By on November 16, 2012

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.
I own a stranded-in-California Toyota 20R-powered Austin-Healey Sprite myself, but I’m not enough of a Toyota truck (or Celica) fanatic to be able to tell the 2.2 liter 20R from the later 2.4 liter 22R at a glance. The swap appears to have been done many years ago, so I’m guessing that this is the earlier 20R. Either way, this swap should nearly double the horsepower and way more than double the torque of a black-bumper MGB, with no-doubt-pleasing results.
This car looks to have spent quite a few years sitting outdoors with no top, so it probably wasn’t worth restoring.
The Toyota R is all about grinding out the truck-style low-RPM torque, and it tends to blow up in spectacular fashion when you spin it, so the Toyota 4A is probably a more appropriate sports-car engine swap.
I was at this Denver junkyard to get a Subaru XT Turbo digital dash, but I couldn’t resist plucking the Weber DGV 32/36 carburetor from this car. I’ll trade it for van parts.

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27 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 MGB, With Power By Toyota...”

  • avatar

    Judging by the valve cover and the exhaust manifold, that is a 22R. It can be tricky to tell as some people make 20R/22R hybrids.

    Judging by the rust pattern on the hood, I’d say this thing had been on fire at some point in time? Maybe?

  • avatar

    The hood does look a bit the result of a fire but no signs of it under the hood. Interesting swap – I’ll bet it isn’t anymore truck-ish than the B-series motor than came out of there but with the added power bonus. Nice score on the Weber too.

    I’m thinking of planning on putting a 22R in my ’65 Honda S600 just because I have one. Don’t worry – it is an engine-less basket-case.

  • avatar

    Wonderful little drivers with any engine, but especially memorable to me were the three tiny windshield wipers of the later models. Good shout out and link to Aaron’s award-winning site. There is a man who truly knows his stuff.

  • avatar

    I think the Chevrolet 2.8-3.4L 60° V6 with a T5 is a nice swap in these. Not too big, not too small.

    • 0 avatar

      An early 4th gen Camaro would be a good donor for that 60* drivetrain. Cheap cheap.

      One day when I am finally able to just stay in the shop all day every day doing engine swaps, I’d like to swap an LNF ecotec into one of these.

      Or if I’ve finally completely lost my mind by then, just LS swap it like every other project car that rolls through.

      • 0 avatar

        @danio3834: You’re a man after my own heart. LS for everybody!

      • 0 avatar

        On the topic of engine swaps, would either of your gentlemen be able to tell me if an engine swap can easily be done on D-body Olds 307 Broughams, or the early 80s 4100 RWD Devilles?

      • 0 avatar

        @28-Cars-Later, a B/C/D body Olds with the 307 V8, the frame would be designed to accept anything from a 403 Olds small block to a 350 Oldsmobile (or a SBC if you’re not a purist).

        The D-body Cadillacs that were unfortunately sadled with the 4100 could accept the “downsized” 368 cubic inch Cadillac engine or the 425 that came just before that. Your biggest problem would be if you are in an emissions testing state and are trying to pass inspection.

  • avatar

    My choice for a swap in this? The Toyota 18RG twin cam I have sitting in my garage

  • avatar

    Neat find indeed .

    I’ve seen many different engine swaps in MGBs , most are a waste of time as it’s a _SPORTS_CAR_ , not a Race Car .

    I sometimes miss my MGB GT MKI , then I remember how poorly it handled in the twisty bits and am glad it is gone .

    Making these later model 1800’s wake right up is dead simple ~ the timing chain gears were changed in 1975 to reduce emissions so simply replace the crappo (and always worn out) single row chain and gears with a < 1967 Duplex cam chain and gears presto ! you're back on top again . the single row gears have the woodruff key FOUR DEGREES retarded , no wonder the power curve went flat .

    I know some guys who tweak the single Stromberg CV carby to good effect too , I just slap on some correct S.U. HS-4's and off she goes .

    I hope you checked to see if this car had an overdrive tranny ? .

    This car had no fire , they swapped out the Bonnet , right wing and door from an uglier car .


  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    I have some vague memory of this perhaps being a special edition , perhaps one of those lame malaise era special editions maybe consisting of nothing more than the black paint , the tape stripes with the Union Jack decal and the different wheels and maybe the roll bar .

