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The mgb project


I am looking a a project car to enlighten me. I am car dumb, but have found a great mechanic willing to help me learn how to restore/rebuild but not untill I decide everything I want.

I was thinking about this MGB down the street. It has been restored before, but needs some help again, but it still runs great enough to do his weekend driving. It is a 1979 4cyl with 87k miles on it. He’s asking for $3k.

Is this a good deal?

If I want a stinkin awesome V8 conversion, what engines should I look at?

Take it to your mechanic and have him look at it and see what he says. When checking a lot of these cars, I suggest you take a small magnet with you. Stick carefully to the bottom of the doors and below, this also applies to the front and rear fenders. A lot of times this will uncover shabby rust repairs, the magnet won’t stick to non metallic areas. Better said, areas that have just been filled with body filler to cover up.

In my area a MGB just like yours is being sold for 6.5K fully restored so the price seems about right.

I saw in the internet a few weeks ago one MGB conversion in England that a 4L Buick engine was used.

The MGB seems like a good project car. Whether it is a good deal is impossible to answer without seeing the car. It certainly sounds worth the time to check out. You should have the mechanic render an opinion on the soundness of the MGB in question.

Since the MGB may have some collectible value you need to consider what you lose and what you gain with a motor switch. You gain some power and staight line acceleration. What you lose is handling since the V8 is larger and heavier it will change the cornering ability of the car for the worse. You also lose the collectible value as the original motor is what collectors require.

If it were me, I’d retore it and enjoy it. I’d keep it as original as possible.

A motor switch on the MGB is complicated and involves replacing more than the motor. The frame has to be changed to match the motor mounts, this means cutting and welding. The transmission needs to be different and stronger to handle the power. The rear end, drive shaft may need changing out as well. This is a lot for a 1st car project.

It may be worth $3000, but know this is the ‘rubber bumper’ MGB, with all the pollution controls and the suspension raised to meet '79 regs, along with those big bumpers. If I were going to the trouble of getting a project car, I’d look for a '72 or older. They’ll be more expensive because they’re better cars. If you are ‘car dumb’, I wonder about you doing an engine swap, a very involved project. But I wouldn’t worry too much about hurting the 1979 cars’s value.

The Rover ex Buick alloy engine is ideal for a V8 conversion and was the engine used for production V8s. Anything else will give you front end weight problems, though I have heard of Olds engines being used.

The problem is this isn’t a straightforward conversion, the production V8’s have different inner fenders and transmission tunnel, you will also need a V8 transmission and an upgraded rear end. Plus uprated springs and brakes. The prod V8s used twin SU carbs on a special MG only adapter and air cleaner setup and your manifold to hood height is very restricted to use alternative carburation - though not impossible. Other engine mods include an MG specific timing case (very, very hard to get) to permit a remote oil filter - the original filter fouls the cross member, you will also find the exhaust manifolds challenging, the originals just will not fit and will need to be sourced or made, the prod cars actually had the steering shaft passing through the exhaust manifold pipes.

I used to have a V8 and they are great little cars, but not that great that I’d want to convert one. Either keep the 4 pot and upgrade it with sensible tuning mods or buy a ready made V8.

Yeah, I noticed the rubber bumpers… Is it possible to trade those out for the chrome without having to buy the more expensive older model?

V8? There are 4 cylinders which will kick butt! Even, a Mazda Wankel engine is light and powerful. No adaption will be “fun”, though.

Wow, that’s a sensible trick! I saw 1973 MGB that had a huge and obvous puddy job on it. I never though of checking to be sure about those that look fine. Thank you so much! Do you happen to know any other simple tricks that may help me, or things i should look at?

Nope, not that I know of, and I was told this by a car nut MGB owner. Course, enough money can do anything…

If it were me and I were looking for a project car with your parameters looks like you want a small, 2-seater, ragtop with an option to V-8 it . . . I’d look for a used Miata for $3k. You should check into what folks are dropping into them, with less trouble than you’ll have doing it to an MGB. There are lots of used Miata donor cars around and lots of conversion kits available. Mostly FORD V-8’s, but you can really do a lot with this set-up. Either way, good luck and have a great time! Rocketman

A few more things . . . by the time the Miata hit the market RUST protection was a lot better . . . you’ll probably have more luck with less rust with a Miata than any MG. Ditto that with electric and suspension. Rocketman

Gosh, you are a brute for punishment. I had a work buddy who owned an MGB and he worked on it all weekend every weekend so he could drive it to work during the week. That was in the early 80’s when it was still relatively new.

He finally decided he did not like spending all his weekends just to keep his car running to work during the week. He advertised it, stating he had all repair and maintenance records. After the guy paid him, he dragged out this thick notebook with all the repairs on it, as promised. Heh, heh.

hahaha Seems like a great way to learn a lot about a lot to me : ]

Ok, my first task for the 1979 MGB is going to be “bleeding the clutch off”. Is list process at all simmilar to bleeding the brake lines?
I guess the bigger question is how to do it right/best?

