Recently, I was surprised to read an article in a nationally circulated British car magazine, which, in essence, was somewhat critical of the introduction of the British Motor Heritage MGB body shell. It actually went so far as to suggest that any MGB rebuilt using the Heritage shell could be classified as a fake!
The Heritage body shell project has involved years of work during which David Bishop of Heritage, encouraged by his managing director—Peter Mitchell—literally scoured the English countryside to rescue the remainder of the original MGB jigs and press tools. These, of course, had been dumped when the Abingdon factory was closed in October 1980, and no further bodies were required from Pressed Steel Fisher of Swindon, who manufactured the MGB shells at that time.
These original jigs and press tools were then painstakingly cleaned up, new tooling prepared where necessary, and a work force recruited from dedicated people who used to make the body shells all those years ago! So was born the Faringdon body shell plant, the success of which has led twice to extending the facility due to overwhelming demand for new MGB body shells.
Bear in mind that the youngest MGB on the road today is nearly ten years old.The whole premise behind the introduction of the Heritage body shells was to save MGBs. which were perhaps past their prime in terms of bodywork, particularly in climates where salt and water had taken their toll, and dreaded rust was in residence!
However, let us take a specific example. Suppose you had a 1969MGB roadster on which the majority ol the bodywork was totally rusted out. If you replaced both fenders at the front and rear, both doors, the hood, trunk lid. and at the same time replaced the rockers (both inner and outer), and the floor pans, It would take a lot of work and loads of money! According to what has been seen recently, you would end up with a restored 1969 MGB. However, the metal work still wouldn’t be 100% rust-free, and perhaps the fit of the new panels might not be quite as good as when the car left the factory.
Now, decide to do the same thing, only this time make life a little easier (but not much!) by utilizing a Heritage body shell to obviate all the cutting and shutting, welding, and fitting, that separate metal panels generate. The lit and finish of the Heritage body shells is actually better than original, but will still require some hand-finishing prior to painting.
Cars restored using remanufactured body panels are greatly admired and I have known them to win Concours events and car shows. No one has suggested these are fakes!
To my mind, the heart and soul of any car is the engine, transmission and running gear etc., and if the originals are used in the rebuild or rebidding, then the car is basically the same as when it left Abingdon. In the case of the MGB, it has that original sense of identity with proper chassis plate, commission numbers, engine numbers and should be finished in its original color. The facts are easy to check, just ask Anders Clausager at British Motor Heritage, and he will supply details of any MGB for a small fee.
In Europe, the donor cars that have been properly rebodied using Heritage shells are now the most valuable MGBs of all. Even those original cars, which prior to the body shell introduction had been restored to an extremely high standard using after-market panels, are less desirable than Heritage-shelled MGBs.
Classic car prices are rising, mainly due to inflation and investment, and because they are so unique. Whatever you put into your car now will retain its value. The Heritage body shell for the MGB roadster (both right hand and left hand drive version), has been accepted by the “real” experts as being one of the ideal ways to keep our British sports cars “On the Road”. Sure, we deal in “dinosaur” cars that are no longer made, and parts that theoretically are no longer available, and there will never be any more MGs, Triumphs and Austin-Healeys than there were originally. It’s when you start adding to the numbers that the “fake” syndrome occurs, and if the original car numbers are utilized then there is no question of your classic being seen as a replica. So take heart, and restore or rebody your MGB, secure in the knowledge that the donor car is genuine, and your rebuild be as well. If you need further encouragement to purchase a Heritage MGB shell, Moss has prepared a video that can be loaned to potential buyers (contact the sales department for details). I can do no better than quote Automotive Investor, who asked five experts to pick classic cars that will jump in value in one year. Once chosen was the MGB roadster, which they estimated will appreciate in value 28%-42& by 1991. What will they be worth in ten years time?
By Ken Smith