SPORTS CARS OF THE 60's

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  • baxter225baxter225 Member Posts: 10
    Mr. Shiftright: What are decent, or solid driver, MG Midgets going for? I've checked various online classifieds, but its hard to discern the condition these cars from the ads. Do Midgets have any particular faults, other than rust, to watch out for? I currently have a 1979 RX-7, so routine maintenance is all ready a part of my life, but I would like to get into a pure, open sports car. Thanks in advance for your insight.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    MG Midgets prior to 1975 seem to sell in the $5,000 range if they are very sharp. Highly restored cars can go higher.

    Midgets are simple and fun, but VERY small. So be sure you can even fit in one.

    I wouldn't recommend the 1975 on up models. They are ugly and slow and do not appreciate like the older ones do.

    Another good thing about them is that you can buy any part quickly and inexpensively (relatively speaking). This includes body, trim, mechanical, etc.
  • baxter225baxter225 Member Posts: 10
    Its funny how some ads proclaim that the later ones are "the last of the breed" and ask inflated amounts, when they do look terrible with the rubber bumpers and '70's style stripes. Midgets do seem to be some of the more accessible '60's sports cars, though.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Nobody who knows MGs falls for that nonsense, though. Everybody knows the earlier cars are best.

    Sure, it's the last of the breed, the last of a dying breed that, by 1979, wasn't worth saving as a car (but would end up being worth saving as a brand name).
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342
    from what I've seen of it in CAR, it looks pretty good and they say it goes pretty good as well.

    According to CAR, MG Rover's new owners are considering exporting it to the US. If only...

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    It looks okay, but it's not an MG except in name. MGs were simple and affordable cars in their glory.
  • sebringjxisebringjxi Member Posts: 140
    Yes, Baxter, by all means see if you can actually fit in one before you get serious about it. I remember a period of time in which I drove a '74 Midget (great little car) for about a month on a probably 40 mile round-trip commute every day to work. When I got back in my MGC (from the body shop) I thought I was getting into a Lincoln! It felt HUGE! If I recall correctly, the interior door handle in the Midget was behind my left shoulder. When I was in college, that was easy to get to but now days.........

    Good luck!

    Hal
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Compare a midget gherkin to a full size dill pickle.
  • baxter225baxter225 Member Posts: 10
    I was behind a rubber bumpered Midget in traffic yesterday morning, and the driver's head looked strangely out of proportion with the rest of the car, like in a caricature. I'll definitely try to sit in one before looking into them much more.
    As for another car of this vintage: There have been some kind and not so kind words about Alfa Romeos in these posts, but not much said about the 1960's/early 1970's GTVs. They seem semi-exotic, at least around here, but I've always thought they were particularly attractive and the asking prices for them do not seem astronomical. There's a beautiful one featured on the Panasport website, under the 14" road wheel section.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    They're a great car, probably the best 60s sports coupe you could choose for an affordable and reliable and stylish ride that everyone will look at and appreciate. They are much more civilized than British cars of that era, sporting dohc alloy engines, Webers or fuel injection, 5 speed transmissions and toasty heaters.

    Your only real concerns are:

    1. If you get the later cars with Spica injection, this should be set up by an expert and not touched, only maintained (the injection pump needs maintenance from time to time but it's pretty simple).

    2. Electrical issues, usually resulting from corroded fuses or grungey wiring (bad grounds). Not a big deal, because the car is pretty simple and doesn't have a lot of gadgetry.

    Parts are plentiful and not too expensive. Repairs are generally straight-forward, but valve adjustments are complicated (shim system) and a few of the components (distributor, water pump, alternator) and a tight fit and a bit annoying to access.

    When looking one over for purchase, look for rust and rust repairs along front and rear windshield trim, and for oil leaks at the back of the cylinder head.

    The 2-3 upshift and downshift will grind a bit, that is what they all do sooner or later.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    I was in Portland, Maine recently, and I came across an '87 or '88 (don't know exact year) Alfa Spider Veloce for sale on one of the main streets. The body was in great shape, it had 121k miles on it, but the owner only wanted $2500 for it. Then I suddenly realized why the price was so low; the man came out of a cafe, got in, started it up and drove off. The engine, let me tell you, sounded very awful. Smoke was coming out of the tailpipe like crazy, and it sounded like the valves were clattering and clashing together, because it sounded like an old tired Audi five. Could it be the classic Alfa case where the valve seals and heads need reworking after 100k?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Well it sounds like a beater to me. The valves wouldn't clatter when the valve deforms at 100K---more the other way, the valves would become too tight and they would burn.

    And Alfa bottom ends are very strong, so the oil smoke is just a sign of abnormal engine wear due to neglect.

    If the car were otherwise cherry (why do I doubt this), it might be worth the $2,500, as a rebuilt or used engine might be had reasonably.

