History of the MGB
  1. Introduction
  2. Development
  3. Production
  4. The MGB in Australia
  5. The end
  6. Recommended reading
  7. Return to the B Register Home Page


The MGB is the biggest selling MG ever built. Arguably, it is the best.

Having said that, the MGB owes much to, and arguably would not have been possible without, the MGA (not only because of its position in the alphabet).

The MGA was a dramatic change in direction for the MG marque. Many traditionalists were shocked when the MGA was released. With its sweeping bonnet and low driving position the square shape of the T series was clearly a thing of the past. The MGA was the first truly modern MG, both in design and style and soon had an enthusiastic following, particularly in the United States.

By the time the MGA went out of production in July 1962, it was the best selling sports car of its time (a total of 101,081 were produced). However, as great as it was, the MGA had reached its "sell by date well before 1962 when production ceased. The problem was that the development of its successor kept being delayed.

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The B had a relatively long gestation period. It was originally conceived as a closed car, which was eventually to appear in the form of the GT in 1965. John Thornley, one of the B's creators, was inspired by the Aston Martin DB2/4.

Although originally conceived as a closed car, it soon developed into a roadster.  The Italian stylist, Frua was commissioned to style the new car in 1957.  However, the result was proof that the Italians do not always succeed when it comes to design.  It looked heavy, bulky and rather ugly.

Around this time Syd Enever, MG's chief engineer, decided to do away with the chassis, opting for a monocoque construction. This means that the body of the car itself provides the rigidity needed to stop the car from twisting and bending, resulting in a lighter car (although the B cannot be described as a light car, it is lighter than it would be if it had a chassis).

One of the reasons for the B's appeal is that it incorporated motoring comforts not previously seen in MG sports cars. These "luxuries" included wind up windows and a glove compartment!

A V4 two litre engine was initially proposed. However, high development costs saw it replaced by a production engine that had powered the ZA Magnette since 1953 and the MGA 1600 since 1959. Some excitement was added by increasing the capacity of the engine to 1798cc.

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The MGB was modified on hundreds of occasions during its production. Most of the modifications were minor and some were limited to specific markets (particularly the United States).

There were 3 "types" of B's:

  • the open roadster (the "real" B)
  • the GT (arguably, the best looking B and one of the best looking British sports cars)
  • the V8 (a rare beast that enjoyed limited success)

There are many ways to break down the production years into meaningful periods of development. For example, the MGB's development can be divided into four major phases:

  • Mark I (1962 to 1968)

The Mark I was never an official designation.

  • Mark II (1967 to 1969)

The Mark II was the only official mark.

The main features which distinquish a Mark II from a Mark I include:

  • a new gearbox with synchromesh on 1st gear
  • an alternator and negative earth instead of a dynamo and positive earth
  • reversing lamps on the rear valance panel.
  • Mark III (1969 to 1974)

Not an official designation. Often referred to as the British Leyland years.

Some of the main features during this period included:

  • a recessed grille later replaced by a black plastic mesh grille (neither of which were attractive)
  • rubber faced overriders
  • British Leyland badges.
  • Rubber bumper (1974 to 1980)

Again, not an official designation.

The bumpers were not, in fact, made of rubber. Rather they were constructed from polyurethane with steel inside.

The MGB was in production from 1962 until 1980 (when it was designed the expected production life was approximately 5 years!). During those 18 years 386,961 roadsters and 125,282 GTs were produced - a total of 512,243 cars.

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The MGB in Australia

For almost a hundred years the Australian government has protected the domestic car industry by applying some form of duty or tariff on imports.  As early on 1907, there was duty on bodywork. Consequently, many cars exported to Australia before the Second World War arrived without bodies - the body work being done locally.

The MGB was delivered to Australia in "Completely Knocked Down" form to be assembled by BMC Australia at a plant in Zetland, New South Wales. MGB production commenced in Australia on 4 April 1963 and ceased on 6 November 1972. One reason why local production ceased is that legislation that came into effect in 1972 required that cars have 85% local content in order to avoid duty, and the MGB had less than 50% local content.

When they arrived in Australia, the cars were not painted and had no trim or hoods. Until 1969 the heater was an optional extra. However, many other items that were optional extras in other markets were included as standard in Australia.

Local content is reported to have been as high as 45% in some years and included locally produced hoods, trim, glass, tyres and seats. The seats were supposed to be an improvement on the English seats but were made of vinyl instead of leather.

Sales of MGB roadsters (GTs were imported in complete form and are not included in these figures as they are not included as local production) in Australia from 1963 to 1972 were as follows:

Year Number*
1963 444
1964 802
1965 915
1966 1084
1967 1228
1968 1026
1969 1089
1970 1053
1971 883
1972 566
Total 9,090

*These figures come from more than one source and may not be exact.  They also exclude private imports.

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The end

As one of the greatest cars ever produced, the MGB could arguably have remained in production indefinitely. The fact that it didn't can be blamed on a large number of factors. The most significant reasons for the demise of the MGB include:

  • poor management at, and a lack of support from, British Leyland
  • increasingly stringent safety and emissions laws in the United States.

Sadly, the last two MGBs were completed on 22 October 1980.

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Recommended reading

The best book for a clear and concise history of the MGB and an extensive list of modifications during production is "Original MGB" by Anders Ditlev Clausager (published by Bay View Books, 1994).

Highly recommended is "MGB The Illustrated History" by Jonathan Wood and Lionel Burrell (published by Haynes, published in 1988 and 1993).

Other recommended books are:

MGB Restoration Manual by Lindsay Porter (published by Haynes, 1992)

MG by McComb (published by Osprey, 1978)

The MGA, MGB and MGC, a Collector's Guide, by Graham Robson (published by Motor Racing Publications, 1978)

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