Is this MGB-GT worth $30k in restoration costs?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

As a young man in the early 1980s, I purchased a used MGB-GT for $3,000. My mechanic says it now needs $30,000 to be restored. Everything from a new body ($7,000) to a new chassis, new interior, clutch, gas tank, floors, etc. I rebuilt the engine in the late '80s, so that's OK. Is it worth it? Will this make me young again? Can this restoration work as an investment that outperforms the stock market, perhaps? Can you give me any reason to undertake this project? Is my wife right to suggest that perhaps this car is past its prime and should be scrapped? -- Ford

TOM: Is it worth it? No. Will it make you young again? No. Will it outperform the stock market? Only if the market crashes on a monthly basis. Is your wife right that the car should be junked? Yes. Can we give you any reason to undertake this project? Of course we can!

RAY: Objectively, this is a dumb idea, Ford. When you look at it from a practical point of view, it makes no sense at all. And any reasonable person (your wife, for instance) could only conclude that you'd be nuts to do it. But we think it's a great idea!

TOM: Actually, we don't. But if you think it's a great idea, we're with you 100 percent. The only good reason to do it is if you really, really want to. Life is short, Ford. You have to do things you love. And if driving around in a restored MGB-GT with the wind mussing up your comb-over will give you pleasure -- and won't impoverish your loved ones -- then why not?

RAY: I agree. But I have a slightly more practical suggestion. Undertaking a ground-up restoration on a car like this (aka a real heap) is going overboard, in my opinion. I mean, as an investment it's about the same as going to a nearby bridge and throwing 20,000 one-dollar bills into the water. In fact, you might want to do that instead, because at least that'll make you popular among the local fishermen, and they might feed you when you run out of money.

TOM: So instead, why not just buy another one that's in better shape than yours? You can get one in good condition now for $4,000 to $5,000. Maybe you'll get lucky and find a guy who just spent $30,000 to restore one, and you can offer him $8,000 for it. Go to and click on the link that says "Search for 1982 and older vehicles." There's also a link from there to, which is another great place to search for old cars. And then keep your current MG for parts.

RAY: And when your wife complains about the extra car parts on the front lawn, remind her that it's a relatively innocent form of midlife crisis, as these things go. Good luck, Ford.

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