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projectmg
projectmg New Reader
4/20/22 12:12 a.m.

I'm going to be looking for a roadster as my next project for under $7000 total, and I'm wondering what the merits of an MGB vs a Miata would be? My use case almost entirely for curvy back road fun.

Some more details below:

I've been a fan of the MGB for a while, ever since I drove a Mk4 rubber bumper - it was such a raw experience, and I loved the handling and especially the engine feel and sound, despite it's performance shortcomings. They seem to be depreciating now, I'm guessing due to lack of interest from younger generations and a decrease in shops willing to work on them. I have heard of their unreliability, but I figure with an overhaul of especially engine rubber and fluids, as well as proper lubrication of the engine, chassis, and drivetrain would do wonders in keeping it on the road with less trouble. (And a new fuse arrangement to ward off the Lucas demons)

The Miata I have loved since I rode in an NA years ago, after that ride I vowed that I would own one some day. I loved the tight feeling handling, open top experience, and that great engine sound. It seems though in the current market finding a decent NB or especially NA is very difficult for non-exorbitant prices, but their fun to drive nature, reliability, and handling are legendary. I wonder though, would I miss out on the feeling of driving that old, loud, mechanical beast? 

If I got the MGB, I would upgrade the engine and suspension, there are a million guides out there and performance parts everywhere, the goal would be to get as much out of it for what I can do on the budget. The Miata on the other hand I would want to leave almost entirely stock, besides suspension upgrades in struts and sway bars.

What are your thoughts on the comparison between the two, which would be more fun, and which would be the best in your opinion? 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
4/20/22 1:15 a.m.

Do you want a car to work on, or a car to drive?

03Panther
03Panther UberDork
4/20/22 1:16 a.m.

Drove a '70s mgb a bit in the late '80s, and always thought the rawness to it was part of the appeal. Even though I owned stuff that would out perform it, they were not as fun. 
Never driven a Miata of any year, much less driven one hard. But have heard ya loose that part, that's hard to put a name to. Don'no. 
I also, again personal opinion, like the old style looks better. 

projectmg
projectmg New Reader
4/20/22 1:36 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Do you want a car to work on, or a car to drive?

I'm fine with working on my cars, but I don't want to have to work on them all the time. If it means I won't have issues in the future, I think it's fine. If it keeps on breaking down despite a ton of work being put into it though, not so much. I do get more enjoyment from driving.

Teh E36 M3
Teh E36 M3 UltraDork
4/20/22 4:42 a.m.

I pushed the thumbs up on Keith's post a hundred times but it only registered one of them. Get the Miata. 

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
4/20/22 6:32 a.m.

Miata.  Old Miata's break enough to get your wrenching fix but won't have a controlled vacuum abs fuel leak sitting on top of the engine. 
 

Dusterbd13-michael
Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
4/20/22 7:36 a.m.

The question is, essentially, what one will you turn around to stare at every time you park it? 

If you get that sort of joy out of tbe car, and the experience of driving it, either is viable. 

 

Me personally, i get more joy out of a fun car that has sone rawness, some rough edges, some quirks. Sure, other stuff is faster and handles better and is more useful as a car. But i have a Prius or a half ton truck for daily driver duty. They are great cars, but not fun. 

The miata will have some rawness to it, but be fsr more refined and car like than the mgb. The mgb will feel like you're on the mechanical equivalent of a bull at legal speeds, but not be a refined or practical car in any sense

 

So, do you want  a car that needs to be manhandled or a car that you just drive? 

Danny Shields (Forum Supporter)
Danny Shields (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
4/20/22 7:43 a.m.

How long has it been since you drove that MGB?

I suggest a refresher test drive. 

 

 

 

 

JAdams
JAdams Reader
4/20/22 8:12 a.m.

Agreed with Keith. Miata all the way. The aftermarket is huge for a Miata and you can get all the tinkering out of your system with small improvements but still be able to drive and enjoy the car. 

ddavidv
ddavidv UltimaDork
4/20/22 8:15 a.m.