    In top shape, that car should be worth about $6,500, stunning shape $7,500.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    I know this doesn't qualify as a '60s sports car, but how was the MG TD roadster as a vehicle? Was it like the quintessential British car of the mid-'50s? My politics professor was talking about his TD today and he says that you can start it with a hand crank (I don't know, since I've never seen a TD before).
  • jeffmust2jeffmust2 Member Posts: 811
    The Mark II was the "hot rod" of the line-up with, I believe, 6-8 more hp than the standard TD that year which had a base hp of "Are You Kidding?" - somewhere around 50 or so...

    Anyway, a real fun car to drive; don't remember the Hand Crank abililty. Non-pressurized cooling system, great chrome radiator cap, wood frame of course, not real comfortable on trips over an hour or so (and I was a lot younger then!)...lousy heater and radio, as always in old Brit sports cars...

    But I sold it for more than I paid and wish I still had it.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    No, the TD is not the quintessential model of the 50s MGs....if anything, it is considered by collectors the ugly duckling of the TC, TD and TF lineage. With the smaller 16" wheels, the styling of the TC was pretty much destroyed, and the TF is a far more graceful and interesting body style. Basically, the TD is probably worth the least of any of the MG sportscars of the 50s because it appears dumpy and ill-proportioned compared to the MG that came before it and after it.
  • jeffmust2jeffmust2 Member Posts: 811
    a Man, or them be fightin' words!

    Dumpy or not, the TD was a lot more masculine than that girlie TC with those prissy wheels that looked way too big for the wheelwell and body.

    Of course, if you want to stick-up for those prissy girlie wheels, go ahead.

    And if you're talkin' Ugleee, that would be the TF with those fenders. "Interesting?" Ahhh - no. Just ugly.

    'Course, this is just my opinion, humble or not.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Well, it's really not even an argument among real MG nuts. They all know what they like and they vote with their wallets (a very good method of voting, as it shows sincerity).

    The market prices rather prove the point. A brilliant TC will bring $5,000-7,000 over the price of a TD, about a 30% premium, as will a TF 1500.

    I think the reason the TD was so successful is that it was the first MG offered with left hand drive, so of course it sold well in America.

    Otherwise, styling aside, the TC, TD and TF have a lot in common and in some ways the TD and TF are improvements mechanically.

    But in terms of value, no contest, the TC is pulling away rapidly in the collector car market.
  • sebringjxisebringjxi Member Posts: 140
    Call me demented if you wish, but those are my sons' initials MG and TC. I'm an MG fan from way back. I was ogling a beautifully trimmed TC at a car show last summer and the elderly gentlemam driving it was getting ready to do the "mountain run" with the rest of the sports cars. As he fired it up to drive off, I asked him, "How's it drive?" He grinned real big and said, "You don't drive this thing, you just sort of herd it along." With that, he dropped his goggles, tossed his scarf around his neck and roared off!

    I personally like the TF and A best of all!

    Enjoy!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    They are actually a hell of a lot of fun to drive, but you have to let the car wander as it will. I think the TF drives the nicest of the bunch as it has the most power.

    Best thing you can do for a TC is weld extra bracing into the steering box area and install stronger rear axles and get some of those fancy brake drums that grip better.
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  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    I know this isn't a car from the '60s, but was the Triumph TR7 engine an OHV or OHC unit? I do know for certain that it was one of the least durable engines ever built in modern times. The TR8 engine is OHV for sure, though.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Yes, the TR7 has a single overhead camshaft.

    The problem with the engine is the head gasket and subsequent warping of the cylinder head.

    If a TR7 is fastidiously maintained, and if you don't buy one of the earlier cars with the crummy Austin Marina 4-speed transmission assembled by blind men at the Speke plant (look for the ACG prefix in the serial number and if you see it run away)---but if you care for the later cars they can be reliable.

    The rule with TR7s is that you never, ever, let the temp gauge rise toward the red. No matter if you are in the left lane of an LA freeway going 80 mph, if you let the car overheat you have lost the engine and probably, due to cost, the entire car.
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342
    one of the ugliest sports cars of all time, the Flying Doorstop.

    -One who owned a Triumph when they were among the best looking sportscars ('66 TR-4A).

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    Now there was a car where the looks made it worth the trouble of ownership. My friend had one while I had my Alfa. He was forever working on something.. but it was very tough looking.

    I had big hopes for the TR-7. I was hoping for the beauty of the TR-6 with reliability. Instead it was just the opposite. Ugly as H*** and even more unreliable.

    That's when I knew that English cars were doomed beyond saving in America. Of course, I knew that Alfa was doomed too, for different reasons.
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342
    the TR-6s were pretty reliable for 70s sports cars. That's why so many are still around.

