The Darwinian evolution of the MGB

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Peter Cresswell
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The Darwinian evolution of the MGB

Post by Peter Cresswell » Sun Mar 22, 2020 11:40 pm

I renewed my MG Car Club Membership yesterday and after doing so it occurred to me that the likelihood of social gatherings over the next few months will be few and far between. So, to help keep the fun in MGB ownership, I had an idea which I hope will help everyone on here to have a little light hearted relief. So let me present Darwins ‘Theory of Evolution’ applied to the MGB

It occurred to me that the MGB has evolved into a powerful bug busting machine, both for germs and viruses. This is not the handy work of its fabled designer, Don Hayter, so I am not talking about pull handles to push buttons; three syncho gearboxes to 4 synchro; chrome to rubber bumper or the finer differences of a mark 1 and mark 4. Not even roadster to GT – although this probably ranks as one of the finest evolutions the British motor industry has ever achieved. Here I am concerned with the MGB protecting its occupants particularly from biological harm.

When introduced in 1962 to a rather astonished public brought up on a diet of sidescreens and chassis, the MGB immediately set new standards of sports car comfort. Indeed it was even frowned upon within MG Car Club circles and it took until the late 1970s for the MGB Register to be established. By then of course many had rotted away. I know for the first MGB I owned, a 1966 roadster, which I bought in 1971, which was five years old and complete with rusty front wings! However this was all part of the plan these cunning cars developed using Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. So let’s look at the facts in more detail and I can offer a few tips if you are planning a rebuild or restoration during these days of self-imposed exile.

Let me start with debunking the theory that the MGB rusted badly. As we are now being told, fresh air is important for our health and by the late 1970s our friendly, cuddly MGBs have been hard at work providing us with plenty of the stuff. As soon as the splash panels inside the front wheel arches rusted away, fresh air was ducted at speed into the cabin. Ford had introduced their ‘Aeroflow’ ventilation in 1964, but the MGB was already there. No need for a multi-position switch, controlling a variable speed fan; all you need to do was look at the speedo. 60 mph and you had a 60mph gale blowing through the cabin.

So we had fresh air, but to kill the germs something else was needed. Here the MGB got really clever with a two pronged attack. Firstly the sturdy B-Series engine was never the cleanest of designs as far as fumes (now called ‘emissions’ by the greenies) were concerned, and when stretched to 1798cc, it was even worse. The clever part of the evolution was to get these noxious fumes into the passenger area where they could get to work killing off everything from flu bugs to smelly sock odour. It achieved this by using the holes through the bulkhead, from which grommets had disappeared, and where the wiring to passes through. So it is important never to plug up the holes in the bulkhead or replace the splash panels under the front wings. The holes are there for a reason and the splash panels have disappeared for the same reason.

Secondly, continuing with this thought, the exhaust system is part of the clever bug killing evolution. As the car ages the springs sag (and of course the engine emits even more fumes). This means the exhaust system is likely to make contact with the ground under the centre of the car. Initially it can cope with this and it merely makes a scraping noise. A bit later you become aware that it is not as quiet as it used to be, but don’t worry it is all part of the cunning plan of evolution. What is happening is the exhaust is now leaking and these are the same bug killing fumes mentioned above, but now they get to the passengers through an even more sneaky path – the rotted out floor panels. So, it most important for enjoying many bug free motoring miles, that the engine is not rebuilt, the exhaust is not replaced and the floor is not repaired.

Most bugs inherently dislike water as it stops them doing what they do best, which is to multiply. This why we are currently being told to wash our hands frequently. Here the MGB roadster is slightly more evolved than the MGB GT, but it did have a 3 year head start. Quite soon after the first owner bought the car new – their shiny pride and joy – they noticed a little blob of water on their right hand (or left hand in left hand drive cars). Having traded in their leaky old MGAs, or leaky and drafty T-Types, which no doubt they loved because they could wear a bobble hat, they were obviously annoyed and sought remedy from their friendly local BMC dealership, only to be told ‘they all do that – it hasn’t got a proper roof!’ At this stage, the MGB was already evolving its unique ‘Owner Washing Facility’, which at first was only apparent in heavy downpours but later even on a misty day you might be treated to a wash if the car thought you were infected. Evolution takes time you know! Other sports cars like Triumphs and Sunbeams and Austin Healey's also had a version of the Owner Washing Facility but in their case they didn’t evolve. It was a case of a drowning or nothing, so they never evolved the controlled system the MGB had. Top tip here is during a restoration, don’t replace the hood on a roadster or the window seals on a GT, they leak for a reason, determined Darwin – survival of the fittest!

Finally I would like to compare the MGB technology to one of the most heralded advances in modern cars. Lane Departure Warning. Here the MGB was way ahead of anything until Nissan developed a system and introduced it in Japan in 2001. I know about this because I have used it in the early 1970s. After a long evening at a T-Type Racing Drivers annual dinner, where too much good food and drink and dancing had been partaken, on the way home I was suddenly presented by a huge hedge jumping out in front of my 1966 MGB - with rotten front wings. As the car left road, the sudden shaking in the steering alerted me to the danger and allowed me time to successfully steer around the hedge. No damage to the car or to me or my lady friend of the night (that sounds wrong because she became my wife – eventually!), and we continued safely on our way. It took Nissan another 30 years to work this out!

So the MGB has evolved naturally into a wonderful motorcar, which will look after you and your passenger in any circumstances be they biological or stupid. I hope we can continue to enjoy them again soon once these awful times pass. I rest my case, and I hope you can keep smiling!
1969 MGB Roadster
2011 MG 6 TSE Magnette
2007 Mercedes SLK
Plus 32 other cars since 1965

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George Wilder
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Re: The Darwinian evolution of the MGB

Post by George Wilder » Mon Mar 23, 2020 7:49 am

George Wilder
1965 MG MGB Mk1
1995 MG RV8
2005 MG TF 135
1959 BSA D7 Bantam

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Tom Brearley
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Re: The Darwinian evolution of the MGB

Post by Tom Brearley » Mon Mar 23, 2020 9:00 am

He he

It has been suggested (semi-facetiously) that from a Darwinian perspective infants and pets are parasitic upon their owners. They receive shelter, food and protection by engaging an emotional response. I would suggest that Bs are similarly adept at extracting time and money from their keepers!
1973 MGB GT (Exeter) - currently shaking down after 3 years off the road

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Paul Heffernan
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Re: The Darwinian evolution of the MGB

Post by Paul Heffernan » Mon Mar 30, 2020 4:33 pm

Thanks for that Peter, it's all snapped into focus now 🤣

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