Welcome to Member Rides, the weekly feature in which we share the cars and stories of Autopian Members. This week, we’re very happy to bring you a lovely MGB courtesy of 3wiperB, who is doing more than his fair share to encourage younger drivers to be car (and camping) enthusiasts unafraid of getting their hands dirty. Let’s talk MGB!
How did you acquire your MGB, and what kind of state was it in?
The MGB was a COVID purchase off Facebook Marketplace. I thought I did a good inspection and test drive, but it wasn’t in quite as good of shape as I thought. I don’t think the seller knew, as I think the work was done by the owner before him. The interior was immaculate and in very nice shape.
This 1979 MGB is the reason for my username, “3wiperB.”
MGB Interior – No changes in here since purchase
The top was serviceable, but probably needs replacement eventually. I really don’t use it. The car ran fine and had some nice upgrades including a new gas tank, electronic ignition instead of points, electric radiator fans, newer wiring, new stereo and speakers, and LEDs for the headlights and most of the exterior bulbs. The tires were about 10 years old, so I took it to a tire shop the day after I bought it to have to tires put on. I had a conversation for a few minutes with the tech about lifting it from the engine crossmember and differential using jacks, and to not lift it from the rocker panels. He then proceeded to lift the car from the rocker panels, including way back by the rear wheel wells where it’s just sheet metal. The lift bent the sheetmetal on both sides and cracked some Bondo on the passenger-side rockers that I didn’t know about.
They kind of did me a favor, since they uncovered some bodywork that I didn’t know was there. Ultimately, the shop did the right thing without hesitation and their insurance ended up writing me a check for about $500 less than what I had paid for the car. I didn’t bother fixing it, since I have concerns that there are more buried body repairs that will cost way more than the car is worth to make right.
Tire shop lifting damage. Ouch … but it mostly paid for the car.
Now I’ve been driving the MGB for two and a half years and not worrying about it. I tend to put about 1500-2000 miles on it a year, which seems pretty good considering it’s Michigan and I only drive it when it’s between 55-85 degrees with no chance of rain. I may eventually try to do the rocker replacement on both sides, but I haven’t decided if this is the right car to spend that effort on. There’s something to be said about just being able to drive it without worrying about wear and tear and minor scratches.
Why an MGB?
My dad bought a 1960 MGA in the early 1990’s and still has the car. I had fond memories of it and learned to drive stick on it as a teen. He was never really a gearhead, but he had the MGB fully restored in the 90’s. Getting an MGB has been a chance to work on cars together, since I’ve learned so much about working on MGBs. Even though they are nineteen years apart, the MGA and MGB still share a lot of similar or slightly modified parts. I helped my dad replace his clutch in 2021 after doing my MGB’s the previous year, and we discovered his MGA had an MGB engine in it and he never even knew. The MGA’s have 1500cc and 1600cc engines, and the MGB is an 1800cc. But they basically bolt right in, and his lined up on an MGA 4-speed with no modification.The MGB, especially the rubber bumper ones, are still affordable, easy to work on, and you can get any part you need. It’s a great “starter classic car.”
Engine out of the MGA to replace the clutch
My dad’s MGA mid-clutch-replacement, and our family collection of “oddities:” my sister’s family VW camper van in Blue, and my Chevy Volt (now sold). Just out of frame: my parents very rare Cadillac CT6 PHEV. Fewer than 300 were sold in the US over two model years.
What have you done to restore/modify/maintain your MGB?
I’ve done a lot, but it’s mostly been fixing things as they broke. The intent was to work on it together with my teenage boys. This has happened a few times, but they really don’t have that much interest. I didn’t have much interest at their age either, but I’m going with the philosophy that they can at least see that working on things themselves is possible. My biggest job was pulling the engine and transmission out to replace the clutch. I picked up a nicer set of Rostyle wheels. I’ve also done brakes and some brake lines, clutch cylinder, replaced all the rubber lines, starter, fuel pump, and lots of little odds and ends. I replaced all the fluids when I got the car. Everything works except the reverse lights. Someday I’ll trace down the issue there, but it doesn’t seem to be grounding so I suspect it’s the switch in the transmission. The clock even keeps perfect time. It’s been dependable and this year was the first year that it didn’t just start right up in the spring. I replaced the fuel pump and cleaned the plugs and was back in business.
