Buying Classics Abroad
The majority of MGBs were exported to the United States, and at one time a number of folk in the UK were bringing them home. Simon Lucas of CCHL, an MGB specialist in East Yorkshire (www.cchl.co.uk, 01482 441551), was one of them.
‘Some of the rust-free cars coming from southern California were in unbelievable condition, but it lost its edge a while ago,’ he says. ‘Dwindling supply of exceptional, original models was the reason, and in today’s climate the weak pound doesn’t help.’
But you’ll still find a few American examples in today’s online classifieds, and there’s something to be said for spending your cash on shipping rather than the potentially horrendous cost of welding a rotted-out shell, even if top-notch unrestored USA cars are scarce and command hefty prices. Don’t expect to find a V8 in the States though – only the four-pot was sold there.
Famously, MGBs for all markets acquired big rubber bumpers and a taller ride height in 1975 to comply with US safety legislation, but if you’re set on a chrome bumper cars, you’ll find them in all markets.
Like most British exports, American models were detuned to meet emissions regulations so you’ll want to change the carbs and inlet manifold to get the most from the engine. By the time you’ve paid for shipping and duty, then converted to RHD (around £1500 depending on the model) and de-restricted the engine, you might find it’s more worth your while to buy a half-decent one in the UK and put aside some cash to spend on it. Only you can decide. Parts are widely available, and complete shells can be bought in the UK for around £9000.
Plenty of MGBs can be found throughout Europe, so you’re not short of options. Driving one home to the UK would make a rather special summer holiday. Or if you’re feeling intrepid, take a look in the southern hemisphere where the toasty climate and right-hand drive offer a winning combo. We’ve found some tempting offers in Australia.
As prices of even mediocre examples continue to lift, it’s possible that importing could one day become more widely viable again, but much will depend on the state of Sterling. Would Simon ever consider doing it again? ‘I’d look into it, but it doesn’t make financial sense to fly out and visit the car yourself,’ he says. ‘ You really need to trust the person who’s describing it for you. Ideally I’d want to see it for myself, but it’s not something I’m rushing to do right now.’