Used Car Alternative: 1979 MG MGB Limited Edition

Have you seen the price of used cars lately?  It is hard to get a clapped-out econobox with less than 100K on the clock for less than $5,000 anymore.  However, there is a thinking out of the box alternative out there.  Take a look at this 1979 MG MGB Limited Edition Roadster for sale on craigslist in Bellingham, Washington for a mere $5,500 or best offer.  I hear your groans when you figured out that I am suggesting an MGB for daily transportation but read carefully.  This thoroughly gone through roadster may be just the thing to tool around in until prices fall back to sane levels on daily drivers.  Meanwhile, the upside is the lack of depreciation you’ll experience when the bubble bursts.  Thanks to Seth J. for this Seattle area find.

We are stuck in a vicious cycle.  Covid and a computer chip shortage have turned both the new and used car market on its ear.  Dealerships that once had hundreds of cars just waiting for buyers have been selling new cars for sticker plus markup.  Of course, that also drove new car prices into the stratosphere as well.  Just today I perused the local Hinda dealer’s website to see what they had in inventory in the way of Civics (hanging my enthusiast head in shame as I type this).  I was shocked to see the asking price on a two-year-old used Civic was higher than the sticker price of a new one.  The difference is due to the undeniable fact that the used car was on the lot and ready to go.  Most likely the new car was already spoken for, and I would have to get on a wait list.  No bueno.

The good news is that the situation is improving by the day for the average car buyer.  Chips are finally nearing pre-pandemic production levels and the economy is showing signs of going into what economists are calling a “deep recession.”  Those in the know are warning everyone to anticipate a collapse of prices in the used car market and the return of seas of unsold cars at dealerships.  This is despite many of the automakers dreaming of eliminating dealerships as we know them and going to an order online and pick it up at a “service center” model.  I don’t like haggling any more than the next guy, but I don’t think the customer will come out better off if their Scrooge McDuck plan is implemented.

However, that is the (maybe) future we are talking about.  What if you need a car right now due to totaling your last ride or it finally suffering a catastrophic failure?  Any reliable replacement on the used car lot is obscenely high in price right now.  What can a frugal fellow do to mitigate the financial damage of finding a new ride?  You certainly don’t want to be fathoms underwater when the used car bubble pops.  Tulips are one thing.  Honda Civics are quite another.

Well, how about a modern classic that many folks used as daily drivers back in the day?  This 1979 MGB may fit the bill.  In the craigslist ad written by a son for his gearhead father (look closely at the garage pictures), we are told this MGB has been a five-year project.  While the cosmetics on this black beauty are described to be presentable with a few flaws here and there, mechanically this little roadster is near perfect.  The engine and transmission have been removed and any refurbishment and/or rebuilding was done at that time.  To my knowledge, the engine and transmission have to be removed as a single unit to replace the clutch.  The rear end was also gone through, and the fuel system has been upgraded with a Weber carburetor conversion.  Purists may not see this as an upgrade, but many feel the Weber is an improvement from the troublesome single Stromberg system that 1975 and later US cars used.

This car has also benefitted from the installation of a lower suspension system that is correct for earlier cars and is a marked improvement over the stock system in an MGB of this vintage.  To meet US headlight height requirements, MG simply raised the car’s ride height by one inch.  Unfortunately, that modification was both unsightly and was detrimental to the MGB’s handling. Also in the handling department, the car is shod with a set of restored wheels and a new set of off brand tires.  Add to the new suspension and tires a completely new and gone through braking system on all four corners.

Inside, everything is said to work.  The carpets and the aftermarket seat covers are new.  One thing missing is the desirable overdrive unit.  This car evidently wasn’t so equipped, but they are out there and for sale fairly frequently.  Most folks go for five speed conversions these days, and if you were thinking of keeping the car long term this is a good option.  Need I mention that Moss Motors offers a bolt on supercharger kit as well?

All told, this black MGB looks to be a great bargain.  The mechanicals are in tip-top shape, the interior looks to be a nice place to be on a commute, and, most importantly, the top goes down.  You will have to do without air conditioning and all of the latest and greatest touchscreen miracles.  However, there is a certain entertainment factor that a British roadster delivers to its driver that no modern entertainment system can replicate.  This looks like a fine place to park your commuter car money until the market is in your favor.

Would you consider this car as a commuter until used car prices come down?  If not this MGB, which earlier vehicle would you choose to ride out the storm in?  Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Now that we got past used Civics I’d say if you lived and worked in a rural area it would be a fun go to work car. I would also say that it looks like the pictures were taken before any suspension lowering. Previous MGBs were never that high. We used a ’66 MGB as a gas crisis car in the ’70s for going to work as our other car was a Chevy Blazer that got 11 miles to the gallon even when standing still. Note the ’66 at stock height.

