The British buying public is well known for its love of roadsters and convertibles - even if the weather doesn’t always co-operate.
And despite the prospect of soggy seasons and damp commutes to work, MG managed to sell around half a million models in almost 20 years. Granted, that figure also includes the spin-off coupe and ‘hot’ V8-powered variants, but it’s still an impressive number for what was essentially a small two-seat sports car.
Replacing the MGA, the MGB first made an appearance in 1962. It finally bowed out in 1980, which is an impressive run by modern standards. Although initially heavily based on its predecessor, the B benefited from a series of rolling updates that gradually improved refinement, usability and drivability.
Despite the MGB’s simple underpinnings it delivered decent performance. By modern standards its 1.8-litre motor’s 95 horsepower isn’t impressive, but it propelled the B to 60mph in a brisk 11 seconds.
Parallels with Mazda’s contemporary MX-5 roadster are valid, with the best-of-British MGB every inch a rewarding drive. And it was a clever car too, with its makers eschewing the old fashioned body-on-frame format for the new-fangled monocoque bodyshell we are familiar with today.
If only the rest of the car was a cutting edge as the chassis. In true British tradition the electrics and running gear were guaranteed to throw a fit now and again. It’s the same today unless you’re meticulous with your maintenance - but that’s all part of the charm of running a classic like this.
And you can partly blame the car’s less-than-stellar reliability for its underwhelming performance Stateside. The plucky MGB was sent to conquer America, and while tolerant enthusiasts did embrace the B, the relationship was by no means a rose-tinted one. It didn’t help that, in later life, the car was saddled with big, ugly rubber bumpers and a raised ride height - all in the name of safety.
It wasn’t all bad as the MGB roadster also spawned a glamorous-looking coupe, the MGC. Although it was short-lived (1969-1970), the car gained a six-cylinder engine. Performance was less than impressive thanks to the various changes required to accommodate it, though.
Photo credit: Martyn Goddard/REX_Shutterstock
Still, that didn’t stop MG from continuing the B’s evolution. The MGB GT V8 might have been a mouthful to say but its thumping great V8 engine did much to boost the car’s performance. Unlike the C, this was a hit with the press and punters. Alas, it too was a short lived model, with a three-year run from 1973.
For all its pluses the MGB was no Mini, and it failed to capture the attention of the media or celebrities in the same way as the revolutionary small family car. However, for a while it was successfully campaigned in various motorsport events, mainly longer-distance endurance races, and continues to be a popular choice in current historic events. A good effort, then, and the fact it remains in circulation today illustrates its staying power and ability to put a smile on your face.
What are your memories of the MGB? Did you own one? Do you drive one today? Let us know in the Comments section below.