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MGBGTV8 Buyer's Guide
Recently a prospective V8 enthusiast contacted the V8 Webmaster wondering why there was no MGBGTV8 Buyer's Guide available on the V8 Website. A good point and clearly something which is much needed so we contacted a longstanding V8 enthusiast, Dave Wellings, who produced this very useful note within days as a summary of what to look for when seeking to buy a Factory built MGBGTV8 in today's market place (Oct 04)

The first thing you should consider is what specification of MGBV8 you really want to own. The Factory-produced cars had a short production life of only three model years, and are registered from L reg through to R reg, (late 1976). If it's a Factory car you desire, there are very few left in decent condition which have not been altered in some way. After 31 years wear and tear for the earliest, and 28 years for the newest, don't expect originality in the true sense. It's very important to research the production facts before you start looking so that you know what chassis number layout to expect for example. Beware of chassis plates which are stamped 'conventionally', as the factory 'chassis number plates' were reverse stamped with the digits raised. The best place to view factory cars in order to see the whole range is the V8 Register meeting at Silverstone. Here there is always a large number of V8's present, both factory and converted, and you will be able to talk to long-standing owners/enthusiasts and shown what to look for. If it's a Roadster you want then these are all home-grown by enthusiasts or specialists and are outside the scope of this guide. The risk areas relating to the body shell are the same however.

Engine
The power plant remained the same throughout production, but there were subtle changes under the bonnet. Three different radiators were used, the first with a fan guard and the third to commonise with rubber bumper fittings. The oil pressure gauge take off started on the remote filter head, and moved to the oil pump. At the changeover there was at least one car with the filter take off blanked with a threaded plug. U-shaped 'asbestos' plug lead guards appeared late on to shield the plugs/leads from manifold heat but usually only six were fitted. Round the back of the air box are some tubes/pipes which often go missing. The crankcase vent emerges on the offside and should incorporate a short S pipe, a filter attached to the air box and a U-shaped pipe on the top. Replacement blocks may not have the vent in this position. More important is the two carburettor overflow tubes which emerge at the outside rear corner of each carburettor, join at a T-piece on the offside, and from that, a vertical rubber tube joins with a metal pipe attached to the bellhousing to carry fuel safely away in the event of sticking floats.

The engine number appeared on a flat plate under the N/S exhaust manifold half way along the block. This was sawn off by the factory so that the cast manifold would fit, and the number was restamped to the rear of the N/S head on the curved part of the block, adjacent to the bellhousing. If the engine number plate has not been sawn off, then the block didn't originate at the factory. The alloy front cover may have been replaced by a Rover or Landrover part, and if so the water pump will sit higher than standard. Some might then have been fitted with a Rover mechanical fuel pump on the N/S of this cover. The fuel pump should of course be electric with the characteristic "tick" when operating. With the availability of the new electronic SU pumps, many V8 enthusiasts are changing over as they are more reliable but externally there is no difference.

The exhaust manifolds may still be cast iron, but if so beware of the flanges on the downpipes which are weak and prone to cracking. Many cars are now fitted with tubular manifolds but take note that some are poor quality and make access to the manifold bolts very difficult. The O/S manifold may also foul the steering column. Poor quality manifolds may be made up by a series of short tubes welded together to make the curves. These should be avoided. The manifolds join at a Y piece on the N/S after the O/S pipe passes under the sump pan. The sump has the main well in the centre with a shallow front and rear section. The shallow rear section allows the exhaust pipe to cross over. Rover and Landrover sumps don't have the shallow rear section which forces the crossover pipe to sit much lower than standard. Some cars have lost the correct air filter boxes which are hard to source but turn up occasionally. Quite a few have K&N's or similar filters which are more efficient than the standard set up but create more induction noise. There is a short length of petrol pipe between the carbs which can't be changed without removing at least one carb. This pipe suffers from heat exposure and can fail without warning. It's the first thing to examine if you buy an original V8.

