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MG MGB Technical - MGB upgrade - good value??

Hi all,

Have been dipping into this site for some time now. I have a 67 mgb roadster which although the bodywork is excellent, the mechanicals need some tlc. I am considering various options, whther to go V8, VVC or upgrade a standard unit.

I have taken some advice and it has been suggested that the following would be suitable.

1800cc, lightened & balanced, mild road cam & Stage II head work with tubular manifold & sports exhaust. Electronic ignition, electric fan, K&N air filters and alternator.

Strip & rebuild gearbox. New clutch, hoses, water pump, spots coil, distributor.

Servo brakes & master cylinder, braided flexible hoses, Brembo discs & V* EBC pads.

Updraded front & rear bushes to PU and stiffer anti roll bar & mounts. Upgrade leaf springs. Change tyres to 185 70 R14s.

I plan to use the car for occasional long trips, over to France, blasts in the country etc. Needs to be driveable. No plans for racing/track days.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. Have been quotes about 7.5k for all of this by Maidstone Sports Cars. Seems a bit steep but it is the first quote I have had.


D J L Moore

if you don't want to do some racing you don't need to change all this stuff ?! you will lose the original aspect ... I would say (however my knowledge is modest) if you change for K&N air filters, alternator, manifold & exhaust, distributor, brakes (if they are crap)it's enough i would say to have a car starting first try and enough performance ... for a smaller price of course.. just a girl's advice though

As far as a V8 goes, you'd be far better buying one already converted, spending a little fixing it up and selling your current car. That could give you an excellent V8 for a lot less out of your pocket than £7.5k! A top notch X flow engine is about £3.5k, and that will give a lot more power than you currently would get from your changes. No way the rest of the work should be costing anything close to £4k IMHO. If I were you I'd consider calling Chris Betson at Octarine Services (google that will get to his website). He is very helpful with sound advice and good prices.

Do you really need to do all this? It all seems a bit extreme and expensive!

70 BGT
I D Cameron

It has been my experience that many of the mods we do create more maintenance issues than they solve. If you want a driver, and do not plan to beat the thing to death, then I would not do much to the trany or engine unless they are showing signs of old age. Changing the bits that hang on the engine may be a good idea. Keep your dizzy and get a pertronix ignitor.

You do not mention carbs, but I have NEVER seen a set of matured SUs that did not need to be re-built due to throttle shaft wear. These go a long way in fixing low speed drivability issues.

Brakes and suspension are a good idea. Keep it soft if you want to cruise. The braided lines are wonderful. The rest is just bling and not worth the money for a street car.

7.5 thousand pounds amounts to around 20 thousand canadian. For that, you could buy the best MG in Canada and still ship it over to england. I now have Maidstone on my list of people I would not want to work wit.


Hi there DJL Moore,
My tuppence worth - my BGT (1973) is completely standard in all aspects, other than the airfilters are of the cheapo-pancake variety (work great - dont let anyone (esp a salesman) tell you otherwise!). Everything else is standard, but, and its an important but, it is all in good condition. so, my brakes are well serviced,suspension good nick, my carbs adjusted and balanced, and my timing set correctly, and the points plug leads etc are renewed annually - the result is a car which is more than able to cope with country road balsts one day and mundane motorway driving the next - it sits happy at 75mph on the motorway, plenty more leftover, just dont see the need myself. iuse it as my day to day driver, and enjoy every minute. so in essence, i would say get the standard running gear up to scratch first, and blow the spare money you have saved on something else, like drink, leather seats and carnuba wax (my own preference, in order), or then decide to do some clever stuff like a new polished and ported cylinder head or something fancy like that. these cars may not be fast cars as compared to todays sports cars, but they more than hold their own under the full range of driving conditions in my opinion. and this way you still have an MGB, as opposed to a shell with a new car underneath.
my, i have become extremely boring over the last 6 months since i bought the car - prior to this i would have said get a jet engine! thats how impressed i am with the way a 33 year old car drives and handles.
m rae

Somebody thought you had deep pockets and jumped on the bandwagon. For the type of work you are doing by all means a recon engine with a Burgess head and just maybe a mild cam K&Ns etc but not much more. Make sure that the gearbox is OK if not fit a recon but make sure you install an overdrive if not yet fitted. Full brake overhaul to standard spec but fit a servo which will make the car easier to drive.

