Home » Non-Original, But Fully Functional: 1976 MGB vs 1983 Jaguar XJ6

Non-Original, But Fully Functional: 1976 MGB vs 1983 Jaguar XJ6

Sbsd 9 6 2023
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Welcome back! It’s day two of our countdown to the 46th annual Portland All-British Field Meet, and today we’re looking at a couple of great-running cars that are nowhere near the spec they were when they left their homeland. But before we get to those, let’s finish up with yesterday’s garage ornaments:

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Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Well, it looks like the majority of you are shopping in the Husky department. As it happens, I agree; I dig Sprites of all ages, but I think if I ever got another two-seat roadster, it would be Italian. An oddball orphan wagon, though; that does sound like fun.

The reputation that British cars have for unreliability is not entirely deserved, but it’s also impossible to shake off at this point. Everyone loves the idea of them, but most enthusiasts are scared of the potential realities. This has had two effects on the market for British cars: First, it has kept prices low, so no one really cares about originality; and second, it has created whole cottage industries dedicated to making them more reliable. Today we’re looking at two staples of the low end of the British car market – the MGB and the Jaguar XJ6. One has been messed with cosmetically, the other mechanically. But both are in drive-away condition, according to the sellers. Let’s see which altered beast is a better deal.

1976 MGB – $4,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.8 liter overhead valve inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Pasadena, CA

Odometer reading: 72,000 miles

Runs/drives? Great, according to the seller

All right, let’s address the obvious right off the bat. Yes, the wheels are awful. They’re horribly unsuited to an MGB both in form and function. They make it look like one of those awful cheap die-cast toys you see at the drugstore, and I guarantee you they will absolutely obliterate both the ride and the handling. They simply have to go. The good news is that they’re probably worth something to someone, to put on some lesser car, and you only have to drive on them once, to get the car home. Then you can shop for more suitable rolling stock.

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So let’s just look past that unpleasantness and see what else we’re dealing with here. 1976 isn’t a particularly desirable year for MGBs; by this time the US-market cars had to make do with a single-carb, low-compression engine, and all of them had the black urethane 5 MPH bumpers. But the wonderful thing about these later cars is that all those indignities simply bolt on, meaning they can just as easily be taken off and replaced. This MGB eschews bumpers altogether, in favor of aftermarket fiberglass “Sebring” filler panels. These give it a racy look, especially combined with the early-style “waterfall” grille. Personally, I think it needs big round driving lights and maybe some white number roundels on the doors to complete the look, but that’s just me. I can’t tell you how original it is under the hood without a photo, but the seller does say the engine has been rebuilt, and runs well.

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The British racing green paint isn’t great; it looks like a homebrew job, with lots of orange peel, and I don’t really understand the shaved door handles. Lose the side trim, sure, but the MGB’s push-button chrome door handles are part of its character, and why get rid of a simple mechanical linkage for a potentially troublesome electrical one? (Most of the time, cars with shaved door handles have solenoid-actuated “poppers” to unlatch the doors.) I guess what’s done is done, and the MGA never had door handles, so there’s some precedent.

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Inside, things look much better. We 1968-71 MGB owners are always envious of earlier or later MGB dashboards that actually have gloveboxes; we have to make do with a stupid little map pocket in the passenger’s side footwell. The seats don’t look original, but I can’t place what car they’re from. If someone recognizes them, please let me know in the comments. The convertible top is also new, and that’s no small thing, as anyone who has ever paid for a replacement one will tell you.

1983 Jaguar XJ6 – $3,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 5.0 liter overhead valve V8, four-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Harbor City, CA

Odometer reading: 91,000 miles

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Runs/drives? “Very neatly,” per the seller

Jaguar’s XK-series inline six has a long and rich history, dating back to 1948 and continuing all the way into the early ’90s. It powered everything from LeMans winners to luxury sedans. Powerful, smooth, physically beautiful (at least the early versions with the polished cam covers), and durable, this marvel of engineering defined Jaguar cars for four decades. If you insist, then, on pulling it out and replacing it with something else, that “something else” had better have just as long and rich of a history, be just as known for durability and performance, and if it isn’t pretty, it had better be able to sing. Surely, no such powerplant exists, right? To that, General Motors says “hold my ice-cold watery beer.”

