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Buyer Beware

  • If front footwells are wet, common culprits are shrunken door seals, perished wiper spindle seals or a leaking drain tube from the heater vent in the scuttle. Check everwhere for rot!
  • If the shell is too rotten to realistically repair, a Heritage shell costs around £3500 but won’t be correct in every detail for any particular model year - could be best option though.
  • To repair the sills properly, you have to remove the lower sections of both front and rear wings (or remove the wings entirely). It is an involved job, so watch out for cover sills or stainless steel over-sills used to hide rust. If doors clip body then sills could be badly fitted.
  • Reach up inside the front wheelarch - there is a box section there that is a dirt magnet and expensive to have replaced. Rotting sills are a real damger and very dear to properly right.
  • Fuel tanks rot on their corrugated tops, so don’t dismiss a smell of fuel as being caused by simply a perished seal.
  • Rust in the boot floor can eat into the rear spring hangers and the chassis legs located below, so check from both sides to be safe.
  • Replacing rusted out floorpans is a tedious job, so many have been patched instead. Lookcarefully to assess the quality of any repairs.
  • Battery trays beneath the rear seat can rust out (chrome cars had two six volt batteries, rubber cars a single 12 volt item).
  • Plated castle rails (the U-shaped channel section under the floor just inboard of the sills) are a signal of major body repairs to come, as is rust in the front bulkhead area.
  • Front wishbone bushes and kingpins affect handling once they start to deteriorate. Check them visually, and budget on three hours per side but fairly minimal cost to replace them.
  • V8 is long lasting if serviced right. Otherwise watch for excessive tappet noise, sludging, furred-up waterways and worn bores.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 4/5

    Smooth and swift – a cut price Aston Martin in many ways

  • Usability: 3/5

    Very practical and fairly spacious with the rear seats down

  • Maintaining: 3/5

    A1 aftermarket and specialist support; easy for DIYers, too

  • Owning: 5/5

    Not a lot dearer to own than an MGB – fuel economy also similar

  • Value: 4/5

    Better value than a normal B and bargains are still around

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It may be one of the most low key hot hatch on the classic scene, but when you bury the throttle on an MGB GT V8, everybody within sight and sound will sit up and take notice. Simon Goldsworthy explains why this is the best MGB of them all

When MG introduced its new B Roadster back in 1962, it was quite a dramatic moment in the company’s history. With a brand new monocoque body, the company needed both a long production run and a high turnover to recoup the tooling costs. In the event it got both with the best part of half a million cars rolling off the Abingdon production lines before the model died and the factory was closed in 1980. Even then, the B enjoyed an afterlife both with the advent of brand new Heritage bodyshells that have been available since 1988 and with the retro RV8 Roadster built in limited numbers from 1992-1995. Until the introduction of that RV8, the basic shape of the B changed very little. True, a very neat GT had joined the roadster in 1965 (Pininfarina making an excellent job of integrating a rather angular roof with the Roadster’s curves), but under the skin it was a case of gradual mechanical evolution rather than anything approaching a revolution. Yet there are a couple of black sheep in the MGB family. The first of those is not a B at all, but the shortlived MGC produced in small numbers from 1967-1969 and powered by the lardy and lazy six-pot C-series. That car used a revised front suspension utilising torsion bars instead of the B’s coil springs too, but the only exterior signs were a bulge across the front of the bonnet and another tear-drop one further back to clear the leading SU carburettor and bigger 15in wheels. Undeterred by the failure of the MGC in the marketplace, MG had another go at a performance version of the B in 1973. This time a far more suitable engine was available - the ex-Buick aluminum 3.5-litre V8 that Rover had brought to the British Leyland party in 1968. Without suffering from the C-series weight penalty vis-a-vis the B-series (the V8 was actually 10lb lighter), it brought all the power with few of the handling worries. In a rather unfortunate piece of timing, the V8 was also launched just two months before the Arab-Israeli war brought shortages of fuel in the West and focussed buyers’ attention away from powerful sportsters and towards more economyminded forms of transport. Also the V8 is far too dear compared to its competitors; an equivalent performing Capri V6 could be purchased for £1824 – undercutting the antiquated BGT B8 by some £600 – a lot of money back in 1973! As a result, only 2591 V8s were produced before MG pulled the plug in 1976.

Which model to buy?

