By on September 14, 2015

TR7 Front Quarter

MGB Front Quarter

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.

The rivalry between devotees of MG and Triumph isn’t quite as contentious as that of Ford and Chevy, but there are those who will never consider owning one or another. My automotive literary hero, Peter Egan of Road & Track, wrote a wonderful column titled “The MG/Triumph Question” back in 1986 that covers the personality differences in the cars and their owners (sadly, I can’t find it online).

Since I’m in the Octagon camp, let’s look at the MGB first. It’s from 1978, so it’s hit with the triple whammy of rubber bumpers, Stromberg carburetor, and raised ride height. The extra weight, worse handling, and reduced power was a conspiracy between NHTSA, the EPA and British labour unions to encourage all Americans to buy Japanese. That said, this car looks remarkably good. I’d probably choose wider Minilites, drop the suspension back down, yank the emissions crap, and install a crossflow head with dual carbs. The Russet Brown color looks spectacular.

On the other side of the aisle lies “The Shape of Things To Come”. Triumph’s wedge-shaped TR7 was a revelation when it came out of Speke in 1975. This 1976 model is a fixed-head coupe, which I dig, though a roadster is always preferred. I love the period tape stripes, though I’ve never been a fan of aftermarket sunroof conversions. The performance of this TR7 is likely to be a bit better than the MGB, as it was designed with American safety regulations in mind. Here, I’d likely do a 16-valve Dolomite Sprint cylinder head swap for a bit of extra grunt.

So, B&B, I put it to you. Both of these classic British sports cars are for sale around $10,000. Which would you rather buy?

This poll has been removed.

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71 Comments on “Crapwagon Poll: 1978 MGB vs. Triumph TR7...”


  • avatar
    thornmark

    Even w/ the regrettable bumpers, the MGB still looks the part. If the doorstop TR ever had a time it was brief and long past.

    MGB+.

  • avatar
    hwjoe

    MGB for sure! TR& is too hard to get parts for, MGB has a great support base!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    A friend of mine has BOTH of these cars, as well as a Midget.

    He restored his 77 MGB using a Ford Ranger 2.3L engine and automatic. It is a 2-season semi-daily driver for his wife.

    The 80 TR-7 is under reconstruction, and will receive a GM 4.3 V6.

    The 75 Midget is all stock, and it is also a 2-season semi-daily driver.

  • avatar
    GST

    MGB—roadster.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Only question that matters, Which one is easier to swap an LS-X into?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “Both of these classic British sports cars are for sale around $10,000.”

    Read: Both are a CP.

    However, if you’re making me choose I’m having MG all day long. It’s brown, and elegant in the classic British Roadster shape, though the aftermarket speakers need replaced with something more original looking. A car for the patient and understated automotive gentleman.

    The TR7 just looks like a reject design study before Toyota settled on the gen 1 MR2. Bumper cars have a similar steering wheel design, and also paint color. A dated item from a time when the British Roadster shape was in question because of Japan.

    But Lucas Electrics and BL cars are certainly the pinnacle of quality! Just look at this vintage ad.

    http://www.msn.com/en-us/autos/enthusiasts/advertising-the-1960s-40-excellent-car-ads-from-the-swinging-sixties/ar-AAe4VkV?li=BBgzzfc&fullscreen=true#image=2

  • avatar

    The TR7 looks like a 70’s car. The MG design is more timeless and something one might be comfortable driving on the road today and into tomorrow.

    For me the MGB is a clear winner if I was to spend $10,000 on a classic.

  • avatar

    Hey guys,

    There was supposed to be a poll at the end of the post and it didn’t launch properly. It’s up now, so get voting.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I would put my cash on the MGB, it just looks better and is more true to itself, the TR7 looks like a model car and the sunroof is a killer, a Fiat X9 look much better. Yeah the MBG has some warts but it is a honest car can not say the same about the TR7.

  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    @SuperjohnRTP on Twitter reminded me that I did once lust over a TR7. I was seventeen, and a Triumph wedge was sitting for sale on the front lawn of a nearby home.

    For months.

    Dad reminded me that if they don’t move the car to mow around it, it’s probably not going to be ideal transportation for a broke high schooler.