The MGB getting a new clutch
What do you enjoy most about the MGB?
I just enjoy how mechanical it is. It’s satisfying to run through the gears on a manual transmission, and with 62.5 HP, you use all four gears even on a 40mph road. It’s just fun to be in the open air on a nice day, but my favorite time to drive is on a summer evening after the sun goes down. It’s a miserable, loud, rattle-filled car when the top is up, but it’s so much fun with the top down. It’s fairly fun to work on too. Its simple to diagnose most things. There have a few jobs that have been difficult, but generally everything is simple to get at and work on.
Do you get a lot of attention in it?
People react well to it. It’s so tiny compared to anything sold today and it’s hard to hate a cute little car. It gets a lot of compliments and attention.
What are the most striking contrasts between owning and driving the MGB versus modern machines?
There’s something with older cars that is just more enjoyable than a modern car. It has more soul. On paper, the MGB is a horrible car. It’s slow, impractical, small, and was incredibly outdated even when it was new in 1979. But now I find it’s fun to drive a slow car fast, and it’s perfectly practical on nice days. How big of a car do I need to drive myself to work? The running costs are cheaper than any other car I own. It gets 22-24 mpg, the classic insurance is a quarter of any of my other cars, and registration is just $19 a year. I spent around $5,000 to purchase it, but the payout from the tire shop mishap means I don’t have much invested. I have a lot of sweat equity into it, but probably less than $1000 in parts and $700 in tires.
I bought the MGB because the Volt I had as a daily driver at the time never needed anything done to it. Even oil changes were two years apart on the Volt because I ran the engine so little. I find working on cars to be relaxing most of the time, if you don’t have a deadline or urgency on getting it fixed.
As for the driving experience: nothing is boring in the MGB. We just bought a BMW 330e PHEV a few weeks ago and it might be the best all around car that I’ve ever had, but it can still be a little dull to drive around town. Its driving limits are too high for most normal driving. It’s almost too good. But in the MGB, you’re sitting a few inches above the ground, you’re busy shifting the transmission, you’re watching and listening to everything around you and you notice that trucks have tires that as tall as most of your car. You can drive the MGB near its limit on public roads and not get in trouble. I love the engagement of it all.
We’ve focused on your MGB, but we know you’ve got some campers and that BMW PHEV too. Care to mention anything about those?
The camper bug hit me around ten years ago. My wife and kids started getting into tent camping, and I hated camping in a tent. I started looking and found there were classic camper enthusiasts—this was before it got popular a few years later. I managed to find a 1966 Blazon near me for the low price of $3250, after some negotiation. It seemed like a way to still “rough it,” but be more comfortable than a tent. The one we found had been repainted, was in good shape, and still had its original birch with amber shellac interior.
1966 Blazon with its traditional style awning
1966 Blazon Interior
We haven’t had to do much to it, other than the roof, tires, and a few modernization efforts. We replaced the icebox with a refrigerator, upgraded the electrical for safety reasons, and added an AC system that can be set-up and removed as needed. The AC is an external unit that we set on the back bumper and duct in, but we leave it at home if it’s not needed. It’s been fun being in the Tin Can Tourists and doing vintage camper events with them. We’ve met a lot of great people.
It’s a great looking camper!
Believe it or not, we fit ourselves and three kids in this 16-foot camper. The couch folds down into not-quite a double bed, there is a fold down bunk above, and the dinette sleeps another one or two—or one would sleep on the floor down the middle. I like to say that it sleeps five uncomfortably. There’s no bathroom or hot water in this one, so it’s pretty basic, but we have a three burner cooktop and a sink with cold water. It’s still a nice place to be, surrounded by all that amber wood.
