The MGB Roadster is a much-loved British classic car and hails as one of the last of the great classic MG sports cars. Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2022, the MGB Roadster is often at the top of driver’s car wish lists when looking for a classic car that is lively and fun to drive yet maintains the sense of style and sophistication that you want from sports car motoring.
The MGB Roadster was designed as the successor to the popular MGA. Released a year later than the luxury Jaguar E Type, the MGB Roadster was offered an affordable way for many into sports car ownership. In fact it flew out the showroom doors!
The concept for the car began as early as 1957 with early prototype projects such as ‘EX205’, but it wasn’t until June 1962 that the first MGB rolled off the production line with chassis number G-HN3 101. This all-new MGB Roadster had a monocoque body and chassis structure, similar to that used on the Austin Healey Sprite. The unitary design enabled the MGB Roadster to differ from the MGA by being shorter and having more space in the passenger and luggage areas.
The car was initially prototyped with a 1588 cc twin cam engine, but this idea was scrapped in favour of a 1622 cc B series overhead valve engine. As the MGB was slightly heavier than its predecessor, the performance was increased to make it a more desirable purchase. The B series engine was bored to 1798cc improving the power output to 95bhp at 5,500rpm, which was reasonable for the day. The MGB Roadster shared other MGA running gear similarities, including the gearbox which did not include synchromesh on first gear nor overdrive at this stage.
For the first time on an open topped MG, the MGB featured door locks, a boot lock, wind-up windows, and a lockable glove compartment. Optional upgrades were available for an additional charge, including a fresh air heater and wire wheels. Initially only offered as an open roadster, a detachable hard top soon became available with the Pininfarina styled, brawny closed top hatchback GT model following on in 1965.
Over the next 18 years, 51,3276 MGB Roadster cars were built. Throughout this time of continuous production, the basic body shape remained the same with the characteristic aerodynamic shape and upright slatted front grill. In 1970, a style upgrade saw reclining seats and rostyle wheels offered, and the ‘honeycomb’ front grille was introduced in 1973. For the American market, later models from 1975 onwards were given impact resistant black front and rear bumpers. The final major style lift was in 1977. The restyled interior now sported a new instrument layout, four-spoke steering wheel, and other cosmetic tweaks. Production finally ceased on the 22nd of October 1980 at the marques Abingdon factory.
Throughout its history, the MGB has been a popular choice for rallying and competitive motorsport, as well as often appearing in the motoring press. Pick up a copy of Practical Classics magazine from 20 years ago and the front cover would regularly feature smartly dressed MGB Roadsters. The car has received celebrity endorsement too. Geri Horner of 90s Spice Girls fame still cruises around in her red MGB!
60 years on, the MGB Roadster still looks good and as once quoted by CARmagazine, there is a “certain charm about the car”. Nowadays, the MGB Roadster is a hugely popular choice for MG enthusiasts as well as seeing a revival with the next generation of classic car owners as it is an affordable first classic car. The MGB Roadster benefits from being a straightforward car to service. Parts and components are still readily available from restoration suppliers and are relatively inexpensive. With over 13,000 MGB’s still registered on the road, this classic car is here to stay.
A testament to its appeal, the MGB Roadster is joining the trend of reimagined classic cars. Along with the likes of Singer Porsche and the E Type ’60 collection’, the MGB Roadster is being reborn for the modern age. Named after the original production factory, the MG Abingdon Edition has been given a hefty power boost from a 2.5litre Mazda engine and a six-speed manual gearbox. Assisting the power, the reborn classic has modern, high-performance suspension and brakes. There are even electric windows this time around!