The 1.8-litre M.G.-B

A good all-rounder, capable of over 110 m.p.h., with adequate acceleration and the usual sports-car amenities, plus improved weather protection.

From the days of Cecil Kimber the M.G. has, in all its various guises, been primarily a sports car and always an excellent British export proposition. The famous Midget, weaned as the Minor-like M-type, has been developed out of all recognition and is today such a potent motor car in its own right that the engineering team at Abingdon, under the fatherly eye of John Thornley, decided last year that it was time the well-established M.G.-A grew up, taking on a new-found refinement and becoming endowed with even greater performance.

Consequently the well-known push-rod 4-cylinder engine was enlarged to 1,798 c.c. (80.3 x 88.9 mm.), developing a net maximum output of 94 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. This is accomplished on a c.r. of 8.8 to 1, and carburation is looked after by twin inclined type H4 S.U. carburetters.

This revised power unit is installed in a restyled unitary structure strengthened by box-section members below the doors and forming a body at once more modern, easier to enter and leave, and offering better-contrived weather protection (wind-up side windows and proper quarter-lights) than the A-series M.G. which the new B-type replaces. Although the acquired rigidity results in a comparatively heavy car, an axle ratio of 3.9 to 1 is specified, which, with overdrive, raises the topmost gear ratio to 3.135 to 1.

Every attempt has been made to render this open sports 2-seater a habitable car. The separate seats have pre-adjustable squabs and soft cushions formed of foam polyether plastic on a resilient rubber diaphragm mattress, upholstered in a combination of real and imitation leather. The wide screen affords maximum protection, the doors have the aforesaid glass windows, the body sides come up to shoulder level. Access to the restricted back seat is by folding forward the seat squabs but it is kinder to carry briefcases or suitcases thereon than human freight. The doors have press-down plastic interior handles, set close up and forward, under the sills, and hinged “pulls” for closing them. There are exterior door locks. The centre of the screen is stayed to the scuttle sill and the high-set rear-view mirror does not impede forward vision.

Control arrangements are straightforward, simple and typical of a British sports car that does not change merely in recognition of the passage of time. The remote, very rigid central floor gear-lever protrudes from the pronounced propeller-shaft tunnel and has a rubber draught-excluding gaiter. It is set rather high but is easy to operate and has a sensibly small knob, engraved with the gear positions. A conventional central floor handbrake lever nestles between tunnel and driver’s seat cushion, rather closely, and gone is the once-much-appreciated fly-off action, the usual knob at the lever’s extremity having to be depressed to free it.

The 3-spoke sprung steering wheel has a hub-knob sounding the horn and there is a r.h. stalk for the direction-flashers. Rather small pendant pedals are used. Rubber mats cover the floor.

The facia layout, on a matt black surface, again, is simple and practical. A hooded nacelle before the driver carries a Jaeger 120-m.p.h. speedometer having trip with decimal and total mileometers, matched by a Jaeger tachometer reading to “70,” with yellow warning area from 5,500 to 6,000 r.p.m. and the danger area from 6,000 to 7,000 r.p.m. There are conventional warning lights for dynamo charge (in the tachometer dial), main beams (in the speedometer dial) and direction indicators (arrows inset into the black moulded facia panel). To the right of the nacelle is a quite worthless fuel gauge, the needle of which swings from “empty” to “full” as the car corners regardless of how much petrol is in the 10-gallon tank. To the left of the nacelle there is a combined water-temperature/oil-pressure gauge (normal readings: 50 lb./sq. in. and 170°F.). The flick-switches favoured by B.M.C. and rather large knobs look after the various electrical services, and there are two large heater control knobs with a rotary action, borrowed from bigger B.M.C. models. Fresh air can be admitted from the scuttle-located grille by a control on the facia having three positions.

Before the passenger there is a lockable but too-small cubbyhole, the lid of which has to be locked with the key, otherwise it falls open. As the lid is cranked it does not form a shelf when down. The driver’s door could not always be opened with the sharp-edged exterior pull-out handle and its interior handle functioned stiffly. Panel lighting is brought in by a knob between the main instruments and there is a map-reading lamp with as own switch-knob on the extreme left of the facia on r.h.d. cars. The aforesaid flick-switches look after lamps (foot-dipper), wipers and heater fan, additional flick-switches on the underside of the facia controlling the fog and pass-lamps, if fitted. A knob above the oil gauge is depressed to operate the screen-washers. The release-control for the rear-hinged bonnet panel is below the facia on the driver’s side.

The luggage boot will take small cases or squig-bags but it is largely occupied by the horizontally-accommodated spare wheel. The lid locks but, like the bonnet-panel, has to be manually propped open. The hood is the usual snug affair, clipping to the screen and behind the seats, and supported on a divided, folding-hoop frame.

It will be appreciated from the foregoing that the M.G.-B, while of handsome, much improved appearance, marred only by a rather short bonnet, bath-like cockpit, and recessed headlamps that could collect liberal quantities of snow, remains a sports car in the best British, rather antiquated tradition.

This extends to the specification. The engine has a long stroke, piston speed at peak revs, being as high as 3,150 ft./min. The valves are vertical in an iron head, and push-rod prodded. The drive goes through an 8-in. Borg & Beck clutch with spring diaphragm to a gearbox having synchromesh on the upper three forward ratios. An open one-piece propeller shaft connects this to a hypoid-bevel rigid back axle sprung on 1/2-elliptic leaf springs damped by Armstrong lever-arm shock-absorbers. Front suspension is by coil springs and unequal-length wishbones, likewise Armstrong damped.

