1,400 Miles From New: 1976 MGB

By Jeff Bennett

In times long past, British car manufacturers had a presence in the United States.  While they never challenged Detroit for dominance of the market, they did a good job of filling niches in the market that Detroit likely found to be not profitable enough.  The most successful niche was two seat roadsters, with the recipe being a small, four cylinder engine, a four speed manual transmission, two seats, and a convertible top.  Many were produced, but none were more prevalent on this side of the Atlantic than the MGB.  Offered from 1962 through 1980, over 500,000 ended up being sold all over the world.  Of that number, a lion’s share of these cars ended up in the United States.  While many have left this Earth, there are a number of them still tooling around.  Among those survivors, I believe we have found the low mileage king of the MGBs.  This 1976 MGB, found in Chicago, Illinois and for sale on EBay, amazingly has just 1,400 miles on the odometer.  The price is $21,500 or best offer.  Is it worth that?  Let’s take a look and see.

The first two pictures show the car in as found condition.  The story is that the owner bought the car new in 1976 in Chicago.  He drove it for just a few months before coming to the conclusion that he didn’t like it.  Evidently he had the means to just tuck it away in his warehouse, with the top fastened and the windows rolled up.  There it sat until just recently, when it was consigned to a classic car dealer.  The dealer has performed the needed repairs to get it back on the road, from re-coring the radiator to replacing the gas tank.  It appears that the car was just parked, so it is no small task replacing every fluid, and repairing any systems that were damaged by the poorly planned hibernation.  So, after all that was completed, you are now offered the “newest” MGB likely in existence.

Unfortunately, this is a rubber bumper model.  In late 1974, in order to meet United States crash regulations, British Leyland added a rubber covered, steel reinforced bumper to the front of the MGB.  Many felt this spoiled the beautiful styling of the car.  To add insult to injury, the car’s suspension height was later unceremoniously jacked up one inch to meet minimum headlight height requirements.  Then, just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the cheapskates at British Leyland decided to remove the front roll bar to save money.  On a car that now handled poorly from the last two modifications, this was just ridiculous.  They ended up making changes to the suspension in 1977, but it was the beginning of the end for the MGB and, ultimately, for the British presence in the American market as a whole.  1980 was the last year for the charming car in America.

Fortunately, that was not the end for MGBs on this side of the pond.  A large number of the cars survive, relative to the average for cars built during this era, and there is a healthy number of MGB fans in America still.  Dozens of the little roadsters show up at British car meets and breakfasts across the land, and there is a robust aftermarket industry built around them.  The cars have their problems, most often rust in the unibody, but the problems are usually repairable.  Mechanically, the drivetrains are rugged, and can handle a number of fairly trouble free miles.  All and all, the MGB was a good design that didn’t deserve what happened to it in its last few years.

This car, while it falls into the most dreaded of the rubber bumper years, is simply amazing.  Once cleaned up, you can see how incredibly well preserved the car is.  In the picture of the undercarriage above, one of the springs still has the grease pencil marks from the assembly line.  The color, named Glacier White, is a unique shade of bright white that has just a touch of blue in it, and it looks great on this car.  The cockpit is in phenomenal condition, with nary a crack in the seats or a mark on the dash.  The only drawback I see is that there is no mention of an overdrive on this car.  This is a very desirable option, as it helps to bring the engine revolutions down from the stratosphere when traveling on modern interstates.  They can be found for reasonable prices, and are worth every penny if you want to travel long distances in the car.

Under the hood, we see that everything looks just as it did the day it rolled off the assembly line.  While small, these engines are known for being reliable but not especially fast.  As expected, emissions equipment robbed these engines of a lot of horsepower by 1976.  Some California delivered models managed to get by with a little less than 70 horsepower, adding to the indignities.  For cruising around town, or trips relying on the backroads, you should still find the power to be sufficient.

