During my 35 years of poking around in car graveyards, one thing has remained constant: MGBs keep showing up. Not in large numbers, but the rate at which these lovable-but-not-particularly-valuable British sports cars get discarded has remained about the same during that period. Here’s a purple model, from the darkest days of the British Leyland era, that I shot last week in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard. (Read More…)
For decades, enthusiasts came to dread new motor vehicle laws, as they typically conspire against the use of motor vehicles for fun. Post-Nader safety regulations that made cars heavier and less nimble came first. Emissions laws came a few years later, which strangled the previously-unrestricted engines into submission. The death of leaded fuel helped many of those old dinosaurs meet their untimely end.
For once, however, a massive new bill has actually lifted some restrictions. The Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015 (as we covered in June) was passed last week as part of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015.
The familiar, yet disconcerting sound of a medium-duty diesel was our first clue. It was the early ’90s, a time before ubiquitous cell phones, and my dad and I had been waiting for several hours for my stepmom to arrive in her MGB that we were putting away for the winter. She arrived eventually, in the cab of a rollback.
The engine decided to pop about 10 miles from our storage facility, a garage at my stepmother’s childhood home about 90 minutes from our house. The plan had simply been to keep it there until spring, but it would be a couple years before the old MG would see daylight again. Along the way, I learned about engine rebuilding, the importance of a good engine hoist (ours was crap), proper placement of jackstands (my toe still hurts a bit when it rains), and what happens when a Lucas distributor gets installed 180 degrees out of phase.
What sucks the most? I never got to drive it, as it was sold before I turned 16.
MGBs continue to show up in self-service wrecking yards, with another rubber-bumper Malaise Era example today. In my junkyard expeditions prior to today, I’ve photographed this ’67, this ’71, this ’75, this ’77, this ’77, this ’79, and this ’79 with a Toyota 20R swap, and now we’ve got today’s Denver ’79.
Today, I’m asking the readers to look at a couple underappreciated classics. I’m lumping them under the Crapwagon banner, as they are relatively unloved developments of some special British roadsters.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a child of the Eighties, so hot hatches and poster-style supercars certainly appeal to me. However, like many gearheads, my dad influenced my automotive wanderlust. Dad was into Datsun Z-cars as well as the MGB. There was rarely a time in my young life when the garage didn’t hold at least one of these paragons of Nixon-era cheap performance. I never got to drive Dad’s last MG, though, as he sold it (after I helped him restore it) when I was about fifteen.
Today, the Mille Miglia begins – indeed, as you read this, it’s probably already done so. The entry list is available online, a roll-call of million-dollar coach-built rolling-artwork. And also stuff like a Borgward Isabella, which should make Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky giddy, as he’s covering the event thanks to Jaguar.
Bucket list stuff, surely, but far beyond the reach of us ordinary morlocks. The shimmering golden fleece of the Adriatic, the reflected glow of Brescian honor and the echoing footsteps of heroes: heady stuff indeed, but a little outside my personal pocketbook. There is, however, an alternative.
Thus, I find myself in a 1967 MGB with an auxiliary fuel pump duct-taped to its air-cleaner, firing so much fuel into the rearmost carburetor you have to keep the revs above 4000 rpm lest the fuel overwhelm the float, go spurting out the side, hiss, and evaporate alarmingly close to the exhaust manifold. The din is deafening. The brakes are Neville Chamberlain levels of ineffective. Traffic is building and we’re up to our oxsters in LED-swathed crossovers driven by inattentive morons, in a car with all the safety equipment of a penny-farthing.
In short, I’m having the time of my life. (Read More…)
The steady march of MGBs into American self-service wrecking yard continues, with another black-bumper Malaise Era example today. In this series prior to today, we’ve seen this ’67, this ’71, this ’75, this ’79, and this ’79 with Toyota 20R power, and now we’ve got this ’77 with very-much-of-its-time custom paint. I found this car in a California wrecking yard, so of course it’s not rusty at all. (Read More…)
The MGB is not at all uncommon in American self-service wrecking yards these days— perhaps a bit less numerous than the Fiat 124 Sports Spider, but I still see a few Crusher-bound MGBs every year. I had an MGB-GT daily driver about 25 years ago, and so I’m very familiar with this car’s many drawbacks… but I still think the B was a pretty good car for its time, so it saddens me to see yet another doomed one. Here’s an early B that I spotted at a Denver self-service yard a few weeks ago. (Read More…)
As 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. (Read More…)
As someone who spent a few years using an MGB-GT as a daily driver, my junkyard radar is pretty well attuned to detect Crusher-bound examples of the iconic British sports car. Incredible quantities of Bs were built over a run that lasted close to 20 years, and of course you’ll want to read Ate Up With Motor‘s excellent history of the breed after you’re done here. The biggest problem with this sturdy little car (other than the Prince of Darkness) was the lack of power from its antiquated pushrod engine, so a previous owner of this car solved that problem by adding a Taliban-grade Toyota truck engine. (Read More…)
You see plenty of Fiat 124 Sport Spiders in self-service wrecking yards these days, but junked MGBs— which were more commonplace back in the day— are fairly rare. The MGB was slower, less sophisticated, and sturdier than its Fiat competitor, and it still has a big following today. This could mean that more MGB projects get finished, while 124 Spider projects languish for decades before getting discarded. (Read More…)
As the former owner of a daily-driver MGB (plus some other British Leyland steel that still causes me Prince of Darkness PTSD), junked MGBs always catch my eye. The strange thing is that you still see plenty of Bs on their final stop before The Crusher, more than 30 years after the last one clattered off the assembly line. Here’s one that I found in Denver, parked a few rows over from the ’71 Fiat 850. (Read More…)
While scanning endless negatives and slides for the 1965 Impala Hell Project, I’ve run across a few images of other heaps from my past. I’m kicking myself now for letting dozens of now-interesting hoopties pass through my hands without getting any photographic record, but that’s how the pre-digital-photography era worked. My British Racing Green, chrome-bumper MGB-GT, however, served three years as my daily driver, and so it did get caught by a few photographs. Here’s a shot showing one of the many, many repairs this fine British Leyland product needed while serving as my primary means of transportation. (Read More…)
The Killer Bees MGB has participated in just about every West Coast 24 Hours of LeMons race for the last couple of years. The Bees have done quite well, generally finishing in the top half of the standings, but somehow another entry managed to take home LeMons racing’s top prize in each of those races; even a British Leyland product has a tough time when submerged in a field of 150+ entries. This time, however, the yellow MGB finished well into the top 10 of the standings and claimed the IOE in a no-doubt decision. (Read More…)