By on July 20, 2013

06 - 1979 MGB Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinAs a former MGB commuter, I always feel a certain sadness when I see one of British Leyland’s underpowered little sports cars about to get eaten by The Crusher. The B was a surprisingly sturdy car of very simple construction, but sales were undermined by terrible build quality, a primitive pushrod engine, and electrical components made by the Prince of Darkness. These cars show up frequently in self-service wrecking yards, as abandoned project MGBs are expelled from driveways and back yards; we’ve seen this ’71, this ’75, and this Toyota-engined ’79 in this series, and today we’ll look at a very used-up ’79 that I spotted in a California yard.
09 - 1979 MGB Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinLike most junkyard MGBs (and Fiat 124 Sport Spiders), a missing convertible top means the interior has been ravaged by the elements.
02 - 1979 MGB Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinThe SU carburetors and some of the accessories have been plucked, but the engine itself is almost certainly destined for a steel factory. Hey, is that an aftermarket tube header?
03 - 1979 MGB Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinRadiator fans made by Joe Lucas. No comment.
05 - 1979 MGB Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinLet’s hope that some of these parts live on in a streetworthy MGB.

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52 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 MGB...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    What a shame ;

    These were indeed sturdy little fun cars .

    This is the worst of the bunch , the 1 BBL Zenith Stromberg carby it has was touchy if not set up *just* right and BMC’s faiure to include overdive as standard equipments means they were chewed up by normal North American highway speeds that over revved the poor little 97 HP 1940′s tech long stroke push rod engine .

    I too had an MGB once , it was a MK I GT and I loved it but the poor handling at speed meant off it went , sold at a dead loss after a complet mechanical rebuild & restoration including fitting the mandatory overdrive .( the current owner still loves me)

    If the Japanese had come in to run BMC , who knows ? .

    Fuel Injection would have raised to horsepower back to the original adequate 107 and improved overall running manners too . this along with decent build quality would have maybe made making a profit and selling niche cars a go .

    We’ll never know sad to say .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      It doesn’t look BER if you’re looking for a resto-mod. A Chevrolet 60° V6, some trim, and a set of Minilites, and presto, its a reliable daily performance sports driver.

      • 0 avatar

        And electrical, don’t forget electrical.

        • 0 avatar
          Pig_Iron

          Right. Lucas, Prince…

          I totally forgot. It would be a long term project for sure. Luckily, there are entire modern wire harness looms for these: http://www.advanceautowire.com/harness.htm
          OR
          http://www.mossmotors.com/Shop/ViewProducts.aspx?PlateIndexID=29073#top
          etc.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Bah plenty of space for a nice pushrod small block Ford ranging from a dainty 302 cubes all the way up to 363 cubic inches.

        • 0 avatar
          Pig_Iron

          Oh, for sure. I had a friend who put ChryCo 383 in Gremlin way back, but it was a brute. I was thinking along the lines of a daily driver, with minimum fuss to install.

          You’ll find tons of folks who support your view point here: http://www.britishv8.org/
          They’ve done some beautiful swap/installs.

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      The Japanese started making the MGB years ago, but they changed the name to “Miata”.

  • avatar
    Pan

    The British auto industry didn’t die. It committed suicide.

  • avatar

    Good lord, this thing is sitting on how many shades of paint? Green, red out by the radiator, and it looks like that yellow-orange under the green when looking at the sticker on the red member. This thing has seen a lot of hell. Though why I like those crappy, heavy front bumpers is beyond me… it looks meaner somehow.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like them better than the chrome ones. I think they carry on and accentuate the body curves, and make the car more handsome. But to others, they are a vulgar, perverse abominations. Different strokes…

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      “those crappy, heavy front bumpers”

      When these were new and all the pigments were deep and rich those bumpers looked incredibly good and integrated very well with the sheet metal. Kind of high tech and rugged like a Toughbook looks cool today.

      • 0 avatar
        Piston Slap Yo Mama

        My ’71 TR6 has the desired, thin chrome bumpers. Later Triumph added the rubber bullet shaped rams that most enthusiasts deride. I’m here to tell you I wish I had the later battering rams rather than the purely cosmetic trim elements of my ’71. Sitting at a stop light I took my foot off the brake pedal & the guy in the Toyota Tundra behind me saw my brake lights go off so he assumed the light had turned green – and rammed my rear “bumper” halfway through my trunk. $4000 later my car was fixed and I’m looking for a later model TR6 to harvest those stout bumpers from. They’re very well triangulated into the frame and would have likely prevented all the damage my car suffered, weight be damned. So yeah, I kinda dig rubber bumpers.