    • 0 avatar

      Right on with the special edition. No roll bar as OEM but that right front wheel is an original that came with the package to commemorate the last year for the car, if I recall correctly.

      The MGB was outdated in many ways from day one. As I mentioned in response to a previous article, that front suspension still used kingpins instead of ball joints. The 1798cc engine was raced and known for toughness but it was so boat-anchor heavy the Buick aluminum V8 took some weight off the nose.

      Sure you can come up with all kinds of conversions for the engine bay, but the suspension is ancient.

      • 0 avatar

        “Right on with the special edition. No roll bar as OEM but that right front wheel is an original that came with the package to commemorate the last year for the car, if I recall correctly.”

        You are correct sir. This is an MGB LE (Limited Edition), the special wheels, black paint, and graphics give it away.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I would wake up with cold sweats and screams of fear if I even thought of restoring an MGB. Here’s something much better that only takes three steps. 1.Find a used Miata 2. Write a check 3. Drive away, the radio, wipers, lights will work and nothing will catch on fire or short out. Before the rotten tomatoes get thrown; I’ve own both cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes , Miatas are fine , fun cars _but_ they’re *very* small ~ my Son had one and made it into a Autocross track car , added a puffer and so on , it was blindingly fast but , the top windshield header was *directly* level with the center of my eyes , making it a no go for me when he tired of it and offered to give it to me .

      I’m only 6′ tall and have a 32″ inseam , most of my height is in my trunk , I wasn’t able to fit in a Miata with the top up atall .

      MGB’s never had this problem .

      FWIW , Lucas Electrics are not the problem , they total lack of quality control in the manufacturing process was ~ I’ve had many British Cars (still have one as a DD) and once you fix the assembly goofs , everything works *perfectly* , all the time .

      OTOH , when first he bought the Miata , we’d drive it in the 115* F heat , top down and the AC blowing ice cold air in our faces , this was very nice indeed .

      Some here seem to forget that no one car is the final answer .


  • avatar

    thats what the datsun 301 blue bird, lotus and mazda did, they put a reliable jap motor and nippon denso electrics into a british chassis.
    if only the brits have seen this coming!
    should rover & honda had stay together for longer we maybe able to see some nice small sports cars.

    even RR were using bosch & nd electrics.
    Lucas only lined the wallet of the repair & parts counter, is definitely a detriment to car sales & reputation.

  • avatar
    Angus McClure

    Owned one of these, a 1964. Liked it a lot but my future exwife rear ended a chrysler and that was that. Went to a dragstrip in El Paso and ran across an MGB that had a 283 or 327 up front. It beat just about everything but the hot bikes. I remember it met it’s match in a 500 Kaw.

    This car probably had very little remaining that came from england. The running gear certainly did not. There was also very little space remaining under the hood.

  • avatar

    Everytime I see one of these I get tempted to get it and do a stretch on the whole thing. I’m just too tall for these cars and it would ultimately be cheaper to grab one of these than a newer unibody miata and fight with it.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    There are plenty of these out there that have had engine swaps but I have never seen one with a Toyota motor. More common transplants: Buick aluminum 215 or 3.8 V6. Chevy 2.8 V6. I once saw one with a Ford 3.8SC out of a T-Bird SC.

  • avatar

    Back in 1982 , I was offered a free MGB with a 1969 (?) Toyota Hemi
    4 Cylinder engine transplant for free ~ I went to take a look and saw the engine welded to the frame and the alternator tack welded to the inner fenderwell , I passed , they said ” hey ~ you’re a Mechanic who always saves junkers , this oughta be an easy one for you , it was really fast when it ran ” .

    Living on So. Cal. I ran across many South of The Border death traps .


  • avatar

    The only thing I can say living in England at the time.. Rode in a then newish 74, purple in color with a fabric sunroof and the older, skinny chromed bumpers. The MGB was considered dated then & British Leyland – a double wammy by the mid-70’s. I didn’t drive cause I was only 14 but you felt every rut in the road and it wasn’t a head turner, just a kinda dated, mediocre sports. By contrast any American car good or bad would have turned heads in England then.

    • 0 avatar

      The 1974 was considered by many to be the last of the decent MGBs, but they kept making them another 6 years anyway. Pickier MGB fanatics would say the last of the good ones were made in 1967.

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