Gearbox
There were internal changes to improve reliability, and overdrive was restricted to top gear only quite early on in production. Engaging reverse will often result in a crunch, which can usually be reduced by lowering the tick-over speed. Much of the internals are the same as the 1800 gearbox, so with an original gearbox, respect that fragility in first and second gear, (or you may pay dearly). There is no way of telling now what spec the standard gearbox is in any V8. And it's unlikely that any V8 still has its original gearbox! Many cars now have Rover 5 speeds which are much more robust. If the gearbox isn't original then take the speedo reading with a pinch of salt until you've checked it out. Tyre size will also affect speedo accuracy. 175x14 were the standard fit but hardly any V8's are still on this size. 195/70 is the equivalent but doesn't fit well under the wooden boot platform. Many cars on standard wheels are now on 185/70's.

Axle
The rear axle is said to be fragile in the V8, and there have been some failures of the pinion pin roll pin it's true. But it's easier to deal with now than 15 years ago, as spares and alternative solutions are much more available now. If it clonks on take up then it's a reasonably easy job (and cheap) - to change the thrust washers in the diff, and replace the pinion pin if any signs of wear. If the axle is 1800 ratio (3.9 to 1) then you'll see from the revs and road speed. You should see around 28mph for every 1,000revs in top gear with the original spec axle.

Suspension
It looks the same as the 1800 MGB with lever arm dampers all round and front anti roll bar. Originally the dampers were uprated, and lever arms may still be bought to that spec, or competition valves can be fitted. Many cars have been altered, and the spec is really down to personal choice. Unfortunately there has never been any scientific evaluation of aftermarket improvements, which are promoted on the basis of anecdotal evidence. A well-sorted original spec V8 should handle neutrally with a firm ride. Worn dampers will seriously degrade handling. Bump stops often disappear and this should be checked visually. The rears are simple to replace if there is no corrosion of the mounts, but fronts can be more of a challenge due to electrolytic corrosion of an alloy spacer on each side.


Wheels
The Dunlop composites remained unchanged throughout production. These wheels with a cast alloy

centre and steel rim were marketed for a selection of cars in the 70's and featured in a Dunlop brochure of the time. They were a compromise between steel and alloy, providing a more robust rim than alloy but with a slight weight penalty. Refurbishment is possible by specialists. The alloy centre is re-machined which erodes some of the pattern. When done twice, the raised circle starts to join up with the raised edge of each cut out and is a good indicator of past refurbishment. Occasionally the rim will be refitted 'misaligned' so that the valve, which should lie between two cut outs, will overlap one cut out. On the back of the alloy centre are a number of reference marks including the year of manufacture in a small circle. Reproduction wheels have been produced and are available in limited numbers. The chrome plating does not appear to be as robust as the original wheels and the alloy centre is devoid of marks on the back. The casting is also sharper edged. The alloy centre is also used on some Reliant Scimitars, but is machined differently around the cut-outs. The gentle curve on the radius of each cut out is left with a sharp angle on the Scimitar application, and the Scimitar also used two sleeve bolt diameters. The Scimitar rim is wider, but will 'just' fit the MGB - rear arch clearance can be a problem.

Bodywork
A well documented subject. All panels are available but the big problem is that they don't fit well due to wear in the tooling, and the quality of some restorations is questionable. Don't assume the car you see in the 'photographic evidence' of restoration is the car you go to buy. Alignment of panels is the major indicator of quality and even some Heritage shells show mediocre panel fit. You should expect some level of restoration in a car this old. Without evidence of this, you should expect to have to deal with it soon with the associated costs.