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Chevrolet’s small-block V8 isn’t quite as old as the Jag six, hitting the market in 1955, but its production totals exceed the XK’s many times over, and it has had its share of competiton glory. The vehicles in which it was installed may not have been as classy (think IROC Camaro vs E-Type), but millions of hot rodders can’t be wrong – the SBC is a legend. Installing a Chevy engine in a Jaguar is a controversial move, but what’s done is done, and in this case, it appears to have at least been done well. The center-bolt valve covers tell me that this car’s 305 V8 is a redesigned 1987 or newer small-block, which would originally have had throttle-body fuel injection. It now receives its fuel/air mixture from an Edelbrock four-barrel carb, and transmits power to the Jag’s independent rear end through a 700R4 overdrive automatic.

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Apart from the V8 engine, the rest of this car is standard-issue old Jag, meaning wood and leather inside, and chrome and rust outside. Not much rust, but it is originally a Midwestern car, so a thorough check is in order. Close up, you can tell the paint isn’t in great condition, but it’s also a forty-year-old car now. As long as it looks good from ten feet away, though, and is structurally sound, who cares?

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Plenty of purists will scoff (or worse) at a car like this, but personally, I’m fine with it. It’s a very pretty car, comfortable and pleasant to drive, and now it makes cool V8 noises too. Would I suggest that someone remove a good-running XK engine and replace it with a 305 out of (probably) a Chevy truck? Of course not. Would I happliy drive an XJ6 already so equipped, in this condition, for three grand? Hell yes.

Hacking up British cars to make them look different or go faster is a time-honored tradition here in America. I do sometimes wonder what they think of our creations. Which do you suppose is a greater sacrilege: a stylistic mishmash of an MGB, or a carefully-done V8 heart transplant in a classic Jaguar? But more to the point, which one do you prefer?

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
9 months ago

I always thought the wheels on Hot Wheels were ugly. Why would someone put them on a real car? Now that I think of it, don’t most hot wheels forget to put the door handles on too?

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
9 months ago

MGB for me… I would just replace those hideous wheels with some stock or period-correct wheels and drive the shit out of it.

The Jag might have gotten my vote if it had a GOOD SBC… like an SBC out of a 1990s Corvette or F-Body.

But going through the trouble of swapping in a shitty 305? That’s some serious corner cutting that makes me take a pass on that particular Jag.

BentleyBoy
BentleyBoy
9 months ago

But it’s a Jaaaaaag! The seats in the B are a deal breaker, cloth seats in a convertible? I like the body treatment of the B but the Jag is where I want to spend my money (and keep doing so).
Hey what happened to my user name???

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
9 months ago

There’s a shop called Jaguars That Run that specializes in putting Chevy engines into Jags. I wonder if this is one of theirs.

ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
9 months ago

What happened to my username? Anyway, the V-8 in the Jag arguably makes it better, the cosmetic mods to the MG make it worse. Plus the Jag is much cheaper, easy choice. ProudLuddite

Mark Abel
Mark Abel
9 months ago

buy em both, swap the wheels, and then sell the jag

Last edited 9 months ago by Mark Abel
Widgetsltd
Widgetsltd
9 months ago

As a multi-time Fiat 124 spider owner (who doesn’t own one currently), I cannot in good conscience vote for the Spider’s arch-enemy MGB. So, the Jaguar it is! Just don’t tell Dave, my former Jaguar Land Rover co-worker. Besides, it would be child’s play to build a MUCH better small block Chevy to swap in there.

