Do you remember what you were doing in the summer of 1967, the summer of love? John Mansfield certainly does because that was the summer he bought a beautiful MGB Roadster from a very dear friend.
And a great investment it turned out to be too, because half a century later he still has the iconic British sports car safely tucked away in the garage of his home in the southern Lake District near Lancaster.
He said: “I always liked MGs. I owned a pull-door for a year or so but when I heard the reports about engine failures on cars with the early three-bearing cranks, I was prompted into buying a later, 1966-registered MGB Roadster, which had the stronger five-bearing engine.”
John was 29 at the time and though he bought it from a friend he didn’t actually register it as his own vehicle until five years later.
“That sort of thing happened a lot in those days” he explained.
The MGB was no slouch out of the blocks, but the speed of the machine isn’t what drew him to it. It was the looks more than anything.
He had to borrow a pound from a friend in order to buy four gallons of petrol
John paid for the new MGB with cash from the sale of his previous model and he had a bit saved because he was earning “pretty well”. Nonetheless the pacey purchase left him out of pocket.
So much so that he had to borrow a pound from a friend in order to buy four gallons of petrol in order to take the MGB on its first road trip, from his home at the time in Kendal to Keswick and back – a journey of about 60 miles.
The MGB is liveried in a cool mineral blue, its original colour. He had it resprayed almost 20 years ago and added a fibreglass hardtop in the same shade with a period racing stripe in white running “north to south”. He feels the lid further enhances the looks of the MGB, and it certainly affords a little more protection than the old canvas hood.
The interior, however, is pretty much as it was in the year of manufacture. The only change to the dash layout is the addition of an ammeter. The leather seat covers have been retained, even though they are a little crinkled and cracked nowadays. They certainly provide provenance of the vehicle’s age.
When I bought it I drilled holes the size of a sixpence in the sills and filled them with preserving oil
The MGB is still in very good condition – perhaps not surprising given John’s dedication to looking after it for half a century.
“When I bought it I drilled holes the size of a sixpence in the sills and filled them with preserving oil and completely sprayed oil in all the chassis parts where possible,” he explained.
Not surprising then that the sills are still the originals.
“I was working as a service engineer for a firm that made laundry equipment at the time and, when sending equipment to buyers, industrial preservative oil was sprayed over the parts that could have rusted,” he said.
“I liberated a small quantity for the car, filled the sills and then used some bungs to fill and seal the holes.
“Then, one day, I parked the car on the main street in Kendal and, somehow or other, most of the oil escaped leaving a couple of gallons of oil in the gutter.
“Someone thought my sump had been holed but I had no time to argue the point – it was time to move off sharply before the law arrived.”
The car’s sporty appearance was enhanced by the removal of the front bumper and the rear one went soon after with, instead, a fibreglass valance providing a smoother, less cluttered appearance at the back.
The MGB had about 10,000 on the clock when he bought it and, with a company car or van almost always at his disposal, the mileage has only increased to around 85,000 in the proceeding 50 years.
“I’m not too confident about the mileage though,” John explained, “because the clock started playing up some time ago and I had to replace it.”
The engine is still the original unit and like most of the other major components, it has required little in the way of major attention over the years.
People do love to see the classic old sports cars
Somewhere along the way the MGB acquired the pet name “Bubba”. It’s a noisy old drive but that’s part of the attraction and it still causes a bit of a stir when he takes it out for the odd summer excursion. “People do love to see the classic old sports cars,” he reflected.
He is now doing less than 1,000 miles a year in it, reserving it for fair weather motoring.
Bubba was very reliable, though it did let him down occasionally. One time he had driven home from a holiday in Scotland when, driving over Shap in Cumbria, the car “suddenly juddered to a halt”.
“It transpired that the orange plastic arm/actuator on the points had folder over, which then meant that the points were not opening and closing as they should”.
That was particularly frustrating because he had only replaced them a fortnight before. But, hey ho, there are worse places you could break down!
Being a qualified electrician, John was often frustrated by the standard-fit pair of six volt batteries which he felt didn’t hold their charge, so he installed a 12 volt battery instead.
He said: “I’ve always taken the view that my car should receive some serious attention each year, and my last project was to install a set of new front discs and a set of Greenstuff high performance brake pads.
“A previous year I replaced the still-original rear lever arm dampers, which have a tendency to make the rear axle tuck under when cornering hard. I also fitted a set of Spax telescopic shock absorbers.
I don’t like to see MGBs which have been dolled up with too many non-standard accessories
“I think these two modifications are in the spirit of keeping the car as a classic – I don’t like to see MGBs which have been dolled up with too many non-standard accessories.”
Though he has owned the MGB for half a century it is not his oldest possession; that honour goes to an ice axe bought in Switzerland when he was 19: “I refuse to get rid of it because it brings back some very happy memories”.
His dream car is a Porsche 911 Carrera, but for the time being his day car is a Dacia Duster and he spends a lot of time driving an Austin 7 Ulster at hill climbing events up and down the country… but that’s another story.
As well as hill climbing he enjoys cycling and used to enjoy caving, sailing and racing boats. It seems the need for speed has been in his blood all along.
“A car that could do 100mph was a very big deal in the early 1960s. And this one still is as far as I am concerned, which is why I’ve never contemplated selling it, and I guess that I never will.”
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