1971 MGB GT: Safety Fast!

My 1971 MGB GT

Some of you questioned the fire sale of my 145. Well, here’s the answer. This little beauty popped up on craigslist and I couldn’t resist. This 1971 MGB GT isn’t perfect, but it has had extensive work done to make it an excellent driver. The price was right too so I purchased it right then and there without any thought of my current storage and financial limitations. I figured I could move one of the Volvos along quickly. Well, that hasn’t exactly happened. A stubborn brake drum is holding the Amazon back and action is slow on the 145’s auction. So, hopefully I don’t have to dump this MG instead…

Shooting brake body

I really hope this MGB can become a long term member of the BF fleet. It takes a little more work to lower myself into than the Volvos, but once you’re inside, you feel like you are something special. The whole effect makes one feel like they are driving something much more expensive and powerful than they really are. Luckily, it isn’t expensive and it can’t go fast enough to get you into too much trouble. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun though. The feedback coming up through the steering wheel and the sounds created by that inline four have far exceeded my expectations.

See, I have never given the MGB much consideration. They seemed too mainstream for me and most of the reviews I had ever read were always critical of their flaws. Those journalists claimed that the B was underpowered and antiquated. Well, I say that they those guys don’t know what they are talking about! These cars were real sports cars, no doubt about it. Muscle cars are thrilling, but there is so much depth to driving a proper sports car. Anyone can mash the gas pedal and go fast in a straight line, but it takes a lot of skill to operate that clutch pedal, shifter, and tachometer correctly. You have to know where to keep the RPMs in order to get the most performance out of the car. I would never claim to be good at it, but the challenge of trying is so satisfying.

B GT

Anyway, back to the car. I purchased this flame red MGB GT from an older gentleman who enjoys wrenching away on his own cars. He had already replaced a long list of parts during his three years of ownership. He told me that when it came to him the exterior was dull and the interior was rough. He lovingly polished the paint back to the nice gloss you see here today. It does appear to be an older respray in the factory color. There are a few cracks here and there, but I think that just adds more character to a car that is already bursting with it. Plus, since it’s less than perfect, you don’t have to feel bad about driving it out on the open road. I did find a couple of rust bubbles on the passenger side rear quarter, but they are down low and don’t appear to be anything serious. Luckily, I couldn’t find any other signs of cancerous rust.

MGB GT interior

I mentioned that the interior was a little shabby before, but obviously not anymore. New seat covers and door panels really cleaned things up in here! The headliner and dash could use a little attention, but there are no major problems in here. I did fantasize about replacing that pillow dash with a glove box equipped piece from a ’72 though. This is one of those cars that you can drive and enjoy while addressing the small cosmetic issues and making any changes that you see fit. The door seals have been replaced and the previous owner sent me home with a box of new parts including seals for the vent windows. All the gauges and lights work, but we weren’t able to get the radio to turn on. Who needs a stereo though when you have that 1.8 liter engine thumping out front?

MG 1800

The five main bearing engine pulls hard and produces a rorty sound that is music to my ears. I won’t bore you with a list of every part replaced here, but suffice it to say that this car is now ready for years of safe and reliable service. The compression and oil pressure are good. It leaks a little, but what MG doesn’t? It shifts easy into all gears and there are no strange sounds or rattles. With about 95 horsepower, it isn’t the fastest thing on the road, but it can hold its own in modern traffic. And as I mentioned earlier, part of the joy of driving a car like this is learning at what point to shift in order to stay within that power band. Once you learn how to do that, there is always plenty of power.

mg-td-safety-fast-brochure

It is plain to see why so many people loved MGs. They were good looking and exciting to drive. I actually feel ashamed that I hadn’t owned one sooner. MG may not have produced the highest performance or even the highest quality cars, but they were definitely good at creating an experience. When you get behind the wheel of an MG, you feel connected to a time gone by, a time when race car drivers were heroes, and for a split second you feel like you could be like them. Of course, reality returns when you look down at the speedo and realize you are only going 35! Guess that could explain MG’s use of the slogan “Safety Fast!”. So, do you think this little British car makes a suitable replacement for my wagon?

