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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
reserved by the V8 Register