Gene1969
Gene1969
9 months ago

I picked the B because who needs a Miata. 🙂

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
9 months ago

Of all the MGs the Bs my least liked. Just lost its British flair.Too much American in its DNA. I don’t hate it but would prefer any other.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
9 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I’ve only owned two MGs but I think overall I had more fun with my Metro 1300 than with my B. They both towed well, though:

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ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
9 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I feel that way about MGB vs. other British sports cars in general. Triumph TRs are faster, and if not better looking at least have more character. Sprites, Midgets and Spitfires are sharper, more darty, and fun to drive. The MGB is a perfectly serviceable sportscar, and maybe makes a better daily driver than the others, but at this point you are probably buying an old British sportscar for looks or fun. Yeah an MGA is better looking and T-series have a lot more character too.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
9 months ago

MGB here’s why:

  1. A vintage british car should be enjoyed, but not as a daily driver. So if you are looking for something fun to bring out on the weekends anyway, might as well be a small british sports car with a convertible top.
  2. MGB’s might not be the most reliable thing in the world, but there just is less to them (in general) than the XJ to go wrong
  3. XJ’s of this vintage are finicky beyond their engines. i.e. 12v electrics, my family had one of a similar year (not with a SBC of course) and it eventually caught itself on fire because of some electrical issue.
  4. MGB engines aren’t expensive to fix, and rebuilt units aren’t crazy expensive. Also, it could be swapped with something else, although I wouldn’t go crazy and put an LS in there or something. Maybe a mildly built odd-fire Buick V6 (so it has a much more interesting sound vs. even fire).
Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
9 months ago

You lost me at “…but not as a daily driver.” They make perfectly fine daily drivers.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
9 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Sorry, to be clear, if you have a vintage british car (or other non-british vintage car TBF) and you have it in a state of reliability/modification that it can be relied on everyday (depending on environment)… you have my respect sir.

More respect if it’s an MGB vs. an early 80s XJ6 though…

Last edited 9 months ago by Bizness Comma Nunya
Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
9 months ago

I’m not sure I want to know but where does my Austin Allegro fall on that scale?

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
9 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Closer to the MGB

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
9 months ago

Looking at the brand new top, I would make the following observation. The owner either has or has not experienced the delightful agony of a dislocated thumb from attempting to get the snaploc connectors over the little pins. It has or has not happened but it eventually will.

Trevlington
Trevlington
9 months ago

Voted Jag. Those wheels on the MG look like they might be the 20″ wheels that come on the higher spec Vauxhall Insignia in the UK (our version of the Buick Regal). For a car that is supposed to be a family wagon or motorway cruiser the Insignia on those wheels with rubber and tyres looks really uncomfortable. I got mine with 17″ wheels and deep sidewalls for the comfort. On an MG, no thanks.

Mike B
Mike B
9 months ago

As much as I generally dislike the 305, the Jaaaaaag is a no brainer. It won’t be a powerhouse, but it’ll move along well enough, even 305’s made good low end tq.

For essentially play money, it would be fun to add an exhaust cutout and bring it to cars and coffee.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
9 months ago

“…why get rid of a simple mechanical linkage for a potentially troublesome electrical one?”

The ad doesn’t mention the addition of solenoids so my guess is that the mechanical linkage was removed and replaced with “just reach inside and open it that way.”

To put it another way, if it had solenoids then I think the ad would have made much of that fact.

Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
9 months ago

I own both a 76 midget and a 1990 xj6. I choose neither of these. I can’t stand it when people cousin fuck cars. That Jaguar 6 is a marvel of engineering. The problems with those vehicles were related to the engines, they were electrical. Somebody ruined a nice Jaguar.

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
9 months ago

Nice find on the Jaaaaag! So much want for that one, especially since the price just dropped to $2500. This would be a such a fun match for my white ’82 XJ6 350 V8 FrankenJag that I’ve managed to log around 25,000 miles on. Mine has the nicer looking TPI setup which actually seems to draw a little attention if I leave the hood up at a show.

This one has a nicer interior than mine and even with the 305, it sounds great for the price. If I hadn’t just bought a 2000 XK8, and my daughter hadn’t just bought a 1987 Corvette (garage space is getting tight), I think I’d be considering a fly-out, drive home trip in the near future.

And the current $2000 I’d save by not buying that MGB would go quite a ways towards the inevitable bits, pieces, tires, fluids, wires, relays, etc. one needs to keep up with on an old Jaguar, whatever the power-plant.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
9 months ago

The paint on the MG looks like it was applied using a paint roller! (´・_・`)

I voted for the Jag-rolet ヽ(͡◕ ͜ʖ ͡◕)ノ

Cyko9
Cyko9
9 months ago

The Jaguar is a pretty nice price for what you get. The MG gives me a too much modification vibe, maybe with some corners cut. If the prices were swapped, I might be swayed.

