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Should MG bring back the MGB?

By raccars Published

Classic MG

Is the MGB the classic car you would most like to see resurrected?

In a recent poll conducted by Auto Express magazine, readers voted the MGB the classic car they would most like to see return to production. The MGB is a symbol of the former glories of the UK automotive industry. Half a century ago the UK was revered the world over for fabulous cars made not only by MG but also Triumph, Jaguar and Aston Martin, among others. These were modern, technically advanced cars for their time and have in many cases become very collectable since.

The MG company began back in the Twenties, making sports cars as an offshoot of Morris Oxford. The company underwent a number of changes of ownership, including merging with Austin in 1952 to become The British Motor Corporation Ltd (BMC), later a subsidiary of British Leyland and by 2000 part of The MG Rover Group.

The original MGB, a British classic

The MGB was released in 1962. Its four cylinder 1.8 litre petrol engine was relatively basic, providing 94bhp, but the car was built using innovative monocoque construction, like the MG Midget. At the time most manufacturers were still using the heavier body on frame construction style so the MGB was something of a revelation to drivers with its lightweight yet rigid body shell, sharp handling and accurate steering.

The car was an immediate commercial hit and BMC began producing different versions, such as the Pininfarina-designed MGB GT fixed roof from 1965, and the straight six engined MGC. The MGB also carved out an impressive motorsport career in the Sixties. It became MG's best-selling model ever, with more than half a million MGBs made at the firm's Abingdon, Oxfordshire factory over 18 years.

Chinese ownership

The last MGB left the production line more than three decades ago and the original company became defunct in 2005 following the demise of the The Rover Group. However as part of the liquidation process, China's Nanjing Automobile Group paid £53 million for the rights to the MG brand and its Longbridge manufacturing facility. NAG began producing under the MG name in China and in Longbridge in 2007 and became part of SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation) in 2008.

MG returns to the UK

The MG TF name was briefly resurrected in the UK in 2007-2009, then MG returned to the UK with the all new MG6 medium sized saloon in June 2011. By 2012, UK MG6 sales had only reached 782 units, despite investment of £450 million by SAIC. The MG6 was followed by the MG3 supermini in 2013.

In 2012 the new MG made a return to motorsport and in 2014 the brand won the British Touring Car Manufacturers Championship. The return of MG doesn't yet seem to have appealed to British car buyers' collective aspirations, even though the brand has performed very well in Auto Express magazine's annual Driver Power surveys and was the fastest growing UK car firm in 2014, when sales rose by 361 per cent. However the brand forges on, with plans to introduce the MG GS SUV to its range in the UK later this year. Could the return of the MGB make the public sit up and take notice?

SAIC is certainly ambitious for the MG marque, employing 500 people at its Longbridge research and development facility and opening a £30 million dealership in London's Piccadilly. In China the firm makes an MG5 medium sized hatchback which it has not yet made available to the UK market. SAIC will need to be very careful to avoid criticisms of poor build quality if it is to regain ground among sceptical British buyers.

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