    The most desireable TRs to me are the TR3As and the ('68 only)TR-250/5s which had the motor & suspension of the 6 combined w the Michelotti body work of the 4s(TR6 bodywork was by Karmann).

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    To think that they actually made the decision, willfully, to kill the MG marque so that they could give us the TR7
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    Why did Pininfarina and Bertone continue to market the Spider and X1/9 for a few years in the mid-80s after Fiat withdrew from the U.S. market? They must have known that those cars had absolutely no future here and that they were hopelessly outdated.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Oh, well, I'm not so sure that's how they viewed it. The X1/9 was really a bargain for the day, and quite a popular car. Think about it...a cheap, really fun to drive, fuel-injected, mid-engine, targa-top two seater? Hardly outdated in the 1980s by American or Japanese standards.

    What people failed to grasp about the Fiat X1/9 is that they were built to a price...a LOW price, and the quality of materials put into the car were pretty low. They were also tough nuts to work on.

    But really FUN cars...not fast but even today for $2,500 you could not find a better bargain in a sports car.

    What you need to own one is patience, the ability to glue back on all the parts falling off, a good support network and realistic expectations.

    It's definitely a "hobby car" and you need to be a clever fellow to work on it.
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    I'm not so sure that you could call them reliable by any standard except English....

    I think that they're just such great cars that people keep on fixing them.

    I don't honestly speak from personal experience however, so feel free to tell me the true story of the TR...but they sure weren't Chevy's when it came to reliabity.

    As I remember the X1/9's reputation, they were supposed be be excellent handlers, but about 1/3 too small and 1/2 underpowered for American use.
    We Alfa owners used to feel that it was easier to have work done on an Alfa than the X1/9.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    yes, they were pretty underpowered, the X1/9, but the last models, the 1500 cc with fuel injection, aren't too bad at all. They rev up nicely and being small and low to the ground, you get a sense of speed, illusory though it might be.

    TR6--they weren't too bad for reliability, and quite good by British standards. They had those pesky Stromberg vacuum depression carburetors, which gave more power than the SUs but weren't anywhere nearly as easy to service and adjust. Also they liked to tear out the rear axle anchoring bolts (or welds, I forget exactly) and that was a big job. I also recall that the distributors were not very long-lived, and of course, the usual electrical hassles, mostly caused by crummy connectors, corroding fuse boxes, etc. Nothing that some upgrading couldn't solve once and for all.

    It's a car you can "make right" which is more than one can say for some 60s cars.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    But did the TR8 share all the same mechanical woes that the TR7 had?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    The TR8 had a different engine and transmission so that took care of two big negatives right there.

    You can actually get some money for a TR8 these days.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    They even look better ;-). Funny how a little more power improves a car's looks.

    The biggest failing of the TR-7 was that it was bor-ring. A sportscar can have no greater sin.

    There was also the small matter of chronic overheating leading to chronic head gasket failure.

    And replacement parts that were as bad as the defective parts they replaced.

    And they were ugly, not endearing ugly but ersatz Ferrari ugly.

    British sportscar unreliability with the British sportscar charm carefully removed.
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • pap5pap5 Member Posts: 144
    The TR-6 was a pretty car, but it was basically a TR-4 amidships with an "updated" bow and stern tacked on. Wasn't as unified a design as the original. At different times during my carefree youth, I owned both a TR-4 and a TR-250. I recall the 250 as being more reliable (a relative term) than the 4, and the top being easier to erect (again, relatively), but not being terribly quicker. Now, I can't believe how little I sold each for!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Back then that "little" amount of money was a lot. I had to scrounge $2,500 bucks for a clean TR250 back then and I'd have to scrounge $10,000 for a clean one today. Same-o, Same-o.
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342
    That's the name of the organization founded me and my friend Tom. It works just like AA, whenever either of us is tempted to buy another Triumph we're supposed to call the other and hope he talks us out of it. :-)

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Or at least loans the other the money to buy it :-).
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    When the first Triumphs were imported into the U.S., one proud new owner took delivery of his late in the evening and then went driving for hours in his new toy... Somewhere around midnight he decided to show off his new car to one of his friends. He pulled up outside the house and started honking the horn. When his friend opened the bedroom window, and looked down, the proud owner cried excitedly, "Look Harry, it's a Triumph!"

    "Over what?" asked Harry.
  • pap5pap5 Member Posts: 144
    Or, as a member of the British automotive press wrote to announce the Triumph Herald sedan's conversion to rear swing axles, "Hark, the Herald axles swing."
  • carphotocarphoto Member Posts: 37
    I think I need the number to Triumphs Anonymous......