Looking at this car, it makes me think when I got a look at a number of original cars in excellent condition at a fairly famous concours.  They were grouped into one class, and could have been called the best of the best in the survivor category.  Looking at these almost “as new” cars, I was shocked with the build quality back then.  Orange peel in the paint, ill fitting body panels, and a general lack of perfection was the norm not the exception.  It seems we have gotten far too used to excellent craftsmanship today, and that is reflected in a lot of high dollar restorations we see today.  Good restorations often exhibit far better build quality today than the original cars ever did.  So, they buyer of this car might end up being a little bit surprised at some of the details when looking closer at or living with this car for a while.  It snot like British Leyland was known for a “quality above all else” approach.

So, do you think a buyer would be better off purchasing this car at this price to get as close to having a new one as possible?  Or, could that money be used to purchase a perfectly restored earlier example for less money?  What would you do?

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Comments

  1. BiggYinn

    If anyone cares..it was US crash regulations that gave birth to this … first introduced in 1975

    1+
  2. Joe Haska

    If I had the money, I would buy it in a heart beat. I am just a push over for things like this, even if I never really wanted the car to start with. Seeing a car as it appeared new, is just too amazing! I want it!

    5+
  3. jw454

    Well, I guess if you wanted a new one 41 years ago, this will be about as close as you can get.
    Nice looking little ride.

    3+
  4. michael streuly

    MGB’S where junk then and they are junk now.

    7+
    • teaches6

      Michael, Michael

      Tell us how you really feel!

      While you might dislike MG’s, they have stood the test of time and have a solid following.

      If British Leyland had continued, they would have built some great cars. Without the MGB you wouldn’t have the Mazda Miata.

      Just saying, they are a pretty reliable and fun to drive car for relatively little money.

      19+
      • Jimmy

        Wouldn’t it be without the Lotus Elan we wouldn’t have the Miata? Besides the Miata is nothing special and after all its just another Japanese copy of another manufactures car. MGB technology was heavily outdated by the 1960’s as many other manufacturers were building better and faster cars. Nothing truly special about an MGB or a Miata for that matter.

        3+
    • angliagt

      I strongly disagree with you – I wouldn’t call them junk.
      Have you ever owned,or driven one?
      I know of MANY rubber bumper (rb) MG owners who
      love their cars.
      Maybe they weren’t the greatest cars,but not junk.

      17+
    • Billy Bob

      “were” junk

      2+
      • audifan

        And there is NO apostrophe for plural, so it’s MGBs.

        4+
    • Howard A Member

      That simply isn’t true. I put over 200K miles on my ’71 MGB, and it still ran good when it broke in half.

      11+
    • Kevin

      So Michael Streuly, we can take that you don’t like MG’s then, or maybe it’s just the wrong time of the month.

      3+
    • Jerry

      Probably Michael thinks this applies to any other model of MG or even any other British made car.

      1+
  5. DG

    There’s a ’76 in AL for $4000, in similar condition to this one, only its green and been restored. https://tuscaloosa.craigslist.org/cto/d/1976-mg-mgb-british-racing/6314167880.html

    7+
    • Steve

      deleted by CL poster

      0
  6. Adam T45

    By the 1970’s MG were part of the much larger British Leyland group. This is another way of saying that they were doomed. British Leyland banged together some pretty horrendous cars in the 70’s (calling them “built” is just way too kind!). Your observations about the build quality of concours cars is hardly surprising when you consider that the Leyland workforce spent more time on strike and manning picket lines than it did building cars. It was a crying shame because BL actually produced some amazingly designed cars. Their execution however, was appalling. Their Quality Control system only lacked two things: Quality….and control.

    That being said, when the crunch finally came for the organisation a great many of their designers and staff went on to great success with other manufacturers. It makes you wonder what they were actually doing at BL, and what their new employers did to stop them doing it!

    I’d have this in a heart-beat if I wasn’t on the other side of the planet.

