Wednesday, June 18, 2014

5k: Simple Pleasures: 1973 MGB V6 Swap

The MGB was built by MG (Morris Garages) Cars in England back when the British Empire produced products for export other than loud mouthed food critics, loud mouthed automobile pundits, naked royals and eavesdropping newspapers.  The MGB survived with only minor cosmetic changes from 1962 through 1980 by being good at what it did. It was a good two seat roadster that offered great quality and driving experience for a product from the 1960s...which is why it went out of production in the 1980s.  Times changed and the MGB didn't...other than to become uglier, slower and less desireable.  Regardless the MGB still is a great platform on which to build your own version of the AC Cobra, but its small engine bay size makes it perfect for V6 conversions.   Find this 1973 MGB V6 currently bidding for $2,425 reserve-not-met with 8 days to go on ebay, probably located in Pennsylvania.  

The seller doesn't explicitly state where the car is located, but the moss on trees rules out any place west of the Mississippi; the PA rear plate is the only solid clue to its whereabouts.  Pennsylvania is a place that is extremely harsh on cars with salt laden winter roads, but a car that is properly undercoated and only driven during the dry season can avoid the tin worm.

The seller only includes one photo of the engine swap setup and very limited information -- only that it is a 2.8 liter Chevy V6 mated to a 5 speed manual gearbox.  It is probably something from an 80s Camaro and therefore rated in the 130 horsepower range, and the only part of the engine that is visible is an interesting air-cleaner and carb setup that uses the hood as top of the airbox. 

The seller mentions that he has spent some time fixing the inside of the MGB up with catalog parts and it looks like decent driver.  It may not win any awards at your local concours, but it looks like a nice car for a Sunday drive.

Find an engine swapped roadster with an even more vague ad?


  1. BRG with a nice interior and an engine that's only partly anemic, lovely. Great buy for the price. The v6 likely weighs about the same as the old 4 so any extra power, revs, or torque are very welcome. The lack of power steering and a brake servo means the drive is very connected. Suspension geometry leaves something to be desired with the stick axle out back, but they're plenty nimble. The coolest feature by far is that it's one of the few small cars that has room for big people. I'm 6'2" and 300 pounds, and I'm quite cozy in mine.

    Just make sure the SU fuel pump was replaced with a Carter or Holley, or literally any other brand of fuel pump. Hell, even a Lucas pump would be more reliable than the SU unit. I've known multiple MG owners to carry a spare, or even wire a backup fuel pump to a switch for when the primary pump failed.

    1. SlowBoy,
      Well said. I've always been a fan of the MGB but never had the opportunity to own one. Somehow an engine swap in one of these seems like less of a sin than doing it to an Alfa Spider...dunno why.
      EIC Vince

    2. Numbers aren't fun. Sensations are fun. Unless you're racing, a 50% increase in horsepower isn't worth getting rid of the high rpm music from an Alfa engine. Being lazily ferried along by a gob of torque from a pushrod v8 is nice, but having to thrash an italian 4 to redline just to keep up makes for a much more exciting drive. That sort of goes out the window if you build your v8 with a hot cam and high RPM capability, though.

      That's why my MG has a mildly ported Mazda 12a in it. It sucks to drive at low RPM. Bury the pedal at low RPM and the fat twin barrel side draft Mikuni gives up all intake velocity, giving you the disappointing gargle of a bogged engine. Crack the throttle above 3k RPM and you actually go somewhere. Above 5, and you get the sonorous blast reminiscent of a big 2 stroke. Above 7 and the scenery disappears with frightening immediacy in the mirrors. Above 9 and you better upshift and repeat, because you don't want to be around when the cops show up.

      MGs are great starters into classic cars, though. They're accessible, tossable and just maintenance intensive enough to teach you how to casually turn a wrench without breaking the bank. (Porsche and Lotus, I'm looking at you) The stock engine didn't have many merits when it was new, so swaps have been popular for a long time, and seem to command lower prices than unrestored originals.

  2. I happen to own a 72 B-GT with this set-up. Manual steering & brakes. It's got a nice burble at idle. I'm running the SU fuel pump with a Carter backup. Keeps up with traffic very well, but it's still a little gutless off the line. I'm running a 3:07 MGC ring & pinion. At 100km/h (62 mph), it's turning 1900 rpm. The 347 stroker I'm building for it will fix that. :) Happy Motoring

  3. Cheap fun, easy to work on and lots of parts around....Had most of the others and these are the ones I will keep.


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