  • avatar
    j.grif

    The black bumpers on the mgb are starting to grow on me, my dad looked at the tr7, but bought a chevy Monza instead.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    How about a Jensen-Healey? It really didn’t look that much better than Triumphs like the TR6 and Spitfire Mark IV, nor was its Lotus engine more reliable than the Triumph/Saab engine that did the TR7 no favors. The only one I’ve ever driven sounded like it was going to blow up 3K RPM below its power peak. Its build quality wouldn’t have satisfied an amateur kitcar constructor. On the other hand, at least it wore its rubber baby buggy bumpers and US-regulatory height sealed beams as if they were meant to be on the car. It also had about double the power of the late MGBs and 50% more than the TR7. At least you wouldn’t be holding up traffic before you broke down.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      If you want a piece of junk with no love so bad, why not track down an AC 3000ME?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        It isn’t a convertible, and the Fiero robbed it of any design novelty. On top of that, it was about as well developed as Obama’s foreign policy. I don’t actually want a piece of junk with no love that badly. I’d sooner have an S2000 or a Miata, since I enjoy driving more than trouble shooting and tracking down parts.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Wow, CJ,
          The AC 3000ME repaired relations with Cuba, brought peace with Iran, successfully got us out of 2 wars that were bankrupting us and improved relationships with dozens of countries that now view the US once again as the preeminent superpower not just militarily, but also morally and economically?

          Helluva car, given that it only sold about 100 copies.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Well, “The Shape Of Things To Come” was accurate. That’s why cars today have sloping hoods, raked windshields and you can’t see out the back window. I have to agree the TR7 looks dated, while the MGB has a more timeless design. I still prefer the more muscular looking TRs before the 7, and I would rather have a classic MkII MGA than a MGB.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I love wedges and don’t love non-GT MGBs so I would take the TR7.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    MBG by a mile, but it would never be a rubber bumper version.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Being fairly familiar with both and the same era Fiats and Alfas, just say no to the TR7. That 4 cyl is terrible, and the rest of the car was put together on hangover Mondays. And putting in that small block Buick V8 does not cure the rest of the car’s problems. (Been there, done that). At least the MGB can be modified to look like a 1966, which is reasonable. Just remember your Camry will outrun them six ways to Sunday, so gentle drives on country lanes in nice weather is all you can do. But with a nice sport exhaust, very pleasurable.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Are they really that slow? Having never been in one, it seems like they’d be small and zippy. Maybe they were only small and zippy compared to Lincolns of the period.

      • 0 avatar
        Chris Tonn

        IIRC, stock MGBs would put around 60hp to the wheels. Thus the then-booming aftermarket for carbs, cams, engine swaps, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          CliffG

          I’m not sure if either could do a 0-60 time in under 10 seconds. But, when you consider the same year Corvette was putting out a hefty 170hp., what could you expect? The 70’s didn’t suck strictly because of disco you know.

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      Two thumbs up for this comment: “Being fairly familiar with both and the same era Fiats and Alfas, just say no to the TR7. That 4 cyl is terrible, and the rest of the car was put together on hangover Mondays. And putting in that small block Buick V8 does not cure the rest of the car’s problems. (Been there, done that). At least the MGB can be modified to look like a 1966, which is reasonable. Just remember your Camry will outrun them six ways to Sunday, so gentle drives on country lanes in nice weather is all you can do. But with a nice sport exhaust, very pleasurable.”

    • 0 avatar
      chris724

      You’re so close to the ground, it feels like you’re going a lot faster! My buddy had a ’74 MGB, which looked pretty good, but dang was it slow.

    • 0 avatar
      millmech

      ++++++++ on that POS TR7 engine. Also, the Spitfire gearbox on the early ones werent up to the engine, if it ever ran properly. Early diffs were also from something small; if the engine made any power, if it got through the gearbox, the diff was quite marginal.
      Anybody ever sawed off the studs to get the head off? Triumph sold a special tool that amounted to 2 lock nuts to jam together. It might make it through 1-2 studs before it wore out.
      English humour: THE BOOK said to put a large screw driver into the slot provided at the top of the stud to remove them.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Neither.

    If I really wanted an MGB, I would pay what it took to get a decent one from the mid 1960s before emission and safety regulations screwed them up. Wire wheels I would keep even though steel is stiffer. Steel wheels I would replace with something that resembled Minilites.

    The TR7, minus the stripes and sunroof, isn’t ugly. However, it’s a loser mechanically.

  • avatar
    319583076

    If you prefer wrenching to driving, either will do. If you want to spend more time driving than fixing/maintaining, buy a Miata.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    I had a TR7 convertible for about a year, and never put a full tank of gas through the car without some type of catastrophic failure. After it developed horrendous rod knock I later sold it to another optimist.

    I replaced it with a Miata, which is better in every way.

    The TR7 was garbage but had plenty of character. I think it was $2k including new tires, legit alloy wheels, an a trunkload of spare parts. That was probably too much.

    If I had to pick one of the two I’d do the TR7 again. I like the dated looks, the fact that it’s an evolutionary path that didn’t go anywhere, and the plaid interior.

    But for $10k, I’d get a clean NA/NB Miata and new dancing shoes; and probably have a few thousand dollars left over for a road trip.