And then you got the Airstream bug?
About a year and a half ago, my wife had an uncle pass away from COVID. He was single and it was a small side of her family, so we were left some inheritance. He had always loved to travel and take great trips. We were very careful with money, so we decided we should spend a portion of it on something frivolous in the spirit of the travel he enjoyed so much. He would have never camped, but that’s our preference for just unwinding and seeing new places and forcing some family time. We had always wanted an Airstream trailer after seeing so many classic ones at the vintage trailer rallies, and we hadn’t been able to camp in our vintage one for a while at that point because campground showers and toilets weren’t generally open during the shutdowns. We found a 2007 23-footer near us and got to see it while the owner was camping, so we could verify everything worked. This is the best way to do it if you are buying a used camper. We are still cramming five of us in it at times, but two of our kids are in college now, so the family camping trips are almost done and we are looking more toward the future of just camping as a couple. It’s not an item that will ever make any financial sense, but we are making great memories with it. It’s been a terrific camper, I haven’t had to do anything major to it, and we’ve probably used it over thirty nights already.
2007 Airstream 23′ Safari and the 1966 Blazon
2021 BMW 330e XDrive PHEV
Let’s talk about your 3-series hybrid.
The 2021 BMW 330e is a recent purchase. I had a 2014 Volt that I bought in 2017 and drove for 5 years. I loved it, but when we bought the Airstream, I needed a full size truck to tow it, so it was traded in on a RAM 1500. We’ve wanted a PHEV or EV in the family again since then. The BMW is my wife’s car, but she let me pick it out for her and trusted me enough that she didn’t even test drive it. I had been looking for a Bolt EUV or a BMW i3 REx (since David Tracy keeps talking those up) and a local dealer had a 2019 i3 REx in stock, but it had been sold when I got to the dealer. They had just gotten this 2021 330e back from a 2-year lease and it wasn’t even in their inventory or cleaned up yet. The salesman said he loved the i3, but that we should try the 330e.
He wasn’t wrong, and it didn’t hurt that it was Portimao Blue with the M-Sport package and only had 12,000 miles on it. This car wasn’t even on my radar, but as I researched it, it seemed to be a perfect fit. I wish it had a little more all-electric range, but it does almost everything else a little better than my Volt did. It has full-time all-wheel drive; does 0-60 in 5.5 seconds with 288hp and 310 lb.-ft. of torque; will go 20 miles under electric power; has great handling and driving dynamics, and gets amazing gas mileage. The ratings are 25/33 mpg city/highway, but on the three trips I’ve taken of about 60 miles in it, it’s gotten more like 50 mpg at 70 miles an hour without even taking the electric miles into account. All that and it’s comfortable and full of tech, too. If you have a short commute, this one ticks a lot of boxes. Since we’ll be driving this as an EV about 80% of the time, I think it will avoid a lot of maintenance, since brakes barely get used on an EV, and the oil changes will only need to happen annually. The other nice thing about the 2021 model is it still has a digital dash and big screen. It doesn’t have the huge combined screens of the 2022+, and it still has all the physical buttons that they eliminated in favor of screen controls.
That’s the most interesting parts of the fleet. There’s a GMC Acadia AWD (cheapish lease for the kid that’s eight hours away at a college that gets over 200 inches of snow a year) and a 2008 Cadillac STS V8 (for the other college kid that is just 20 minutes away from us).
What a terrific family and fleet, thanks for sharing with us 3wiperB!
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Made the move from a ’14 Volt to a 330e myself, but it’s a ’16. Absolutely love it, it’s perfect for our use case.
