The MGB really is the quintessential British classic. In four-cylinder roadster form, it represents the sort of carefree headscarves-and-picnic-baskets countryside ideal so beloved of picture postcards and rom-coms – but the GT? This is an entirely different kettle of the proverbial fish. Whereas the roadster is an elegant and sylph-like cruiser, the slinky GT is a more stylish proposition and, in V8-powered form, a bit of an animal too. Not scary of course, simply an amusingly muscular reframing of the concept.
At launch, the MGB heralded a seismic change in MG’s engineering approach, eschewing the body-on-frame construction of its forebears for a new unitary structure. Proven elements such as the suspension, brakes and drivetrain were adopted and evolved from the MGA which it replaced, meaning that the MGB was able to offer an alluring fusion of new-for-1962 modernity along with dependability and affordability. A pure two-seater, it made better use of space than the MGA by offering more passenger space and more room for luggage while also actually being slightly smaller, and the combination of the peppy B-Series 1.8-litre motor and low kerb-weight meant that performance was pleasingly brisk. It was never intended to be an out-and-out sports car of course, and the MGB roadster certainly isn’t a road-racer; no, with its pleasantly soft suspension and its willing character, it’s as much a companion as a car. But the GT V8 turns all of this on its head…
The roadster had been reimagined as a GT by Pininfarina back in 1965, bringing in a swooping fixed roof with a hatchback tailgate. The new configuration was a 2+2 and, in 1973, the GT V8 was offered which swapped out the 1.8-litre four-cylinder for a robust 3.5-litre V8. This engine, essentially based on a Buick design, was actually quite a lot lighter than the four-pot thanks to its aluminium construction, and with an unstressed 140bhp to play with, it was enough to propel the GT V8 from 0-60mph in a brisk 7.7 seconds.
The GT V8, then, is arguably the ultimate version of what an MGB should be: the classic looks, with the muscular undercurrent. And this example, with its chrome bumpers (rather than the later and more controversial rubber ones) and impeccable finish, is ready and waiting to be taken on some hedonistic B-road adventures.
It’s fair to say that the current owner knows his onions when it comes to MGBs. This car exists within a stable of interesting motors, and part of the reason for buying it was the pure nostalgia of having owned MGBs decades ago when they were available for peanuts and out for silly thrills. This particular GT V8 was acquired in 2012, and a key element of the appeal (and something which helped it command a premium price) was the fact that it had received a thorough and high-quality restoration in the early 2000s. This is all photographically documented in the paperwork, and it’s clear that the body work was in-depth and ruthless in the eradication of corrosion. Since then, the owner has enjoyed years of carefree MG whimsy, keeping it correctly maintained and garaged. The car did sit idle for a couple of years (real life has a habit of getting in the way sometimes), but then it was subject to a thorough recommissioning in 2018, during which no stone was left unturned.
The time has come for him and the MGB to part ways, simply because – as we hear so often – you can’t keep them all. And the reason for using Car & Classic Auctions for the sale is something that will resonate with many of you: in times of uncertainty when it’s potentially quite iffy to have a string of strangers round asking for test-drives and so forth, it’s safer and cleaner to sell this way. This is a superb car with no secrets to hide, being sold in the most logical way for the current times.
The documentation which accompanies this car is all thoroughly reassuring. For starters, there’s comprehensive photographic evidence of the restoration work in the early 2000s, so you can see precisely what was cut out, what was replaced, the full extent of the undertaking. In addition, there’s a chunky sheaf of old MOTs (along with fail sheets and rectifications where applicable) which precisely document and verify the MGB’s impressively low mileage. We also find a huge amount of old receipts and invoices dating back through the decades to keenly demonstrate just how fastidiously this fine machine has been doted upon and cared for. An excellent example of this is the invoice from 2018, the date when the owner exhumed it from its two-year layup and sorted everything that needed sorting – the parts details run for pages, and the labour description goes into considerable detail to explain how everything was carried out correctly. This work was done by the owner’s trusted specialist to whom he always entrusts such tasks, and we all know how important it is to find a quality mechanic we can depend on. In short, the paperwork here tells just the story you’d want it to.