    First, useless trivia. The Herald wasn't converted to swing axles, they were designed that way from the outset. Just think, a small sedan with 4 wheel independent suspension and disc barkes standard in the early '60's. The TR7 used the 5-speed gearbox and stronger rear axle of the TR8 from 79 on. All the TR7 convertibles were 5-speeds. Most of the convertibles were built in the Solihull factory and had far better build quality than the Speke built coupes. Far better quality is a relative term, as in dismal is far better than utterly attrocious. The 1957 TR3 was the first production sports car with standard front disc brakes. Yes Jag had discs on the D-type and the XK-SS but those weren't exactly production cars. The TR7 slant 4 was designed by and built by Triumph for Saab. I think they went in the 93s and the 99s. Saab started producing the engine themselves and changed it over the years. Saabs are FWD but the engine is longitudinal in front of the wheels. Hence the water pump being mounted on the side of the engine to keep it shorter. The slant 4 was used by Triumph in the 1850 saloon. They put two of them together to make a V8 for the Stag.

    What other 4-cylinder sports car built in late 70's early '80s was "exciting". The rubber bumper MGB? The VW powered 914? Nothing was very exciting because the smog laws took away all the power. The TR8 only made like what, 135 HP from a 215 cu in engine? The "exciting" TR7 would have been the Sprint with the 4-valve head. Prototypes were built but it never went into production. The same engine was used successfully in British Formula 2 racing. lots of potential.

    FYI, More TR7s were sold than any other TR model, over 112,000, and most of those were coupes! One of the reasons they have no value is that there are so many of them around. I can't tell you how many I've been offered, many for free!

    How to make a TR7 reliable. Pull the head, not easy believe me, and have it serviced by someone who knows what they are doing. Replace the head bolts and studs with ARP parts. The head bolts and studs were too soft and they would stretch easily, result, blown head gasket. Keep the cooling system clean with good coolant and have the radiator serviced every 2 years or so and your cooling problems are gone. 90% of electrical problems are corroded connectors or bad grounds. The late 80 California TR7s and all the 81s had Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection. No air pumps, EGR valves or smoggified Strombergs, wery reliable. The 5-speed is nice and strong. Upgrade the front brakes. There are several kits to do this, some of them pretty inexpensive.

    OR

    Toss the Triumph lump and put in a Toyota twin-cam, a Mazda rotary, a GM V6 or a Rover (BOP 215ci) aluminum V8.

    Cheers
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    Not much of a bike the way they come from the factory.. but a heck of a place to start customizing.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    Well, I'd consider a late '70s/early '80s Alfa Spider kind of fun and exciting. It was probably the only really fun car to drive back in that era, since everything else couldn't handle or perform.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    The late 70s /early 80s was hardly the High Point in automotive history.

    Thanks carphoto, for the informative and interesting post! All too true!

    By the way, the Saab 99 was an equally lousy car because of that engine, and in fact Saab was plagued with head gasket issues well into the early 90s. Saabnet itself suggests a failure rate of about 8%, which is very high--about one in ten owners were doomed.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    And this is why many Saab 99s aren't on the road anymore, correct?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Well, only indirectly. Most cars that disappear from the road do so because they are pretty worthless so nobody keeps fixing them. Their resale value has a very heavy effect on the rate of survival. Why put a $350 alternator in a $500 car that's shabby anyway?

    Of course, other factors are numbers produced and body types. The 4-doors survive at the lowest rate, the convertibles at the highest rate.
  • sebringjxisebringjxi Member Posts: 140
    were the dark ages of automotive performance. Ironically (or rustonically) the bright spots in that era came from Italy--the Fiat 2000 Spiders and Alfa Romeo Spiders. Both excellent cars, far above their peers and, if you could keep them from rusting, pretty durable!

    BTW, not to be kicking a marque while it's down, but is it my imagination or did Triumphs (all of them) seem to disintegrate from the inside out? I've looked at several, as well as an equal number of similar aged MGs, Fiats, etc. (car shopping with my sons) and the Triumphs always seemed to be the most ragged interiors, flaking wood, dashes erupting with yellow foam. Was their quality that much lower than the others?

    Ah, fall weather and all my cars are running fine!

    Hal
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    As I remember it, Hal, the MGs were always thought to be the better built car, and the Triumph the faster car. Having disassembled a few of both,and driven many, I would heartily agree with that. The MGB is a very strong, well built little car, and the TR4 is really not up to that standard by a long shot. In fact, Triumphs are hard to restore because it is so difficult to get them back together again and have anything match up or fit.
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342
    ('66 TR-4A) I'd have to concur with Shifty. I was seduced by the styling of the TR, which I still think is better looking than the B, @ least the roadsters.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342
    Autoweek (11/11/02) reports the sale price of a concour condition A-H 3000 MkIII BJ8 at over $62k.

    Not that anyone should expect more than $25 or so for a good driver example of these great old sports cars that for me personify the term "British Sports Car".

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

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