My ‘80 MGB was originally purchased in 1983. It was the black “Limited Edition” with the silver stripes, LE wheels, luggage rack etc. Back then, it was truly my dream car. It was my daily driver until 1994 and after failed attempts at performance modifications (and creeping rust issues), it was retired to my garage. I didn’t know what I would do with it.
I researched V8 conversions for MGs and learned that the later ones like mine had engine compartments that were better suited to accept one of the rover aluminum V8s. In 1997 I decided to take the plunge on the conversion. I found a fairly local shop that specialized in sourcing rover parts, rover engine rebuilding and creating some of the custom parts required for the job. Ordered was a rebuilt 4.2L rover engine, ECU and all the fuel (Including fuel tank) and electrical system bits. This was to be mated to a rover 5-speed transmission, custom drive shaft and a narrowed ford rear end. I paid for everything in advance and the waiting game began.
Many months passed by and limited progress was happening on the drive train. All that waiting had me searching the “almost new” internet for parts. I stumbled upon a British parts site called “The Proper MG”. Sadly, they went out of business many years ago. They were out of Maine (If I remember correctly). They got all their parts directly from England and that appealed to me. I had seen some poor Chinese parts from other British car parts sites. While the drive train was being cobbled together, I decided to get some body work done to stop the rust. I ordered brand new front fenders, rocker panel kits, rear wheel well kits etc. Parts were flowing in, however, I didn’t know who I would trust to do the work.
I had “ex” in-laws that lived up in Connecticut and I happened to notice a Hot Rod shop nearby. I asked the owner if he would take on my project. Initially, he said NO because “it’s just an MG”. When I mentioned the V8 conversion, he changed his mind. I stripped the car down to its shell and pulled it behind a neighbor’s pickup truck from Frederick Maryland up to CT. Years passed.
In very late Dec of 1999, I was up in CT again and I spoke to the body shop owner about the delay. He said if I paid him the balance due now, he’d make finishing it a priority (Obviously I didn’t learn my lesson from paying for the drive train in advance). On New Year’s Day 2000, the body shop owner passed away! I got a frantic call from the two guys that were assigned to my job. The IRS was coming to padlock the facility and claim all the assets. Before that happened, they heroically towed my car (and all of the parts) out of there and up to a friend’s house they knew that had a “sort of” car shop. This place was literally in the Connecticut woods. These (now 3) fine gentlemen finished the car on their own. They even created a paint booth out of a spare garage. They understood that I’d already paid for the finished job and they were going to see it through. Every time I think of it, I’m amazed and what great guys they were.
On top of that, I couldn’t believe the finished job! Meticulous attention to detail went into everything they did. In early summer of 2000, I picked up the now reassembled shell in CT. It was so “perfect” that I was afraid to touch it, let alone pull it unprotected back down to Frederick MD. I rented a truck and we secured it inside for a safe ride home.
The next couple months of the summer were a blur. I worked on it nonstop. The car itself was WAY too nice now to put ANY old parts back in it, so I basically bought EVERYTHING new (from the Proper MG). UPS, Fed-EX, and DHL pulled up to my house every day. And piece by piece I reassembled it. By this time, cost was not a factor. I found very rare TSW Hockenheim wheels that were made (In South Africa) specifically for the MGB and had the seats professionally rebuilt with leather covers. I also installed a brand new wiring harness before covering the floorboards with “Kool mat” insulation. A mohair top and top cover were next. I can tell you that I will never ever attempt to install a new windshield and/or a new dash face again. It’s no wonder I have so much grey hair. Seriously, have a pro do those jobs.
The car was home and rebuilt, but the drive train was still incomplete. I traveled (several times) to that shop and after some stressful conversations, the drive train was finally installed.
Since that time, I have rarely stopped working on it and have upgraded it as best I could. I lowered the suspension using an early cross member and installed fiberglass rear leaf springs. I had some overheating worries that were finally resolved with the addition of a hood scoop (to allow the engine compartment heat to escape) along with the addition of a Kawasaki motor cycle radiator and electric fan that I installed above the rear differential. I replaced all the black ’80 gauge bezels with chrome and added several aircraft gauges to keep an eye on things. I installed the radio in the glove box along with a lot of speakers and amps. To be honest, I listened to it once. I’d rather listen to the fantastic sounds the V8 makes. I don’t drive it near as often as I should. However, when I do, it’s a real joy.