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MGR V8 Published: 11th Feb 2020 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Why not own a...? MG RV8

The MG RV8 is the Queen B. Half a century on since the late legendary Ken Costello showed what a V8- powered MGBroadster could be like, MG finally got around to it almost 25 years later, long after the MGB was pensioned off. A limited run special, based upon the Heritage bodyshell, yet the RV8 is more than mere retro make over. In fact, it’s claimed only five per cent of the RV8 was carried over from the old BGT V8; 20 per cent of the car used modified and re-tooled components, with the remaining 75 per cent of bits all new.

Strangely, despite giving MGB lovers the roadster that they’ve yearned for, not everyone is taken by this retro rethink, meaning prices are not that much higher than a normal 1.8 roadster and are cheaper than the inferior MGC.

There’s no particular reason for this although for MGB owners thinking of trading up, it’s not as cheap or as easy to maintain at home. But don’t let that put you off this honey B that makes a great Big Healey alternative having a similar character but with a modern twist.

Model choice

There’s only a singleton choice which ran from early 1993 to 1995 amassing 1985 sales with over 1500 shipped to Japan. A fair few of these have been repatriated and come with air con as standard although these are not everyone’s cup of tea because the air conditioning unit steals a sizeable amount of passenger foootwell leg room plus the system isn’t that effective due to MG’s hardly snug fitting old fashioned hood. Also the condition of Jap repats leaves something to be desired. Colours can colour your decision.

The majority were green, with Woodcote the most popular (1269). Good old BRG found 205 takers. Oxford Blue accounts for 258 cars, ‘White gold’ 12, Nightfire Red 150 and Flame Red 16. The rarest is clothed in Old English White; just five were so painted – best check for crafty recent repaints and get the car verified by British Motor Heritage or the owners club if in doubt.

Behind the wheel

With almost 200bhp, five speed transmission with limited slip diff, all housed in a reworked chassis, it’s easy to run away with the idea that this MG is all new. ,The reality is that the RV8 is a reworked ’60’s car rather than a 1990’s one but for many of us, this is all part of the reborn MG’s charm having a touch of Morgan Plus 8 about it.

Performance from the 190bhp 236lbft of torque TVR-tuned 3.9-litre Rover V8 is hardly found lacking and the RV8 is much faster, especially mid-range, than the old Range Rover 137bhp engine used in the 1973 GTV8. The Land Rover five-speed transmission is far preferred to the ancient overdrive set up, too.

Where the RV8 disappoints is in it’s ultimate handling but experts, such as RV8 guru Clive Wheatley of, says it’s only due to the low rent Konis which were specified by Austin Rover to save a few bob instead of the brand’s better designs.

The standard dampers are in fact adjustable although this is to counter wear rather than fine tune them but with this area corrected –see later section – this thoroughly modernised MGB then wants for very little if you aren’t after TVR-style sensations.

Let’s not forget that first class cabin. Steeped in wood and leather, there’s a hint of old world Bentley about its ambience. MGB owners never had it so good in terms of comfort and feels nicely familiar although this includes the age old excessive wind noise annoyance. But this aside the RV8 is a nice, civilised tourer that’s in a different league to any Big Healey or Morgan Plus 8. There’s plenty of space for the usual touring clobber and the boot space can be improved further by swapping the original spare with a Saab space saver of almost half the width; a popular ploy among RV8 owners we’re told.

Making one better

A standard RV8 churns out – for many – a perfectly ample 195bhp, plus a diesel-like 236lbft of torque. A sprint to 60 in 5.9 seconds and 140mph is more than adequate for road use and if set up right (a session on a rolling road will achieve this) is hard to improve upon without spending a lot of money and effort. Unlike the earlier BGT V8, the RV8, is a modern installation boasting engine mapping and electronic fuel injection. As a result, you can have its ECU re-chipped for a tad more grunt as well as a sharper response from the likes of Superchips. Some owners report of good experiences of the RPI Optimax alternative which increases torque and yet can also improve fuel consumption at the same time.

RV8 specialist Clive Wheatley reckons attending to the air filters and exhaust is the better first step. As MoT regulations state that limited production cars do not need catalytic converters, you can legally remove them (which may well be coming up for replacement anyway), gaining an extra 3bhp in an instant plus save the cost of their future replacement. However, MoT testers are not all in total agreement over this so check first! Wheatley recommends a stainless single box exhaust in its place, complete with larger tail pipes, which, if supplemented by a new ignition amplifier along with a set of sports HT leads for better sparks, will yield no less than an extra 20bhp as well as sounding a nicer exhaust note.

If you demand more then look to the camshaft, but be careful as while a wilder cam will give more top end power, it will be at the expense of the excellent torque. In the real world, if you never use more than 4000rpm on the road then you’ll be worse off all round – and be poorer financially!

This stalwart of an engine also figures in later Range Rovers, and TVRs of course, in larger capacities, such as 4.2, 4.6. TVR units can be fitted into the RV8 with some mods – it’s not overly difficult as the engines are inherently the same.

Better damping is essential, power steering desirable. Wheatley has developed his own dedicated Krypton gas-filled types, specifically for the car plus come with 28 adjustments for fine tuning for road and track work, and best of all, this can be done in situ. After this, another must-do is to fit polyurethane bushes to the bottom wishbones, anti-roll bar and front cross member. Poly bushing the rear springs ‘eyes’, anti-roll bar and anti tramp bars to the axle is as much as you can do at the stern. One option worth considering, even on standard RV8s is electric power steering and the EZ system is said to work very well on the RV8.

Maintenance matters

As the RV8 is basically an MGB, you’re in a good place for spares and DIY servicing yet strangely too many RV8s lanquish in a shabby state. Clive Wheatley puts this down to two owner related factors. The first are those who reckon, given the car’s scarcity, all they need to do is to sit on it and watch their money grow all by itself (it will not). Second is caused by a swell of MGB owners who traded up to an RV8 but now can’t afford to run one, (it uses Porsche 911 headlights for example) despite its commonality with the 1.8-litre roadster but the tide is turning with only good ones making top money.

As the RV8 was built on a zinc dipped Heritage shell, they don’t rot as anything like as badly as old MGBs, save for windscreen surrounds (Wheatley offers better replacements). The original alloy wheels are now virtually non existent but Clive makes his own retros in normal or larger 17in sizes to cater for lower profile tyres which he strongly advocates. Currently, the Continental Sport Contact 2s seem to suit the RV8 well (Khomos are a good cheaper alternative) and both are popular choices among RV8 owners adds the V8 registrar, part of the MG Car Club.

Mechanical parts supply isn’t a particular issue and the Rover V8 is almost as old as the MGB. The Lucas fuel injection is reliable, it being the same as what you’ll find under the bonnet of a Range Rover or Discovery and as a result, is uncomplicated yet effective – much like the engine management system. Usual Rover V8 bugbears are put down to lack of use and irregular oil changes leading to the gumming up of oil ways and promoting camshaft wear.

Lack of use doesn’t do the brakes any favours either, especially the brake callipers which orientate from the BL Princess/Ambassador but fitted with unique expensive-to-replace-spacers.

The RV8 is cared for by the V8 Register who can supply heaps of technical information and support, including a highly informative 60 page buying guide. It also warns owners not to conventionally tow one as both the gearbox and rear axle will be deprived of oil during such transportation and may well be damaged as a result.

Queen B but despite rarity not all have been cared for


There were no official changes during the model’s suprisingly short lifespan but there’s plenty of aftermarket stuff around, so it’s up for you to decide on their worth (such as engine and suspension mods). The original alloy wheels are hens’ teeth and many are replaced by larger aftermarket replicas.


Because RV8 was built on newer Heritage shells that were then zinc dipped during production, they don’t rot as anything like as badly as old MGBs, save for windscreen surrounds. Having said that, there’s far too many scruffy cars around so check for past accident damage and repairs.


Usual Rover V8 bugbears are put down to lack of use and irregular oil changes all leading to the gumming up of oil ways and as a result promoting camshaft wear. Watch for blown exhaust manifolds (common with all Rover V8s). Head gasket failure not uncommon and budget for a new radiator as preventative maintenance.


A hard life may lead to a short clutch one and Wheatley offers a new clutch kit complete with tougher metal carrier. The limited slip diff is known to play up; Wheatley has his own rebuild service as exchange Quaife units aren’t available. The early (Land Rover) LT77 gearbox is the most durable and cheapest to fix, compared to the later R380 ’box.

Running Gear

Steering is modified (unassisted) Land Rover Discovery. Check for worn wishbone bushes, can be replaced easily and cheaply enough. While you’re at it, it’s worth going for longer lasting polyurethane items. Bumpstops also wear out, but again new poly ones are available. Front springs tend to settle, leading to a nose-down stance.


Fancy woodwork can suffer from the veneer separating from backing. All interiors are cream leather. The seats and door trims soon become baggy, but Wheatley has new seat covers with carpets soon to follow. Hood essentially MGB but much dearer at over £1000.

Husband has found a perfect partner

Roger Husband found this rare ex NEC Motor Show White Gold coloured RV8 advertised in a club magazine after looking at several so-so Japanese imports. An ex Mini man, he finds the V8 a complete contrast and uses it regularly for relaxed comfy touring, achieving an easy 25mpg on a run. Husband’s car came modified including a sports exhaust and larger 17inch wheels. During his ownership, it’s been completely reliable, the only point being a worn clutch release bearing which he replaced with a tougher TVR part.

What to pay

RV8 prices are starting to creep up although still trail those of the MGC and best BGTV8s. The mid 20s seems the current currency for Queen Bs but average ones can be a good ten grand less simply because, as one MGB specialist confided, “they don’t wear too well” and deducts £5000 for Japanese cars to cover the work they usually require to bring into line. He also says interest in the RV8 ebbs and flows.

Here’s six of the best reasons to buy one

  • Great mix of old and modern
  • Cleverly updated all round
  • Stirring performer
  • Strong value for money
  • Assured future classic MG
  • Usual MG club/specialist support

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