If you’re an MGB aficionado, you’ll know what to expect here. If you’re new to MGs, allow this interior to illustrate the way such things should be. Everything here is factory-correct, everything is working as it should, and it’s all in excellent condition. The only possible negative mark on the ledger is the quality of the carpets, which are by no means worn out but simply something the owner suggests might go on the to-do list for a future keeper.
The seats are firm and supportive and recline as they should, all of the switchgear is present and correct as well as being correctly functional, and the tasteful drilled three-spoke steering wheel is artfully complemented by a wooden gear knob. Nothing’s been chopped about to force in modern stereos or alarms or anything of that nature, it’s all just as MG intended – and impeccably presented. Lifting up the boot carpet, it’s reassuring to note that everything’s solid and dry under there too.
The lines of the GT are fabulously accentuated by the oh-so-seventies paint shade – the car’s original colour, lovingly re-applied when the restoration occurred. As evidenced by the photographs of the resto, rather a lot of metal was excised and replaced in order to completely eradicate any trace of the dreaded tin-worm (rear quarters, sills, front wings, all the trouble spots were addressed), and today the car is impressively rot-free; from our inspection, we were unable to find any corrosion, which is a massive plus when looking at an MG of this age. Aside from a few very minor paint chips in the door shuts, it’s all extremely presentable. The owner was keen to highlight during our shoot that in his opinion the paint is not concours-perfect, with a little orange peel on the rear quarters, but we suspect that this is principally because he’s a perfectionist – the MGB really is wonderful to behold, and any perceived imperfections simply mean that this is exactly what an MGB should be: a driver’s car. Something to be enjoyed as much as possible and in all weathers, instead of cocooned in a heated garage and chasing show trophies. The panel gaps are all tight, all the fitment is spot on, the window seals are perfect – this is a very tidy B indeed. All of the right trim is in place, the chrome is impeccable… it photographs very well, because it’s a beautiful example of the breed.
Well, who doesn’t love a Rover V8? These iconic motors have built up quite a following over the years, and it was a masterstroke by MG’s product planners to shoehorn it into the slender B – in one stroke removing all sorts of weight from the nose, exponentially ramping up the power, gloriously improving the soundtrack, and imbuing just a frisson of that muscle car rumble that rocks the car ever-so-slightly from side to side. And in this case, the motor is in fine fettle and everything’s as it should be here. The owner points out that it could perhaps benefit from a tune-up and the carbs being cleaned, but the motor starts on the first turn of the key and runs sweetly. There’s nothing to worry about with the transmission either, with the manual box operating pleasingly and the overdrive working correctly on 3rd and 4th. The chassis has been treated very generously in recent years, with a front suspension rebuild, new bushes, new front callipers, and everything serviced and/or refreshed as required to keep the car tip-top. The wheels are the original type and could perhaps do with a refurb (not a difficult task for a specialist), but they do wear quality Dunlop rubber with good tread.
The elemental appeal of the MGB has always been its accessible and affordable thrills. Yes, it’s possible to name your price and pay eye-watering sums for concours examples of these cars, but who wants a car that’s going to be confined to the garage and never used? The whole point of a B is its tactility, its carefree and old-timey thrills, the sheer joy of firing up that willing motor and pointing the long nose down a country lane and toward the horizon.
This example, then, is just what you’d want a GT V8 to be: eminently usable, and ready to take on some adventures. The spec is factory-correct, and the condition is wonderful throughout – this isn’t a car you’re going to have to throw a huge amount of time and money at to get it up to scratch. But at the same time, it’s not so perfect that you’d be reticent to use it – the keen enthusiast will already be drawing up a mental checklist of jobs they could carry out (giving the carbs a clean, refurbishing the wheels, replacing the carpets and so on); not things that strictly need doing, but things that add extra texture and pleasure to the classic car ownership experience. In short, this is the right GT to buy right now: a trusted companion, and one that can grow in line with your aspirations as well as being fun and usable from day one.
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