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1970 MGB Road Trip

I’m planning to take a road trip along route 66, and back through Las Vegas, Colorado and Wyoming. I want to take in a 1970 MGB, but want to know whether it is decently safe to take through the mountains in Colorado and on route 66. The total mileage would be just over 4,500 miles. If it is decently safe, is there any specific work I should do on it before I leave?
Thanks a bunch!

What time of year?

Do you mean safe in an accident (it’s not), or reliable (it’s not)?

What is your experience level? What work and repairs have you done on it?

There’s nothing unsafe about it if you are a good driver. The problem will be to complete the trip on time, since these cars have a habit of breaking down unexpectedly and the part you need may not be easy to get.

If I was in your shoes, I would:

  1. Completely check the car over 3 weeks before leaving. Change the oil and filter if due and grease the chassis. Make sure the cooling system is OK and hoses are in good shape. Drive the car around town and on the highway for 3 weeks before taking the trip.

  2. Depending on the time of year, you may need a 0W30 oil to ensure easy morning starts. If you’re going in the summer just use the oil specified in the manual, likely 10W30 mineral.

  3. Since you can’t take a spare car along, just pack an extra fan belt, some tools, a couple of quarts of oil, your AAA card and a cellphone. Identify any shops that could fix this car beforehand.

  4. Pack stop leak, gorilla tape, and some iron wire. If the exhaust brackets let go you’ll have something to tie them up with.

This is a great trip, but you should only take it with someone who enjoys adventure.

Have a wonderful trip!!

Compared to a modern car your MGB is unsafe. But this sounds like a fun adventure. If the car is in good shape overall, the main challenge is to the cooling system. New hoses and new fan belts seem like a good idea to me.

When I was an undergrad at MIT in the early 1970’s a roommate had an MGB. Both our families lived in FL and we drove it down during spring break. The top leaked and we had to bail the car out during a rainstorm in GA. The clutch cable went out in NC and we continued the drive by carefully timing our shifts. The MGB was only two years old at the time. This should give you a feel regarding your car’s reliability. Safe? No way. No ABS, no airbags and marginal seat belts. But then again, I spent seven months driving around Europe on a Moto Guzzo.

Have a fun trip!

Do you still have points? If so you may want to advance the timing while in the mountains, have an extra sets of points or two if you have dual points and a dwell meter and timing light or at least a feeler guage and know the point gap and or dwell angle in advance. I used to check and adjust my points every 3500 mikes.

Well, reliability could be part of safety, and the last thing you’d want is for your car to break down on you going up the mountains. I suppose you could swap out an engine and transmission from a Miata to make sure that end is covered.
If you were talking about a classic American car instead, I’d say go for it; anyone should be able to fix one of those along your route. A first gen Mustang or Camaro convertible would be perfect for spring/fall travel.

Ya know I fix carburetors for people because they take it to a shop, and they have no idea about floats, needle valves or choke adjustment. Glad to be a dinosaur!

I guess I’d rather do ten 450-mile weekend trips in an MGB. But to each their own.

Again, the big question to me is the OP’s mechanical aptitude. It’ll be tested…

I hope this is a trip you’re planning for next spring/summer, not this fall/winter. You do not want to be driving through Colorado and Wyoming in that car any time there’s a chance of snow.

Keith Martin who heads Sports Car Market Magazine decided to go on a similar trip, Portland Oregon to Reno Nevada in 3 of these. Before leaving he spent a couple thousand bucks per car (on average) at his trusted mechanic getting the cars as ready as they can be, considering he paid around 5,000 dollars for each one to begin with.

His gang made it there and back without any problem, but i’m sure he had the phone numbers of experts to call just in case. Have the car checked out nose to tail and take care of whatever needs doing to make the car more reliable.

Shoot, I’d go in a heartbeat.

Do you drive the car regularly? Is it (at least fairly) reliable?

Three members of my local British car club made a trip of similar duration across the Rockies and back last summer. Two MGBs and one MGA. They maintain their own cars here at home, so working on them on the road only presents problems if it’s raining or they have to pull an engine (which is very unlikely) or something heavy duty like that.

If you have a serious breakdown, you can always rent a truck and put an MGB inside. Worse things have happened.

Of COURSE MGBs are not as safe as a modern car. So what? Are you going to have a wreck?

Take some spare parts and some tools, your cell phone, perhaps a GPS if your phone doesn’t have one, and have fun.

Oh, you do not have a clutch cable.
If it still has the originals, the floats of your SU carburetors are independent of the carbs themselves. They sit off to the side.
0w30 is not recommended for ANY MG at any time of year.

I will send you a personal message. Watch your inbox at the top of this page.

Cool trip, Have fun, take spares and your cell phone. This car was built at the lowest point of British Leyland’s quality and would have a hard time with this journey when NEW, let alone 43 years later.

Sounds like fun to me. If the car is fairly reliable now, just change the oil, tune it up, check the tires, and check the fluids now and then on the trip to make sure everything is up to par.

Regarding the trip itself, the old Route 66 dream ride has pretty much gone away over the years but what remains is still better than boring interstates. Route 66 runs pretty much parallel to the turnpikes here in Oklahoma and if the truth be known, you’re probably safer traveling on 2 lane 66 than you would be on the turnpikes; especially the Turner.
For some reason, the Turner between Tulsa and OK City seems to have an abnormally high number of horrible accidents and pile-ups.

Since you appear to like rarer cars you might consider stopping in Afton, OK and checking out Darryl Starbird’s car museum. They have about 50k square feet of the unusual to wonder at.

I’m assuming you are doing this in the summer. If winter, suggest to postpone until summer.

Other than that, I’d go, but expect several breakdowns along the way. So plan for them. Make sure you have time in your schedule for several unanticipated stops. Do some research to find out where MG parts are available along your route. And vendors that will ship parts overnight via Fed Ex. Phone them up and make sure they will take your credit card. Sounds fun. Best of luck.

edit: I sometimes drive highway 50 between Delta Utah and Carson City Nevada. It’s called “America’s loneliest highway” or something like that. It’s the old pony express route. It’s a long way between towns for certain. When your car breaks down along that road, you somehow have to get a two truck to come and get you. Either by using your cell phone or asking a passing motorist to give a message at the next town. Eventually the tow truck comes and takes you to the nearest town. Which might be 100 miles or more. Then the mechanic there, he probably knows nothing about your car, but he’ll give it his best effort. Usually it comes down to that he can fix it, but he hasn’t the part. So he’ll get on the phone to Fallon Nevada usually, which is the largest town that has an assortment of car parts. The parts place in Fallon will ship the part on the next UPS truck back to where you are. There are UPS trucks along that road about every two hours or so. So it usually doesn’t take more than overnight to get the part, have it installed, and be on your way.

I agree that patience on this road trip is required. If you need a part it could take days or be made of unobtainium! I have owned 2 MGAs. 1960 1600 roadster (2 years). 1962 coupe 1600 mk 2 (1 year). No mechanical problems. 1 1966 MGB. (1 year). No mechanical problems. These cars were mostly driven on local twisty roads where they belong. They were driven rarely on 200 mile round trip “journeys”. I had trouble finding minor parts in the 1970s. I bought a new Mazda Miata in 1996. Wow! An MGB with better power, better handling, better brakes, and “ironclad” reliability! If you are planning a real road trip. Preserve the really cool MGB in the garage. Take it out in good weather to enjoy the local twisties. Buy a used, good condition Miata, and have a wonderful time!