For years people thought that the MGB and the V8 Rover (nee Buick) engine were made for each other but MG considered the V8 engine so powerful, it could only be fitted to the GT and not the Roadster. Of course, any number of home-built Roadster conversions have proven that this was cobblers but, if you want a factory original, then it means you are stuck with a tin-top (just add a Webasto sunroof?-ed). In fact, the only major decision is whether to go for the chrome-bumpered cars produced until mid-1974, or the later rubber-bumpered ones that were introduced to satisfy American legislation on height and impact protection - ironic in a way, given that the V8 was never sold in the States! Some people actually do prefer the rubber bumper look, but most would opt for the shiny stuff given the choice. Unfortunately it is not a buyer’s market in which to pick and choose: with just 1839 chrome cars built and only 752 rubber ones, you may have to take what you can get or be very patient.

Behind the wheel?

The V8 pulls smoothly from just 10mph in direct top gear

The MGB’s cabin is, in sports car terms at least, a wide and accommodating place to sit. Certainly there is adequate elbow room for both driver and passenger and, despite the compact external dimensions, the toeboard was pushed far enough forwards to give ample leg room for all sizes to get comfortable. And the GT bodyshell has a distinct advantage over the Roadster for drivers of even just average build - whereas the ragtop has an annoyingly low screen to ensure it complied with certain racing regulations of the era, Pininfarina raised it on the GT to get those fastback lines so right. In fact, visibility is good all round despite those generous C-pillars, the good glass area helping to dispel any claustrophobia induced by the extensive use of black vinyl and the high-set dashboard. Behind the wheel in many ways, initial feedback behind the wheel is not dissimilar to that given by the four-cylinder car. The clutch is somewhat heavier but equally smooth, while the steering feels typically heavy at low speed, particularly if a smaller sports wheel has been fitted. But bury the accelerator into the carpet and there is so much torque that you can visibly see the front of the car twist as it hurtles off down the road. Acceleration is both fast and unrelenting and when you need to move up a gear, then the C-type gearbox is a smooth if not especially speedy shifter. Overdrive is standard and makes a useful stoneage five-speeder; 28.5mph equating to a restful cruising gait (although the ridiculous amount of wind noise rather contradicts this). Apart from the V8’s still impressive urge (Autocar clocked the time honoured 0-60mph dash in 8.6 seconds - Motor an incredible 7.7!) the V8 pulls smoothly from just 10mph in direct top gear, trucking on to almost 125mph. Of course, all of this would be largely irrelevant if the brakes were rubbish, but thankfully they are not. The remote servo may not be as powerful as that on a modern car, but a firm shove still elicits a reassuring response. Not for nothing is the fitment of V8 calipers to the four pot MGB considered a sensible upgrade, while there are many ways of improving the V8’s anchors still further should you feel the need. But in many ways, careless modifying would destroy some of the BGT V8’s charms. The V8 did receive uprated front dampers and rear springs, but it still combines that powerful engine in a RWD chassis formula which means fun in a crude but still capable and forgiving kind of way, and this makes for a car that you can have huge fun in driving safely (remember the age old MG maxim?) at speed although the ride is worse than in an MGB.

The Daily Option?

If you don’t want to be too flashy, then few cars offer so much driving pleasure as an MGB GT V8

The engine used in V8 was the low compression Range Rover unit capable of running on lowly two star fuel. The tuning options are enormous, but having sufficient power to keep up with today’s superminis is further tweaking is not really necessary. There is a manual choke to remember on those winter mornings, but a heated rear screen and a decent heater ensures the glass remains free of mist. Conversely in summer, the cabin can get a bit warm in traffic as heat soaks through from the engine bay but, so long as the cooling system is in good order, the twin electric fans can cope with the worst of our stop-start traffic. There is synchromesh on all the gears too, althoughwith so much torque available, you can let the engine do the work rather than having to stir the cogs. As we have already noted, there is plenty of room for two up front but that rear seat is for occasional use only as it is very shallow, not very comfy while legroom is minimal. Luggage space is generous for a sports car of this era though, and easily accessed through the rear hatch. In fact, with the rear seat folded flat the BGT is a surprisingly versatile load lugger and those beautifully compact external dimensions make you wonder why so many moderns are so fat and cumbersome in comparison. You will have to shell out on an aftermarket cover if you want to hide your luggage from view, although a surprising amount can be stowed alongside the spare wheel under the lift-up panel in the boot floor. Perhaps the biggest question most people will ask with regards to regular use is about the fuel consumption. There is no denying that you will be visiting the pumps more regularly than with a modern hatch, but Autocar magazine reported a creditable 25mpg in contemporary tests, not much worse than a four-cylinder B. Ultimately it will come down to how heavy you are with the right foot, but 22-24mpg should be easily attainable in normal use.