        Also: he was uninsured and had not one but TWO prostitutes with him which somewhat accounted for his distracted driving.

        • 0 avatar
          Pig_Iron

          Yikes!
          ≡8-O

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          Heh… those massive rubber boingos would probably have propelled you 10′ forward but still saved you body damage… as long as cross-traffic didn’t clip you.

          I have always adored TR4/6s. Big meats on a trim little car shout BRIT! GUERLAIN! WALNUT! FLEW A SPIT’ IN THE WAR!

          However that may be an age thing.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @summicron, “Don’t you wish everything was made like Rubbermaid’s made?”

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            Yes, and I also wish everyone else used Dial.

          • 0 avatar
            Piston Slap Yo Mama

            I had a ’78 Spitfire in college with the boingos. I got caught in a traffic jam on the interstate and as I stopped I watched in horror as the woman behind me in a Lincoln realized too late and locked her brakes up. When she hit me she probably still had a minimum 10 mph of momentum – and all it did was bounce me forward a car length with otherwise no damage sustained. I also owned various 300d’s and 300sd’s – which have glorious hydraulic shock absorbers in the bumpers.

            My TR6 btw has a sticker on the top of the quarter panel warning you to “Pull Pin Before Ejecting”, so I’m feeling you.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Had one and don’t think I ever felt so helpless (well, okay. there was the 2002 Saturn Vue). Loved driving it but out of the blue it would just break. It was almost always electrical. Owned it in Panama and there was a Panamanian mechanic who kept it running. He was relieved when I bought the chevy (67 chevelle). A 61vw followed by the 64mgb probably sent his kid to college.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Build quality and reliability were always issues but the pre-1968 cars were at least fun to drive. Safety and emissions regulations ruined them.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Points, carbs, bias-ply tires, and drum brakes are best a misty memory.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Fortunately all of those can be replaced.

        Well…I dunno if you can get a mechanical fuel injection system for a MGB. But I’m sure you can get a modern distributor, radial tires, and disk brakes.

      • 0 avatar
        Pig_Iron

        I don’t mind points and carbs, but bias-plys are best relegated to trailers. I’ve always been baffled by guys who put ‘glass redlines on their 60′s style wheels. If they’d had Michelins, they’d have used them. Except Hank Ford II, who was said to have flown into a rage when he saw some on his Mk III.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    It’s real simple: park a red MGB next to a red Miata. There will be two signs, one will read “Good”, the other “Bad”. Guess which sign goes behind which car. I’m declaring a personal El Scotto scorched-earth policy on any and all dimwits who thought (think) an MG gives them an air of (faux) British sophistication. A kibosh on all of those who proclaim their love of working on British “fiddly bits” and light bulbs with shorts engineered in them. Yes, I’ve owned both cars. The Miata Will Start Every Time. Nor do I aspire to a Savile Row pair of overalls and Loeb and Kuhn work boots.

    • 0 avatar
      sitting@home

      You’re talking about technologies that are at least 30 years apart. Try running your current web browser on an 8086 PC with 640k of memory (“640K ought to be enough for anybody”) to see how much technology can change in 30 years.

      The fact that you could park the two cars next to each other for some sort of comparison shows how much a homage the Miata is to the MGB.

      The MGB most certainly wasn’t a very good car, but it needs to be taken in context of an era when most cars needed divine intervention to start on cold, damp mornings.

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        ++

        I don’t get why we can’t venerate the old while using the new.

        I feel like genuflecting when I see a glorious old jazz guitar like a D’Angelico or Stromberg but I wouldn’t dream of making one a daily player. That’s what Ibanez Artstars and Atrcores are for.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Uh, no I don’t bore people to death or pine away for any X86 machine. Homeage? Not a snowballs chance in hell. 2 seater sports car? Yes. Start, runs, drives, and will give 300k miles before it finally dies? Yes. That’s not a homeage, that’s an ass-kicking. Then again if this was The Truth About Shoes there would be gasbags on here pining away about, “back in the day you didn’t go no left and right and shoes; ya just got two shoes and roughed it out.” As for trying to make a similie to rare guitars; it’s poor. Neither an MG or Miata are/were some rarefied machine machines made by an engineering elite. Just everyday cars rolling off an assembly line. Something was old and poorly built is well, just even older and exasperating to maintain. Not everyone considers this fun.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Bill Gates actually said 64k. He never dreamed of graphics, photos, 3D or CAD/CAM. It makes me wonder why programmers are considered engineers.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark out West

      Gad, a Miata? It’s got the panache of an kitchen appliance.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I saw a very nice white rubber-bumpered MGB this morning with a gentleman probably about my age driving it, top down, of course.