Rack-and-pinion steering is used and there is an option of disc wheels shod with 5.60 x 14 Dunlop C41 “Gold Seal” nylon tyres or, at an extra charge, centre-lock wire wheels with 5.90 x 14 Dunlop RS tyres.

Fuel feed is by an S.U. electric pump; the engine sump holds 7 1/2 pints of oil, the gearbox 4 1/2 pints, the back axle 2 1/4 pints. Ignition advance is 10° b.t.d.c., the sparking plugs Champion N5.

Driving characteristics

On the road the M.G.-B is a typical M.G., responsive, very accelerative, hard-sprung but not uncomfortable, and very docile even in o/d. top gear, in which it will poodle along at 20 m.p.h. The seating position is low, which is not entirely conducive to good visibility, but the seats are commendably soft and comfortable. It is just, but only just, possible to make “heel-and-toe” gear changes. The rather high-set gear-lever works well, in a “mechanical feel” sense, but was rather stiff on the test car, which was apparently only about 3,000 miles old. Reverse is obtainable by slapping the lever beyond 2nd-gear location. The clutch is moderately heavy and some slight judder was noticeable on rapid take-offs. There is a ledge on which the left foot can be rested clear of the pedal.

The steering, with its helical gear, is free from kick-back but very slight vibration is transmitted to the wheel, for, although the new form of unitary construction adopted for the M.G.-B is commendably rigid, some slight tremours are noticeable in the region of the scuttle. There is adequate castor-return action and this is sensibly high-geared steering (2.9 turns, lock-to-lock), yet It is not unduly heavy. As expected of rack-and-pinion mechanism, there is no lost motion. The steering column, incidentally, incorporates a universal joint.

The Lockheed brakes, 10 3/4 in. dia. discs at the front, 10 in. dia. drums at the back, providing a total friction area of 310 sq. in., kill the performance reasonably well—and there is very considerable performance, as the following figures, electrically recorded on a test track, show:

0-30 m.p.h. – 3.3 sec.
0-40 m.p.h. – 6.1 sec.
0-50 m.p.h. – 8.8 sec.
0-60 m.p.h. – 12.8 sec.
0-70 m.p.h. – 16.9 sec.
0-80 m.p.h. – 22.5 sec.
s.s. 1/4-mile – 18.5 sec.

Maximum speeds: 1st: 30 m.p.h.; 2nd : 50 m.p.h.; 3rd: 80 m.p.h.; top: 106 m.p.h.

Overdrive is selected by a conveniently-placed flick-switch on the extreme right-hand corner of the facia and operates in 3rd and top gears. It is worth the extra £60 8s. 4d. charged, because the normal low top gear limits the maximum speed potential. First and 2nd gears are also low, and present an unfortunate gap between the “take-off” gears and 3rd, in which 8o m.p.h.. is obtainable. The makers ask that 100-octane fuel is used and that crankshaft speed is not taken above 6,000 r.p.m. Fast cornering results in a small degree of oversteer and slight body lean.

The test car had a Radiomobile radio in the centre of the facia panel, with an aerial that extended to a considerable height, and a speaker between the transmission tunnel and the facia.

I took over the M.G.-B during Marples’ futile 50-m.p.h. speed-limit, which curbed my sporting ambitions and gave a range of 252 miles from a full fuel tank. Driving it as this car is intended to be driven, petrol consumption of 100-octane fuel was found to equal exactly 24 m.p.g. After 470 miles 1 1/2-pints of oil were necessary to restore the sump level. The horizontal filler cap on the back panel of the body is unsecured.

The engine has plenty of space under the bonnet, so is commendably accessible, including plugs and dip-stick. An unusual item of detail concerns float-chamber vent pipes to drain off surplus fuel. The twin S.U.s have neat, separate Coopers air-cleaners.

Old-fashioned this latest 1.8-litre M.G. may be, but it provides very fast, enjoyable, predictable fresh-air motoring for two keen people. All manner of extras are available, such as heater, ashtray, tonneau cover, oil-cooler, front bumper, over-riders, headlamps flasher (which I would like to see as standard on such a fast car), anti-roll bar, luggage-grid, etc. With all these the price is somewhat high, but most people will settle for the normal trim, when an M.G.-B can be bought for £834 6s., inclusive of p.t.

There were aspects of the car calling for mild criticism, including door rubbers all too easy to kick-off when getting out of the car. On the whole, however, the British Motor Corporation again offers notable value-for-money with this 110-m.p.h. sports M.G., and those who have long been staunch advocates of “Safety Fast” motoring will not be disappointed by the M.G.-B.—W. B.

The M.G.-B sports 2-seater

Engine: Four cylinders, 80.3 x 88.9 mm. (1,798 c.c.). Push-rod-operated overhead valves. 8.8-to-1 compression ratio. 94 (net) b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m.

Gear ratios: 1st, 14.21 to 1; 2nd, 8.65 to 1; 3rd, 5.37 to 1; overdrive 3rd, 4.30 to 1; top, 3.90 to 1; overdrive top, 3.13 to 1.

Tyres: 5.60 x 14 Dunlop Gold Seal C41 on bolt-on steel disc wheels (but see text).

Weight: Maker’s figure: 17 cwt. (unladen).

Steering ratio: 2.9 turns, lock-to-lock.

Fuel capacity: 10 gallons. (Range: approximately 252 miles.)

Wheelbase: 7 ft. 7 in.

Track: Front, 4 ft. 1 in. Rear: 4 ft. 1 1/4 in.

Dimensions: 12 ft. 9 3/16 in. x 4 ft. 11 15/16 in. x 4 ft. 1 3/8 in. (high—hood up).

Price: £690 (£834 6s. od., inclusive of p.t.).

Makers: The M.G. Car Company Ltd., Abingdon-on-Thames, Berkshire, England.