The MGB will have more character, but that comes with poorer performance, rougher ride, roof leaks, mediocre quality replacement parts and all the joys of anything with 'Lucas' on it.

The Miata is such a good car it's hard to beat. And, despite being from the Land of Bland, it actually does have some personality.

I have this same discussion frequently with the Fiat 124 crowd. The Fiat is much closer to the Miata with the 5 speed trans, DOHC engine and four wheel disc brakes. The Miata will stomp it in about every category. Plus, the little Mazdas can be had for the same or less money up front.

NOHOME
NOHOME MegaDork
4/20/22 8:20 a.m.

What Keith said.

Had an MGB for over 40 years. Had a Miata for over 10 years.

 

I would jump in a Miata today and drive it across the country with no qualms. The MGB is pretty much staying in the area covered by Hagerty road assistance ( aka tow me home).

 

My experience with MGBs is that they are best when kept and maintained as stock. In hindsight, few if any of the Mods I tried, power or handling-wise, was worth the time effort or money, and most were crap engineering anyway.  The other thing to consider is if this is going to be an extension of your social life, the MGB group is mostly in their late 60s by now. Flaw or feature...you decide.

outasite
outasite HalfDork
4/20/22 8:35 a.m.

I daily drove and did trips in 3 MGB 1969 roadsters and a 1969 MGB GT year round through out the 70s. I was a certified British Leyland mechanic at the time. They required engine tune up maintenance at 6000 miles and complete tune up at 12000 miles. They never left me stranded or had any major mechanical problem. However, they were less than 10 years old.  I preferred the MGB over the other British cars of the era.

I was looking for another MGB 20 years ago until I drove a 92 Miata. I had it for about 10 years and sold it to purchase a low mileage 99. After replacing all fluids, timing belts and tires when purchased, I just change the oil and filter. Living in Minnesota, I store them about 6 months a year. When weather finally permits, I take it off the jackstands, check fluids, tire pressures and connect the battery. Again, I have never had a major issue with either car. I would suggest driving all of the generations of the Miata and then go back and drive the early and late MGBs to make your decision.

Miata was the answer for me.

I forgot the most important part. The top can be lowered or raised on the Miata in seconds. The MGB top is a major endeavor.

Kubotai
Kubotai New Reader
4/20/22 8:36 a.m.
projectmg said:

I figure with an overhaul of especially engine rubber and fluids, as well as proper lubrication of the engine, chassis, and drivetrain would do wonders in keeping it on the road with less trouble.

In my experience (a Midget, an MGA, an MGB GT and a TR6), the reliability won't depend on any of those things.  The issue is the stuff like the brake and clutch master cylinders leaking, the clutch slave cylinder leaking, the rear brake drum cylinders leaking, the fuel pump failing, the starter and alternator failing, the fan clutch on the Midget failed once (I think only the Midget had fan clutch),and condenser failures (in the ignition).  It is extremely hard to find decent replacement parts for any of this now.  You can find lots of Indian and Chinese made pieces but they will often fail right out of the box.  

If dealing with stuff like that is your thing (I still have the TR6) then the MGB might be for you.  Otherwise, I'd go for the Miata (I've had two and they're wonderful).

 

clutchsmoke
clutchsmoke UltraDork
4/20/22 8:37 a.m.

I also vote Miata.

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
4/20/22 9:16 a.m.

If you want the full experience get an MGB and a low mileage Miata to drive to the parts store. If you want a raw experience, get a Midget or a Spitfire. If you want to work on more complicated stuff all the time, get a Fiat roadster or Alfa Romeo. If you want a slightly more reliable MGB with more power, get a Datsun Roadster. If you want to spend money and confuse people, get a first generation Lotus Elan and tell people its a 1965 Miata.

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
4/20/22 9:21 a.m.

