By the end of the 1950's, the MGA was starting to feel its age and a replacement car was needed. The replacement was expected to focus on performance and comfort. The MGB introduced improvements over the prior MG model that including roll-up windows and glove compartments, to name a few.
In 1957, Frua, an Italian stylist, was commissioned to style a new car. What was original conceived as a closed car, evolved into a roadster. The MGB was in production from 1962 through 1980. Originally thought to be in production for only 5 years, turned into 18 years. During that time nearly 389,000 roadsters and more than 125,250 GT's were produced.
A 1798 cc powerplant was chosen to power the vehicle. With the 95 horsepower engine, the MGB easily exceeded 100 mph.
There were three main body styles for the 'B' throughout its lifetime. The vehicle could be fitted as an open roadster, a GT, and the V8 version. Along with the body-style variations, there were official, and unofficial, designations that characterize the vehicle's evolution.
The Mark I, never an officially designated, was from 1962 through 1968. During this time, the MGB GT was introduced. The GT added a closed version of the standard body. The roof added extra weight but improved its performance due to aerodynamic features the roadster version was unable to capitalize upon.
In 1963, overdrive became available as optional equipment.
The Mark II followed in 1967 and continued through 1969. It was offered in GT and open forms. The main features distinguishing the MKII's was a modified, synchromesh gearbox with revised ratios, and reverse-lamps on the valance panel. An automatic gearbox became available as optional equipment for the MGB and continued until 1973.
In 1967, MG introduced the MGC. This was intended as a replacement for the Austin-Healey 3000.
The Mark III was another unofficial designation, built from 1969 through 1974. The MKIII's featured rubber-faced over-riders, British Leyland badges, vinyl seats, Rostyle wheels, and recessed grille. The recessed grille was later replaced by a black plastic mesh grille.
In 1972, the GT version came standard with cloth seats.
To conform to US emission and safety regulations, the American version of the 'B' car featured a split rear bumper.
From 1975 through 1980, the MGB's featured rubber bumpers. The bumpers appeared to be plastic; however, they were constructed from steel and covered by polyurethane. The bumper was needed to comply with American 5 mph crash tests. The vehicle's height also increased by 1.5 inches to conform to standard bumper height requirements. This caused over-steer and body-roll. Modifications to the suspension in an attempt to rectify the problem helped, but did not cure the problem.
The MGB GT V8 was introduced in 1973. The Rover, 3532 cc., all-aluminum V8 engine was capable of producing 137 horsepower. The engine was light, increasing the overall weight of the vehicle only slightly. It fit snug in the engine compartment. Minor modifications to the bulkhead and the introduction of a low-rise exhaust manifold were needed. With the V8 powerplant, the MGB was a true sports/touring vehicle. Unfortunately, it was short-lived. In 1976, the production of the V8 MGB ceased. It is believed that the fuel crisis of the 1970's compounded with a limited supply of Rover engines was the cause of the short life span.
The MGB delivered exceptional performance, handling, and fuel economy for its day. With over half-of-a-million examples produced, it is one of the most popular and successful sports cars of all time.By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2009