25 British cars to drive before you die: 11) MGB, CAR+ September 2015

Published: 21 August 2015

► The MGB GT/Roadster
► Quintessential hobby classic 
► Now tuners have given it 911 speed 

The MGB has become such a quintessential hobby classic it feels like you need to peel back layers of tweed – or should that be polyester? – in order to understand why. Bad treatment by British Leyland saw it become a joke even before it eventually staggered out of production. Still, with over half a million sold in roadster and GT form, the B brought the ‘British sports car’ to the masses on both sides of the Atlantic, and essentially defines a pre-hot-hatch era of affordable performance motoring.

Performance? 0-60mph in 12sec sounds like city car territory now, and though it will top a ton you have to work the B-series under the bonnet pretty hard. But the feeling of being alive as you push your little drop-top as fast as you dare in order to maintain maximum momentum is the very essence of the appeal here. And what the later rubber bumpers and raised ride height make it all too easy to forget is that a properly set-up MGB really handles.

Specialist tuners Frontline Developments take things a bit further these days. The Abingdon Edition (pictured) will give a 911 grief (at a 911 price) using a brand new seam-welded shell, 304bhp 2.5-litre Mazda engine running individual throttle bodies, and extensively developed suspension. 0-60mph in 3.8 seconds and a noise like rolling thunder, yet the same character and spirit thanks to the beautifully finished period interior and tastefully streamlined exterior. It doesn’t just bring back the magic, it leaves shattered rose-tinted lenses in its wake. Fantastic.

The specs

MGB (original)
Produced: 1962-1980
Price at launch: £690 (+£260 car tax)
Value now: £5000-£15,000
Engine: 1798cc inline four-cylinder, 94bhp, 107lb ft (1962)
Performance: 12.1sec 0-62mph, 108mph (yeah, right…)

Frontline MGB Abingdon Edition
Produced: 2014-present
Price: £95,874
Engine: 2497cc inline four-cylinder, 304bhp, 241lb ft
Performance: 3.8sec 0-62mph, 162mph (entirely believable…)

By CJ Hubbard

Former CAR magazine associate editor, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count