    Unsure of the year, though.

    An old friend owned an awful mustard-colored 1974 MGB that was struck by the Lucas “Prince of Darkness”, but in his case, the “Prince of Light” as it burnt up!

    Too bad, because he bought it new and took care of it.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Hey, the electrics weren’t all bad. “Lucas: the original anti-theft system”.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I contend that there are more MGs in auto restoration purgatory than any other car – possibly combined. Granted there are a lot of tarp covered rotten beyond repair Mustangs out there, but I believe more old men bought MGs as something to pass the time without the actual acuity, means, and workspace to restore them.
    And it is a minor shame since after that particular generation dies off, the MG population will be decimated.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Amazing ~

    All this love / hate for LBC’s yet not _ONE_ mention of the (in)famous Lucas Three Position Switch :

    Dim

    Flicker

    Off .

    My LBC is parked outside and is guaranteed to start , this time , every time an carry me wherever I want to go in style , comfort and economy .

    Fun too ! .

    Yes , it leaks water in and oil out (very little oil out)

    No , I don’t have any illusions of grandeur when driving it but unlike any Miata ever made , every where I go in it , folks smile and give me thumbs up .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      Nate, speaking of people’s love for old cars…

      Today I came out of the grocery store and saw the guy pushing a buggy just ahead of me swing over to a red ’67 Ford convertible, top-down, and start loading his groceries into the rear seat. I continued down the row and was putting stuff into my car when he fired it up. Had to be at least the 390, rumble-cough-rumble, full lake pipes.

      I turned to watch him and saw maybe 10 people, kids & adults, stop dead in their tracks and just stare transfixed as he backed out and pulled away. He definitely had their full attention. I think they would have voted him tribal chief right then.

      It can’t be just nostalgia when little kids drop their jaws and stare like they’re hypnotized at a cool old car.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I’ve seen a guy twice who uses a 1965 Mercury Comet as a daily driver. It only has the 200 inline six under the hood, but the side exhaust and gray Torq-Thrusts give it an old school muscle car feel. Anyone who is willing and able to use an old car as a grocery getter gets a lot of respect from me.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Is it just me, or was the Midget more reliable than the MGB?

    I’ve seen maybe ONE MGB and at least five Midgets.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      It’s just you ~

      In 1974 , the Midget changed to the terribe Triumph 1500 engine , a worthless lump well known as ” a 40,000 mile time bomb ” due to the regularity with which it blew up regardless of pampering .

      Midgets & Sprites (” Spridgets ” to the Faithful) were very cute little cars and oh so fun to drive but never designed for American use ~ they were short geared @ 3.90 final drive coupled to a direct drive transmission , overdrive was never offered .

      So , standard use like going on a date across town where you’d hop on the Expressway or jaunt down that four lane boulevard and hit 65 MPH , means the engine was always over revving , not a good thing for 1930′s tech small bore , long stroke engines .

      Most here are far too young to recall how things were before the Japanese introduced the short stroke high revving engines that thrive on being held in their ” sweet spot ” where wonderful things begin to happen over 8,000 RPMs .

      To – day’s Kia is in almost every way , a far better Automobile than any MG ever built but , I’ll keep my oldies and watch the Revs and do periodicoverhauls every 100,000 miles or so , it’s fun to watch the other Sports Cars try to out run me in the chop .

      Of course , any up hill or straight away , I’m lagging behind but it’s a _Sports_Car_ ,not a Race Car .

      -Nate

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Times were changing for Barry.

    Barry gave his beloved MG a bath. He removed the thin layer of several months worth of garage dust with the wet rag. The custom hue, he had applied himself, shined once again in the noon sun. He dried it with the deerskin shammy, then paused before grabbing the can of carnauba. “Why not.”, he said to himself. After all, days like this were becoming more and more infrequent. His wife Michelle had taken their little boy with her to a hen party. He was finally left all alone, and it was a strange sensation.

    Barry gave several spots on the wire wheels some touch ups with the rattle can of chrome silver. Although the roadster had been stored in the garage, the ravages of time and inattention had become obvious. It made him slightly depressed. “Nothing lasts forever.” He added some air to a flat tire with the compressor. “Gotta put a tube in that one probably”, he noted. He stood back and admired his work. Some quality time was due indeed, just him and the B.