    Like 12
    • david

      Good job you got your Jeep to 11 miles on the gallon while standing still. I would not be able to do that. ;)

      Like 0
  2. angliagt angliagt

    I agree – this could turn out to be a good deal,under current
    car values.I’d still want to go and see & drive it,
    I also don’t get the people who buy a new car off of the
    Internet without either seeing it,or driving it.I’ve found that
    when you take a long test drive,sometimes you notice things
    that you wouldn’t by not doing so.
    Whenever I sell a vehicle,I tell the potential buyer that I
    want them to come & take a test drive,so there’s no regrets later.

    Like 8
  3. Mike B

    First observations: Wrong steering wheel. & Someone needs to learn how to fold a convertible top. Would be a great commuter if 2 lane & curvy. Less so if long & stop/go. (true w/ most cars) You’ll only get 25 mpg. You can change the clutch w/ trans in by taking out the radiator. But you’ll want a hoist because when the motor starts leaning on the floor jack it’s really hard to get it back. Budget whatever $50/month in mid-80’s dollars is now for maintenance parts.

    Like 2
    • Aaron Adams

      The steering wheel is correct for the 79-80 Limited Edition only. (Seller). We have solved the top storing method now! Thanks for the comments!

      Like 0
  4. Slomoogee

    We dove these daily year round during college and after graduation. If you’re young, have a garage, and a few tools this would be doable. This one looks like it could be a deal.

    Like 3
  5. FrankD

    Perfect car for the chrome bumpers conversion.

    Like 3
  6. The Other Chris

    Would be mine and in my garage already if it was closer. Probably still a good deal shipped to me, but don’t want to deal with all that.

    Like 0
  7. fordor

    “troublesome single Stromberg system” ??
    The Stromberg(have rebuilt about 200 pairs so far) is MUCH simpler than a Weber. Being a constant depression carb(like the SUs) they are VERY easy to rebuild and adjust. You don’t need a set of jets and you don’t need to worry about the accelerator pump getting clogged up.

    Like 3
    • Rallye Member

      I’m not convinced. Strombergs are still my last choice if I can’t have webers, Delortos SUs.

      I think it was the single Stromberg that started the fire. I have an MGB engine here from a B like this that had an engine fire at 17K miles.

      I have a downdraft canon manifold for a B for sale.

      Like 0
      • bevis

        okay…. my former roommate had a Fiat 124 with a Weber and it burned; was it the carb’s fault–no; he was too cheap/poor/unknowledgeable to replace the fuel line. Another had a 1969 Porsche 912 with the Solex carbs–again the fuel line.
        All carbs have a float valve that gets shut off by a float that pushes the “needle” up when the carb gets full. Old/bad gas(think all gas with ethanol in it) deteriorates VERY quickly, compared to “ancient” no-ethanol gas(still available a a very few/select station).
        If you’re going to make a generalized statement with NO proof of what caused the problem, you may want to rethink your comments first.

        Like 2
      • Rallye Member

        bevis, you said:

        “okay…. my former roommate had a Fiat 124 with a Weber and it burned; was it the carb’s fault–no; he was too cheap/poor/unknowledgeable to replace the fuel line. Another had a 1969 Porsche 912 with the Solex carbs–again the fuel line.”

        OK. I remember when the joke was to identify beetles in the junk yard with Djet by the charred engine covers ( I raced a car with Djet for over 20 years with no fires). One of my own DCOES had a float issue at RA last year and the workers gave me a big mess to clean up. These also have nothing to do the MGB LE that I’m talking about.

        And you said:
        “All carbs have a float valve that gets shut off by a float that pushes the “needle” up when the carb gets full. Old/bad gas(think all gas with ethanol in it) deteriorates VERY quickly, compared to “ancient” no-ethanol gas(still available a a very few/select station).”

        I don’t think you can give me lessons on carbs. Likely I’ve rebuilt more different kinds than you can name. This car burned long ago ( ONLY 17,701 miles 1 OWNER lady school teacher…..REALLY!) and no one heard of any ethanol in gas in the 80s. I think most of the stations around here have their highest octane NO E.

        And then you said:
        “If you’re going to make a generalized statement with NO proof of what caused the problem, you may want to rethink your comments first.”
        I did not make a generalized statement. I had proof, it was my sister in laws car. The fire department, the insurance adjuster and I all credited the Stromberg.

