Buying an MGB


So, you want to buy an MGB. There are a number of decisions that you need to make before you start hunting. Fortunately, there are plenty of Bs out there to choose from (unless you want a V8 or a roadster with automatic transmission).

If you have not already chosen the body type (roadster or GT) and model year, we suggest you read History of the MGB. You should also get a copy of Original MGB by Ditlev Clausager (published by Bayview Books), if you want a detailed list of the changes each year.

When you know what you are looking for, the following are good places begin your search:

  • your local MG Car Club (our members post their cars for sale on a notice board in the Club Rooms, in the Club Magazine - Wheel Spin and on this internet site)
  • the Saturday edition of The Age
  • Unique Cars magazine

As with most things, you generally get what you pay for. Although not always the case, if you pay much less than $12,000 for an MGB, chances are it needs some work.

As a rough guide, you can expect to pay around $12,000 to $13,000 for an average B. $18,000 should get you an excellent example. If you are willing to restore, you can get a "complete" car for your project for as little as $5,000 (but be prepared to spend several thousands of dollars to bring it up to "average" standard.

Unless you are a competent mechanic, it is advisable to get the car checked out before you purchase. The cost of a pre-purchase inspection is generally $100 or less.

If you find an MGB that you like, you should know what to look for (even if you are going to get the car inspected by a professional before you buy - there is no point paying for an inspection when you could have found major faults yourself).

In many ways, buying an MGB is no different to buying any other car - you don't want smoke blowing out the exhaust, and too many crunching noises are obviously not a good thing. However, there are a number of problems to which MGBs are particularly prone. We hope that the following list proves helpful.

  1. Rust

Unless recently restored, most MGs will have some rust. The MGB was over-engineered. Consequently, it takes a lot of rust to render a B unsafe. However, there are a number of places you should check for evidence of rust because remedial work can prove costly.

Check:

  • the sills (these run from the rear of the front wheel arches to the rear wheel arches)
  • the floor pans (in most cases you can pull the carpet up)
  • the bottom of the wings, doors and wheel arches
  • the floor of the boot (rust here may be a sign of a leaking boot lid)
  • the seals between the wings and the below the windscreen
  1. "Squareness"

Sometimes, because of severe rust, poorly repaired crash damage or poor workmanship during restoration, the body is not "square". Because the B has no chassis, this can be a serious problem.

Check:

  • the gaps around the doors, bonnet, boot lid and grille and make sure they are even (however, build quality was not as high as today so do not expect perfection)
  • that the car sits square to the ground.
  1. Poor repairs

As with anything else, a damaged B can be repaired properly or cheaply.  Sometimes filler is used to save money on repairs. Although it takes significant damage and filler to compromise the integrity of an MGB, it is not indicative of a car that has been well cared for.

To check for the use of filler:

  • use a small magnet (taking care not to damage the paintwork) - the magnet will not stick to filler
  • look along the body for ripples.

To check for poor repair work:

  • inspect the areas around the bumpers for parts that are bent or do not fit together properly
  • check for paintwork that does not quite match.
  1. Clonks and other noises

Most B's are noisy. The original rear axle was so noisy it needed to be replaced when the GT was introduced - the noise proved to be too great in a closed car.

Most noises originate from lose trim inside the car - often a lose glove box lid.

Some noises may indicate serious problems.

If the noise from the rear end becomes unbearable it probably means worn bearings and/or a worn differential (costly).

Clonking from the front end under gentle braking may mean worn splines. Creaking instead of clonking may mean the wire wheels need to be replaced. In either case, this could be costly.

Clonking from the engine compartment may mean:

  • incorrect valve clearances (not costly unless there is other damage)
  • worn bearings (costly)
  • worn timing chain

Clonking from underneath the car may be nothing more than a missing bracket for the exhaust (not costly).

Clonking from the rear may indicate a worn differential (costly).

Clonking when you push and pull the steering wheel probably means a worn column bush (not costly).

Clonking when you close the door. Don't worry, that's what they're supposed to sound like.

  1. Engine

The oil pressure at idle should be between 10 and 25 psi. At 3000 rpm it should be between 50 and 80 psi.

Equally important is that the pressure is constant. Fluctuating pressure may mean nothing more than a broken gauge. It may mean something more serious.

Check compression.

For more information, you may wish to read an article by Graeme Adams, Your "new" MGB.


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