My Everyday MG

I’ve owned my 1974 MGB Roadster for 34 years. In the late 1970s I was a part-time volunteer Sunday morning Supervising Instructor for the ACU/RAC Motor Cycle Training Scheme. This was the Watford, Hertfordshire, branch and part of training was to take pupil L-plate riders onto the road under following Instructor supervision. An earlier ‘convoy’ run had (theoretically) shown the pupils the route and sequence of roads to be traversed.

On a few consecutive Sunday mornings I noticed (while still observing a pupil!) a nice looking Triumph Spitfire, and decided that I should have one, but my Triumph motor cycle wasn’t going to go in part-exchange! I saw a nice one for sale in St. Albans, but by the time I returned with my wife it was gone, and had been sold.

Still checking the car sales pages in our local newspaper I saw this 1974 MGB Roadster advertised at £1,500.  That will do,” I thought, and obviously after 34 years of ownership it was the much wiser choice.

There was nothing wrong with the car, but simply the vendor had been given a company car and his wife was too short in the leg to be able to drive the B. Stopped, while talking, during the test run, the engine was left running and it started to falter and run rough. The vendor talked his way around that, and I have to say that it has never done it since.

Most days the MGB took me the 16 miles to work, and later 20 miles when I moved from IBM Education to Marketing Staff, further into London. (Other days I used my motor cycle.) Having a garage full of vintage motor cycles, the B has always been parked outside and I drove it throughout the year, whatever the weather. It was protected simply by a car cap, which covered the top of the car to the bottom of the windows, so when frosty and snowy I simply rolled the cap off and the windows didn’t need scraping. (I had purchased a hard-top in need of attention for £15 shortly after buying the car. It now lives under a full cover as protection from the sun.)

In the 148,000 miles in my ownership I think it has only let me down twice. On a hot day it once overheated in traffic and wouldn’t restart until the engine had cooled. Conversely on an icy day the carbon thrust bearing of the clutch broke up.

Another failure, although I still managed to get home, was when my local petrol station reduced the tetraethyllead content in petrol to one sixth its previous amount, and when ‘bombing’ down the M1 the engine lost power. Fortunately I was close to the turn-off to home and by keeping the throttle open was able to complete the final six miles. I knew that if I allowed the engine to stall it would not restart again. Just 60 miles off the ‘magic’ 100,000 miles, that turned out to be a burnt valve seat so I removed the head and had it reconditioned with hardened valve seats. A little later, at 115,700 miles, I decided to have the bottom end overhauled as well, although I don’t recall that it was doing anything naughty.

After a number of years the bodywork was showing its age so I had a respray done, but that was a waste of money as it turned out to be a ‘cowboy’ job. You sometimes gets what you pays for!