As the MGA’s full-width body and 100-mph top speed drove the company into the 1950s, the MGB took it into the 1960s. The B had unibody construction, wind-up windows, outside door handles and a larger boot, and was far more user-friendly than its predecessor. The MGB remains the most popular British sports car of its generation.
The MGB was launched at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1962 at £690, to great acclaim. The MGA engine was increased from 1,622cc to 1,798cc, still with twin SU carburettors, and power rose from 86 bhp to 95. The car was near weather-proof, and offered 22-28 mpg and over 100 mph. In the next 18 years, the MGB became the predominant British sports car in the US and 300,274 roadsters were sold there, out of the 387,675 total that were built.
The MGB gained an optional overdrive in 1964 and five main bearings for the engine in 1965. While a handsome factory hard top and some less handsome aftermarket tops were available from 1964, in 1965, Pininfarina designed a 2+2 MGB-GT hatchback, aimed at the American market. In all, 125,597 GTs would be built before the model was discontinued in 1974. They were superseded by 2,591 V8 GTs with the 137 bhp, Rover 3500 V8 between 1973-1976.
The MGB Mk II of 1967 offered an all-synchro gearbox and an improved rear axle, but US safety standards degraded the MGB from 1968 onwards. American cars got a padded dash with rocker switches, instead of toggle switches, tall headrests and vinyl seats, and lost the eared knock-off wire wheel caps. At least UK cars kept the old dash and leather seats for two more years. A detail redesign in 1970 replaced the vertically barred grille with a recessed one, but a decent folding top was offered at last, and a wider range of colours offered.
The 1960s MGBs are probably the easiest British sports car to own. Its top speed still suffices, and wire wheels and overdrive make the most desirable combination. The cars are relatively reliable, spacious for even the tallest drivers, reasonably water tight, and spares are easy to find.
Due to their ubiquity in period, you can still buy a complete car in pieces. Long-term owners who have given up the fight against rust, often buy a complete BMC Heritage shell and merely transfer all their parts. Expect any cars in long-term ownership to have been mechanically updated to 1966 or 1967 specifications, and will likely include an alternator and negative ground.
The GT coupe is a useful year-round car for families with small children, and a Webasto sunroof can even give let in some sunshine. Buy the best roadster or GT you can afford. Look out for rust, and insist on a lift inspection before you buy. Also, if you’re planning on repatriating an MGB, be aware of the differences between the US and UK market in the late 1960s just to be sure you know what you’re getting.