        Inspite of my attitude in this post, I have and will continue to learn from others here.
        There wouldn’t be as many Stromberg carburators if SU hadn’t gone on strike.

        I still have a NOS downdraft Canon manifold for a B for sale.

        Like 0
      • Rallye Member


        You really rubbed me the wrong, sorry.

        one more thing about your post.
        All carbs do NOT have float and needle valves!

        My grandson raced a gokart on methanol with a Briggs Raptor flathead engine. We did lots of jet changing but it was a very simple carb with no float bowl, needle etc.

        Like 0
      • luckless pedestrian

        I’ve had several cars with Strombergs… still have three… all Triumphs. They perform fine, but I’ve found them to be somewhat maintenance intensive… much more so than other cars I’ve had with SUs, Webers, Nikis, etc… They seem to frequently require tweaking… in my case they are all “emission era” Strombergs.
        Late MGBs with the single Stromberg had the unique situation where it was mounted over the catalytic and over time the carb’s choke assembly would develop a leak and drip gas on said hot catalytic… with predictable results…

        Like 0
  8. Homer

    Jeff your comment on factory on line orders and pick up new cars at a service center was predicted by a sales manager at a Pontiac dealership in about 1975 when I worked there. Impossible to think that it will happen but technology has turned many things upside down.

    Like 0
  9. J Rightmer

    If it was closer I would think about it. Although buying off of Craigslist scares me.

    Like 0
    • Glemon

      Why? just like dealers there are decent people and less decent selling of CL, and then a whole bunch of folks that just really don’t know what they have so might misdescribe for that reason. A test drive and a look underneath for rust answer a lot of questions.

      Like 1
    • luckless pedestrian

      Selling a car on Craigslist is worse… talk about nightmares… This is how I learned mental health is the serious issue these days…

      Like 0
  10. Cobra Steve

    I have loved LBCs (Little British Cars) since purchasing my first one (1969 Triumph GT6 Mk II) in 1974. “Back in the day” we used them as our daily drivers, to and from work, college, and of course, on dates. SO WHAT if it did not have air conditioning, automatic transmission, 100K mile life spark plugs, electronic BS for this and that, electric windows, tire pressure monitoring systems, cruise control, power locks and seats, digital this and that, and heated seats and steering wheels.

    We (men AND some women) took pride in maintaining our own vehicles and we even would wash and vacuum our own cars. OMG! Perish that thought for most of the youth today…they’d rather sip on their overpriced “coffee” and watch someone else do the work for them while pre-occupied with their electronic leash (cell phone).

    Do I sound bitter? Perhaps! I highly recommend “unplugging” from today’s Big Brother world. Shut off the cell phone or better yet, put it inside a Faraday cage/box/bag so it won’t listen and track your every movement, but it will be there if you encounter a problem. If you have an LBC, then remember February 10 is “Drive your Triumph Day”, but the same would apply if you’ve got an MG, Healey, etc. The Triumph folks will also give you a friendly wave!

    Like 9
  11. Denise

    I purchased a refurbished 1975 MGB last year for $6800. My constant problem is battery life. I must keep it hooked up to a trickle charger. I have searched for a mechanic in the event I have problems with the car but no one seems to want to take on the challenge. I’m in the suburbs of Los Angeles.

    Like 0
    • bachldrs Member

      Denise, the electrical systems in these cars are really quite simple. There are a limited number of places where the fault can lie. You’ve probably already had the battery tested. If you are convinced the battery itself is OK, then the alternator needs to be tested. If it is OK, perhaps something has been miswired by a previious owner such that it is on all the time, draining the battery even when the car is shut off. Suspects might be the radio or any other audio component, or any other electrical accessory. There is a courtesy lamp inside the boot (trunk). Is it off?

      There’s more, but I can’t take up space here for it. Do you belong to the SoCal MG Club? At least contact a member about your problem. Better yet, join the club. I see they have a tech session coming up on March 4th – with a professional MG mechanic on hand. What a great way to solve your problem and meet some kindred spirits in the process!

      Like 1
  12. Allen Bachelder Member

    We used these as daily drivers “back in the day”??????? I have a ’73 MGB/GT with 252,000 miles on it that has been my three-season daily driver for most of the past 37 years. It would be year-‘round except I refuse to expose it to snow and salt up here in Michigan. I did add air conditioning and a few other convenience features: intermittant windshield wipers, a warning chime that tells me I’ve left the headlights on as I exit the car, a couple extra courtesy lights overhead, etc. Like with any car, some repairs are necessary, but the beauty of it is that there is absolutely no repair that is not worth doing. And I do no shortcuts. All the repairs are proper or better. These cars are extremely well-supported by the parts industry – and at reasonable costs. Maintained at this level, they are reliable. They are comfortable. They are safe. They are fun. And they are still stylish.