  • avatar
    mattmacklind

    I voted MG, but AI own a 71 BGT so I already made that choice. I would say though were I to go looking for another classic british sportscar, it would be a TR7. The later TR7 solved some of the engine problems and they also had a 5 speed, something the MG never had (although electronic OD was available). Much like the rubber bumpers of the later MG, the shape of the TR7 has grown on me, from loving it as a kid to disliking it as a car buying younger man and back to liking it again, if not loving it. You also have to love the quasi-futuristic-ness of it. Also, the mid engine looking front engine car was never pulled off better. Google around and look for the Frontline developments body kit for the TR7. With a little work its a poor man’s TVR, if that even makes sense.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    as a fellow child of the 80s, the answer to this question for me would clearly be Miata. Either that or go a few years earlier for one of the classier looking examples. Still, if I had to choose, the MG has the timeless sports car lines. The triump looks too much like it’s trying to be a Lancia Stratos ripoff

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I’m a Triumph man to the core, having owned a Spitfire for 19 years. But I would still take an MGB over a TR7. You can easily fix what ails a late MGB. You really can’t fix a TR7.

    If the comparison had been TR6 vs. MGB, very different story.

  • avatar
    lon888

    My last British car was a “77 MGB and the car before it was a ’75 TR-6, between the 2 I wish I had the TR-6 back. The only real problem with the TR-6 was that it’s spares were more expensive than the MGB’s.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Neither Take a look at another Triumph.
    Well IF there were no other choices, then the MGB.

    But Why?
    Why chose this Triumph when the Spitfire is available.
    Not so sure about the overall performance or the ability to upgrade as you are planning, but the car is the better…by far…looking.

    1977 years Spitfire
    http://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/638681117/overview/?aff=oodle

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I voted for the B, but for that price I would wait for the best Triumph GT-6 I could find. It’s the quickest of this class of cars and is about as close to a poor man’s XKE fixed-head coupe as one is likely to own. Back when I had no money, I owned a functional example and I would really like to own a nice one.

  • avatar
    Fred

    There are kits to lower the MGB and replace the bumper with a chrome one. Get a cross flow head and put a Weber on it and you are starting to spend too much money. Seller might want $10,000 but you can find them for less.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    I just prefer curves over angles, so MG. As a former Spitfire owner I can’t help but see the question as “Would you prefer being hit 5 times with a baseball bat or 10 times with an ax handle?”

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Can I have a Japanese option here? I don’t want to spend the rest of my life trying to start the car.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      OK I’ll admit I’m under the hood of my Lotus. A lot considering the miles I put on her. But, that is part of the fun of a old car, at least to me. It’s also why I have an Acura to drive back and forth to work.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        I would think a Lotus to be in a class above these.

        Working on it is part of the fun. I voted MG-B, though, because I figured “working on it” would be 99.999% of the “fun” with the Triumph. With the MG, you might get 60/40.

  • avatar
    tylermattikow

    10k should get a very good chrome bumper MG, I have one I’ll sell for that. 10k will also get a TR8. The examples you are looking at I wouldn’t pay 5k for. A chrome bumper MGB, with webers and a good tuneup is not that slow. Upgrading to poly bushings makes them fantastic handlers as well. Decent size trunk and cockpit make them easy to live with too..

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      I don’t know about “very good” but I have occasionally seen older MG-Bs hereabouts for under $5K with entire body and they seemed to be in running condition. As a toy car, that might be a lot of fun for not a lot of money. If

      I had room, time and $5K to spare, that is.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The first “crapwagon” post in awhile that actually lives up to the name. Sell the MGB to a crazy guy with goggles, melt the TR7 down into nice reliable ingots, buy a Miata, and we’re getting somewhere.

  • avatar
    atomcar

    They’re not bad cars comparing 1970s Japanese recyclable cars and boxy American gas suckers. Yes they rust like all cars. Both of them you can have with small (Buick/Rover 3.5) V8. TR8 or MGB V8. MG you can convert it back to chrome bumpers and it’ll look nice. Ride is comfortable and surprisingly roomy . It’s mater of taste. Some love these cars and some don’t.

  • avatar
    Krusty

    Seriously, for $10,000, you can get a TR8 and then it’s no contest.

  • avatar
    probert

    Both crap. I’d take a Fairlady over either of these abortions.

    But you want a sports car you can really drive – and not just down to the local meet on the off week that they may be running? Get a Toyota MR2 MK! – pure awesome.

    Hell, get a 914 – art least they were trying to do something – and they look better every year.

  • avatar
    tophatt

    CP…can’t do the rubber bumper MG and I can think of much better ways to spend $10k than on a TR7.

    I believe the Egan article you are referring to is here on page 12…
    http://www.snic-braaapp.org/UAT/newsletter/2009/2009%20-%2005May%20-%20Snic-Braaapp.pdf

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I owned MGB’s and they were O.K. , fun little _sports_cars_ ~ NOT race cars ! .