    8+
  7. Bruce Fraser

    I saw some information not too long ago that Moss, the parts supplier for British cars, and maybe even Miata, had an 80 miles 1980 MGB in their east coast facility.
    Look it up on You Tube: 500,000th MGB – Moss Motors

    3+
  8. KEN TILLY

    It’s very easy to remove the rubber bumpers etc. and convert back to chrome bumpers if you can find them.

    4+
  9. Connie

    I have an MGB in my garage that I bought new in 1979. It has about 40,000 miles on it. It hasn’t been driven for years because there’s always a problem with it. I can’t even list the number of parts replaced over the years. I finally got tired of being towed home and quit driving it. I don’t want to get rid of it but I don’t want to put money into it.. My advice, don’t buy one unless you are a mechanic.

    6+
    • Howard A Member

      Hi Connie, I’m really sorry to hear that. I had nothing but fun with my MGB. Like I say, 150K on the 1st motor, without O/D, then another 60-70K on a replacement motor/trans, WITH OVERDRIVE. That’s why I’m sure a proponent of O/D, because the difference in the car was night and day. Went from a “buzz-bomb” at 65 mph, into a cruiser. I’d be interested to know what went wrong being “towed home”. Mine had points, and it did fail, but I always carried an extra set with me, and I was on my way in 10 minutes. I’d think by ’79, they would have had electronic ignition, if not, there’s one of your problems.

      7+
  10. Dan Harris

    Had a 1975 and 1979 MGB. Both were fun, WHEN THEY RAN!! Electrical nightmares, both of them! Could not trust either one to drive them far from home and finally gave up on them. But they were cool!!

    3+
  11. Jay E.

    Don’t understand why this car wasn’t driven when new. Is there some problem that got it permaparked? Agree with the MG reliability issues. Mine had to be constantly worked on, with didn’t bother me much in the day. It got to where I could pull the engine in less than 40 minutes. Unacceptable today. Virtually no crash protection and cars have goten a lot bigger and speeds higher. I don’t think this car will get anywhere near that price, the extra value due to the low mileage isn’t there.

    3+
  12. Bill

    A guy down the street has a ’72 MGB. Yellow. Pretty car. He’s had it for about 10 years. I’ve yet to see it on the road. These are neat little cars, but they have a tendency to start by sheer accident.

    2+
  13. Trudy

    Original owner of a 1975 approx 80,000 miles Body has been restored and husband has done all the mechanical work on it from new brakes to installing new gas tank Just love the car Will not part with this car

    5+
  14. Howard A Member

    As the foremost naysayer of low mileage cars, I can say,,, this looks clean, but for the life of me, can’t understand why someone wouldn’t drive it. Maybe revving a bit too high on the highway.? If only I could slap these people when they buy these cars, GET THE OVERDRIVE, ding a ling!!! A car like this that has sat, will, upon driving again, leak like a sieve. Brakes, lever shocks, axle, trans, all gonna leak. The fact that it is a very low mileage car does have merit, but an MGB is an MGB. Get your best deal on something that’s been taken care of, WITH OVERDRIVE. Like Connie sez, you don’t have to be a mechanic,,but it sure helps.

    6+
  15. Tom Hall

    “they did a good job of filling niches in the market that Detroit likely found to be not profitable enough”
    Detroit might have got that one right as the niche fillers ultimately found it not profitable enough as well – be it labor issues, quality control, whatever – it, sadly, wasn’t profitable

    1+
  16. Doug

    I’d pass on this- I’d much rather find a pre-74 car with a decent body that has a bad engine and swap in one of the following – Rover V8 , Camaro 3.4 V6 , Miata
    engine/ 5 or 6 speed . There is a lot of support for the 3.4 V6 MGB on the
    BritishV8.org site, and several manufacturers of needed parts like engine mounts, headers, and even wiring harnesses for this swap.

    0
  17. Neal

    I’d get an old Miata with modern electronics and an airbag over one of these anyday if I were looking for a fun car.

