Junkyard Find: 1979 MGB, With Power By Toyota

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • -Nate -Nate on Nov 17, 2012

    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 . -Nate

    • CJinSD CJinSD on Nov 17, 2012

      Wow. I've never heard of engines welded to frames, and I've seen some pretty kludged work before.

  • Sector 5 Sector 5 on Nov 17, 2012

    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.

    • CJinSD CJinSD on Nov 17, 2012

      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.

  • Lou_BC Maybe if I ever buy a new car or CUV
  • Lou_BC How about telling China and Mexico, we'll accept 1 EV for every illegal you take off our hands ;)
  • Analoggrotto The original Tassos was likely conceived in one of these.
  • Lorenzo The unspoken killer is that batteries can't be repaired after a fender-bender and the cars are totaled by insurance companies. Very quickly, insurance premiums will be bigger than the the monthly payment, killing all sales. People will be snapping up all the clunkers Tim Healey can find.
  • Lorenzo Massachusetts - with the start/finish line at the tip of Cape Cod.