    Barry dropped the top, and fired up the roadster. As it warmed, he found a suitable tune by Nickleback on the Blaupunkt Caracas. A sense of personal accomplishment flowed through him. This was no ordinary emissions-strangled MGB. It had been sharpened. Perfected. The 18v had been touched by the hand of Barry. A low grumble of exhaust flowing freely through the Pacesetter exhaust manifold accompanied the lustful heavy breathing of dual SU’s. “BRRAAPPP BRRAAPPP”

    As he backed out of the driveway, Barry caught a whiff of exhaust laced with a hint of varnish odor. “Damn, I need some fresh fuel”, he noted. His bushy mane fluttered in the slipstream behind the windshield cap. He concentrated on his shifting and footwork. Months of driving the Accord like a coffee-sipping zombie had affected his skill set as a pure motorist. It also made him note the road manners of the old gal. “It feels….kinda terrible.” Also, the tach didn’t work. That was a new one.

    “That’s a neat old car”, said an older lady as Barry pumped $8 into the tank. “Thanks.” He beamed with pride as he sped off down the street at top pace. The custom exhaust belted out a harmonious note, punctuated by a troubling intake backfire. Barry was stunned by the sudden dropoff in power, as if slapped in the face by the gauntlet of an English gentleman. He kept the throttle in the sweet spot and limped the Leyland back to the house. “Damn!”

    The shifter flinched back and forth to the steady “thrumb-thrumb” of the misfiring engine. Much like a freshly started Hawker Sea Fury on a cold day. The engine made a complete revolution, hit on a pair of cylinders, and spun around for another go in a rhythmic fashion. Barry skillfully performed a cylinder cancel test, and determined the front pair to be out of service. Michelle pulled up in the minivan. “She’s back already!?”, he thought in his agitated state. He washed up, and carried his son inside. The MG would have to wait.

    A month later, Barry resumed diagnostics on the B. He removed the distributor cap, and checked it for defects. Then, finding no issues, he put it back on….incorrectly. “I bet it’s the carb”, he correctly determined. Barry removed the front SU and brought it down to the basement work bench to sort out later.

    Six months later, Barry tore down the carburetor. He discovered some offending debris blocking some of it’s arteries. The carb was reassembled and placed on the workbench for later.

    Four months later, Barry reinstalled the SU. He started the engine with anticipation, and was rewarded with the sounds of automotive mischief as errant sparks fired atop the maladjusted distributor. “You gotta be shittin’ me.”

    Six months later, at his son’s 4th birthday party, he shares a beer in the garage with his brother in law. “What’s wrong with the old MG?”, he asked. “I haven’t the foggiest.”, said Barry. Once alone, Barry stares at the forlorn sports car. He vows to get it running soon.

    Nearly a year later, Barry theorizes that something must be wrong with the engine internally. He borrows a compression tester. Using the broken tool, he incorrectly confirms his fears. “Looks like the head gasket is blown between cylinders 1 and 2.”

    A year later, the minivan gets broken into by a middle class suburban youth while parked in the driveway. Various items were stolen. After a heated argument with his wife, Barry relents. The MGB is evicted from the garage and pushed into the backyard.

    Two years later, Barry disassembles the top end of his engine to perform what he belives to be the necessary repairs. Putrid, rusty water spills on the front fender as the coolant drains from the removed cylinder head. Poor Barry finds little wrong. He reassembles the engine and pleads for divine intervention from above as he twists the key. He shuts off the misfiring roadster and goes inside to sulk.

    A month later, Barry calls in reinforcements. Steve from work stops by. Steve knows cars pretty well too, mostly American muscle. The guys perform a compression check that yields satisfactory results. To which Barry remarked, “Well, looks like it has compression now. What the hell?” Steve offered up a list of possibles, and probables. Among them was, “Did you check the distributor?” “Yeah, I looked in there.”, replied Barry. “The timing is correct, and I’m getting spark.” Steve then said head-scratchingly, “Maybe it jumped time.”

    Four months later, Barry tried to start the MG. He sat in the seat, which was now noticeably lower to the ground thanks to the 3 flat tires. He needed a miracle as he turned the key. The car didn’t start, and the low battery depleted rapidly. The stench of old gas filled the engine bay like a rotting corpse. Barry shut the hood, and went in the house. “Turn that TV off! Do your homework! Which one of you kids ripped the back window of my car?”