Frank Suttle
Frank Suttle
9 months ago

What about a 03 Jaguar X Type, in good condition. How much is it worth?

Rich Hobbs
Rich Hobbs
9 months ago

Here’s the deal…How did the owner of the Jag get it to pass smog here in Cali. It would need a CARB exemption sticker as the engine has been changed. The engine originally had fuel injection and now has a carburetor…Gonna have High Hydrocarbons, high Nox, would have to have the dyno test. Does it have functioning catalysts?. Of course I guess there’s still a place or two that for a $100 bill wink wink nudge nudge that could get you a cert…The MG if it is all stock might pass smog. If it has a Weber carb instead of the SU you will need the replacement to be CARB approved. Both of these are scary. Of course if your taking somewhere that doesn’t require any emissions test??

Last edited 9 months ago by Rich Hobbs
Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
9 months ago
Reply to  Rich Hobbs

It is possible (or it was) – I have a ’82 XJ6 with a TPI 350/700R4 combo from an ’87 IROC. It came with a a mountain of documentation and the builder was quite proud of the fact that they got it through emissions. The compliance sticker from 1999 is inside the door. Of course, something tells me this one would be a bit of a challenge.

Donald Petersen
Donald Petersen
9 months ago

I myself put a ’93 350 w/ 4L60E transmission from a Caprice into an ’87 XJ6 back in 2008 or so. Using a conversion kit from John’s Cars made it extremely easy: no cutting, no welding, no fabrication on my part, and entirely reversible if you hang on to the old exhaust and drivetrain. You do have to drill one small hole to relocate the washer fluid bottle, IIRC. John’s Cars sends you a custom wiring harness that is made specifically for your particular Jag and your particular year/model of SBC. Kit and donor car in hand, I did the conversion by myself in my driveway over a single weekend, with hand tools, necessitating only a follow-up trip to a muffler shop to get exhaust pipes and a cat to connect the ram’s horn Chevy manifolds to the Jag tailpipes.

For making it all legal, I needed a couple trips to the smog referee. First one to tell me what needed to be fixed/adjusted, second one to pass it. Emissions standards have to match the newer of the Jag itself or the donor engine. So for the purposes of all future smog tests, that 1987 XJ6 is now a 1993 Caprice with a 5.7 liter V8, and has to meet those smog standards. The referee just needed me to move the O2 sensor to a different location, then passed it.

Wish I still had it. It was lots of fun, and the conversion was so clean it looked factory original. The one thing I didn’t get around to (but would have been easy peasy) was hooking up the cruise control. Anyway I ended up giving it to my nephew, and then someone crashed into it. I’d do another of those conversions in a heartbeat. Maybe next time to an XJS. “Engineering marvel” that Jag six may be, but it was heavier, less powerful, less fuel efficient, less reliable, more expensive to maintain, and generally not as good as even that not-ideal ’93 TBI SBC. That conversion just made it a better car.

Ricki
Ricki
9 months ago

Don’t get me wrong, if there was nearly any other engine in that Jaguar, I’d be luxury sedan-ing it up all day erry day. But a 305 with a carb? Yikes.

The MG seems at least respected, aside from those wheels, which are indeed awful. Sure, I can see maybe putting slightly larger rims onto a stock diameter tire, but that’s just too much wheel and not enough rubber for something that barely fits in the wheel wells. There are much better modern options out there for an “updated” look.

Hillbilly Ocean
Hillbilly Ocean
9 months ago

Those look like the stock MGB seats with mouse fur added and the single post headrests removed….

Mgbe39
Mgbe39
9 months ago

Agreed. All of the shapes / proportions seem to match the stock seats.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
9 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Having once been guilty of removing the disintegrating headrests from the disintegrating seats in my ‘74.5 MGB before finally just replacing both seats with less-disintegrating earlier ones, my vote is also that these are the stock seats that have been reupholstered in a nonstock pattern, minus the headrests.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
9 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

I don’t think so but yeah a reupholster job is possible.

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