    No they won’t apply the brakes automatically if you’re on the verge of hitting something. They won’t warn you should drift out of you lane. They appropriately leave the driving tasks and responsibilities up to the driver. I am 83 years old and I can still get in quite easily. And once in one of these cars, why would I ever want to get out! There are older MGs that are arguably even more fun, but the B is the one that’s still compatible with modern driving conditions.

    The one thing I would add to this car would be overdrive – or perhaps one of the several modern five-speed transmissions available for a straight bolt-in conversion. In 4th-gear overdrive, my old B/GT will comfortably cruise the interstates at 80 mph all day or until I get caught.

    The only danger in buying this as a serviceable used car – is a danger to the industry: once you buy this car (and BTW make the hundreds of MG friends out there everywhere) you will probably never buy another car. Shown (in the same summer!) in Mendocino CA, and Waynesboro VA.
    /Users/allenb./Desktop/1973 MGB:GT – Mendocino copy 4.jpg
    /Users/allenb./Desktop/374_99286425219_4987_n 2.jpg

    Like 7
    • Cobra Steve

      Spot on about making new friends! Local club events are a ton of fun, too. And for what it is worth, I presently have a ’48 TC and have owned numerous B’s over the years. I have said it before on this forum and I will say it again, “It is more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.”

      New cars today are simply appliances IMHO…about as exciting as watching my Guiness chill in the refrigerator. And to the new owner, get ready for the barrage of Lucas electric jokes. Best one yet I heard was “Why is there no death penalty in England?” Answer: “Lucas made the electric chairs.”

      Like 3
      • bachldrs Member

        Oh yes – Lucas electric jokes. I left myself wide open there with my addition of intermittent windscreen wipers. I’m sure somebody will hasten to add that they thought MGBs came from the factory with intermittent wipers.

        While I’m at it – here’s the same car in Waynesboro Virginia.

        Like 2
      • Jimmy

        Guiness (sp) ?
        Not an Old Speckled Hen?

        Why do the British drink warm beer?
        They have Lucas Refrigerators…

        Joseph Lucas…Prince of Darkness

        Like 1
      • Rallye Member

        I like Off-Flicker-Dim Lucas light switches.
        I don’t like fuse boxes with 2 fuses.

        Like 0
    • angliagt angliagt

      Not sure how you access those pictures.
      I’ve been to Mendocino a few times when I lived in Eureka,
      & I’ve been to the Waynesboro show twice,now that I live
      in Roanoke.

      Like 0
      • bachldrs Member

        @angliagt – you live in Roanoke? I lived in Blacksburg for 29 years. I’m still regarded as a member of BAC – and I get “The Broken Spoke regularly. Small world!

        Like 0
    • luckless pedestrian

      Bravo Allen….
      This summer I’ll have owned my ’73 B 40 years… and being in my mid ’60s I hope I’ll still be driving mine another 20 years to match your longevity…

      Like 0
  13. Allen Member

    ‘ Sorry – ‘ guess you can’t upload photos to these comments…

    Like 0
    • Solosolo UK Solosolo UK Member

      As a Member Allen you can upload photos by checking above the comments box there is a box where you can “Choose File” and attach.

      Like 0
  14. bachldrs Member

    Many thanks to Solosolo! I think I can just post one, and it is on the California coastal highway near Mendocino.I had previously posted as “Allen”, but “bachldrs” is my official Barnfinds name.

    Like 0
  15. OhU8one2

    This “B” is begging for a Rover V8 engine swap. Beefier suspension,bigger brakes,better flowing exhaust,and some crazy SOB to drive the car like I stole it. Believe it or not, I’m only missing a few parts and I could do the swap. I’ll let everyone know when I get started.

    Like 1
  16. Paul Root

    Makes me said to see such a nice B so cheap. My 77 should be worth this much, and it badly needs paint.

    Lots of inaccurate comments here, that I will let pass.

    I tried changing the clutch without pulling the tranny with the engine. I couldn’t get them to mate back up and ended up pulling the tranny afterward. I know that’s my problem. But it took less time to pull the tranny, mate it up with the engine and put them back in thsm I wasted trying to just do the engine.