Not quite ~ your first job is to find out why it needs bleeding ! Unless you want to do it again next week.

If it’s leaking then either replace the master or slave cylinder or at least fit a seal kit. The slave is a 30 minute job, the master is a very fiddly 2 hour experience ~ good luck getting under the dash to disconnect the clutch pedal clevis pin, if you don’t have a bad back now, plan on having one later today.

Bleeding is the same as brakes but you can make your life easier with either a pressure or vacuum kit. You’ll probably need it in future. The correct stuff is Castrol LMA brake fluid.

Oh…and check the rubber hose isn’t failing, they can balloon under load and no pressure is delivered to the slave.

I checked the hoses first, thinging that would be the easiest job. The hoses look good. They actually look like they were replaced recently with mesh looking hoses.
I decided to go ahead and try to drive it around the block a few times and it will only go ito reverse if I turn the car off, put it into reverse, and then turn the key back on. Then to get it into first every time I have to turn it off, put it into first, and then turn it back on. I’ve been skipping second, because I can’t get it to go in there, but 3rd and 4th are great most of the time. When I try getting it into gear with it turned on, there’s a lot of grinding sounds with no gear change, and I guess the gears are meeting up with eachother. I can either force it in, which I did enough times for my palm to be bruised, or I can shut the thing off and change gears.
The last thing I’ve noticed it doing is creeping fowards or back when it’s in gear without me giving any gas. I’ve driven a stick once before, and it didn’t do that. I’m not sure if that’s part of what’s going on or something totally different though…
I plan on pulling the slave out today and seeing if I can see anything obviously wrong with it. Guy I got it from said he wasn’t sure what was wrong but assumed the clutch needed bleeding. I don’t know…
Any ideas other than slave cylinder?

Those are all typical 'B dragging clutch symptoms.

If you’re lucky it will be the slave, you don’t need to remove it, just peel back the outer rubber dust cap, you’ll soon know if it’s leaking - your ear will fill up with brake fluid.

If the slave is good, get under the dash with a flashlight and check under the outer clutch master rubber dust cap, again a leak should be obvious.

If both of these check out okay, go ahead and bleed it.

Other 'B problems that can cause clutch drag :

Leaking primary (first motion) shaft gearbox seal, if this is leaking the clutch will get fouled and start to drag.

Leaking rear crank seal - that would be very obvious, if it’s a huge leak the oil can get blown back and get into the bell housing and fouling the clutch.

Sticking flywheel primary shaft pilot bushing - this would tend to drag the primary shaft round even with the clutch disengaged. It would also be very unusual unless either the car has been sitting for a considerable time or the clutch has been changed and some oik messed up the bushing or forgot to grease it.

Clutch pressure plate or throw out bearing is failing. You’ll need a new clutch kit.

On the upside ~ pulling the gearbox out of a 'B is a piece of cake ~ the box is cast iron, so it’s HEAVY, but no rocket science involved.

Oh - and don’t drive the car until it’s fixed. You’ll kill the second / third gear baulking rings ~ not the strongest part of that gearbox at the best of times. Then you’ll have no synchro at all.

The typical v8 conversion uses the buick 215 which is lighter than the stock motor. There are lots of forums about V8/V6 conversions. I like the stock motor, tricked out, can be a lot of fun too. The Buick conversion is pretty straight forward from what I understand.

I wouldn’t do it myself. But using the right parts, and doing your homework, it won’t be that bad.

Sounds like your friend needed a good mechanic! Bs are simple, durable and (yes) reliable. I drive my Bs daily with hardly an issue. My other(more modern cars) give me far more gas pains than my Bs. Thank goodness here in MA, we have a few top British car mechanics that can transform a B into running like a fine swiss watch! The B is a good DIY car, tons of info on the internet, forums, car clubs, etc.

The later rubber bumper models have lots of fine points - power brakes, smoother ride due to the raised ride height. 1000% safer due to real bumpers ( the chrome bumpers are useless in an accident)

You can convert to chrome bumpers yes. It is a good amount of work. will require a repaint as you need to do a good amount of welding. The replacement chrome bumpers stink (rust, don’t fit, etc). You will have to lower the ride height (the later cars were 1.5 or so inches higher). You will need a new exhaust (the lower cars need a better hugging exhaust by the exhaust pipe.

Also, the value of a B is based on condition, rather than bumper type. A rust free, well running Rubber bumper B will cost a lot more than a rusty, troubleprone chrome bumper.

My advice is to join a local MG or British Car club. It will make life a lot easier trying to find support/service/parts.