LOT 53 – 1972 MGB GT
- Comprehensively restored 9,000 miles ago
- Heritage shell
- 12 Months MOT
- In excellent condition throughout
- Four family owners since new
- Rare Ken Costello ‘Princess Ann’ wheels fitted
Quite a billing and certainly not something that is achievable without a pretty decent product. Taking relatively mundane ingredients and masterfully combining them to cook up a machine that fulfils its purpose so well is something the engineers at MG can justifiably be proud of. Launched in 1962 at the Earls Court Motor Show, MG were on to an immediate winner with the ‘B’ and taking the well proven running gear from the MGA and tucking it under the new car’s revolutionary unitary construction body-shell made for an instantly well resolved machine but also a bang up to date technical package. Lighter and roomier by some distance than its separate chassis equipped parent, the MGB literally took the Sports Car market by storm. So ‘right’ was the original design that after eighteen years it was still in production with only a few tweaks to its original specification such as a five main bearing engine, all synchromesh gearbox and the addition to the range of the Pininfarina penned GT.
Key mechanical components carried over from the ‘A’ were the B Series engine (enlarged to 1798cc) and four speed gearbox, available after a couple of years with overdrive on 3rd and 4th gears. Underpinnings were similarly unaltered with wishbones, coil springs and lever arm dampers up front paired with a live axle on leaf springs, again with lever arm dampers at the rear. Front discs paired with rear drums competently bought the car down from a genuine 100 mph top speed.
The GT boasted an occasional rear seat (though just what occasion the designers had in mind is not clear but they do make a useful place to stow the odd bit of luggage or shopping bag) and hatchback-style tailgate which gave access to a useful load area; folding down the rear seats made for some serious load lugging by 2+2 sports car standards. The aforementioned Italian styling house made such a good job of the GT, it is a shame MG (or perhaps the management’s ego) couldn’t bring themselves to pop a Pininfarina badge or two on the car as its looks surely rivals many Alfa Romeos, Lancias and Fiats of the period.
Extensive research into the B’s ownership history by the current owner (all comprehensively documented in the car file) reveals that it was purchased by Mr Denis Matthews of Barnes, London and registered “VR2” on 20th April 1972. In September the following year it was passed to an Anne Matthews, presumably a relative, of the same address. In 1980 the MG was put back into Mr Matthews’ name and assigned the correct ‘PGC’ London registration number it wears today. It was then sold to Anthony Webber of Ilkeston in Derbyshire in November of that year before Mr Webber took the MG to the Isle of Man in 1983 where it was registered MAN 3576. Returning after some three years, the ‘B’ was sold to a Mrs Linda Robbins of Newport and later Tintern near Chepstow and re-acquired its current registration number. Mrs Robbins, on retiring from driving in 1996, gave the MG to her son Nicholas, a budding RAF pilot who took the car with him to RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire. A flash red MG is of course not a suitable means of conveyance for such a chap and he sold it to buy a Volvo – obviously. His loss was the current owner’s gain and he snapped it up in Chesterfield in 1997 though by this time it was described as “a restoration project”. We make that just four family owners in forty-six years, the very definition of ‘a keeper’.
The reams of bills in the MGB’s History File paint an all too familiar picture with the car regularly receiving plenty of TLC (while perhaps fighting a losing battle) from spanners and welder with sills, castle rails, and panels various being replaced during the 1980s and 1990s. This pattern continued into the current owner’s tenure until, on his retirement in 2001, the decision was taken to bite the bullet and treat the car to a brand new Heritage body-shell. Though the work was entrusted to a professional garage in 2003, it has to be said that the owner’s experience was not a good one. Eighteen months and no less than £16,600 later the car was reunited with him but despite the investment in both time and money the GT still required considerable further fettling and it visited the MGOC (Workshop) Ltd. of Cambridge in 2005 where a further £1,877 was spent in addition to some £950 on other odds and ends that year. The owner was at last able to put some miles on the restored MG and over the next few years Barrie Carter Motor Services maintained the car while attending to the odd gremlin that was still emerging before The MGB Hive in Wisbech had a crack at the last few niggles mostly concerning panel fit, trim and wiring in 2010. Since then, we are glad to say, the MGB GT has at last lived up to the owner’s expectations. Entrusted to the archetypal ‘Family Village Garage’ of G. W. Webb and Sons (please see Lot 19, Alfa Romeo Spider) MOT and servicing work is pretty much all that has been required, though a new MGOC Spares & Accessories supplied steering rack was fitted last year.
The MGB GT is now a great example of a well restored machine with the added peace of mind that the body-shell is effectively brand new. An early example of unitary construction, the MGB was not renowned for its resistance to rust and unfortunately, once it has established itself in a shell, it is exceptionally difficult to successfully remove it entirely. With very good panel gaps and fit the benefit of taking this route when restoring a car is evident. The Damask Red paintwork, as is evident in the photographs, is of a good standard though this is not to say some time and elbow grease spent on it would not further improve the finish and shine. Obviously the floors, sills, castle rails and so on are all in excellent shape and the fact that the major work to the car was carried out some thirteen years ago speaks to the quality of the Heritage shell and its final finish, the odd virtually invisible car park dink aside. The interior was treated to new sound proofing and carpets and still looks very smart with the leather trimmed front seats (MGOC units fitted in 1988) just starting to acquire that ‘lived in’ look which matches the period aftermarket steering wheel nicely.
The B’s chrome is presentable throughout with just some pitting to the door handles though on the rear bumper it has flaked off in a few places and the bumper itself could benefit from refitting as it doesn’t sit quite correctly.
Interestingly the GT rides on rare and valuable Ken Costello alloy wheels. Though similar in appearance to the MG Factory V8 wheels they have two fewer ventilation holes in them, are more concave and are alloy throughout rather than alloy and steel. Made for Ken by the Mill Accessory Group (they are stamped ‘MAG’ on the inside face) who also supplied Reliant, these have become known as ‘Princess Ann wheels’ after her penchant for the later company’s Scimitar sports estate. These have been refurbished and are wrapped in barely worn Uniroyal Rallye tyres; a nice period accessory that compliments the MG very well.
With a little choke the engine fires readily on a chilly spring morning and it sounds business-like while showing a healthy 65 psi oil pressure at idle (please see the photo gallery). On the move everything works smoothly including the overdrive while the servo assisted brakes pull the car up straight and true with a firm pedal, doubtless helped by the Aeroquip brake lines.
The eagle eyed amongst you will notice the GT sports a neatly installed tow hitch; rest assured that this was only employed to pull a lightweight camping type trailer and the B GT was not being utilised as a recovery truck.
We feel that today the car strikes a fine balance between new and old; a virtually brand new shell removes much of the potential maintenance heartache from the ownership experience while items such as the mellowed seats, steering wheel and paintwork ensure the soul of the car remains. With well over £20K spent on the re-shelling exercise and subsequent fettling, there can be little doubt that only a fraction of this investment can ever hope to be recovered and with the reserve set at less than half the current list price for an unpainted GT Heritage body-shell, this represents a fantastic opportunity to acquire a ready to go vehicle with all the work and expense (not to mention considerable heartache) already taken care of.
Registration number: PGC 168K
Chassis Number: G-HD5/274696-G
Engine Number: 18V-847-H-D/28040