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Comments

  1. Moparmann Member

    I’ve always liked these too! Unfortunately, @ 6’4″/190 I’ve doubts as to whether I could ever be comfortable inside..that is, IF I could get inside!! :-)

    • Paul

      An MGB has a lot of room in it. I’m 6’2″ and considerably north of 220, I have no issues. My son is 6’4″ and 200 and fits fine.

  2. Joe Oster
  3. Marc Lawrence

    Your wife will understand – I can sure understand offing the Volvo ! – lol

  4. Howard

    Good show, ol’ chap! You didn’t mention if it had overdrive, a well worthy option. ( it would be on the wiper stalk) I had a 71 MGB for many years without OD, then replaced the engine and trans with one with an OD unit, and it made all the difference in the world. ( from a booming 3200 rpm’s @60 to a comfortable 2750) I always thought the plastic glove box along with the plastic console made the interior look cheap. Looks like a great find. I’m BRG with envy!

  5. Larry

    Good choice, Jesse! Always liked the MGB GT, but as Moparmann said above, I would have some fitment issues. Bummer…

  6. Graham Line

    Wait for spring. The Motorola radio in my ’72 Midget never worked in temperatures of less than 40F.

  7. L.M.K. Member

    I drove a 72 MGB-GT for 5 years . I’m 6’5” tall. I fit in to it very comfortably. The leg room is vast in those tunnels and the seats recline . Try one out for size and you’ll be surprised.

  8. Alan Northcott

    I owned a ’69 Roadster in England. Cruise all day at 70, but if you cruised at 80 (necessary if driving the M25 to keep up with traffic) you had to check the oil at every fuel stop.

  9. cory

    Get a dash cap. About $40 and looks like a new dash. …. glove box? Really? Need a cup holder too? It’s a sports car.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Hey, I need a place to keep my string back gloves and stop watch!

    • A . J

      right on , I had an 82 b

  10. Joe Oster

    My 67 above I put in the Rivergate conversion with a 280ZX Close-ratio 5-speed. MUCH better than the overdrive, because the spacing on all the other gears is finally corrected. First gear gets to 15mph, not 5…

    2500 at 60.

  11. rich

    Remember it is more fun to drive a slow car fast then a fast car slow :)
    Great find always like the GT. As for power a Nissan KA ( 240sx) should just about be a drop in and you get a 5 speed..
    Was in my Datsun 1600 roaster and the 1600 and the MG are just as close to the same as can be, plus the Datsun does not weep oil like a brit car
    rich

  12. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Jolly good show, sir! :-)

    Nice find, Jesse!

  13. Robert P

    I have lost track of how many MGB roadsters I have owned. 18 years ago I bought a GT and I’ve never looked back. It’s just a better feel, a different experience then the roadster. As already mentioned find yourself in overdrive transmission and it will transform the car. And it’s a simple swap as well.

    • Dolphin Dolphin Member

      The steel roof adds a lot to the car’s rigidity. Rigid chassis always feel and handle better than flexible ones.

  14. Isaac

    Welcome!! I also currently have a ’71 B-GT that has been a best buddy for over 8 years. It’s wearing the original Blaze Red (orange) paint & growls around town with the original engine. I’ve had everything from ’71 Chevelle’s to ’99 Jetta’s, but nothing has the feel, sound and genuine enthusiasm as a little British sports car. The design of the B’s are fantastic & the drivetrain is totally bullet proof. The “thorn in the toe” are the electronics. I replaced the coil, dizzy components (don’t be fooled, stick with points!!) alternator & fuel pump with current updated versions & my little B was as turn-key as my wife’s Hyundai. After 184,000 miles, I’ve got it in the garage waiting for the new head to come in. Safety Fast!

  15. jim s

    i love it. this is a great BF project car but i would still keep the 145 and sell the other volvo as is. does the B have overdrive? i wonder how long before the 2nd mg shows up in your driveway. is some autocrossing and road events in its future? great find.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      That’s a great idea Jim, but I’m not sure anyone would want the Amazon in its current state. No overdrive unfortunately. There are a few rallies and hill climbs coming up here in the area and I think this one would a fun event car…

      • jim s

        only way to find out if the amazon will sell as is would be to post it on Ebay and see what happens.

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Well I have the puller coming this week so we will at least see if we can get the brakes working before selling it. I think having it running and driving will add a lot of value.

