British Motoring Monday: Entry Level MGB’s

Rubber bumper comparo

We’re trying a new feature idea out for Barn Finds on Mondays where we examine some of the finer British cars out there. Today, we’re going to look at one of the most common and inexpensive ways to enter the British motoring hobby: 1975-1980 “rubber bumper” MGB’s. Two likely 1976 candidates are offered right now on eBay: here is a yellow one at no reserve in Xenia, Ohio, and here is a blue one with a buy it now of $4500 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

MGB engines

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the two cars apart from location and colors, and that’s reflected in their prices. But if you look closer with a trained eye, some pluses and minuses become apparent. The first thing that jumps out at me is that the blue car retains its original, power-sapping air pump, sans belt (which almost undoubtedly means it’s seized, although they can usually be freed up easily). If you live in an area that requires original emissions equipment, this is a BIG thing with older cars, as a lot of those parts ended up in the trash can over the years. In the case of a B, it can cost over $1,000 to bring it back into compliance as air pumps and the associated components can be difficult to find. Other items of note between the two cars are the painted clutch master cylinder and drink cap on the yellow car (why?) and the signs of fresh tinkering on the blue car (new aftermarket fuel filter, added wiring, freshly painted radiator top. There are also signs of what might be rust under the yellow car’s brake master cylinder.

MGB interiors

Looking at the interiors, the lower mileage of the yellow car starts to show with its original upholstery being in pretty decent shape. However, the blue car has what looks like brand new, albeit unoriginal type upholstery and possibly even some reshaping of the seats in the process. Both cars feature modern radios, but a major plus for the yellow car is what appears to be an uncracked dash. Repros are available but are difficult to install. Both cars have also had holes cut for speakers in the doors and the blue car has them in the rear panel, while the yellow car has a large multi-CD player installed on the rear deck.

MGB repair(Photo courtesy BritishCarForum.com)

The one thing that really surprises me is that there’s no photo of this area. MGB’s are three layers deep along the sills, and having replaced all three once I will try to never take it on again. I really wouldn’t consider either car without an examination of this vital area. Do either of these appeal to you? The lower-mileage yellow one would be my choice to examine further, but I’d have to know more before bidding on either one.

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Ron

    Both cars have terrible paint jobs. Yellow car has panel alignment problems and side lights are crooked. Blue car has a lot of orange peel in the paint. Both would require a lot of personal inspection. The yellow one is in my town of Xenia but I do not remember seeing it around here.

  2. tom999p

    Aren’t all mgb’s entry level cars? I’ve never seen one selling for more than a Ferrari or Maserati…

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Tom, I’ve seen really nice early B’s approach $30k. In my book, that’s not entry-level (different folks have different expenditure levels…)

  3. Charles Gould

    I am so glad that you are doing this feature. It is so important to get the next generation interested in vintage cars and what better way than an affordable British Roadster from the late 1970s or early 1980s.
    These rubber bumper cars have been under appreciated for years and unlike most cars of the period, thet still feature the classic feel of a British Roadster at a fraction of the cost of the steel bumper cars.
    In fact, less than three weeks ago, we bought a nice rubber bumper 1980 MGB Roadster for my 18 year old daughter and her boyfriend to cut their teeth on, and just last week, we scored a 1973 Triumph Spitfire for my 16 year old daughter.
    Less than $7,000 ($3,500 each) for the pair of them and both rust free,running, driving and looking good with lots of mechanical and asthetic restoration already completed on them.
    The Spitfire is still in the trailer as we dig out of sixty inches of snow, but both daughters and I are currently working on the MGB and looking forward to driving both cheap sports cars as soon as the snow melts.
    Chas

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Congratulations, Charles! Moving along the same lines with a stepdaughter and her future husband (and a Spitfire). Well done!

  4. jim s

    the yellow car has an oil cooler that i do not see in the photos of the blue car. both need a PI then buy the the one that is closer to you. no the correct answer is buy both/more then one. they both should be able to keep up with todays speeds/vehicles, but overdrive would be nice. great finds

  5. jim s

    i hope you are not planning on doing one compairing sprite/midget and spitfire. thanks

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Just out of curiosity, Jim, why not? (not that we were)

      • jim s

        a long time ago i bought 1 midget which turned into a lot of midgets and sprites plus a lot of parts. that turned into very little living space in my house and out buildings full of overflow. i then sold out completely. every time someone posts a midget or sprite i have to padlock my bank accounts so i do not go down that road again. but for everyone else it might be good to do a post as all three are a good way into the hobby. thanks for asking

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        I can relate to that. British cars seem to multiply like rabbits…says the man with 9 in our nuclear family and two in my Mom’s…

  6. Charles Gould

    Makes no sense whatsoever to buy a project one of these cars, as you can get a very nice one for not much money at all, and certainly less than it will take you to restore a project car.
    Likewise, makes very little sense to stock up on all of those used parts that you will be offered or see for sale, as almost everything for these cars is reproduced in good quality for cheap money from an assortment of parts suppliers. No reason to buy used parts for these cars.
    Chas

    • Brian

      I completely agree with you in all but one circumstance…

      I have long been surpressing a dream of picking up a “project” rubber bumper B to switch over to chrome bumper and convert to an EV , but I’ve yet to be willing to pull the trigger on such a project because of current battery technology (which I’m sure will be vastly improved in the next decade) and my own unwillingness to part with my limited garage space for what would be a very long term project (I’d always be postponing – waiting for better battery technology!). In my case, I’d have to do this project on an unrestored rubber bumper roadster – I wouldn’t have the heart to do it to any chrome bumper, B-GT, or any MG already in nice condition!