    You needn’t buy a fancy-schmancy head , the cam gear was tweaked to retard the HP and lower emissions , making it a simple weekend job to replace the single row cam gears and chain with the proper , cheaper and longer lasting duplex timing chain and gears, this bumps the HP back up to 97 or so HP , plenty of power to have fun with .

    Trumpets , well , I’m an MG fanboi so that’s that although we had a load of fun the the 1967 TR4a in 1972 before dumping it in the Arroyo Seco .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    sofast1

    $10k will buy a decent Miata………..

    • 0 avatar
      ExPatBrit

      Miatas are great cars but they haven’t become classics “yet” so they depreciate accordingly.

      Within 5 years that $10K Miata will be worth about 1/2 of what an MG is worth.

      That MGB will be worth more, the TR7 not so much.

      That’s why people buy them, the bugs have been worked out , classic insurance is cheap , parts are cheap and readily available and they are easy to fix.Forum support on LBCs is great.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        You should check on that math. NA Miatas have basically stopped depreciating, and some markets are reporting light appreciation, especially with the drifter bros getting into – and ruining – them.

        I bought my later NB for $9,000 4 years ago and could sell it today for about $7,000. I’d put my depreciation and maintenance costs up against either of these British cars, any day. With the 20k miles I’ve driven, some of them on a racetrack, I bet I’m ahead on what I would’ve spent on a British roadster, and I can (barely) keep up with minivans.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    If I wanted a foreign POS from the 70’s; it’d be an Alfa Romeo

  • avatar
    matador

    If I have to have one of those two, I’ll take the MGB. At least I can look at it while sitting in a cloud of steam….

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Question: Why don’t the Brits manufacture computers?

    Answer: They can’t figure out how to make them leak oil.

  • avatar
    Joss

    AD016 with MG badges. I felt every rutt in the road in a 75 MGB GT. Hydrolastic suspension please. They did share the same rear light lenses.

  • avatar
    wmba

    The first MGBs with the 3 bearing crank were the throbby, coarse old BMC B engine with a bit of get up and go. My pal at university had his going 17.5 in the quarter, while the guy with the 283 Malibu/Powerglide was at 18.1.

    So they were reasonably quick for their day among the regular cars. The minute someone turned up with a V8 Mustang, well the MGB seemed slow. Muscle cars were obviously in a different league altogether. But 99% of the populace drove slow cars – intervening time somehow makes us all think anything with a V8 was quick. My Volvo 544 would take a 318 Plymouth Fury III from a rolling start for goodness sake.

    The MGB would pull quite strongly from just above a walking pace in third and make a nice noise doing it. And looked good. Personally, I found the car a bit ponderous to drive with no power steering, a thin rim and very mechanical gear change.

    The only TR7 I ever drove was a labour of love by a guy who persevered until it worked properly, all done between 1985 and 1990. It had a much better rear suspension with actual links, rather than the MGB’s leaf springs. It was much more refined but not particularly sporting. The engine was, of course, the basis for the myth and legend of all the Saab nuts in the 1980s. In England they just dumped it along with the similar Stag V8. Designed during a tea break by amateurs was about the long and short of it.

    In the real world, I preferred the 1966 Cortina GT over the MGB. It was just about as quick and had the pre-crossflow 1500 engine that just seemed to work better than the later “Kent” engine. Much smoother and would rev more easily.

    So I wouldn’t want either the MGB or TR7, because they never really appealed to me. I want a perfect Austin Healey 3000 MkII. Driven one a fair bit 50 damn years ago at university. That thing was an engine on wheels, not incredibly fast but feral. There are some Youtube videos of current AH 3000s including some racing at Spa. Bring some strong forearms and have fun. A beast.

  • avatar
    theoldguard

    TR7 was a very handsome design when it first appeared. A friend of mine had one just like the picture. We thought it handled well, too—for the time. In the late ’70s, “performance” in a car was a very relative concept. We were grateful what what little we could get.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Standard MGB versus TR-7, I’ll take the Triumph. Make it an MGB-GT, and I’ll take the octagon. But I’ll take a first-gen Miata over either.

  • avatar
    theonlyiceman53

    I’m a little biased as I own 5 MGB’s and only one Spitfire. I love the look of the Triumphs but that hourglass frame flexes like a banjo. I have no idea what frame is under a TR7 as the looks have no alure for me. I have two B’s with V8. Both are SBC at this point but the one was built with a big block (454) but I blew it up pretty quick and replaced it with a small block until I replace the big block. The V8 really transforms the car as far as the power and the Corvette parts I used take care of the brakes and suspension. MGB’s just look cool.

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