    1+
  18. charlie

    Until VW and then the Japanese showed GM, Ford, and Chrysler that you could build an inexpensive car and have high quality in the build, US and British cars (except the Rolls/Bentley) were sloppy out of the factory. Most “restorations” are far better in quality than the factory ever made, unless the “special order” was for someone “special” with connections to the brass. Yes, Cadillac, Lincoln, and some Chryslers were better, but most were sloppy. Consumer Reports used to list “factory defects” with its reviews – typically 10 to 15 per car – and some dealers would fix them and some would not. MY favorite Chevy dealer would take each car he got from the factory and spend a mechanic day tightening bolts and screws, and putting in missing ones, filling the bad body parts with lead and painting, repainting the thin, not quite covering paint, and tuning the engine before delivering to a customer. Things are far better now, but my new Audi has been in the shop for 9 days due to factory electrical defects so far, so the Germans are falling behind. Lucas has been replaced by Chinese parts.

    3+
  19. Nick

    If the owner had an older, 2 carb, chrome bumper MGB, and updated to this desmogged, jacked up model, I can understand why it wasn`t driven. I’ve driven both and found this model sad in comparison.

    2+
  20. Reg Christie

    Reg
    Had one 1976 , great car in 76 .I found they handled very well
    and here in Ireland very popular for racing as was the MGA before it.They
    were very simple to maintain with basic tools and knowledge.A great fun car
    but had major rust problems.Best of luck to new owner , enjoy.
    Reg Christie
    Ireland

    4+
  21. William Dougherty

    My father bought our MGB in ’77 right after I was born, I grew up cleaning and helping Pop adjust carb then put Weber on it with him. We took many family backroad rides on weekends, He unfortunatley passed in ’98 I have the car and keep it as mint as I can having 42,000 on it, I cherish this car. It starts right up for me always, maybe lil start fluid and fires right up. I got one of the lucky ones. Its a 77. Ill never let it go hopeful one of my nephews are into cars and they will inherit one day!!

    7+
  22. Ron Trainor USMC

    Back in the day, I had a 1976 MGB and never had an issue. Loved that car! I am now 50% finished totally rebuilding a 1973 MGB. In my opinion, they are a fun car and maybe not a daily driver, but they are cool!

    5+
  23. Bob Morris

    Amazing the lack of knowledge about MGB’s the readership has. I bought a new MGB in 1966; drove it many times in local (Akron, OH) gymkhanas and would beat Corvette’s regularly. I drove it to work year-round and never had issues (I did all the maintenance which is pretty simple). I finally prepared it for SCCA events and never had a DNF and still drove it on the street. Took it on a vacation to Montreal, CND no problems. I was transferred after I owned it 5 years and sold it for a slight loss from the purchase price. What is there to not love!?

    6+
  24. Stu

    Because of road construction, the cop that was directing traffic from the middle of a busy intersection kept yelling at me to move along. The clutch cylinder in my low mileage 1972 MGB thought that this would be a perfect to fail. Thankfully, two guys from the construction crew were able to push me out of the way. Being that I was too far from home, I had the car towed to an import service center. They ended up putting over 60 miles on the car for the test drive. Remember Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?

    5+
  25. bruce e barrett

    Rubber bumper cars normally just draw about 4 to 5 grand in very good condition.This one might go higher but not that high.

    1+
  26. Larry Miceli

    Amazing. Everyone wants to say how awful the MGB is as a classic car. Nonsense. Most have never owned one or driven one. And those that complain about bad cars (and there were lots) simply haven’t taken the time or spent the money to make it right. Once sorted, they are great fun. And compared to most cars of the period, handled better and got great MPGs. I own a 67 MGB and several other period British sportscars. The only one that’s ever stuck me on a tow truck was the XKE!

    8+
    • Adam T45

      Hey Larry, my comments were not specifically about the MGB, but any model that came out of BL during this particular period in time. The MGB had a lot to commend it, and deserved better than to be built by BL. The thing is (from bitter experience) that build quality and finish was very much a “hit and miss” proposition. The company was so torn with industrial disputes that many cars across the entire BL range were victims of shoddy quality.