Ease of ownership

When the MGB was being designed, the company was toying with the idea of a new family of V4 and V6 engines to slip under the bonnet. These never came to fruition, but the possibility that they might did ensure that the B’s engine bay was built as large and commodious as possible. As a result, the big V8 is far less of a shoe-horning nightmare than you might imagine. In fact, all the items that are most likely to need servicing work are easily accessible from above. Even the oil filter is conveniently sited remotely from the block in the offside front corner of the bay. But as ever with a classic, you do have to be prepared to adhere to a rather more onerous maintenance schedule than with a modern car. Many BGT V8s will have had their mechanical points ditched by now in favour of an electronic upgrade, but the old breakers can be easily adjusted via the external hex nut. The tappets are hydraulic and so need no routine adjustments, regular oil changes being the kindest thing you can do for them - every 3000 miles or so if you want to ensure that the top end stays free of sludge. Other jobs you may have got out of the habit of enjoying are wheel bearings and kingpins that need greasing at 12,000 mile intervals, and gearbox/overdrive oil that needs refreshing after 24,000 miles or two years. It almost goes without saying that the parts back-up for the BGT V8 is second to none, and the envy of almost every other marque. Certainly you can shop around for both new and second-hand parts from a vast network of specialists, and nothing need keep your BGT V8 off the road for too long. Prices are generally highly competitive, too.



MGA launched with full-width styling and B-Series engine instead of traditional XPAG, but still with separate chassis. Unsuccessful Twin Cam quickly dropped, replaced by upgraded B Series 1600.


Production of MGB Roadster begins in May ready for an official launch in September. An all new - if still antiquedesign, it remains in production right up until
late 1980!


B-Series gains five main bearings for refinement alongside Austin/Morris 1800 range, replacing three-bearing predecessor in the B. MGB GT arrives
in 1965 with stylish look and beefed up suspension.


MkII introduced with fullsynchro MGC-type gearbox plus raft of improvements. MGC is first stab at high power MGB but its lazy performance and rather cumbersome handling quickly kills off idea.


Recessed matt black grille look, taken from Ford Mustang, modern RoStyle wheels and black knit-backed vinyl seats try to lift an old design. Ken Costello designs first MGB V8!


MkIII arrives with facelevel fresh air vents. Ace tuner Ken Costello, now well known for hybrid V8 conversion, gells MG in to action to make its own car. Costello loses his V8 engine supplies from BL…


MGB GTV8 is launched in August. Dunlop wheels with cast alloy centre section, plus discreet V8 badges on tailgate, NSF wing and front grille only
clues. Engine is low tune Range Rover unit: 137bhp.


In September, black Bayflex 90 polyurethane bumpers are fitted. Late in year, V8 badge on grille is deleted. Poor sales due to earlier oil crisis starts to bite and car is slated for being too old, too dear.


Year is declared as MG’s golden jubilee. Limited edition MGB GT Jubilee includes just one V8 car - bought by BSM for its famous high speed driving school. Sales of V8 dwindle to handful.


Panel joint between the roof and the rear quarters no longer lead-loaded, but hidden by neat GT badge. Last LHD GTs built and V8 is dropped after barely three years production. Idea relaunched as the RV8 in early 1990s.

We Reckon...

We’ve all become so used to the MGB’s shape that it takes something rather special to really stand out. Visually, the V8 fails on this account as a couple of V8 badges and a set of Dunlop wheels are the only obvious distinguishing marks. But if you don’t want to be flashy, then few cars can offer so much driving pleasure as an MGB GTV8. With prices currently running up to £8000 for a really nice one and £2500 for a restoration project, they are certainly priced at a serious premium against the four-cylinder cars. But then you’d have to spend some serious money to make the B-series perform as well as the Rover V8, and you’d never get such a glorious soundtrack. The MG faithful no doubt already lust after the V8.We reckon that despite it’s crude manners, V8 is the best MGB by far and is a superbly practical and versatile classic that can become a serious sports car… at the press of the load pedal.

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