The MGB forms the backbone of our club for
many easily seen reasons. Production numbers are large, cars and spares are
available at reasonable cost, they are easy to work on and modern enough for
every day use.
Now just what have you bought? Most now know
that the body is the expensive part to fix, rust being the hidden problem.
Sports cars this old are not ‘standard’ any longer. All have been modified
by their owners for better performance or simply by the process of running
Some of the changes made to them are often
quite superficial like small steering wheels while others are well hidden. Just
what is the compression ratio? A quick inspection gives away wheel rim width but
tells you nothing about the cam grind, so it’s a little hard to tell just what
you have at hand.
I should point out that there are any number
of good books that will give you all the information that you will need to buy
or fix your car, but the following may just help a little.
To get past the roadworthy, the car has to
have shock absorbers that are in at least fair condition. The ‘B’ has leaver
arms that can be long lived or can die in just a matter of months. At the front
end the shock absorber forms the top arm of the suspension and is not generally
replaced with a telescopic unit. At the rear end telescopics are often fitted as
they are almost a fit and forget item. I am not sure that they are any better
than good leaver arms, but leaver arms don’t seem to stay good for long.
As produced and after all this time the car
body rolls too much leaving the road wheels at odd angles. This can be minimised
by the fitting of a stiffer front anti-roll bar. Use the type that does away
with the old connecting rods as they are a problem.
Along with a stiffer anti-roll bar, the
biggest single improvement that can be made is the fitting of 60 profile tyres.
This does compromise ride height a little but not enough to be a problem. It
does however make cars without overdrive a bit busy in top gear. I am not saying
that this is hurting anything other than the pleasure of open road motoring via
The old saying goes that the brakes stop the
wheels and the tyre stops the car. Think about it, it’s true. While many cars
are fitted with wide wheels, the performance gain is small compared with the
gain made by 60 profile tyres on the ‘standard’ 4 1/2" wide wire wheel
rim, and at considerably less cost.
Front springs seem to stand the test of time
but the cart springs at the other end are another matter. These can be rebuilt
generally with a new 3/4 main leaf added. This eliminates back end sag and axel
trap that is common with old springs. A little care is needed to get the correct
It goes almost without saying that all the
flexible brushes at both ends should be considered when any work is being done
on suspension. They may have been there from new. The home mechanic can grease
all the points, mainly front end, to keep problems to a minimum if not eliminate
them all together.
Any strange noises or vibrations will let you
know when the gearbox or differential is looking for a little help. To get at
the gearbox or clutch, it’s an engine out job. But first check that the tail
shaft bolts are tight and the universals are in good order. Any play in this
area will show up as vibrations through the car.
Brakes, wheels and splines for wire wheel cars
are straightforward and covered in general reading. One small tip would be to
have the back brake shoes set up to suit the drums. This is important if in the
end you want the handbrake to be just right and gain maximum braking
Again the engine is well covered in many
places and should be considered in detail when work is necessary. Carburation
condition is important, while the Lucas distributor is hard to get bits for and
is more often than not replaced by a Bosh unit set up to suit the engine. While
it is not real cheap, it’s often a large step forward.
If you have to take the head off for any
reason, good gains can be made at a cost. Remember that an old engine can suffer
from a ‘hot’ head. If the head is off then hardened valve seats should be
considered, then unleaded fuel can be used without valve problems. The new high
octane unleaded fuels allow the use of increased compression ratios for engines
in sound condition. You need to obtain expert advice if you are to use
compression ratios much above 9.5 to 1.
A car modified as outlined will drive like a
"true" sports car, handling well without being too harsh. It will not
like the rough stuff much but then they were never designed for that in the
first place. A car set up this way will be very rewarding to drive. If you
require help there are a number of members in the B Register who are at Club
meetings or only a phone call away.
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