on the floor?

    We used to have a MG Car club motor out to our B&B once a year. Maybe 8-9 MGs of various ilks, all lovingly restored. All lovingly still junk.

  • avatar
    50merc

    “my older brother bought an MGA during his college years. I duly observed … his valiant but ultimately futile efforts fighting the triple dragons of rust, Lucas electrics and perpetual non-motion.”

    He was lucky if his car didn’t have wood rot. The floorboard was just that, as I learned to my surprise and dismay. It’s no wonder the British auto industry imploded.

  • avatar
    GeeDashOff

    MGBs are fun for what they are, but the mechanics on these things are ridiculously primitive and they’re notoriously unreliable money pits.

    I’ll take mine with upgraded suspension, engine, and brakes, and no god awful rubber bumpers.
    This page has some good examples: http://www.britishv8.org/Photos-MG-Conversions.htm

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Although I couldn’t afford the air in the tires, when I was a TA at OSU in 1962 I went to look at a new MGB. The salesman took me out in one, and pulled up behind a dump truck in a left turn lane. When the light changed, the truck backed into the MGB. (Yes, I had that problem once too; we had two big trucks that had the same shift pattern except first and reverse were opposite.) I was glad the salesman was still driving. That truck driver postponed my limey-car baptism for several years to a time when I could at least halfway afford the Rover 2000.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    “I once met a girl in a complicated and unfulfilling dream”

    Unfulfilling = At least you didn’t have to change your sheets.

  • avatar
    NickR

    More British junk. That’s what my dad would say. He and his friends owned all manner of British cars over the years. My dad is one of the few people I know who doesn’t look back with rose coloured glasses. He has always maintained they were junk…and they were. Nice to look at though.

    I think all of my dad’s friends have abandoned their British cars now, save for one who has had an XK120 under a dropsheet for 30 or 40 years. The car has crossed the continent several times. Now all I need is a few tens of thousands to have it restored if I can get my hands on it. (Hey, if I don’t have to rely on it for daily transportation, why not.)

  • avatar
    MrDot

    I knew a guy in high school who had a navy blue ’68 B-GT. God that car was cool. He fought the good fight keeping it running for a few years before giving up and replacing it with a miata.

  • avatar

    I knew Pininfarina designed the Peugeots, but I didn’t know he desgined this. But I strongly prefer the Peugeots, especially the 404. What other cars did he design?

    There is an MGB within 3/4 of a mile of me in Lexington MA. But I think it is one of the later abominations you mention.

  • avatar
    Bocatrip

    My 1970 MGB was the first car I ever purchased new. The color was Glacier White, and it had two options, wire wheels, and a convertible top that could be stowed away without removing it. Unfortunately at the time, British Leyland had its share of problems at the factory. I only found this out months later.

    For me, my problems started with a thrown rod after 3 months of ownership. I had to wait another 3 months for a short block to be shipped from England. I was about 20 at the time, so I was still excited about my car. Shortly after my car was up and running, I noticed smoke coming from under the dash that smelled like melting wires. Well, that was it! The tech at the dealership found an alligator clip across the ignition harness under the dash ( the harness looked like spagetti).

    I found out eventually, that the workers at the plant were sabotaging the cars. I heard of an instance where an owner found an empty soda bottle inside one of the seats. I had enough and decided after 9 months of ownership to sell the car. I still loved that car, even after changing the resonator 3 times, and the internal regulator just as many times. It was a fun drive and did have (at one time) that new car smell. Go figure!

  • avatar
    obbop

    “…with all of 79 (!) horsepower.”

    You mean there was actually a conveyance my beloved 1972 Plymouth Duster with its 225 cid slant-6 and three-on-the-tree could whip in a drag race???!!!

    I LOVE the 1967 MGB GT.

  • avatar

    Judging from theperformance of my parents’ ’70 Valiant, a wonderful car for its time, I’d say htere were probably a lot of cars your ’72 Duster could have whipped. The parental Valiant didn’t even have a manual, but it was fast.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    David, Pininfarina’s resume is very long. But some of the highlights: The majority of Ferrari’s; numerous other Italian cars, including Fiats (124 Spyder) Alfa_Romeos, and numerous exotics; exclusive design contract with Peugeot for decades; design contract with Nash in the mid-fifties to completely redesign their whole range of cars down to the Metro; other American “dream cars”in the fifties; design contract with Austin/Morris/BMC in the late fifties/early sixties, and the list goes on, and on. I’m sure it’s all available on the web.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Not to nitpick, but if that interior photo is of the same car, it’s not a ’67, it’s at least a ’68. The ’67 was the last year of the full metal dash, 68 saw the introduction (in the U.S.) of the padded dash shown in the photo.

    I’ve owned a ’67 MGB Roadster (rusted hunk I bought for $1200 in college back in 1989 or so) and a ’66 B-GT (much nicer black-plate CA car I bought a few years ago). I think a lot of the MG’s poor reputation comes from the later cars and from the fact that these were inexpensive cars in their day and were often treated poorly by previous owners.

    The first generation MGBs were really well built with good material quality. My ’66 B-GT didn’t have a rattle inside and the metal dash, real leather with contrasting piping on the seats, bakelite banjo steering wheel, etc. were far better than the later vinyl-covered monstrosities that met US safety standards but made the interior feel a lot more cramped. I don’t think they offered real cowhide in their interiors after ’67, either… plus the later cars were down on power due to their inability to afford the engineering to meet new emissions standards without simply choking the engines to death.

