Classic cars

Simply Irresistible: The Magnetic Little MGB

by John L. Stein
14 June 2024 2 min read
Simply Irresistible: The Magnetic Little MGB
Photos by John L. Stein

Never underestimate the power of just driving around. 

On a brisk fall weekend in 1978, cruising my Southern California neighbourhood revealed a 1970 MGB parked kerbside, leaves under the tyres and grit covering the teal blue paint, top, and windows. The car looked too good for such neglect. Enquiring at the nearest house, I learnt that the clutch had “gone out,” an expensive repair. 

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Intrigued, I sought permission to examine the car. The odometer read under 50,000 miles, and the tyres appeared original. Facing the unwanted clutch expense, the nice lady quickly offered it for $800, and I agreed. After returning with funds, I checked the car’s vitals, including the radiator water, the oil, the brake fluid, and the hydraulic clutch fluid. Shockingly, that small reservoir was dry. No wonder the pedal went to the floor.

MGB on street

Refilling the reservoir restored clutch operation immediately. A jumpstart then got the MG running, and with the convertible top lowered, I was away, cavorting about the neighbourhood and, with some guilt, passing by the previous owner’s house.

The virginal MGB was the nicest car I’d yet owned. With 95 horsepower, it wasn’t fast, but it was extremely cute and everything worked, including the clutch, which elevated the roadster to “daily driver” level. This didn’t last. One day on the freeway, a Ford pickup made a desperate multilane sweep toward an offramp, spearing the little MG hard in the driver’s door. The truck’s bumper shoved the metal in just inches from my shoulder, while outside the window, the Ford’s headlight bezel stopped two feet from my head.

MGB in carport

On scene, the truck owner accepted responsibility and we exchanged information. But when I presented the repair bill a week later, he recanted, instead claiming I was at fault. And so began my flirtation with litigation. I sued in small claims court, he didn’t appear, and the judge awarded me full damages and court costs. Soon, law enforcement ordered a tow truck to the man’s house to seize the pickup, and the officer later told me with delight how quickly he’d scurried out waving a chequebook.

The wounded MG got a new door, some bodywork, and a paintjob, and the settlement even afforded new tyres. It drove faithfully thereafter and gave no reason for disillusionment, save the lack of air conditioning. Hence, when a 1977 Volkswagen Scirocco Champagne Edition with A/C appeared for sale locally, the MGB was also served with papers. 

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