Also consider the fact that the newest MGB you can get is 42 years old and the oldest Miata you can get is more than 25 years old.

RaabTheSaab
RaabTheSaab New Reader
4/20/22 9:37 a.m.

I'm in a similar situation as you. My project Saab (see my profile pic) ended up being a rusted mess and little things that I thought wouldn't be a big deal ended up keeping the car down for sometimes weeks at a time. Rusted fasteners, tracking down weird leaks, rubber bits that had turned to goo, etc. made the experience of a owning a running restoration just another chore. I suspect I would run into similar issues with any other 40 year old car. YMMV, but for me, I'd go Miata. NA and NBs have certainly increased in value, but deals are still around. Expanding your search radius and doing a fly n drive or setting up shipping might just be the ticket. At least that's what I'm doing. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
4/20/22 9:49 a.m.

Note that I didn't actually vote Miata :) It really is a legitimate question, as it's quite possible to get a lot of satisfaction out of wrenching. The original description involved both overhauling and upgrading the MG. 

Based on fairly limited experience with a stock MG and a fair bit of Miata experience, I would vote Miata however. The only thing the MG has going for it is the aesthetics, and that's a personal call. 

Apexcarver
Apexcarver UltimaDork
4/20/22 10:31 a.m.

So awhile back I had to downsize a bit and had both a Bugeye Sprite and a Miata.  I got rid of the Miata and kept the Sprite. Why?  because the Sprite was the more interesting project.  The Miata had been my DD/STS autocrosser and was fun and great and did its job, but I had kids and wanted the project more than the useable car to just keep putting gas in. 

 

You needs may vary

 

My miata was great for only needing occasional work for a car that had 185,000 miles on it.  I had replaced the engine due to crank nose failure that was the result of a prior owner's shoddy maintenance. Only other failures I had were an alternator, some wiring problems, etc. It was a fun car to throw upgrades at and drive. I could roll up to an autocross and chuck a few things out of it, and run the event with little effort. Car was consistent and without fault.   After a few years I wound up looking for more of a challenge and went to a Mod car.  Also, I had kids and it couldnt be my DD anymore. 

 

My Bugeye is a restoration project that is in finishing stages and on the road. It fits as something I can use for rare weekends and more time spent wrenching.  More of a project, which is what I wanted. 

jr02518
jr02518 HalfDork
4/20/22 10:34 a.m.

I might have a slightly different take on this. But Keith is correct.

First, I sold this...

Yes, a fully developed SCCA E Street 1995 NA. Yes, I did not add the Penske shocks that where going to be required to remain almost competitive.  That would have required the purchase of a 1999 NB, you know the one with the fixed headlights.   So instead I purchased this....

It's a 1970, 1600.  What you give up doing this, is all the modern stuff that makes the Miata the correct answer.

But "that" might not be why we always do the correct thing.  My only add to this, find and buy the best car you can.  What you settle with can/will cost you more than you can imagine.

 

BenB
BenB HalfDork
4/20/22 11:06 a.m.

If you like wrenching on cars a lot, you'll like the MG. Even if the MG is just used as a fun weekend car, they're pretty maintenance-intensive compared to anything produced in the last 25-30 years. I had a '78 MGB back in the early '80s that was my daily driver for 9 years. I even spent three years driving it from NC to DC every other weekend. My late father had an '80 B and a '59 A that I sold a couple of years ago. They just were too expensive and time-consuming to keep on the road, plus, as has been previously mentioned, you have to put up with the crap Chinesium parts. My old B was modified with dual SUs, which gave it a significant hp bump over the single Zenith carb, and it was still barely able to keep up with traffic even back in the '80s. My dad's B, which still had the Zenith (~65 hp) was downright scary in today's heavy traffic, the A even more so, since SUV's bumpers are right at the same level as your head. Pretty often, I'd drive both of Dad's MGs back to back with my daily driver MSM, and the contrast was interesting, to say the least. If you want a modern fun car that can get out of its own way in traffic, go with the Miata. If you want something that's fun to (slowly) tool around town in, the MG can fit that bill. When I'd drive my dad's MGB, I'd even occasionally get thumbs-ups from Porsche drivers, something I don't think has ever happened to anyone driving a Miata. cheeky

mtn
mtn MegaDork
4/20/22 12:57 p.m.

