“The gearbox is straightforward. I mean, 1st gear is literally straightforward.”
“I was about to say… there’s nothing straightforward about a gearbox where the final gear is actually a switch on the dashboard!”
The MGB is widely recognised as a gateway drug into classic car ownership. They are readily available and affordable, especially in coupe GT form, which is highly unusual for such an iconic car. Your petrolhead credentials speak for themselves when arriving in a classic MG, even though you likely paid considerably less than many of the other classic car drivers admiring your machine.
The MGB Roadster was introduced before the GT, in 1962. This particular car is a 1962 model and was one of the first imported to South Africa. Over 380,000 MGB Roadsters were sold worldwide over an 18-year production period. Bumper regulations in the US were responsible for the rubber bumpers introduced in 1974.
The debate of chrome vs. rubber is settled objectively by flicking through the classifieds. Chrome bumper cars are more sought after, simply because they are prettier. The rubber bumper cars are still great classics, but there is something undeniably special about chrome.
This particular car is simply impossible not to love. The combination of sky-blue paint and white hardtop is contagiously joyful. The wire knock-off wheels (because of how you remove them, not because they are fake – in case you were worried) add to the overall charm of these cars.
The immediate thought when climbing into the car is that it is significantly more spacious and comfortable than many other classics from the 60s. Where arm and leg touches in other cars are as accidental as they are enjoyable (perhaps depending on who your passenger is), the MGB offers a comfortable cabin (and therefore no easy scapegoat for your failed romantic advances).
Once in the driver’s seat, a couple more things become apparent. Firstly, the wood-rimmed Moto-Lita steering wheel is beyond gorgeous. Secondly, there are obviously a lot of Tyrannosaurus Rex-shaped British car enthusiasts out there with long legs and short arms. While I am right at home in the Alfa that rewards long arms and short legs, the MGB is less forgiving for short people (but not unpleasant).
The dials exude class and the dashboard itself has aged beautifully. The seats are comfortable and the ride is more than manageable for long trips. Of all the classics in your garage, this is likely to be the lady of the house’s favourite choice for a Sunday drive.
The 1800 engine provides a decent helping of torquey goodness. Four forward gears (excluding overdrive) means you are changing gears less often, adding to the overall relaxed atmosphere. This car is for cruising, although plenty of MGs have ended up as historic racing machines, so there are certainly ways and means to go faster.
This was my first experience driving a car with overdrive. The concept seems ridiculous by modern standards, but that is exactly why I loved it. Classics should be an experience to drive and should offer an escape from the mundane daily commute. Flicking the switch into overdrive and watching the revs drop is almost as satisfying as blipping the throttle and flicking the switch back into normal mode. Modern cars have sport buttons and MGBs have overdrive.
So, is the MGB the bargain of the century? The charm of far more exotic cars is certainly there, even if the performance isn’t.
If you are looking for the perfect car to tear up mountain passes while upsetting your passenger and making everyone smell like gearbox oil, you probably need something Italian. But, if you simply want to experience the sheer joy of classic ownership without putting your marriage at risk, with abundant parts and expertise available, an MGB is quite possibly the answer.
And, just in case you want both, google “MGB performance upgrades” and get ready to throw your credit card at your problems…