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The Last ever U.S.L.E. with old no.1

Thanks to peterjr (from Toronto) for this lovely article on his U.S.L.E. roadster-the very last Federal MG to come off of the production line at Abingdon in October 1980

The last Federal MGB sitting with 'Old Number One'


On August 22nd, 1980 the last North America Limited Edition (LE) MGB was built and set aside for Henry Ford II. Production of UK Limited edition MGB’s and standard specification MGB’s continued until late October. With one day left before the closure of MG’s famous Abingdon factory, the last US MGB LE was once again placed upon the production line and made ready for dispatch. At this moment, it was given a chassis plate with car number 523000 on it. The two UK specification MGB LE’s that followed were the very last roadster (#523001) and the very last MGB GT (#523002). These historic MGB’s are now in the British Motor Industry Heritage Museum at Gaydon.

After being presented to Henry Ford II early in 1981, the last US MGB was placed in the Ford Museum, as planned, where it stayed until 1982. It was then sold to the Gast Museum in Pennsylvania. Here it stayed until it was sold at auction in October 1997.

Unfortunately, the person that purchased the MGB, did not thoroughly check its mechanical state before driving it. The car had been driven only a few miles and it had, by then, been sitting unused for 16 years. During this period, the carburettor had undoubtedly become choked and the rubber fuel lines had started to perish. It was while the car was being driven in New York State that a fire broke out in the engine bay, which quickly spread underneath the dashboard to the interior of the MGB. Luckily for the driver, the hood was down and a quick escape was made possible.

The front area of the luckless MGB was engulfed in flames and the fire department arrived. The firemen added to the MGB’s misery by denting the car as they struggled to put out the fire. Eventually, though, the fire was extinguished and the owner stood back and looked at the smouldering part of MG history.

During the weeks that followed, the MGB was hastily re-painted and a new interior and replacement doors and windscreen were added. It was then sold to an enthusiast in Virginia. This person was not made aware of the history of the MGB and proudly displayed the car at local shows as being totally original and untouched! It was when members of the local MG club told him that the car had been improperly restored that the famous but luckless MGB LE was put up for sale on EBay and subsequently purchased by me for the sum of $13,000.

Having read many books on MG’s I was very aware of how important MGB #523000 was, but I was totally unaware of the car’s past. As soon as the MGB was delivered to my home, just north of Toronto, I immediately started to examine it. I found that it was fitted with a re-production interior that was of the wrong type and colour. The dashboard was also an after-market reproduction. The engine bay was in pretty good shape, though there were clues that a fire had taken place. After a couple of weeks, I managed to trace the person that had originally purchased the MGB from the Gast Museum. He called me and described the fire and what had been done to the car afterwards. All of the details fitted with what I had found on the car and many of my initial concerns about the authenticity of the famous MGB were abated.

In the following months, during the very cold Canadian winter, I managed to secure a totally new interior with the correct seat covers as well as other items such as an original dashboard and reproduction, but correct, hood. At the same time, I contacted the British Motor industry Heritage Trust (BMIHT) and secured a certificate that confirmed the engine number and other aspects of the car.

All of the newly acquired items were added to the car during the summer of 2005, but the dull and less than perfect paintwork remained untouched. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the car during this period.

The car was shown in two classic car events during that first summer and it soon became apparent that the local MGB buffs were not impressed by the paintwork. So, as the winter of 2005 approached the car was driven to the body shop of a local VW dealership, here in Barrie, Ontario. Here it was stripped down and the preparation of the body panels began.

As it turned out, the MGB LE spent three months in the body shop and gradually all of the defects in the panels were removed in readiness for a new coat of shiny black paint.
The interior and windshield were reassembled and the side stripes were re-applied to its flanks. When the work was complete, the famous little sports car once again looked as it did when it rolled off the Abingdon production line in 1980.

In spite of the loss of the original interior and damage to the engine ancillaries, in other respects, the car is still very original. It still has the original engine and gearbox, albeit with some refinished accessories. The suspension, wheels and even the tyres are the original items. The car has only been driven for 2000 miles and it still feels like new.

While the car was in the bodyshop, the MG Club of Toronto was invited to feature its member’s collection of MG’s at the Canadian Auto Show. Realizing that the Last US MGB would be ready in time, the organizers decided to have the very first MG (Old Number One) shipped over from Gaydon, so that the two cars could be placed side-by-side as the centre piece exhibit. In this manner, the very last US MGB finally re-assumed its pride of place as an important part of MG history.

I am fortunate to own such a wonderful car. At the same time, it is a responsibility to ensure that the car remains safe and sound and that it is preserved for the future. It is also important that I continually work at replacing parts with originals, as they become available. For instance, just this past month, I have secured a new old stock British Leyland hood. It took two years of constant surveillance to secure this. I must admit that driving the MGB makes my nerves stand on-end, especially where there is a possibility of stone chips and other minor damage being inflicted upon it. In spite of these pressures, however, I am still very proud to be the owner of such an important MG.


If it ain't broken don't try to fix it as if you do it will definitely break

theres a photo of henry ford 11 recieving this le in mgb mgc &mgb gt v8 by david knowles.great story.:p

Hi Michelle,
Many thanks.:)
I wrote the article a couple of years ago and edited it for this forum.

I have not been actively going to meets etc due to my work load, but hope to show the car more often in the near future.

I still need to fit the OEM hood and take care of a few minor repairs, but the car is still is great shape.

Meanwhile, I use a supercharged regular MGB to get around. It is less of a worry to drive than the LE and a bit faster!!

All the best,

i all if any 1 would care to look in the site photo gallery mg info section they can see a picture of my MGBLE USA SPEC car which i use for shows and runs as a member of my mg club , the car has been converted to RH drive but in all other ways remains true to the spec as sold in the US.
it returned to the UK in the 1990 s and has been restored back to the spec as sold in the IUSA

This is one of the most important MGs ever made. If you ever need to sell it, let this group know.

Well done for preserving it.