The Miata will be the better car in every single imaginable way, except for aesthetics and cool factor. With that, you have to ask, how are you going to use it? What does fun mean to you?

 

Ignoring the obvious tinkering aspect - a well sorted MGB will always need to be worked on - an MGB is going to be more fun just because it is older. There is a lot that is fun about driving a car that you really have to think about. It gives you a sense of adventure just going 15 miles away, you may not make it home as planned and may need to do a roadside rebuild of a carburetor.

Comparatively, even though a Miata may be 33 years old at this point, it is a pretty damn modern car by just about any measure: airbags, OBDII for the last two years of the first generation, crumple zone, 3 point belts, cell phone charger, EFI, air conditioning, discs at all 4 corners, if the top is recent it won't leak... You won't get that same sense of adventure. BUT! It is probably going to be more fun just from a pure driving experience. It will be faster, it will handle better, it will stop better... 

 

So for me, in my current life situation, I drive around town and not much else. I don't get to autocross much if ever anymore. A Miata or MGB would be used in about the same fashion, as a weekend driver to go grab donuts, and for that, the MGB would be more fun and the better option. In fact, if it weren't for the safety aspect, it wouldn't even be a question. But very recently, my first Miata was my only car in the North, and not long after that, my second was a DD for 9 months of the year. Couldn't do that with an MGB.

 

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
4/20/22 1:28 p.m.

A Miata combines all of the fun of an MGB without the added maintenance. I'm fond of MGBs; several friends had them and ran them without issue. I especially like MGB GTs but I'm lazy and don't want to be bothered with the maintenance intervals. 

The best parallel I can give is this: a guy I know once told me he was having a conversation with the head of Maico motorcycles and Mr Maico  wanted to know why Americans deemed his motorcycles unreliable. The guy told him " Americans want to ride the crap out of bikes fill them with dirt, throw them in the corner and then do it again the following weekend".

If in my, albeit limited, experience MGBs can be reliable if you tend to them properly.

fastoldfart
fastoldfart Reader
4/20/22 2:26 p.m.

If  you are totally sold on the vintage feel, how about a modern heart transplant in the MG. The local owner of this car races an authentic twin cam MGA but for touring duties  has a 2.0 BMW OD trans swap car, which means he can keep up with traffic and carry luggage instead of tools.

Still a stock NA Miata ticks the boxes and still keeps enough creaks and groans to feel nostalgic without the wrenching time.

https://www.mgaguru.com/tales/mobile23/7585.jpg

https://www.mgaguru.com/mgtech/power/pp512a.htm

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
4/20/22 2:52 p.m.

I actually have this setup in my fleet. No, not the MG - mine doesn't really count as an MG. I mean the CRX and the classic Mini.

The Mini needs a lot of maintenance and is crotchety at times. But it's hugely characterful and makes hilarious noises. The speedometer swings over a 50 mph arc. It's not a car you can use for transport, you have to DRIVE it. Well, assuming it wants to be driven, because it doesn't always want to go play when I do.

The CRX has a lot of the same characteristics. It's engaging, it makes a fun little growl, it's small and nimble. But it just works. If I want to jump in it and go somewhere, I know I can. I can get driving enjoyment without punishment. It's a happy mix of engagement and utility.

I'll be keeping the CRX forever. I keep planning to sell the Mini because it's frustrating me, but then it works for a drive or two and I change my mind. 

The funny thing is that the Mini's actually newer than the CRX is. And they both get lots of comments, one because it's a surviving icon and one because it's a funny little bugeyed car.

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