    Before criticizing too much, drive an well maintained or restored 1st generation metal-dash MGB… just don’t compare it to a Miata or any other modern vehicle. Compared to their contemporaries, though, they were decent. By the time the ’68 redesign and emissions changes came around, the model was already 6 years old and the engine still based on designs from the 1950s. Magazines of the day called the car old and ready for a replacement before the decade was out but British Leyland continued to make them until 1980 with every version just getting a bit worse and much longer in the tooth.

    One interesting variation we DID get in the U.S., though rare, was the MGC with an inline 6. A good friend had a ’68 MGC-GT and it was a real sweetheart of a car and felt amazingly different than a B. The engine was smooth, powerful, and much more relaxed at modern speeds.

    The coupes were attractive little cars and actually quite practical daily drivers (probably why so few really nice onces have survived) with good cargo space in the back. However they aren’t worth much (certainly less than the cost of restoration) and the market for them is much slimmer.

    • 0 avatar
      ctw2450

      In addition: The door panel is wrong, as are the backup lights for a ’67, there are no side maker lights of a ’68. but the eared knockoffs are correct for ’67. Perhaps this is a very late ’67 where they just started adding pieces. I have an early ’68 Ford Mustang with some leftover ’67 pieces (I purchased it new in Dec ’67, so no, the parts were not changed sometime in the past).

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    stevelovescars – I largely agree with you; older MGB’s are fairly rugged, simple, and easy to fix. They make a good project car. I love seeing them on the road. My own experience was a combination of factors: buying someone’s messed-up half-finished project, and my loss of interest.

  • avatar
    Bocatrip

    The 1798cc engines and 4sp Transmissions were just about indestructable. It was most everything else that was problematic including rust, and of course nightmarish electrics. With regards to the MGC mentioned….In an attempt to replace Austin Healy’s demise due to emmission controls, the MGC with it’s redesigned smooth 150HP engine was unfortunately so front heavy, it’s understeer in the early models and being directly in competion with the TR-6 put the last nail in it’s coffin after 2 short years. Anything after the twin SU carburetor 73 chrome bumper MGB is quite forgettable.

  • avatar
    Porsche986

    This is truly one of the most handsome cars to come out of Britain. I have always preferred the B-GT to the B.

  • avatar
    chrisfoleen

    I have to say, this discussion reminds me of a gaggle of atheists/agnostics going on about the cluelessness of those True Believers.
    Those who own, love, drive, and pour unending cash into their little British cars do it not because they’re faster, sleeker, or cooler–they do it because *despite* all the expense and effort, driving *that* car makes them smile.
    If you don’t “get it”, well, consider yourself fortunate. If you want a fun convertible, get a Miata and leave the nice rust-free B roadsters to us believers.

  • avatar

    Paul,

    I had no idea Pininfarina had his aesthetics in so many cars. But Nash???! I’ll have to google.

    Best, –David

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Judging from theperformance of my parents’ ‘70 Valiant, a wonderful car for its time, I’d say htere were probably a lot of cars your ‘72 Duster could have whipped. The parental Valiant didn’t even have a manual, but it was fast.…

    Especially if your folks were progressive enough to purchase the 340!!

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    All my fellow alt-rock fans should search the back catalog of Richard Thompson for his immortal hit, “MGB-GT.” IN a live recorded performance, he describes it as an old chant about bits…”

    “Well a TR4 cost a little bit more
    but it don’t have the same attraction…

    .. I don’t care it it rains forever in my MGB-GT, she’s a runner now…”

    This was one of my daughter’s favorite songs back when she was five or so.

    I’m enjoying the song now, fresh for iTunes.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    @chrisfoleen,

    I have to agree with you about the non-believers here. I’m not a fan of the MG personally, but I believe that this fan vs. non-fan can apply to any older car.

    For example, I see the way some older folks in Detroit take care of their old Chryslers, Buicks, and Chevys. To me, they are just old cars with no sentimental value. I tried to get excited about some of the muscle cars, but really they are just old, heavy cars that don’t handle well.

    When it’s mentioned on here that the MG can’t really hang with a Miata, also consider that the fastest muscle cars from the 60s could not really hang with today’s V6 Accord or Camry.

    In defense of the MG, it definitely makes for a more unique and interesting summer toy than a Miata. And it doesn’t depreciate anymore.

  • avatar
    rudy

    I have a 1967 MGB/GT. I restored it back in 1976. It is British Racing Green (Dark). This was a color option for 2 years I was told.

    My car was the last year of positive earth electrical. It has a 4-speed transmission with a non-syncro 1st gear. It was rumored that it was originally made for a 1949 Bedford 1-ton truck. Transmissions are the weak link in the drive train.

    The door latches pictured are not 1967, but rather later versions.

    The dash is also a much later version. Mine is all metal, with a small leather pad along the top edge.

    It has a squirt-gun mechanism for the wind screen washer that must be pumped for each squirt.

    2 6-volt batteries wired up in series to attain 12 volt. Batteries are located under the rear seat with one on each side of the drive shaft.

    The steering wheel is much smaller than my original. Mine has 3 small diameter spokes at the 3, 6, and 9 oclock positions.

  • avatar
    buffaloguy

    Most fun car to drive that I’ve owned (40+ years) but worst car to own! Had a used 68 B roadster, BRG w/ wires of course, for which I was foolish enough to trade in a fairly new 72 Datsun 510, orange of course, plus needed cash for tuition. Head gasket blew within 2 weeks and the electronics were horrendous from day one. Lights and wipers went out if you were unlucky enough to hit a pothole – an issue in western new york. Had to hunt around for another pothole or RR crossing to get them back on – not fun in the dark or rain! It was a blast to drive and contrary to what someone said had plenty of legroom for me (6’1″). Traded it in for a new wife and used 71 510 wagon, orange of course! Some kid (I was all of 23!) bought it and restored it and wrecked it within 6 months.


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