Cars

The MGB GT Could Out-Race the Original Shelby GT350

The heir to the most iconic British sports car isn’t the Morgan 3-Wheeler. It’s not the Caterham Seven or the BAC Mono. Instead, it’s the Mazda Miata that draws the most inspiration from classic British roadsters. And back in the 60s, the most popular British roadster was the MG MGB. In fact, up until the Miata came along, it was the most-sold 2-seater convertible sports car in the world. But, as with the BMW M Coupe, for some, it wasn’t quite fast, stiff, or practical enough. And so, MG released the MGB GT.

What is the MGB GT?

1964 MG MGB
1964 MG MGB | Bring a Trailer

The original MGB convertible was produced from 1962-1980. At the time of its release, Silodrome reports, it was a fairly advanced sports car, with a unibody design, enough luggage room for a weekend trip, and ‘luxuries’ like wind-up windows and a heater. It was evolved over the years, Hagerty reports, both to improve its handling and make it compliant with US crash standards. And in 1965, the MGB GT was released.

1967 MG MGB GT Special
1967 MG MGB GT Special | Bring a Trailer

Originally, Hagerty reports, the MGB GT was envisioned as a “poor man’s Aston Martin.” Namely, an affordable sports car with a sloping coupe-like roofline that also had the practicality of rear seats. That roofline, speaking of, was designed by Pininfarina, the same design house that Ferrari often turned to (and still does).

Although the MGB GT was considered to be more of a grand tourer than sports car, Motor1 reports, it did receive some upgrades over the roadster. A larger anti-roll bar was fitted, and the rear suspension revised; the revision would later carry on to the roadster, Hemmings reports. And, although the roof’s added weight increased the 0-60 time, the better aerodynamics actually raised the top speed.

The MGB GT used the same engine as the standard MGB, a 1.8-liter four-cylinder making 92 or 95 hp, based on the number of carburetors. However, it was later upgraded with a variety of engines. The 1967-1969 MGC version had a 145-hp 2.9-liter six-cylinder engine, but the increased weight ruined the handling, despite the suspension revisions. There was also an MGB GT with a 3.5-liter V8, which sadly never made it to the US.

But, although there were V8-equipped MGB GT racers, the cars were already competitive without them.

MGB GT vs. Shelby GT350 on the racetrack

1965 Shelby GT350 Ford Mustang
1965 Shelby GT350 Ford Mustang | Ford

Although the current Shelby GT350 is set to bow out after 2021, it’s proven a worthy successor to the name. The original was a genuine race car for the road and competed against icons like the Porsche 911 and Ford GT40 at a variety of races. Many, like the 12 Hours of Sebring, were endurance races. And the MGB GT competed there, too.

Initially, Road & Track reports, these were simply mildly-modified road-going cars. Besides the roll cages and stripped interiors, they were essentially stock. And yet, at the 1967 12 Hours of Sebring, a factory-raced 1.8-liter MGB GT won its class and came 11th overall, losing out only to the Ford GT40s and Porsche 906s. It beat, R&T reports, multiple Shelby GT350s and factory-prepped 911s. And keep in mind, the Shelby GT350 had 306 hp, CJ Pony Parts reports.

Then, in 1968, another four-cylinder MGB GT won that year’s Targa Florio, edging out Alfa Romeos, 911s, and even some Ferraris.

MG was planning several MGC variants of the MGB GT, Petrolicious reports. These would’ve had aluminum body panels, hydraulic 4-wheel disc brakes, wider wheels and tires, and an upgraded version of the 2.9-liter engine pushing out 220 hp. Unfortunately, only 2 of the planned 6 were ever completed, and only 1 survives with its original engine.

Pricing and availability

Although the MGB was an extremely popular car, the MGB GT didn’t sell quite as well. However, they were popular enough to merit restomodding.

In the UK, Frontline Developments produces the LE50, a restored MGB GT with modern brakes, suspension, and a 214-hp fuel-injected four-cylinder Mazda engine. You can even order it with a limited-slip differential, electric locks, and A/C. Unfortunately, it starts around $73,800.

Racing versions of the MGB GT are, predictably, also rather expensive. The surviving 1969 MGC Sebring model sold in May 2016 for around $152,000. Fortunately, good condition MGB GTs in the US are significantly more affordable.

Earlier cars, due to the rubber bumpers on post-1974 US-impact cars, are more collectible. However, even the V8-equipped cars usually sell for under $30,000 on Bring a Trailer. And although British cars have a reputation for rusting away rapidly, properly taken care of, MGB GTs can be durable drivers. Petrolicious reports one Icelandic owner uses his as a daily driver.

An original Shelby GT350, on the other hand, goes for around $100,000 on BaT. And on a racetrack, it’s not necessarily faster than an MGB GT.

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