Bumper Cars

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This is a 1978 MG MGB. At this point, you’re probably thinking, oh no, not another British sports car. We do British sports cars all the time. To those people, I’d like to say that I completely understand. And you’re right: there are a bunch of British sports cars on Forgotten Metal, and one of the main things I try to show here is the depth and diversity of the car world without the limitations of a particular brand or genre. Now shut up.

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The MGB was introduced in 1962 as a successor to the very pretty MGA. When it came out, the B was a small, nimble, fun convertible powered by a 1.8 liter inline four cylinder engine. That little baby, which was in essence an enlarged version of the engine found in the earlier car, put out 95 horsepower. Which is not a ton, if I’m honest. But in the 1960s, in a light car like this one, it was just enough for you to have fun, but not enough to get you into any real trouble with Johnny Law.

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The B also had a four speed transmission with overdrive, fully independent front suspension, and disc brakes, which were still a relative rarity when the car was introduced. Drum brakes were the norm during that time, and were composed of a small drum (who knew?) that rotated with the wheel when the car was in motion. Inside the drum were “shoes,” which, when the brake pedal was applied, rubbed up against the drum, generating friction and ultimately slowing the car down. Problem was, all this friction generated a fair deal of heat, which led to “brake fade,” which is exactly as bad as it sounds. Disc brakes, on the other hand, do away with the drum and expose the whole setup to the open air, which allows for more cooling and better performance. And the MGB had them! They’re in there somewhere, behind all that wheel nonsense.

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The MGB was sold for the best part of 20 years, which production finally wrapping up in 1980. During that time, the little two-seater became the best selling sports car of the era, and for good reason: it was brilliant. MGBs are largely considered to be the quintessential British sports car. They looked good too. They looked good in a way that wasn’t ostentatious either, like some muscle cars. The B had a whiff of academia about it somehow. It made a good car for an eccentric professor.

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But, and with British sports cars there is always a “but,” things were not all convertible tops and disc brakes when it came to the MGB’s later years. Tightened safety regulations meant that the professor’s car had to be modified or replaced, and MG certainly didn’t have the money to do the latter. So, in 1975, they jacked the suspension up by an inch and fitted those ugly rubber bumpers to the front and rear. This, like the addition of Shia LeBeouf to the Indiana Jones franchise, almost ruined the whole thing. The previously well mannered and fun little runabout was now wayward and heavy. It also produced less power: between 70 and 85 horsepower. The keyword, however, in my earlier dig at an easy celebrity, was “almost.” Because even with less power and heavy, ugly bumpers, the B was still a good little car for a relaxed Sunday drive. Even with it’s drawbacks, it still manages to put a smile on your face. And for that, it earns its place here on Forgotten Metal.

Additional Thoughts:

  • For those interested, this is what the B looked like for the majority of its lifespan, before the stupid bumpers.
  • Sorry to keep harping on about the bumpers, but they do have one redeeming quality. Apparently, they were nicknamed “Sabrinas” by some members of the British public, as they brought to mind images of the, ahem, well endowed actress Norma Ann Sykes.
  • MGBs didn’t so much have a backseat as much as a little cushion behind the front seats for smaller occupants, such as children or people with no legs.
  • Over it’s 18 year production run, MG offered the B as a convertible and a hardtop, which was called the MGB GT. You could also, for a period, get one with a V8.
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3 thoughts on “Bumper Cars

  1. Pingback: Always The Answer | Forgotten metal

  2. Pingback: No Place I’d Rather B | Forgotten metal

  3. Pingback: Shootin’ the Breeze | Forgotten metal

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