Nice. It works well for our use case too. My wife does so many short trips. She works 1 mile away, and does a drop off and pick up of my son at school about 3 miles away. Then we are doing short runs to the store, etc in the evening. It’s just a killer on a gas car to have all those short trips where the engine doesn’t warm up. It’s perfect for a PHEV.
Have you had any problems with your 330e? I wasn’t seeing many problems in forums and things, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the user base that the Volt does.
This looks like a RV setup to make Mercedes jealous! I really like your MG. Don’t worry about your boys. As long as you keep working on the cars, the interest will eventually show up. It worked for me. In high school, my dad had me “help” rebuild a Corolla engine. I am sure I helped some, but it was later that I really started to enjoy fixing cars.
Thanks Andrew. Good to hear and I expect the same. My kids were raised in a DEY (Do everything yourself) environment. My dad was the same. My kids grew up seeing me doing oil changes, plumbing, electrical, tile, woodworking, etc. Most of the time I got it right, sometimes I failed. Even the failures and corrections cost me less than hiring someone else to do it. They also saw the things that I didn’t want to handle myself (like roofing or refinishing floors). Along the way you get to buy lots of tools and no-one complains. I’m looking forward to the day when they have their own cars and houses and I can help them with their projects.
I am so glad “Reader Rides” has returned!Can we get Mercedes to review your sister’s Eurovan?
It’s certainly worth the review. It has the pop-up top with a bed, as well as a sink and fridge, so they camp with it as well as using it for one of their 2 family vehicles. They actually had an Airstream previously. They full-timed for a summer (between university jobs) when their kids were young and travelled the country. They specifically bought a used Airstream because they knew they would be able to sell it for roughly the same price after they were done, an I think they actually made a little money back.
I currently have a 76 nightmare Mgb….
That looks so much like my nightmare ’78 MGB that the lede image gave me PTSD :-/
Soooo jealous of the MGB. Remember when bumpers stuck out of the cars like that? Sigh.
Those bumpers work too. I accidentally let the clutch out in first gear in the garage once (thought it was in neutral) and smacked a heavy workbench hard enough to move it about a foot. There wasn’t even a scratch on the bumper and there was no damage to the car. A modern car would have been an insurance claim and probably damage to a bumper, headlight assembly, and maybe the hood.
Excellent little B you’ve got there, 3WB! My wife and I had one for a while (chrome bumper, wire wheel, 3 wipers, red with a navy interior and top), but there’s no place for a baby in one of those, so that was that. It was a great car!
Great fleet! I had a 1972 MGB GT years ago and loved it. The Airstream looks awesome and the BMW is a really interesting replacement for a Volt.
I think the BMW may finally turn my wife into a car person (or at least someone who enjoys cars more than she did). After 3 weeks, she doesn’t even let me drive it if she has someplace to go at the same time. I did love my Volt, but I think I like this car even better. It’s does everything so well and has such different personalities, depending on which drive mode it’s in. I’m odd in that I love manual transmissions, but also love the electric torque.
Jealousy will never be a worthwhile excuse to not appreciate someone else’s style and joy.
Am I jealous? A bit.
Does your collection bring me joy to read about?
Thanks for sharing.
I appreciate it.
Great story! Good to have you around, 3WiperB!
Great story 3WB…thanks for sharing and that’s an impressive stable!
I briefly had a ’74 B (orange b/c yeah) awhile back, and one of things that was really striking about it vs modern machinery was that you just got in and…went. The car didn’t boot up its various screens, chime and beep at you, warn you of various things, etc. You looked at the gauges, put the choke in (or out, I can never remember the right term) if it was cold…it was all on you and demanded your attention, like your great description of driving yours.
Matthew Crawford writes about this in Why We Drive, talking about his Karmann-Ghia, that it’s part of the immediacy we’re losing as cars are more and more automated, a change in our relationship with them in seemingly worse way.
Your description absolutely makes me want one again (or rather, a Triumph Spitfire 1500, as I coveted the yellow one of a friend in high school)!
I love this response so much!