    Three years later, the writing was on the wall. The old girl wasn’t coming back. Attempts to sell the car were unsuccessful. The few prospective buyers that came to look at the car were apologetic upon seeing a vehicle that needed almost everything.

    The kids rode their bikes around the driveway. All the children in the neighborhood were drawn to the allure of seeing a tow truck in action. The MG was dragged screaming up the ramp.
    “Is that your dad’s old car?”
    “Yeah. It’s a piece of junk. I’ve never seen it drive ever in my whole life.”

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    My ’95 miata is at it’s stock ride height, yet almost all cars have their front bumper higher than my rear bumper…and for some reason my beautiful little car bring out the tailgaters moreso than any other car I’ve ever driven.

  • avatar
    Joss

    By 79 dated and kept in production way too long at an ailing BL. Your low sat arse felt every rut in the road. For the money the Triumph Stag was a worse take though MGB was better than MGized Austin America,

    • 0 avatar
      Mark out West

      As the once-owner of a Series I 1972 Stag, I concur, but would give my left *** to have one again. The Triumph 3 liter V-8 engine design was insane, but everything else was simple and reliable. That included the ridiculously basic electrical system (by today’s standards) and those 175CDSE Strombergs.

  • avatar
    MK

    Fortunately for me, I was able to live the British sports car lifestyle vicariously through one of my good friends in high school in the 80′s. we were both kinda ‘car guys’ but his family primarily owned the oddball European makes….Fiat, Saab, Volvo, several Triumphs (a TR3 covered in the garage that hadn’t run since about 1979 and is still there today), a TR4 in the back barn (also inop the whole time i knew them), his brother owned a Spitfire that he had sold several years earlier and my friend’s first car was 1972 MGB that was typical of the breed.
    AC, nope. Defog, nope, leaky gaskets, check, weak heater-check, manual choke, yep, obscure buttons/levers/switches on the dash that didn’t work, yep, crappy headlights about like an flashlight, yep. After tiring of continually balancing the SU’s they replaced them with the Weber kit popular at the time and it definitely ran better…when it ran. There was always the strangest stuff breaking or causing stoppages, almost always electrical. That said, he did become quite adept at fixing the various vehicular maladies and it really was a fun car to drive in the spring and fall. He sold it by the 12th grade and bought a superclean 1979 TR7 coupe in the dark green with a tan interior. By contrast it was much more reliable vehicle, which is probably all the needs to be said.

    His families various travails with the constant tinkering required to keep british leyland’s finest on the road was enough to put me off buying anything british that was within my limited budget when i was replacing my 79 mustang 4 cylinder a few years later.

    I still think theyre cute, simple and fun cars but it’s a hard value proposition to make.

    That said, I’d still like the chance to take out a TR8 spyder on a nice fall day and see if it was as cool as I thought it would be at the time. :)

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      Oops ~

      Another Urban Myth : carbys , _any_ carby , never _EVER_ ” go out of adjustment ” ! .

      In fact , the word ‘ Carburettor ‘ is French and means : LEAVE IT ALONE

      If people would grasp this simple concept they’d have much more fun driving as 99 % of all ‘ Carburettor ‘ problems are in fact , Electrical .

      -Nate

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Why are there so few Miatas in the junkyards? They’ve only been sold since 1989. HA!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      You’re kidding , right ? .

      When my Son was running a supercharged Miata Track Car , I was always offering to bring home the color matched hard tops I’d find on the multitude of Pick-A-Part Miatas , none were ever wrecked , most had nice paint and upholstery .

      Too bad they’re too short for me ~ the windshield header is dead center to my eyes and I don’t like Drop Tops in any case .

      I don’t know much about early Miatas but they ran well and looked like much fun .

      -Nate

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I have planned to buy a weekend roadster but have always pondered which one. Do I go for the Fiat Spyder with it’s Fix it again Tony rep. Or do I go for the MGB and be haunted by Lucas, the Prince of Darkness? Or ditch both and decline myself the pleasure of wrenching them most weekends and buy a 1st gen Miata. Decisions, decisions.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      Me ;

      I’m old & set in my ways , I’d buy the older MGB , sort it properly (few ever are) and run the wheels off it .

      That being said , I well remember my Son and I screaming up and down the twisty canyons in his Miata , top down and ice cold AC blowing in our faces…..

      Life is good , buy the Miata and enjoy it .

      -Nate

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’m more interested in that first-gen 9000 back there.

    I’m also always distracted when I see that late 80′s version of the 500SEL. That design is always going to look elegant and monied.


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