    Like 0
    • bachldrs Member

      I hear ya Paul. Yup, the trick is getting engine and transmission to mate again. I only tried it once and finally got lucky and got it together again – in only about twice the time it would have taken me to pull the whole lump in the first place.

      I’ve heard there are guys who can do it pretty easily – but they must be up there way above my pay grade.

      Like 0
  17. George Beck

    What a cool little car, easy to work on and any parts needed are easily available at decent prices. Others can out run it but none can out fun it !

    Like 0
  18. Glemon

    B as a daily driver? If they are sorted they are certainly reliable enough. I drove old British until about 1991. The last car used for daily duty was a very reliable TR4A.

    Ended up getting an RX7 and the 4A got retired to weekends and nice days. Anyhow, reason I switched. Midwest summers and winters l. I wore a suit to work and it got pretty hot in the summer, and the kicker was winters and unstoppable rust from salt.

    If you love in a milder climate pretty doable, though I don’t know if I would want to take one on a bumper to bumper coastal big city commute every day.

    Had an LE too, swore I would never own a rubber bumper B, but ended up liking it better than I thought. Interesting link to the article, I bought it for about $5500 15 years ago, and sold it for the same price a couple years later. Must be the going rate

    Like 0
  19. luckless pedestrian

    In my neck of the woods a ‘B like this at that price would be a steal… that is of course if its really as clean as presented… and it already has all the typical mods that an enthusiast would do to a late model MG… (personally I’m not a fan of that fat steering wheel, but that’s a nit and easily rectified)… If it was not on the complete other side of the US I’d certainly be tempted… GLWS.

    Like 1
  20. bachldrs Member

    I bought my first MG in 1984, thinking it was just another car – a fun one – but just another car. But then I discovered MGs were not just a car, they are a way of life. The people, the clubs, the tours, the mutual aid, the events, the opportunities to learn how to repair and maintain this very simple machine, and take great pride in the work. Pretty soon you can become your own mechanic.

    Wonderful as they are, MGBs do have their adorable quirks, and the original Zenith-Stromberg carbs found on ’75-80 models can pose one of them if not properly maintained. Enter the catalytic convertors and finding a place to locate them. They found the “perfect” location – right under the Z-S carburetor – where a poorly-maintained Z-S could drip fuel right on it. A red-hot Cat with fuel dripping on it is a pretty good recipe for a fire. In an MGB without the Cat, the fire danger would not be of any particular concern.

    So, was it the Z-S or the location that was at fault? That’s a tough call. I’m not a fan of Webers, simplybecause I am a diehard SU enthusiast – a marvel of engineering simplicity! Many rubber-bumper MGB guys have converted these late models back to the twin SUs – a bit of a trick but certainly doable. You could also use a single SU 1.75” carb, or the downdraft Weber. I couldd go on and on but I’ll stop here.

    Like 2
    • Paul Root

      My first MGB was a 1972 with HIFs. I never could tune them right. When I gradutated from college and was moving to San Diego. I took it to a shop for a professional tune. That car never ran so well. I ended up selling it in Denver at my brothers and bought his TR7.
      The ZSs on that were an adventure getting through California emissions tests. But when you get a guy at the gas station that doesn’t want to deal with them, they pull out all the tricks to get it to pass.

      Now I have a 1977 MGB. It had the ZS and catalytic converter. It was a mess when I bought it. The gasket between the cat and the exhaust pipe was blown out. So after driving it more than 15 minutes, it would vapor lock. I bought some HIFs off eBay and rebuilt them best I could. It ran pretty well for 10 years or so. But degraded. So I got a DGV off eBay and a rebuild kit for about what a HIF rebuild kit would cost. Sold the SUs. It runs very well now thank you. Yes, I know a properly rebuilt set of SUs would probably have a bit more performance. But I want to be the mechanic on this car, not farm it out to Curto, or Lawrie, or even locally to Quality Coaches. They are all excellent, but the point of the car is to be a shade tree mechanic.

      Like 0
  21. bachldrs Member


    Say hello to Mark Brandow for me. I grew up in Mpls. I’ve never had any problems with SUs that were in good condition. I’ve always found that if you can’t tune ‘em, there’s something wrong with ‘em. Otherwise, my routine is to tune ‘em about every five years or so. Get ‘em running pretty good and then leave them alone.

    But this conversation keeps drifting away from this particular LE – which has got to be super-nice for $5500. I haven’t seen a presentable LE on the market for much less than $10K in a long time. I have an MG buddy in Seattle and I’m so tempted to ask him to look at it for me. But with four MGs in the stable already, if I buy it I’ll have to sleep in it.

    Like 2

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