  7. St. Ramone de V8

    Is there any real possibility that the rubber bumper (ugly) B’s can be retrofitted to be much more like a chrome car? I know the suspension was raised, and that’s doable, surely. The emissions aren’t an issue where I live, so retrofitting earlier engines , or maybe other makes (Miata?) seem possible. I really like MGB’s , but it’s tough to look at those hideous bumpers. Are the bodies the same under all that crap? Would it be just too much hassle? Anyone done it?

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Easily done; I believe Moss Motors even sells a kit to do it. You’re right that the suspension was raised, and that’s also easy to “undo”. BTW, lots of folks have fitted Ford or GM V6’s to MGB’s, it makes for a nice package. And of course, the Rover V8 was fitted from the factory!

    • Brian

      Easily done – but not cheaply done – assuming you want fresh new chrome bumpers on your car. The raised suspension is the one feature of the rubber nose cars I do like – although it has a bit of a not-so-natural look to it, it does help make getting in and out of the car a tad easier!

  8. Phil

    Note the beginning of “the crack of doom” on the driver’s door near the mirror. Common problem. It was said that the blue car had its’ rad flushed. Note that there are no hoses to the heater core.
    St. Ramone de v8……retrofitting rubber bumper cars to chrome and lowering them is very common. Kits are available to do this. Re powering with newer engines is also often done. Check out http://forum.britishv8.org/
    My ’78 has chrome bumpers, 5 speed OD trans, 4 link coilovers and a heavily modified Rover v8.

  9. Carl W French

    Chrome bumper conversions are not uncommon. But in bright primary colors like the blue and yellow, they can be sharp looking cars with the large bumpers. If you have some welding skills, the sill work is not too scary. Compared to the sills on my nephew’s Alpine I am doing right now they are a cake walk

  10. Rex Kahrs Member

    I like both cars. If the yellow car’s mileage is correct, that could be a plus over the blue car. But the blue car’s arid location might help it in the rust department. Some good underbody photos would be very helpful in choosing between them.

    Dare I say I don’t mind the black bumpers in the least. They are better-integrated into the design of the car than many cars of that period….for example the ’75 BMW 2002 with it’s battering-ram bumpers, or the ’73 Boattail Riviera with it’s design-ruining bumpers.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Rex, I love the way the black bumpers look on the 1979-80 “Limited Edition” black cars. We had one of those in the family and I wish I had kept it around.

  11. Doug M. Member

    Jamie, I agree on some of the rubber bumper cars looking great. I have never appreciated them so much until I did not have any British cars in my garage. Then I found that even a rubber bumper B can fill the void. Check this picture of a nice yellow one out (if it loads?). Hard to kick that out of your garage to park a Honda!

  12. Doug M. Member

    Here’s another shot… nice B

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      What a beautiful car! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Charles Gould

    I had completely dismissed the rubber bumper cars for years, preferring the original steel bumper profile front and back, until my daughter found the 1980 in British Racing Green with fresh paint and lots of recent work for a really reasonable price. She loved it so much that I decided not to discourage her and we bought it.
    She is really excited about it and it is really starting to grow on me. The way that the rubber bumper is integrated into the nose of this car was quite creative and worlds better than a lot of other options like the stupid hockey pucks on the E-Type and Spitfire cars of the period, although those are removable.
    Once I drove the later MGB, I realized that Monique could enjoy most all of the thrills of owning and driving an older British sports car for a fraction of the price with a rubber bumper car, and for her purposes the slight decrease in handling and speed as a result of the higher stance is irrelevent. And if she really loves it enough to improve it, we can step up to an earlier car, or choose another marque, or make the mods necessary to enhance the performance on this one, but it is a blast to drive just the way it is. It is also completely novel to young kids as they never experienced these older roadsters, and seldom drove anything wthout cup holders and electric windows! My daughters have driven weird cars since they were nine years old, but all of their friends are completely blown away by this experience.
    In hindsight, I am not sure whether I truly disliked the appearance of the rubber bumber MGB’s or whether I just didn’t like the “idea” that they were not true to the oriignal design. Or worse, is it possible that I had been “taught” to dislike them by all of the hype about how these weren’t “real” MGB’s. which is the same thing that people said about the Series Two E-Tyes, which were really quite improved over the original Series One cars, despite the fact that the Series One cars are far more coveted today.
    It is interesting how perceptions can be changed by banter amongst enthusiasts.
    Chas

  14. LeftShark

    A girlfriend had one of these. It was a pig to drive. Clumsy rattletrap with no power. Now, a B GT V8 with the IRS upgrade from Hoyle would be a different slab of pork altogether…

  15. Dolphin Member

    Some of the best affordable Brit sportscars are the rubber bumper MGBs—the V8 versions. Trouble is, they are rare and all of them are conversions from 4-cylinder MGBs since the factory never made a V8 version of the open MGB. It did make 2584 of them with the closed GT body but nearly all were RHD.

    So you sometimes see open MGBs with a B-P-O or Rover V8 conversion, and some of them retain the rubber bumpers. The V8 conversion sure helps you to forget any dislike you might have for the rubber bumpers.

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