  16. Fred

    In high school we cut school and drove to Stinson Beach in a MGB. Had so much fun just driving that within a year I bought a Sprite. I had a 71 B a couple of years later and it was fund and reliable. They are a bit slow, but get it on a windy road and it will more than keep up with traffic.

  17. Robert J.

    Cool B! I am six foot six inches tall and have owned three MGB’s that I fit well enough in. They are wonderful little cars. I will always liked them far better than Mazda Miatas although that is just my preference. My favorite was an MGB with a Rover V8 in it.

    Good luck on the sale of the wagon. Everyone will bid on it at the last minute. The Amazon is worth keeping.

    • Dolphin Dolphin Member

      Know anyone with an MGB V8 for sale?
      Please email me through the BF site if you do.

      • L.M.K. Member

        I do…

        And it’s a nice one . Check NY Craigslist and or if you can contact me through this great site do so…

      • Robert J

        Also BritishV8.org has a for sale page in the forums:

        http://forum.britishv8.org/list.php?11

  18. George

    Seems we have a plethora of tall drivers on this site. How about an article on what cars we can fit it? At just shy of 6’10”, I don’t fit in much!

    • Robert J

      Wow. At 6’10”, I nominate you as our lead test subject and spokesperson. No MGB’s for you though you would fit in a Jensen Healey.

  19. redwagon

    volvos rule.
    mgbs drool.

    seriously. giving up a brick for this?

  20. DRV

    I am a huge owner of old Volvos, but this BGT is a great ride. I loved every drive I took in the year that Joe Oster has shown above. The one you got has a bit less upkeep with the interior and steelies it has and also it will be a great driver body you won’t have to worry about. It’s at least as easy as the 145 for mechanicals, and the parts may be cheaper for much of it. The hatch holds enough and the seat always comfy…..great choice Jesse!

  21. Rufus

    Looking through todays listings I can’t help but notice I’ve had one each of most everything shown. Fiat Dino, early Mustang, 64 Spyder, TR6, and yes several (over a dozen) Volvos. But I always keep coming back to an MGB. I’m down to three now, two roadsters and a GT.
    Jesse, you are in for the time of your life. I think you have stumbled onto one of the rare truths in life, making the most of the power you have. B’s are great for that very thing. You flog it un-mercifully, and it responds with ‘thank you may I have another”. Sure, there are faster, better handling, prettier sports cars out there. But not under $10K. Add to that a dozen or so great parts suppliers (besides Moss) offering low priced pieces for when you break something, a very well informed network of owners anxious to help (check out the MGE) and a dead simple design that encourages owners to do ALL of their own maintenance, and, like the 140 series Volvos, you have a fun easy ride that you can be proud to park in your shop.
    You asked if we think the B is a suitable replacement for the Volvo? I think you traded up.
    Have fun

  22. mike

    Hey Jesse

    Good idea – Volvos are great safe cars…but fun? No…(that otta stir up some comments!) but be careful…the oil in British cars has a virus in it that is absorbed through the skin – if you get any on you, you end up owning more than one….don’t even ask how I know… :)

    Mike

  23. RickyM

    Great buy Jesse ! My Godson’s Grandfather has one which is lovely, and they are great cars.

    Spookily enough I have just watched this episode of The Classic Car Show which was on Channel 5 in England, and Quentin Wilson did a piece about MGBs:
    http://www.channel5.com/shows/the-classic-car-show/episodes/episodes-6-10

    You sure you did not know in advance ??!!
    Well done – love it.

  24. Bill

    Hey Jesse,
    Way to go! B’s are great little cars and a blast to drive in any style or configuration. I have 4 at the moment with 2 of them in project state and 2 on the road. The Grey roadster gets the most driving as it is the most fun. A 350 SBC, 4 speed, Vette front suspension and Jag rear give it some “scoot”. The stock GT always starts and runs like a champ. Welcome to the club!

    • Marc

      Congrats from me as well Jesse! I’ve owned my ’72 BGT going on 5 yrs/ 35000 miles now … turned it into a well-sorted and tweaked, multi-trophy winner that I can drive daily. Wouldn’t trade it for even a Ferrari Daytona; you can actually USE these l’il survivors!

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