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I don't know why, but it's as though I have developed a reputation. If it was 20+ years ago I'd be concerned, but now it makes me feel a little younger. I've acquired many cars in a short period of time and at this point no longer need to look for MG sellers because they find me. Not a week goes by without at least one and usually several, "Are you interested in buying?" phone calls, faxes or e-mails. I have learned a lot about buying MGs in the past year and would like to take the time to tell you my very opinionated views on the subject. There are alot of dos and don'ts and schools of thought in the buying and selling of these cars. The don'ts of buying are the most important. Once we learn not to make the mistakes then we can start having fun by buying, and for that matter, selling MGs the right way.
Now is the best time to B buy. The lastest model available to us is 1980 which is now 16 years old. The value of the MG is increasing slowly mostly due to a large number of MGBs being restored and a large number being parted out, making their numbers fewer. In my opinion the present values for a good condition "driver" are as follows: 62' to 67' Bs $7,000 to $11,000 with the pull handle early model having a definite higher end of scale price tag. 68' to 74' Bs $6,000 to $10,000 with 1970 being a very desirable year, having the split rear bumper. 74 1/2' to 76' $4,500 to $8,000 with 74 1/2 having the stock SU carbs on the upper end. Finally the 77' to 80' Bs $4,000 to $7,500 with the Limited Edition having a slightly higher value. These are rough estimates for good running rust free cars that have been well maintained. The overdrive option adds $1,000 to the value in all areas. Excellent condition and new restorations in some cases can demand as much $20,000. Given a choice of a brand new Mazda Miata or a like new MGB, which would you choose?
Using the above as a guide line, we're ready to go shopping. Here is the first don't rule, never go looking to buy a car in desperation. I bought my first two Bs feeling this way, having just lost my only roadster in an accident and they were the worst buys I made. There are alot of cars still around and available and alot of sources for finding them. First thing you are going to need to do is get plugged in to a good local club whose membership communicates with one another. I happen to have been blessed to live in the MGCC- Long Island Centre area. This has been my primary source in locating cars, followed by the computer Internet and very good sight for spotting cars at great distances up long driveways or sidestreets.
A word to the wise, I do not recommend purchasing a car from restoration shops who's sole business is restoration for resale. Although there are reputable shops that have refused to compromise quality in the name of greed, for each one of them their are five low lifes stuffing rocker panels and doglegs with newpaper, steel wool or anything else available that will back up bondo. If you feel a dealer is the way to go, then ask around and check the local consumer affairs department for complaints before stepping into the lion's den better known as the showroom. Here is where you are going to pay top dollar for classic cars.
The best way to buy an MG is from a fellow enthusiast who has taken care of it and has now grown out of it. Grown out of it? We all have different priorities, for some it's the family, others their job but the people who have their heads on straight know the most important thing is the MG. The most common reasons people chose to sell their car are pregnancies, loss or change of job , loss of adequate shelter or storage, divorce or death in the family. These all are ideal people to buy from. The people have enjoyed the car and feel it owes them nothing. I call this "depreciated by having been appreciated". The seller is more concerned about the car going to the right person than for the right price. With patience you will find one of these cars. I presently have my mandatory two B drivers. I never want to be put in the no drivable roadster position again in my life. I adore both but wish that they were a little different. They are not exactly the way I want them. Enter my third B. I was looking for a project car that needed everything and everything it will get will be to my specifications. I think every real MG enthusiast should take on doing or having done one car to their liking. It's not the most economical way to get a car but it is the only way to get the exact car you wish for. I hope to have my car completed by Vanderbuilt Concours '97'.
Briefly I'd like to mention the biggest trap buyers fall into. It's the "good enough" buy. You go out looking for a less than good condition car to drive and slowly improve. If you don't have enough experience with cars to spot inferior restoration work or assess rust progression, then seek someone out who can. Using the rough values above if you find a MGB with good interior and well maintained low mileage original or properly rebuilt engine and drive train, but it needs floors, rockers and front end rebuilt, figure purchacse price as follows; Lets use a 1975 rubber bumper B as an example. When you get this car into very good condition it will be worth $6,500 to $7,000. The rockers and floors are going to cost you $1,500 to $1800 to replace, Paint is going to cost anywhere from $250 if you can just paint repaired areas to $3,000 if whole car needs repaint and you want it done correctly. The front end is another $200 for just bushings and $800 if you start talking king pins and shocks. Always assume the worst scenario and, in this case, just to make it a decent driver, you will need to drop $5,600 into it, making this a $900 car. I would much rather find a good body with a tried engine and drivetrain in which case it would cost you $2,500 to have the engine completely rebuilt and reinstalled with new clutch. This would mean a $4,000 price tag would not be out of line. This is how I go about deciding what any car is worth my paying for it.
There are a few options that make a car more attractive and worth a few dollars more. I mentioned the overdrive tranmission already. A few others are: Leather interiors, Mini-lite wheels, Mohair canvas tops(or stay-fast as they are sometimes referred to)and of course a decent custom sound system is nice also. I have a performance sound system in my 66 B. It's an Ansa free flow exhaust system, but presently there is no working radio. If your planning on using this car in foal weather or winter months you will be looking for a removable hardtop. I hope this proves useful to those who are considering a purchase in the future. These cars, in the right condition, will give you many miles of pleasure that no price can be put on. When I'm driving my Bs everything in the world is right no matter how bad things may had appeared just prior to turning that ignition key. I call them my pressure relief valves or sanity machines.
Happy motoring and "Safety Fast"
This article is due to appear in the AMGBA's Nov/Dec issue of the Octagon
David Deutsch also maintains the list of events in the N.E USA
Images of David's cars