Now, the man to speak to without any doubt is Chris Betson at Octarine Services who specialises in all things MG and will be better ploaced to advise that any of us. He can also carry out the work if you wish and to very high standards. Speak to him before you go any further.
Iain MacKintosh


I agree with Iain: the price you mentioned seems quite steep indeed! If you look around, you can see that £7.5k can buy you a very nice MGB or even a V8!

The current engine in my car could be described as a 'top notch xflow' engine and was built by Chris Betson. It produces heaps of power compared to the original unit, doesn't really consume more petrol if driven in the same manner and certainly didn't cost £7500. The address of his site is: , you can see the build process of my engine if you click on 'Alex's 1950cc crossflow engine'.
Chris offers different configurations and options, so you can get an engine that suits you, your driving style and possibly your wallet ;-)


Alexander M

You mention rebuilding your gedarbox. If you are going to this amount of work, would not a 5 speed conversion not be a better idea?
Bruce Cunha

In a single word NO. This opens up a whole new can of worms. Chris Betson is still best qualified to comment here but to me a 5 speed would spoil the whole MG driving experience. Third gear is a wonderful gear for village and country lanes where overdrive can be flicked in and out with the greatest of ease. Having to change from 4th to 3rd repeatedly to achieve this same thing would be an absolute pain in the butt. The same thing of course applies to 4th gear but not to the same extent as the very useful 3rd/3rd overdrive combination. Take this to its logical conclusion and you would be as well buying a Mazda MX 5
Iain MacKintosh

Really good to get so many different opinions on this.

I will certainly talk to Octarine as a comparison. The total cost included 4 new tyres, s/steel boot rack and a few other bits & pieces. The posting would have been a bit too long to itemise absolutely everything lol.

Keep it coming, all very useful.

D J L Moore

I am rebuilding my B completely and I have kept it pretty much stock for now. I did change the low compression pistons for the high compressions ones and also replaced the stock air filters with K&Ns since the originals are just plainly silly. Other small changes are losing the RBs and going to 15 inch 185 tyres. Other than that everything else has just been refurbished and rebuilt. I figure I will get the car going pretty much stock then start worrying about the go faster bits.
Simon Jansen

I have a standard 1964 MGB which is a joy to drive.
The engine changed very little and the suspension
and brakes virtually not at all in 18 years of MGB production.
A standard 1967 car is probably seen as the the
most desirable spec.
The standard MGB engine is torquey and suits the car, so why change it especially at a high cost when a recon 1800 engine and gearbox would be little over £1000 plus fitting.

R J Collier

DJL - I'm with the others, keep things as they are and make them work well. All of my money for restoring our 66 MGB went into making it reliable. It is now our everyday transportation vehicle and is taken on our annual trip from Seattle to Los Angles (about 2500 miles round trip). The car keeps up well with freeway traffic (70 - 80 mph) and the only problems we have ever encountered were flat tires (went to alloy wheels and not furtherer problems) and one failed fuel pump (permanently installed a back up pump so that if it happens again, I won't have to change the pump at the side of the road). The best approach is to keep it simple. Cheers - Dave
David DuBois

my car has got bigger vavles in the head. the rest is entirely stock and the noyl modification i would make over this is to raise the cruising gear as my engine will pull the car up and down any hill on the motorway, and on a slight throttle opening. I check timing, tappets and plugs every 2months. and always spend the time setting the timing up right. mine sits perfectly in the middle of where it should be. I rebuilt my own carbs.

if i was doing what your doing, then i would be inclined to go for the peco exhaust, the same head as mine and perhaps bigger tyres
d buck

Have the engine rebuilt with 1860cc, fit a stage2-head and a slightly hotter cam. If your gearbox is wek go the 5-speed-route. I transforms the driveability of the car enormously without spoiling the Mg-experience. I know, I fitted an LT77-box from an SD1 to my Mk1 in 1984 and have driven more than 100000 miles since them, problaby even 150.000.
The currently used Ford-gearboxes are even better than the LLT77-unit and much easier to fit: I had to design and build the complete setup including bellhousing back in 1984 by myself!