      In all honesty, if I were to look at going the MGB path again (which I won’t rule out) I would look at buying one and undertaking a full restoration. The first thing that I would do is replace the awful wiring loom with a new after-market one. Do that and fit electronic ignition, an electric fuel pump and a Webber carb and you’d be a long way towards having something relatively reliable. It wouldn’t be original, but it would be fun.

      2+
  27. Allen

    Amen Larry!! My ’73 B/GT has been with me for 31 years. At 249,000 miles, it’s still a rock-solid reliable daily driver. I don’t spend a ton of money on it and I don’t tow it home. I can report that a well-sorted MGB, thereafter properly maintained, remains extremely reliable for decades.

    6+
  28. Bob Morris

    Allen your comments are spot on!

    3+
  29. Allen

    Hi Bob,

    Isn’t it fun to share comments with others who understand and love these cars! The “Cheap and Cheerful” MGB has got to be one of the best cars ever built. So often on long trips, I find myself thinking: “Isn’t this great! There’s nothing, absolutely NOTHING, that could go wrong with this car that isn’t worth fixing.” Years ago an old mechanic told me: “cars don’t wear out, people just quit spending money on them”. Take a really good car (an MGB, of course) to start with; whether you keep the car for 5 years or 50 years, maintenance and repair is always cheaper than another new car. My 44 year-old B still works great on modern interstates. With overdrive, it loves to cruise at 80 mph, and if I pay attention it will still stop in time.

    Some earlier comment said something about no crash protection in an MGB. I don’t know if by design or “accident”, the MGB body shell definitely functions in crumple zones with excellent protection for passengers. Don’t ask me how I know…

    4+
  30. Wayne

    Ken Tilley have you ever done the bumper swap?
    I own the exact duplicate of the listed car. I have owned or been responsible (maintenance and repairs for friends and family) for several over the years. This year is the least desirable. I was never enamored with MGBs. But always had fun driving them. I bought my car for $500. I had sat outside with the top down for 3 years in Lake Tahoe. (Can you say tons of snow? I knew you could!) I bought the car because it had no rust anywhere. I think that the pine needles that infested every nook and cranny (and were 3′ feet deep in the car) sucked up all the moisture. I found a full set of chrome bumpers that were in perfect shape to install. Not only are the front turn signal holes the wrong size in the body. You have to cut away sheet metal in order to get the front bumpers on. But the body below the rear combination lamps is not there. It just drops off flat. You can buy these little sheet metal pieces to install below the lamps (from Moss Motors for a BGT). But they do not fit! (too small and look BAD) So I had to form my own and weld them on. I got lucky and they look good. (I am not a body man by any stretch.) And the car looks great now. (also lowered, added sway bays, and 195/50-15 tires an 7″ Panasport rims) But bumper swap is not easy!
    I am continually amazed for a car from an area with lots of moisture. At the total lack of moisture protection from body seals to electrical connections. And the lack of heat a stock heater puts out. (pull the heater control valve off the engine and look at the VERY SMALL hole that the coolant must pass through to get to the heater core. Drilled mine out to 1/2″ and had any amount of heat that I could ever want. Naturally I now have 2 more cylinders making extra heat. (warmed over 2.8 Ford Capri V6 with a T5 speed.) Really nice car to drive now.

    3+
  31. Allen

    Adam,

    I have to respectfully but strongly disagree. Wiring loom: if you have to replace it get a correct one from British Wiring. Where do people get this crazy notion that the original wiring is bad? It’s great. I still have the original in my ’73 B/GT and it has never failed!

    And a Weber carb????? Why? The twin SUs are the simplest carb on the planet, easy to set up, and absolutely bullet-proof.

    FWIW!

    3+
  32. Pat A

    He wrote “it snot”. Ahahahaha!

