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MGB: A Brief History

Without the MGB, there would have been no Costello V8s. The B was the ideal candidate for Ken's magic engineering touch; stylish, practical, affordable - and underpowered. You might find the following timeline and specification information interesting:


Mark I (1962-1967)

The MGB was launched in September 1962 as the successor of the MGA. In place of the MGA's separate chassis was MG's first unitary body shell, which made the car stiffer than other contemporary sports cars, although it made it rather heavy too. Its mechanical makeup was mainly based on MGA parts, the main difference being an 1800 cc, 95 bhp evolution of BMC's long-serving, three main bearing 'B' series engine. This was superseded by a sturdier, five main bearing version in October 1964. By then, Laycock overdrive was also available. September 1965 saw the addition of a GT to the range, with styling nicely reworked by Pininfarina in Italy. Production of the Mark I cars ended in October 1967.


Mark II (Nov. 1967 to Oct. 1969)

From the outside they were visually identical to the Mark I cars, but under the skin featured a new, stronger, all-synchromesh gearbox (similar to that found in the MGC introduced at the same time). For the first time, an automatic gearbox was optional - a Borg Warner 35 that remained available until 1973. In order to cater for these transmission changes, a modified (wider) gearbox tunnel and narrower floors were fitted. In addition, the electrical system was changed to from positive to negative earth, which allowed the use of a higher output alternator instead of a dynamo and a new, more reliable pre-engaged starter motor was also specified. Inside the cars the most visible change was the bigger, flat-topped transmission tunnel and the influence of US safety legislation saw the introduction on flush fitting internal door handles and 'softer' window winder handles in order to avoid occupant injury in the event of a collision.


Mark III Recessed Grille Cars (1970 - 1971)

A number of changes were introduced for the 1970 model year (commencing in Oct 1969 for Roadsters, but September 1969 for GTs) the most important being a black, recessed radiator grille instead of the traditional chrome one which had been MG's trademark for many years. Other changes included sculpted Rostyle wheels, different seats (which now had vinyl facings), a new 'Michelotti' folding frame hood for all cars (previously a folding hood was only an option) new rear lights and a British Leyland badge on the front wings. Most Costellos were based on this and the following Honeycomb grille versions.



The 1972 model year started in August 1971 when the MGB engine was significantly rationalised to commonise as many parts as possible with other vehicles using the same engine - Austin 1800 saloons, Sherpa vans etc. The 1972 model year also saw the introduction of face level fresh air vents and a centre console for the top of the transmission tunnel (mainly to carry the now displaced radio.) For the 1973 model year (from August 1972) MG reverted to a chrome radiator grille which resembled the older '62-'69 grille but had a black plastic honeycomb centre. The cars were equipped with different seats, the GT's facings now being made of cloth. MGs own version of the V8 was launched in August 1973.


Rubber bumper cars (1974-1980)

October 1974 saw the most important changes in the B's styling with the appearance of the controversial rubber bumpers needed to meet American 5mph crash tests. Unfortunately, the suspension also had to be raised by 1.5 inches to satisfy standard bumper height requirements which, along with the deletion of anti-roll bars, had the very undesirable effect of destroying the handling. Interestingly, the factory V8s had effectively the same suspension ride height increase as the rubber bumper four cylinder MGB, yet didn't suffer from that car's massive handling deficiencies.


These were recognised when 1976-1980 cars were again fitted with rear anti-roll bars, together with a revised steering rack, which went some way to restoring the status quo. Revamped dashboards and switchgear and garish striped cloth seats also appeared on these late cars. The last roadster and the last GT (both LE 'special edition'  models) were built at Abingdon on 22 October 1980. The factory closed shortly afterwards. In all, 512,243 MGBs were built (386,961 roadsters and 125,282 GTs) which then made the MGB the most successful sports car of all time.


Photographs copyright Dan Jedlicka.

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