On tyres: fir 185/70-15 on 5 or 5,5 inch wheels or go the 15" route and fit 185/65-15 on wires. Gives the car look much more stance and still looks absolutely period and correct!

Just my 2 Eurocents :-))

I completely agree with Iain M on the 5 speed issue. 3rd/3rd OD is great. I just love flicking the switch on the dash rather than doing the gear stick. With the dash mounted switch (which your car should have as well) I can reach the switch without taking my hand from the steering wheel. Not sure if the stalk or gearstick mounted OD switch would be as convinient/fun. If you car has no OD currently then this should be addressed. A long trip to France would be a pain at the kind of 4th gear revs you'd be doing on the autoroute. You will need to decide whether to fit an OD unit or convert to 5 speed. It is one of those issues that tend to completely polarise opinion, with half saying they love the OD and half saying a Ford box is the way to go.

I D Cameron

Personally, I can't see it as progress to go from six speed to a five speed but I've never driven a 5-speed conversion so I accept I could be deluded. Even so, I do enjoy the change in expression of my more blasť friends when they realise they don't know how to drive my car. You won't get that with 5-speed.
Steve Postins

A 5 speed conversion might be fine if you are doing big mileages on autobahns where gearchanging is fairly infrequent but for some of the undivided carriegeways and country lanes in the UK nothing beats the flexibility of the overdrive and the ease with which it can be flicked in and out and so reducing wear on the whole of the clutch system. Third gear and overdrive can jointly be used from as low as 10mph right up to near legal speed limits and without using a foot or taking a hand off the wheel. A 5 speed transmission would need maybe second gear, third and fourth to achieve this and the same back down again. I believe that those with 5 speed conversions are missing this great experience.
Iain MacKintosh


Developments have taken place on the uogrades. Have had a good chat with Chris at Octarine, a guy who certainly knows his stuff, and is very keen to share his knowledge.

The plan is as follows:-

1868cc u/l engine, Piper 270 cam (tba) & Stage II head. Fully balanced inc flywheel, fuel pump, plugs etc
New SU carbs with larger needles and K&N filter
New standard exhaust & tubular manifold
Recon gearbox with o/d
Polybushes all round, uprated front roll bar
4 tyres - ? Avon SV3 195/70 R14
New discs and EBC greenstuff pads

I feel this will retain the original character of the car, won't break the bank, and will ensure it is fun to drive bith in our country lanes and on longer jaunts abroad.
D J L Moore

We'll all be very keen to find out how this works out. Keep us informed.
Iain acKintosh

if you want somewhat tasty that rarly gives the kick, you must opt for a V8 conversion (SD1 or higher and Rover LT 77 or later gearbox, EFI or 4bbl carb).
The stage 2 1868 with all ballaned crankgear, lightend, bluprinted, fitted with Piper 285 lightend valve gear, lager valves and carbs, flat top pistons, flowed cylinder head, Peco big bore exhaust is a pretty thing to drive and I love my roadster very much, but when I want to have fun with the B, I have it driving my GTV8.
Can't compare it, it is like chalk and cheese. Try an eye on the side of the V8 Register. Drive a V8 for a test and you will know what you have missed in the past.