    1+
  33. Bob Morris

    MG=Safety Fast

    1+
  34. Snag

    Buy a 1990 Miata that has been winter stored, lots around, once on at long weekend trip with the Trillium Miata Club,(from Toronto) we were on our way home in the pouring rain when one of the club members commented over the CB, “I’m glad we’re not the MG Car Club” there was dead silence, then he again stated ” half of us would still be in the Hotel parking lot trying to get our cars started” He was right. Personally I think Lucas Electrics is what caused the down fall of British Leland. Austin 850s to 1000s, Coopers ND Cooper Ss were all plagued with starting issues. It didn’t matter how much keep dry spray you sprayed over the Electrics the problem was always there and the lack of operating confidants cased their eventual demise. My 1990 Miata has 163,000kms since new never let me down, winter store and other than killing a deer and needing new Rad, torsion bar, front pulley on engine, two plastic panels underneath, no paint or structural damage, it has been inexpensive to own and operate. 7000 ram normally in second and third gears are normal. It has been auto crossed, and on Indianapolis Speedway (with 250 other Miatas), Putnam Road Race Course, Mosport, both oval and road race courses, Shannon Motor Sport track, (all 3) For the abuse, fun and cost of purchase and operation it’s a pure winner in my book. Just completing it’s 28th summer of operation

    1+
    • Bob Morris

      I lived in England for about 10 years and the input on “issues” with British cars can be laid on the feet of top management (incompetent and out of touch) and unions (they were sabotaging on the assembly line). They also didn’t get “in touch” with the American market/consumer and the driving conditions in the US. Lucas electrical systems (Prince of Darkness) were problematic.

      0
  35. Rol Walters

    Rol Walters

    I enjoyed reading about all the experiences folks have had with MGBs. I may have had the earliest example as I bought my MGB in Scotland where I was station in Edzell, in the Navy from 64 – 66. I paid cash, $2,200 (saved for several years) for a 1965 Tartan Red with black leather, wire wheels (with knockoffs), matching red soft and hardtop, and tonnenu cover. Didn’t have the extra money for the overdrive at the time! Drove the left-hand drive all over Scotland and England and had a blast running with Alpines and Triumphs (with no speed limits outside of towns! The Navy shipped it back to my home of Pottsville, PA (yes the home of Yuengling beer) where I started classes at Penn State local campus on the GI Bill. Got a couple trophy’s rallying and autocrossing (and one for drag racing!) and after 7 years of no break downs I sold my “B” to finish grad school. My story is not unlike other vets who came back with one of their “1st loves” a sports car! As a post script: I’m reliving those days in a Velocity Red 2004 MAZDASPEED up on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. As Bob Morris said “Safety fast!

    0
  36. Double R car

    In my ’74 Jaguar XJ-6 years back, it wasn’t just the Lucas Electronics that were bad, the entire car suffered from reliability problems. I remember one day hearing a terribly loud noise outside. Theres the wife coming up the driveway blasting the radio completely unaware that entire exhaust system had fallen off and she had been dragging it around all day. Yea, fun times!

    2+
    • Bob Morris

      Jags did suffer from poor assembly etc. in the 1970’s -1990’s (ask Ford what they bought to their horror) BUT if you did the maintenance on a regular basis, including checks on the suspension, brakes and exhaust they were good for many miles. ANY car will be problematic, especially higher end cars, if you ignore basic maintenance.

      0
      • Double R car

        Agreed, Bob Morris. I also owned a 79 Silver Shadow for 7+ years. All maintenance was documented and performed per factory requirements, and I never encountered any problems

        0
  37. Alex

    I had a 68 MGB in High School. This was one of my favorite cars ever and I have owned over 60 in my life. I paid 600 dollars for it and drove it for a few years, blew the engine and put in a junkyard motor from a wreck with only 7000 miles on it. Rust was starting to appear so I traded it in for a red 72 Firebird.

    1+

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