Seven years later and things are a little different. I've owned several Bs and come, reluctantly, kicking and screaming, to realise what everyone else discovered years ago - they're B-rilliant (see what has happened there). I don't just like Bs from a professional point of view - because they're popular with customers and reliable - but because they're cracking little cars too.
The MGB is that very British thing, a car that does nothing exceptionally, and some things not very well, but it is still more enjoyable than its equivalents from overseas. It is the MGB's flaws that make it great. Starting with the good stuff, it looks great, with a shape that was modern and aerodynamic in the 60s and on a style par with anything from Italy. It continued to look good right through to the mid 70s when the rubber bumpers arrived. The subsequent BGT, to my eyes, looks even better than the roadster, a well balanced and practical mini GT car.
The B is also robust and reliable - the engineering is so basic and simple that there isn't much to go wrong, and when it does it's pretty easy and inexpensive to fix. They rust of course, but what car of the 60s doesn't. The car's popularity also means that there are plenty of experts about to put them right - and lots of new and old parts to do it with.
A B is the perfect budget weekend car - ideal for two and not too valuable that you're scared to use it. It stands for Everyman Freedom now as much as it did 50 years ago.
Of course, the MGB is not quite what it promises - a sports car. The evergreen Morris Oxford sports car jibes have their basis in fact. A standard B is pretty slow and a bit wooden to drive. All of which can be addressed with the numerous improvements and upgrades on offer. My anti-B, pre-enlightenment self put these facts forward to justify my position.
But I realise now that improving a B sort of misses the point. A B should be about unhurried, relaxing progress, a step back into involving 1960s motoring. Yes, the steering could be better, sure, it hops and skips when it should adjust and settle, of course it is slow. It doesn't matter. The MGB is so easy to drive, so dependable and simply so much fun to be in that none of this actually matters. It is, perhaps above all, very unprepossessing. It's good but not flash, and that's a very appealing British characteristic.
The B is popular because no other sports car quite achieves what it delivers. The Spitfire is fun but rudimentary and small. The Alfa Spider is brilliant but fragile. The TR7 is rubbish. This explains why the B lasted so long in production - over 20 years - and why a gaping hole appeared when it disappeared. Today only MG survives from the final days of the British Leyland legacy, a fitting testament to the B's enduring popularity.
We have early, mid-period and late model B roadsters on our fleet to hire in Yorkshire, Devon and the Cotswolds. And a BGT in the Peak District. Our latest addition is a late model B that was recently extensively restored by Practical Classics magazine, now available to hire in the Cotswolds. We also have a BGT in the workshop that will hopefully be on hire later in the year. You can even put the B back to back with its nearest rival, the Alfa Spider, on our unique Cotswolds Roadster experience.
B hire starts at £150 for 24 hours. To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk