The BMC B-series was a straight-4 internal combustion engine family, mostly used in motor cars, created by British company Austin Motor Company.
The precursor of the "B" series engine was a 1200 cc OHV engine which was used in the 1947 Austin A40 Devon. This A40 Devon engine was based on a pre-war Side-valve design. Austin realised that eventually they would need an engine that could power many of its forthcoming medium-sized cars, and this would require an engine of at least 1500 cc capacity. Since the A40 Devon engine could not have its capacity enlarged, a new engine was designed, which, although superficially similar, was longer and heavier than the A40 Devon engine. The design of this new engine commenced around January 1952, and was designated as the "B" series. Displacements ranged widely from 1.2 L to 2.4 L, the latter being an Australia only production six-cylinder variant. 1.5 L and 1.8 L displacements were most common. Petrol versions were produced in the greatest numbers, but diesel versions exist for both cars and marine applications.
The engine was of conventional construction with a one-piece crankcase and cylinder block in cast iron with the crankcase extending down to the lowest level of the main bearing caps, and with cylinder head also usually in cast iron. The sump was made from pressed steel. Early engines used a three-bearing crankshaft, but later engines used five bearings. On all except the rare twin overhead camshaft variant, the camshaft — which was chain driven and mounted low in the block — operated the overhead valves via pushrods and rocker arms. The two inlet ports in the non-crossflow cylinder head were shared between cylinders 1 + 2 and 3 + 4 and the three exhaust ports between cylinder 1, 2 + 3 and 4. Valve clearance was adjustable by screws on the rocker arms with access to the tappets by two side covers on the engine block, this feature being a hang over from side valve engine design, but it provides easy access to the camshaft tappets.
1.2 litre engines
The 1.2L (1199.6 cc) version was the first version of the engine. The bore was 65.5 mm (2.58 in) and the stroke 89 mm (3.5 in). The maximum power output was 39 bhp (29 kW) at 4300 rpm.
After the formation of British Motor Corporation (BMC) it was used in the following vehicles:
The 1.5 L (1489 cc) version was first used in 1953 in the MG Magnette ZA in twin carburettor version and in 1954 in the Morris Oxford and Austin Cambridge. In 1957, it was used in the original MGA. Output in twin carburettor form was 68–72 bhp (51–54 kW) and 55 bhp (41 kW) with a single carburettor. Bore was 73.03 mm (2.875 in) and stroke was 89 mm (3.5 in).
There was also a diesel version of this engine size. Power output was 40 bhp (30 kW) at 4,000 rpm and torque 64 lbf·ft at 1,900 rpm.
1954–61 Morris Oxford Marks II, III, IV, & V
1956–59 Morris Cowley
1956–62 Nash Metropolitan 1500
1953–61 MG Magnette ZA, ZB, & Mark III
1956-61 Morris J2 1/2-ton vans
1956–58 Austin A50 Cambridge
1958–61 Austin A55 Cambridge
1956–58 Wolseley 15/50
1957–65 Wolseley 1500
1958–61 Wolseley 15/60
1957–61 Morris Commercial JB-type 1/2 - Ton vans
1957-61 ((Austin 101)) 1/2 - Ton vans
1957–65 Riley 1.5
1959–61 Riley 4/68
1959–65 Rochdale Olympic
1958–62 Morris Major and Austin Lancer Series I/II
1957–63 Tempo Matador
International Harvester "Metro-Mite" delivery truck
Navigator 1500 marine engine
1958–60 TVR Grantura Mark I
1960–62 TVR Grantura Mark II & IIA
1958-1959 Elva Courier
A special Twin-Cam (DOHC) version of the 1588 cc B-series engine was produced for the MGA. Output was 108 bhp (81 kW) at 6700 rpm in the high-compression (9.9:1) version and 100 bhp (75 kW) in the optional low-compression (8.3:1) version. The engine block was cast iron, but the crossflow eight-port cylinder head was of aluminium alloy. Drive to the twin camshafts was by chain from a gear-driven, half-speed shaft running in the space that would have been occupied by the conventional camshaft. This engine gained a reputation for being unreliable in service, especially in the high-compression version which needed high-octane fuel, but this has now been largely overcome. The piston burning habits — thought to be the result of ignition timing — was later discovered to be due to a vibration induced lean burn situation involving the float bowls, easily correctable by flexibly mounting the carburettors.
A total of 2,111 cars were built, in both coupé and roadster versions.
A very few engines with the special displacement of 1762 cc were produced for racing purposes.
1958–60 MGA Twin-Cam
1.6 litre engines
The engine was enlarged to 1.6 L (1588 cc) in 1958 by increasing the bore to 75.4 mm (2.97 in).
1959–61 MGA 1600
1960–62 TVR Grantura Mark II, IIA
1959-61 Elva Courier Mark II
1.6 litre Mark II engines
The engine was enlarged to 1622 cc in 1961 with another bore increase, this time to 76.2 mm (3.00 in).
The engine was enlarged again to 1.8 L (1798 cc) in 1962. Bore was 80.26 mm (3.160 in) and stroke was still 89 mm (3.5 in). The engine at first had a three-bearing crankshaft with a five-bearing version appearing in 1964.
There was also a diesel version of this capacity, used in the Leyland Sherpa van, and built under license in Turkey for many years. It is still widely used on narrowboats on the canals of the UK.
There was a 2433 cc six-cylinder unit, named "Blue Streak", which was used in the Australian Austin Freeway and Wolseley 24/80.
There were two series of engine numbers used; BMC changed the system at the end of 1956.
Early numbering system
Numbers were of the style "BP15GB" followed by a serial number, where:
B = B series engine
P = Pushrod
15 = capacity
G = MG (for full list see Later numbering system below)
The final letter is the version of the engine.
1957–70 numbering system
Numbers were of the style "15GB-U-H" plus a serial number, where:
15 = capacity
G = MG (other letters were: A = Austin, B = Industrial, H = Miscellaneous, J = Commercial, M = Morris, R = Riley, V = Vanden Plas and W = Wolseley )
B = B series engine
U = Central gear change (other letters were: A = Automatic, M = Manumatic clutch, N = Column change, O = Overdrive and P = Police)
H = High compression (alternatively L = Low compression)
1970 onwards numbering system
Numbers were simplified to "18 V" plus a serial number, where 18 represents the capacity and V = vertical, i.e. longitudinal (in-line, not vee-arranged) engine with rear-wheel drive, and H = Horizontal, i.e. transverse engine with front-wheel drive.
There was sometimes a country indicator after the first part of the code, e.g. "18V-Z" was use for some United States (except California) MG MGB engines.