Click here to add your MG News.
I want to mourn the passing of the cheap MGB. You remember those cars. They were the under $500 beaters you used to see in the classified ads all the time. Mostly they had rusty sills, smoky engines, bad clutches, torn tops and good stereos. They all belonged to some high school or college kid who couldn't afford to fix them or pay the sky high insurance rates. The previous series of owners held on to the cars and patched them together the best they could until the next tuition or insurance bill came due.
That's when these forlorn MGs went up for sale. Most of the time, these cars went on to some other clueless owner and the cycle would start all over again. Back in the '60s, '70s and early '80s, it wasn't as easy to get parts as it is today and if you had to deal with some British Leyland dealer, you could be in real trouble. At one time, the Zenith-Stromberg carb diaphragm had to be purchased as part of a whole "Blue Emissions Pack" and could cost upwards of $45.00. Victoria British and the Roadster Factory didn't exist and Moss was still mostly concerned with the earlier MGs.
Still, those sad MGBs and Midgets opened the world of MG spirit to many of us. We wanted that sports car and the thought of driving the Chevy all the time was too much to bear. Those cheap cars were our passport to excitement and the knowledge that we were different. We would learn to fix our own cars and how to cope with emergencies. We learned to sync a carb, fix a fuel pump on the side of the road and sometimes, we learned the patience needed to wait for the tow truck or for the backordered part to come in. We also learned to laugh along with all the jokes and that in the end only made us feel better about our cars and ourselves.
The beater MG was, and still is, a great teacher. After I bought my first Midget, I soon found out that I couldn't afford to have a garage work on it and that they didn't know any better than I did how to fix that little "furrin" car anyway. I soon found out that with the workshop manual and a few tools, I could do the work myself. It felt great to come home from a bad day at work and fix the MG. For myself and many others, a tune-up led to a brake job to a suspension rebuild to an engine rebuild to a total restoration. Soon that beater MG wasn't a beater any more and the laughs would become admiring comments.
When I joined the Chicagoland MG Club more than fifteen years ago, there were many young kids with rough MGs in the club. The meetings were full of stories about breakdowns and emergency repairs. Some one was always working on their MG. We traveled in caravans for safety because someone was going to break something during the trip. We had great fun! No one was ever abandoned on the side of the road and AAA was the ultimate last resort. We had a kind of camaraderie that has been slipping away the last few years. Too many of us now work in secret in our garages and won't even bring the car out if it isn't perfect. This kind of attitude is missing the MG SPIRIT!
These cheap MGs brought a lot of new blood into the club and a lot of enthusiasm as well. I miss those sad worn out MGs and the love of the marque they engendered. Many of these cars are now pristine restored examples that only see the occasional rally or car show and only then if the sun is sure to shine. Far too many others have been cut up for parts and scrap. It's long past time to stop thinking of the worn out MGB as a parts car. You can get anything you need to fix these cars, so put them in the paper for couple of bucks and pass them on to a new generation of wide-eyed MG owners. The club needs them.
North American MGB Register