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Published: 5th Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


Buyer Beware

Accident damage will be betrayed by corroded panels – these cars don’t rust like old MGBs as the shells were electrophoretically dipped after the metal had already been zinc-coated, and this has proved to be a very effective treatment.
There is one area that corrodes though, and that’s the windscreen surround. It’s made of steel box sections and you need to look out for the windscreen rubbers lifting, indicating rot underneath. Sometimes repairs are possible; if not, you’ll need a new surround. Specialists market carbon-fibre and glass-fibre alternatives.
The 3.9-litre Rover V8 doesn’t give many problems, unless it’s done a high mileage and has been neglected and/or thrashed. The other killer is short journeys, so an ultra-low mileage car isn’t necessarily good news.
Check for blown exhaust manifold gaskets.
There are four separate ones fitted across the exhaust ports (they’re in pairs), so you might have to replace more than one. RV8 specialist Clive Wheatley sells better replacements.
All Jap cars were fitted with air conditioning; in the UK it was an option but rarely specified. The system is reliable but there is a small penalty to pay in that the passenger footwell is slightly smaller to accommodate it. Needs to be recharged every three years or so, too.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 4/5

    Better than earlier BGT V8, feels like a modern Big Healey

  • Usability: 4/5

    Typical MGB but with today's conveniences. Roadster only

  • Maintaining: 3/5

    Again typical MGB, although not many parts are interchangable

  • Owning: 3/5

    Costs a lot more to run than a normal B – too much for some...

  • Value: 3/5

    A bit pricey for an MGB but not if viewed as a viable Healey rival

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MG's RV8 has future classic written all over it says Alan Anderson, who reckons that it's a great rival to the Big Healey and as enjoyable but for less outlay

When it came to giving the old MGB some proper sting, no company did it better than Rover itself, with the RV8.

The company’s second stab at producing a V8-powered MGB was far more successful than the penny-pinching BGT effort of the 1970s and is much more than a plain MGB with tweaked bodywork and modern mechanicals.

The RV8 was always meant to be a limited edition stop-gap car to get MG back where it belonged. So, thank goodness for classic cars – because if the bodyshell for the old MGB hadn’t been put back into production by Rover’s Heritage division in the late ‘80s, then the RV8 simply wouldn’t have happened. But, unlike the BGT of ‘73, which got away with the least amount of modifications, the RV8 is almost a new car, even if it doesn’t look or feel it. And surely that’s the attraction of this modern MGB?

Which model to buy?

This section is short and sweet because there’s only one model, which ran between 1992 and 1995. MG hoped to build just 2000 examples of the RV8 and, by the time production ceased, 1982 cars had been built.

Of that number, 1583 cars went to Japan, although many of those examples have now returned to the UK, to join the 307 originally sold here.

So, the choice boils down to condition, colour and price and, from these categories, the first is the most critical. Being better built and rust-proofed than the original car, of course, rot should only be a worry on neglected and crash repaired examples. While the roadster looks familiar to the original MGB, albeit far more masculine, very few parts were carried over – the chrome bulkhead heater vent being one – and rather out of place it looks, too.

The headlamps come from a Porsche 911, no less! In fact, only five per cent of the RV8 was carried over from the old MGBGT V8, 20 per cent of the car used modified and re-tooled components, with the remaining 75 per cent of bits new.

The engine is the tried and tested Rover V8 unit, but now in 3.9-litre form; it’s the same unit that’s used in TVRs and Morgans and good for 190bhp and 242lbft of torque. The gearbox is the SD1 (77mm) five-speed unit and the new power is harnessed by a Quaife limited slip differential. Up front, the suspension employs modern telescopic dampers and springs, although amazingly the old leverarm and leaf arrangement remains at the stern. The steering comes from a modified Land Rover Discovery set up, without power assistance.

In other words, if you’re thinking of making an RV8 from an old MGB, forget it!

Colours? Well the vast 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 RV8 is clothed in Old English White; just five were so painted.

There aren’t many RV8s around, but you still need to look at several before buying, as they vary enormously. Many of the cars on the market have been brought back over from Japan, which means they will have air-con fitted as a bonus, but an official UK car is still worth at least £1000 more.

Whatever the car’s history, don’t spend less than £10,000 because you’ll forever be spending money on it to make good. If you can stretch to £15,000 you’ll get a nice car that needs no work and will be suited to regular use. The best RV8s command up to £20,000 and we can see values rising over the next few years.

Behind the wheel?

The RV8 is certainly the best V8-powered MGB of them all

The cockpit will look familiar to any existing MGB owner, although it’s a lot plusher than any previous ‘B’ ever was, thanks to a forest of wood and hides of leather.

The instruments are TVR and the switchgear a mix of old and new Rover. Air conditioning was an option, but the MG came well appointed as standard, as you’d expect given its £27K price tag when new.

MGBs were always criticised for a lack of go, but not this one! Weighing under 2400lb there’s a healthy 179bhp/ton power-to-weight ratio, which means that, despite high gearing (29mph per thousand in top), the MG can keep station with a TVR Chimaera which shares the same engine. This means E-type eating pace, although the RV8 seems better suited to cruising rather than bruising.

This is because, despite being thoroughly modernised, the RV8 still feels like an old MGB in many departments, which for many is part of the essential charm. Yes it handles much better than the original but it’s no TVR either an the limits are lower. Initial buyers had to view the new MG as an improved 1960s car rather than a true TVR rival – that fundamental 1950s chassis design saw to that.

Certainly, if you look at the RV8 as a modern take on the Big Healey, then that’s a far fairer comparison.

However, you can make the RV8 into a TVR beater if you like. First of all ditch the cheaper Koni dampers for something like the more expensive Konis that were originally envisaged. This is a good starter, as they transform the handling, but better still are Spax units, so we are now told.

Power-assisted steering was never available when the car was new and the MG’s steering isn’t exactly featherweight, but it can now be retrospectively fitted.

The MG Owners’ Club can help perform the necessary surgery, but you’ll need to find around £2500.

The daily option?

No other sports car is easier to use as a daily driver than an MGB, so it stands to reason that a modified, modernised one will be tailor made. In general, the RV8 makes a viable daily runabout. The engine, even in its high state of tune, is flexible and docile and easily matches any modern. The high gearing makes motorway work a breeze (although wind noise is typical MGB loud) while economy is containable if you exercise some decorum with the loud pedal (expect 20-25mpg), and if the car is in good tune.

Ease of ownership?

No other sports car is easier to maintain and run than an MGB, so it surely stands to reason that the RV8 will be as easy? Well, you’ll only be partly right if you reckon that the MG RV8 will be as simple and low cost to keep as a normal B. For a start, there’s very little potential to use old MGB parts on the newer car because they simply aren’t compatible. RV8 expert Clive Wheatley (01746 710810 says that, although simple and sturdy, the car costs a lot more to run than an MGB, perhaps too much for many pockets, which is why a fair few are sadly neglected.

We Reckon...

If you like MGBs then it's a pretty sure bet that you'll love the RV8. It's a terrific match of old and new, retaining the car's essential character yet modern and up to date where it really matters. It's certainly the best V8-powered MGB of them all and a worthy cheaper choice to a hairy Healey. Sadly too many are not in great shape because while the RV8 costs the same as an MGB to buy, it's not so to maintain.

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