DJL, that's a hot setup - very similar to what I run. Very reliable with enough hp to have some fun! And you know if Chris says its good, its good!
Jeff Schlemmer

Seems a shame to change a MkI car that has lasted this long too dramatically. I think the K+Ns + manifold etc is about right. A bit better breathing , accurate timing and new plug leads etc nad the car will be fine. On the suspension a 3/4" front anti roll bar plus recon shocks and replace suspion bushes with new V8 ones etc will be all you need to get a car that ride and handle sreally well. The MGb has survived this long because it was a good car from the off.
Stan Best

As much as possible, with the exception being a few nuts and bolts, V8 bushings and 175/14 tires, I drove a "show car" 8000 miles in three weeks in last summer's searing heat of the Pacific Northwest..and everything in between--coast to coast. Exceeded 100 mph numerous times for long stretches. Ran all day long at 75 to 80mph. Not one single issue nor misfire. If the car is right, its right--even in stock form.

Paul Hanley

Paul in Maryland
8000 miles in three weeks...Fantastic & some testimonial!!
Was this in a 42 year old 64B?
Robert 64B.
R J Collier

Have given a lot of thought to the options and whilst it would be nice to retain the original spec exactly as it is, I dont want to treat the car as a museum piece. Frankly, improvements such as electronic ignition and the like would have eventually been added to the car had it been further developed by the manufacturer.

Views seem to be fairly polarised between V8 and bog standard, and there is a view that says why change it at all if the changes dont turn the MG into a V8 muscle car.

That I think would completely change the character of the car, and whilst some have said you might as well buy an Mx5 or Honda S2000 I do think that is missing the point somewhat. If I wanted V8 performance I would probably go for a TVR or suchlike. I've owned much quicker cars, some fast Audis and a Lotus Elise. As a pre 72 there is no road tax to pay, and it only costs about £120 a year to insure for both of us (age 35 & 28) fully comp and unlimited mileage!!

The beauty of the MG is that is will not depreciate if looked after, the bodywork is absolutely prisine and again will not cost a lot to maintain if looked after. The main running gear and electrics will be pretty much new or reconditioned.

The MG is there for sunny days, and the improvements will help with a bit of extra oomph for overtaking, having fun in country lanes and keeping up with friends who have more modern cars.

D J L Moore

I'm slowly working my way to getting my 71 GT to run as a reliable daily driver in well-kept fairly stock condition. Done a couple of reliability-focused upgrades, namely the fusebox, alternator and improved headlamp setup. Brakes are done, and I'm currently awaiting uprated shocks to arrive. V8 bushings, new coils and springs are next with hopefully 14" minilite-style wheels to top her off. If I had 7500, I'd get all my wishlist quickly done and then some!

These cars are always a work in progress, particulalry as daily drivers. Of course you'll never get them as fast as a modern sports car, but do you want/need to? Well set up, there's plenty of juice for overtaking, and with speed limits, I'd FAR rather drive my MG with gusto than a $200,000 Astin Marton in 2nd gear. Yawn. I prefer to "drive a slow car fast, than a fast car slow"! Always wanted to test out a GTV8 though....
Curtis Walker

Great decision. I went through a similar process with my '67 Roaster and it's been transformed from an old and wheezy runner (back) into a sports car. You'll love it.
Steve Postins

As I said earlier I think it would be a shame to put a V8 in an early MGB, but I am not a concourse buff,and whilst I prefer to keep the standard look, I don't object to upgrades that make it more driveable.

Having said that, as Stan says the car was "right" from the start and there were very few "upgrades" to the suspension,steering, brakes etc etc in 18 years production and this back's Stans statement up.

Curtis is quite right,you can enjoy a standard MGB's performance and handling to the limit.You actually have to drive the car!!
On todays roads you could probably only use a quarter of a DB9's. Without the DB9's ABS & traction control etc the car would too powerful!!

Good luck on whatever option you take!
R J Collier


Correct,sir. Car#22909--built in 1963, '84, '91 and again in '02!

Paul Hanley

Mine's car 35408 April 64, ex USA rebuilt in UK 96,
But never gone 100mph in it or 8000m in three weeks,
that must be some rebuild!
R J Collier

This thread was discussed between 07/02/2006 and 09/02/2006

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