Get more from your B...


About Upgrades4MGs

I started this website about 6 years ago when my good friend, Phil Earl, and I were discussing the relative merits of various upgrades.  We both felt that a lot of times the 80:20 rule applied in terms of spend, and we wanted to see what we could get in the way of an 80% performance gain for a 20% spend rather than the other way round.  The trouble was, we got a little carried away, but the upshot was that our MGB GTs became something of a talking point and deviated from the more normal route of shoving a V8 under the bonnet.  So the website became a means of recording what we achieved and what can potentially be done.

So welcome to the Dark Side...


What is the Dark Side?  Commonly referred to when talking about customising?

It's the selling of your soul to the Devil in exchange for that extra few bhp!  It's the slippery slope to divorce, or losing your girlfriend, and certainly, a fast track to bankruptcy! A sure sign is pale skin and baggy eyes from too many late nights in the garage, an addiction to Ebay, finding the pictures of parts in the catalogue more interesting than the scantily clad girly models, being given the red carpet treatment at your local MG spares shop, and being on first name terms with the FedEx driver!

So a few words of caution before you rush out into the garage and emerge months later with the Beast Of Abingdon, because that sweet dream could easily become your worst nightmare.


Nevermind what the Bank Manager, Wife, Partner, Girlfriend, friends and relatives have to say...you will still face a tough jury of your fellow MG owners, who will not be shy to voice their opinions and thoughts on the creation you have sweated blood and tears over for the last two years and spent endless thousands of pounds to achieve!

And the opinions may not be what you want to hear...but that's why you have big shoulders, and who cares what others think?


Unfortunately, though, big shoulders or not, there is the commercial reality.  Upgrades can be horrendously expensive, and what may seem like an insignificant small part may cost the equivalent of a body part.  Remember, though, that the price reflects the R&D that went into developing the upgrade, and of course, in today's nanny state, the liability cover that goes with selling perfomance parts.  And add in marketing costs, and overheads of the business, and you begin to understand why these parts cost so much.


Not least the fact that insurance companies do not look favourably upon non-standard!

No matter how much safer you may imagine your car to be with its roll-cage, bucket seats, halogen headlamps and spots, 4-pot callipers, firmer handling and that bit extra power to keep you out of trouble, the insurance companies will still see you as the ultimate CHAV!  Furthermore, many classic MGs will be on classic policies and so will have limited mileage and modification allowances, and you could soon find your premium more than double.  So make that phone call first, and ask what loading you will have for your planned modifications.  And don't even think about not telling them, if they find out, and they usually will, your policy will be withdrawn faster than you can say "oh dear!"


Long term, though, the resale value will be affected.  You bought a classic because you read that they maintain their value if looked after.  Which is true, so long as it is kept largely original.  The average buyer wants a classic MG because it is a classic - and not some silhouette of a classic MG hiding all manner of modern parts under the skin.  Watch the various sales pages, and notice how many custom MGs remain up for sale for some time.  Customising is all about individuality, that's why we do it, to express ourselves as individuals, to stand out from the motoring masses.  Depending on how you look at it, we are all different and as in our admiration of the opposite sex, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  What works for you may not for many others.  More to the point, for many, the end-point of customising is to stand back at the end and say "I created that", and so selling on your pride and joy to make way for the inevitable next project, you may find that others are not so keen to pick up where you left off. 

Logically, classic cars are a poor investment - they may maintain their value unlike a modern car, but they still require investment in the upkeep.  The sensible approach is to buy a recently restored classic MG on which someone else has invested the money to bring it back to "as new" or even concours.  Then, with the usual maintenance to ensure its upkeep, you sell it on after a few years and recover much of your original purchase price.  But where's the fun in that approach?

On the other hand - you see the opportunity to buy a down-at-heel car, and to lovingly restore it, knowing that everything about it will be excellent and reliable, all done by your own hard graft.  Of course if you have an enquiring mind, this is where the problem starts - how far do you take that rebuild?  In my instance what should have been a clutch change ended up a complete engine build and body restoration - I could not leave well alone.  Many projects falter in this way, because you lose sight of your end-goal, and you reach the depths of despair, and the wife/partner puts a stop on the spending - next thing, your project is being advertised and at best you will get maybe 25% of what you have already invested in labour and parts.  Of course, to a brave man this is a great opportunity to take on the project with a fresh mind, and to benefit from the money already spent, but unless you know the cars well, or have access to detailed drawings etc, you will struggle to figure out where everything goes.  To put it succinctly, buying a cheaper car at the lower end of the condition scale does not make sense as the money spent to get it right will always be more than the value of the car, even with the evergreen MGB Roadster!


I'm assuming that as you are reading this, you are fairly handy in the garage and will be contemplating many of these projects yourself, and the message then is to think carefully about whether you want a classic MGB with a bit more zest, or whether what you really want is a modern sports car like an MG TF or MX5.  If it is the classic MG, then if you already have a classic think long and hard about your long term plans and why you are doing it.  If you are considering a process that will make it difficult to return to standard it may pay to sell the car, and buy a cheaper one to work on.  Take the case of the owner with a lovely 1965 Roadster with pull-handles etc that wants to put a V8 under the bonnet - it will mean some metal bashing and will ultimately reduce the value of what is now a rare car.  The best approach here would be to sell the 1965 Roadster to a collector, and buy a cheaper rubber bumper MGB with the proceeds, as well as having capital spare for the project.  Or start looking for a genuine Costello converted MGB.  On the other hand with the more common 1970 MGBs and GTs it becomes a little easier to justify making these changes, and as you already own the car, the only issue is raising the project finance.

If you are looking to buy a car for the purpose of the customising exercise, then look for one that still has a valid MOT.  You may pay a little more but you can drive it for a while and get to know it and what items may need attention whilst saving for the project, and deciding on your final vision.  If engine changes are in the offing, then go for a later 1977> rubber bumper model.  Whilst I am, like others, a fan of the rubber bumper model, and think that time has been kind to the styling, they are still worth less than the chrome bumper cars.  More to the point, though, because they inherited the factory GT V8 engine bay, engine swaps will be easier on these cars, and with the support in terms of parts now available, it will not take much effort to have a r/b car lowered and looking classic with a set of chrome bumpers and a grille.


If you have got this far, then well done!  However, to summarise, apart from the insurance issues, always try to ensure that whatever you do in the way of modifications you can undo when it comes to selling on.  It may be tempting to sell parts on now such as bumpers and engines and gearboxes etc, but sometimes, it may also pay to store these so they remain with the car.  Of course, space and financial constraints may not allow for that.  If you want to go wild, don't let us put you off, the more lairy the creation the better, but remember, there will a price to pay.  Good luck!


About Me

Mad about all types of MGs from pre-war to the current models from the new Chinese custodians of the brand.

Also interested in photography, and for a living, I am involved in lubricants.

My current MG ownership includes:




Previously owned MGs:




MG1300 MkII