The bodyshell is the most expensive part of the car to restore, so evaluation of this component is crucial. Front wings are available but are difficult to align well. The front wing to bonnet shut lines are rarely parallel, and the leading edge of the bonnet is often at odds with the leading edge of the front wings. Check under the front wings where the triangular reinforcement panel high up on the inner wing will rot through on its top edge where mud collects. The splash plates behind the front wheels can also rot from the bottom and allow mud to get at the sill panel. These splash panels are fastened by a series of bolts in a vertical alignment, but the key indicator is a Philips headed setscrew right at the bottom just inside the bottom curve of the front wing. This setscrew rusts in place very easily and is often missing or sheared off. The state of the splash plate fasteners will indicate if the plate has been off recently. What's hidden behind is often sobering, and often includes mud, rust and holes. The alignment between the front edge of the door, the rear edge of the front wing and the front edge of the sill panel should be a flowing curve of even gap. Where the A post or hinge panel meets the flat (doorstep) sill panel, there should be a small flap of metal and a small hole in the inner corner. Poor restorations are often missing both. The join between the rear wing and sill panel should be a vertical join, visible but 'filled'.

The rear edge of the door should meet the rear wing with an even panel gap and a smooth transition curve. Door alignment is one of the major faults on restored B's. It's exceptionally difficult to get right. The bottom edge of the sill and both wings on each side should be a straight line. Beware of curves on this lower edge, and avoid cars with stainless cover sills. They will mask misalignment and corrosion. Inside the boot space will show if a lower repair panel has been fitted to the rear wings. Check for a joddled join. Externally, looking down each side will show any evidence of filler, although some slight rippling around the waistline is not unusual. Also check the alignment of the waist strip by doing this.

Many part repair panels are available and are not easy to spot, so take a magnet which will show filler easily. Magnetic tape used to hold card to a magboard in training sessions is particularly good for this purpose. Don't dismiss a car with repair panels if it's been well done. Conversely it can be extremely difficult to fit full panels such as a rear wing, so you may find these have been badly fitted. Keep an eye out where a lower rear wing panel has been tacked over the top of the original wing. The giveaway is two lips around the wheel arch. The front and rear screens can show rot underneath the rubbers. Beware of this, as they screens are difficult to refit properly and the rubbers and stainless finishers often show evidence of poor quality refitting.

The honeycombe grille is only available as a reproduction part. The honeycomb is handed on originals, but the protruding diagonals are all the same on repros. A minor point. The badge in the centre often lacks the 3D effect of the original, and should always be red on the V8. Chrome bumpers now vary tremendously in quality and an undamaged rechromed original will always be better than a reproduction. Although repros are improving, they just can't seem to get the ends right! The ends should be gently rounded in three dimensions but repro's often lack that third dimension. Again, a minor point.

Interior
There were few changes during production. The last two cars had facelift (post '76) dashboards. Odd cars had 1800spec temp & pressure gauges - the standard V8 oil pressure gauge has a shorter scale due to the lower running pressure than the 1800 engine. Interior trim was brushed nylon in black, navy, ochre or autumn leaf with rubber sill and floor mats. Late on in production, the colours became inconsistent as stocks were used up, so the floor mat colour may not match the bulkhead and boot carpet colour for example. Inertia reel seatbelts, head restraints, tinted glass, hazard lights and overdrive were all standard. Many cars are now upgraded from this spec with leather seats and full carpeting. Many cars are now fitted with aftermarket belts. The passenger vanity mirror was glued to the underside of the visor and it makes good sense to remove this mirror for safety. Post 76 visors which are black on the underside have the mirror behind plastic and are an acceptable (non-original) alternative. Door trims should have the two 'chrome' strips and the gear knob should be leather. Overdrive is switched from the left hand column stalk.

In conclusion
A final rule of thumb which indicates the level of care taken with the car. Are the tyres all the same make and type? Is the oil clean on the dipstick? Is the interior tidy and free of tears and holes in upholstery and floor covering? Is the boot space clean and tidy? Is the jack & wheel brace present and in good condition? History is very important and a car with a full history is getting harder to find. You'll rarely see a V8 advertised with more than 100k miles recorded, yet these cars were used as daily drivers for at least 10 years from new, and often longer. So 120k miles after 10 years would be the norm. Unless you have MOT's right back to the start, take the recorded mileage with a pinch of salt. Remember - there is an enormous font of knowledge in the V8 Register - use it wisely, and you will buy a great British classic which will provide years of pleasure.


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