Bonneville MGB- Body preparation

OK, we have the body stripped except for the wiring harness, steering and suspension. We have removed the fender welt beads so we can smooth them over and are in the process of welding up the side trim holes (we will paint belt line trim on when we are done).


MGB at the Bonneville Salt Flats 50+50=150

Welcome to Speedwell,

This blog is intended to chronicle the putting together of an MGB to take to the Bonneville Salt Flats in September (2012).

There have been discussions on many MG forums that have covered what most people thought would be a theoretical top speed for an MGB using it’s original B-series engine without the aid of a super charger or turbo charger. It is a funny question, there is a huge disparity in what people think and, to my knowledge, nobody has ever tried.

Most die-hard road racers say 130mph flat out is all that can be done, a few stretch that to 140mph. All agreed that 140 mph would require a huge racing budget and not be worth the time. Speedwell disagrees. These opinions are often accompanied by the admission that they always have to back off on road courses when they inevitably run out of straightaway.

I am of the opinion that an MGB can go faster than that. I was discussing this with Andrea (my awesome wife) and she asked how fast I thought an MGB could go. I replied 150mph or more. She said, “Well then, isn’t the MGB going to be 50 this year?” Yes. “Aren’t YOU going to be 50 this year?” Yes. “Well then why not celebrate by building an affordable MGB, taking it to the Salt Flats and go 150mph?” She decided we could name the project, MGB 50+50=150.

“Hmmm…” says I. That would take a LOT of work, pretty fast and just getting out to Bonneville would cost quite a bit. She remained unwavering and said “Well, it is Bonneville.”

I have heard lots of stories over the years of the mystic beauty of the Salt Flats. Whimsical recollections of what many who have been there call the most beautiful place on earth. I have heard of the rampant disease known as “Salt fever”. It makes a man forsake everything so he can keep returning year after year. I slept on the idea and in the morning, though it still seemed just as crazy, I decided we should do it, God help us.

So, here are the parameters I have set for the car we will use for our attempt:

1)MGB body. 2)B-series MGB engine, naturally aspirated. 3)All pre 1980 MG parts or reproductions.

We will not be after an official speed record, simply the record of the fastest MGB ever. Obviously this would not be a big deal if we simply put a Dana rear end in the car, a Ford 5.0 and a Tremec 6-speed gearbox but any wealthy self-indulgent wienie could do that (I may be a wienie, but I am far from wealthy…….. monetarily that is). I want ALL MG parts and a real MGB. That is what the discussions have surrounded and that is what I aim to prove.

We are going to build a car that any hobbiest could build in his/her own garage.

The first thing we had to do was find a good solid MGB body to start with. Living in Georgia, we are fortunate in that this is not a difficult task. After a few Craigslist searches I found a couple up in Toccoa (N.Georgia mountains) that were moving to Colorado and needed to dispose of their 1979 MGB, which had been languishing for years behind their house in need of a clutch. My son and I arrived at their home with my trailer and the owner introduced himself as Carl Lake. I said “Lake? As in Salt Lake?” He said “Absolutely”. The car proved to be very solid so we paid our new friend, loaded up the car and headed back to Watkinsville. We both took the fact that the owner’s last name was Lake as a good omen :-) Mr. and Mrs. Lake have promised to come out to see us on the Salt if we are fortunate enough to make it there.

Here is the car, just loaded on the trailer:

Headed toward Watkinsville.

Where she sat for over 10 years, waiting.

Where she sat for 10 years, waiting.

By the way, we needed a name for our car and Andrea said she could not think of anything that went better with salt than a┬áMargarita…so Margarita…or Rita, for short, it is.

On stands ready for the tear down.

Having never been to Bonneville before, the biggest question is “What are the rules?” I joined the Southern California Timing Association and received a rule book. The people that I have dealt with at the SCTA have been very enthusiastic and supportive. So far, it seems the easiest way to run Rita is to simply join the 150mph club. This would incur the least amount of expense as you can run the factory gas tank, do not need a fire system (save a fire extinguisher) and the roll cage can be simpler. The kicker is that the car would have to be street legal. One advantage I have is that you can get away with a hell of a lot in a state that regards Rainex as suitable windshield wipers. We would need to retain the headlamps, turn signals, brake lights and marker lights. We are not sure which way to go here but we are sure of three things. I need a seat, it must attach to the roll cage and I need a roll cage. We are going with the full on 8-point cage so we are free later to get more serious, plus it is safer, which makes Andrea happier. So here we go taking off all the stock stuff we won’t need! I will sort what class to run in as soon as I can.

We thought about using an MGBGT for aerodynamic reasons but deemed that if we remove the roadster’s windshield and enclose the cockpit we will be better off still. We can use a small wrap around windscreen ala Jaguar D-type for our purposes. Should be fun figuring out how to make that :-)