Buying an MG?

 In General, MGA-MGB, Midget, MGF

       We offer free pre-purchase checks which are high level rather than detailed checks of the key problem areas of the body, engine condition and the general feel of whether the car drives as it should.  They also provide the opportunity to give an overall comment on where the asking price sits in relation to the condition and current market.

(Note that this free service is for cars brought to us for the check.  There is a charge for the extra time and travel costs involved if we have to travel off site.)

However, before you get to the stage of having someone else look at a potential purchase, you should clarify in your own mind what it is that you are looking for, and there are some simple checks you can do yourself to weed out examples that are way away from what you need.


Think before you buy – what do you want from the car?


       Mileage/kms are not a big deal for most cars now, the ravages of time and weather usually have had a greater effect. However, there are still the very odd cars that have done low mileage (around 50 000 miles) still turning up – these drive like new cars and are worth paying extra for.

As to price, it depends on what you are wanting. If you want a car just to enjoy driving and therefore one which has no problems and is reliable, the price range is very variable. Some bargains turn up, others fetch much more (as could the ones sold more cheaply if the owners realised it).

Basically the value of good cars is driven by the cost of rehabilitating a poorer example – generally only about half of any expenditure will appear as added value to the car so it’s worth paying a bit more if the car has fewer problems (or even none).

If on the other hand you want something to use as a base to improve on because (like many of us) you enjoy doing that, then a cheaper example will do.

Having decided whether you want a project car or one which doesn’t require significant work, check out any particular example against what you want.


Specific model comments:


MGF – see separate page Things to Look for When Buying an MGF
MGA and Midget (and other models) – sorry, haven’t got round to these yet!




Mechanical items are simply checked by the conventional means. In addition to these usual checks, some particular features of these cars are – compression test, (high compression engine) is around 170 – 175 psi on warm engine and wide open throttle.

  • Oil pressure is originally 40psi when properly hot and idling at 7-800RPM. Down to 25psi at idle indicates probably sound, below that is uncertain. (Properly hot – run for 6 miles or so. Do the test drive then check the oil pressure).
  • Harsh tappet noise indicates worn valve gear. Tappet noise is identified as a tapping sound which doesn’t change its pitch as the engine speed is increased, though obviously it will sound faster.
  • Piston slap is not uncommon on these engines with moderate mileage due to the short pistons. It is identified as a hollow-ish rattle which is present at idle and reduces substantially and often disappears when the engine speed is increased.




  • Cars made 1967 and earlier had no synchromesh on first gear. This first gear was a weak point in these gearboxes and wears out before the rest of the gearbox. As a straight cut gear, this first has a natural whine, however it should be a clean whine not a growly one. If in doubt, get it checked – they are expensive to repair.
  • Reverse in this gearbox is similar, and also has the foible of jumping out of gear if worn badly. Check this by accelerating hard in reverse to about 3000RPM.
  • The later gearbox is quite robust, is generally noisy at idle (a hissing noise via the gear lever) and can be difficult to engage reverse. Both these are normal features of this gearbox and indicate nothing wrong. (When it doesn’t go into reverse, put it in first and advance a couple of inches and try again)

If fitted with overdrive (either gearbox), at the end of your 6 mile test run, check that the car still drives properly in reverse. An uncommon but expensive problem is for the overdrive clutch linings to glaze or wear out, resulting in a slipping when trying to reverse. Worse when hot.



Particular areas to check on an MGB body are:


  • The sills, which extend under both wings from wheel arch to wheel arch. Particularly check where the wing overlaps. The bottom of the sill, the bit under the car known as the castle rail. It is identified as a rib about 1″ wide running from the front wheelarch to the back of the door where it sweeps up and blends into the rear chassis rail.
  • Check the front of this rib in particular, also the small triangular bit of vertical panel exposed where at the rear upsweep. Rust in either of these places means major bodywork.
  • Check floorpans etc.
  • Check the steel beadings at the top of the rear wings and where the front wings meet the scuttle (and around the windscreen pillar in a GT). Rust here is not cheap to fix properly.
  • Check for rust at the top of the rear wheelarch.

Finally, be wary of anywhere where seams usually left exposed (including the aforementioned beadings) have been filled over – this inevitably means a bodge job!

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