Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides


Published: 23rd Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


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 everywhere 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 oversills 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 danger 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. Look carefully 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, furredup waterways and worn bores.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 3/5

    Smooth and swift although ride and handling feel outdated

  • Usability: 4/5

    Very practical and fairly spacious with the rear seats down

  • Maintaining: 5/5

    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

Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

It’s the MGB with the most and one of the best Q classic cars around… So why isn’t the B GT V8 more respected after all these years?

As soon as the evergreen MGB was launched in 1962 enthusiasts cried out for a more powerful version. Undeterred by the failure of the (now much respected) MGC in the marketplace, MG had another go at a performance version of the B in 1973 after a private enthusiast showed BL how to do it properly. Ace Mini racer Ken Costello saw the potential of a better, bigengined MGB just as the C was killed off. This time, a far more suitable engine was found – the ex-Buick aluminium 3.5-litre V8 that Rover introduced to the British Leyland party in 1968. Without suffering from the C-series weight penalty vis-a-vis the B-series (the V8 was 10lb lighter), it brought all the power with few of the handling worries of the nose-heavy C. Once Costello showed a disbelieving British Leyland the ropes, MG launched the official model in 1973, albeit in play-it-safe Range Rover low compression 137bhp tune and not the full fat 155bhp found in the 3500S saloon. In an unfortunate piece of timing that BL continually blighted itself with, the MGB GTV8 was launched only 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 economy-minded forms of transport. As a result, just 2591 V8s were produced by the factory before MG pulled the plug in 1976. Today it ranks as one of the best MGs ever made.

Which model to buy?

MG considered the V8 engine was 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 theory wrong but, if you want a factory original, you’re stuck with a tin top. In fact, the only major decision you are likely to have 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, given that the V8 was never sold in the States! Unfortunately it’s not a buyer’s market with just 1839 chrome cars built and only 752 rubber ones, you may have to take what you can get or be very patient to find the right car. There’s something strange about MGB pricing as it seems not to matter whether it’s a C, V8 or even an RV8, as values can be remarkably similar. How long this will remain is questionable as good MGCs are already becoming highly coveted. But on the other hand don’t pay through the nose for an MGB GT just because it’s has the V8 under the bonnet, the only exception perhaps being the Costello cars which have their own niche and following.

Behind the wheel?

MG considered V8 so powerful it could only be fitted to the BGT

Who hasn’t sat in an MGB? Getting in one again is like meeting an old friend – accommodating, comfortable and very retro. The GT bodyshell has a distinct advantage over the Roadster for drivers of even average build – whereas the rag-top 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 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 dash. In many ways, initial feedback behind the wheel is not dissimilar to that from the four-cylinder cars. The clutch is somewhat heavier but equally smooth, while the steering feels typically weighty at low speed, particularly if a smaller sports wheel has been fitted. It’s a docile beast on a light throttle, but bury the accelerator into the carpet and there is so much power, even in Range-Rover tune, that you can visibly see the front of the car twist as it hurtles down the road! Acceleration is satisfying and unrelenting and when it does finally run out of puff and you need to move up a gear, then the C-type gearbox is a smooth if not an especially speedy shifter. Of course, all of this would be largely irrelevant if the brakes were rubbish, but thankfully they’re 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 cylinder cars considered a sensible upgrade, while there are many ways of improving the V8’s anchors still further should you feel the need, such as proven RV8 hardware. But in many ways, careless modifying would destroy some of the BGT V8’s charms. The V8 gained uprated front dampers and rear springs, but it still combines a powerful engine in a pretty crude RWD chassis. On the one hand it’s still capable and forgiving, and this makes for a car that you can have fun with in safety On the other hand the handling and ride considered were poor compared to the well sorted Costello cars. Ken’s one’s seemed so much sharper but the BL effort, with its simple Police-spec rear springs, felt unwieldy while the already harsh ride become, almost intolerable deemed Autocar in ‘73. The steering is heavy by modern standards but there is an aftermarket power assistance kit from owners clubs if you feel it’s all too much. This can run into thousands if you have a specialist carry out the job however; a cheaper option is a reduced steering castor kit to account for modern radials. It’s not half as effective mind but may just be enough to get by.

The Daily Option?

It goes without saying that parts back up for the car is excellent

As the MGB is one of the friendliest classics to use on a daily basis there‘s no reason to think that the V8 is any less so. In fact, it’s better suited to today’s traffic thanks to its extra power and low down lust: 0-60mph in under eight seconds and a 125mph top speed is more than adequate while overdrive makes cruising easy if not exactly relaxing due to loud wind noise. Because the low-tune V8 is so unstressed in the MGB the difference in fuel economy isn’t that great. In fact in its road test Autocar achieved 23.4mpg from the V8, less than half a mile per gallon inferior to the much slower 1800. So the V8 is hot stuff but in summer, the cabin can get a bit warm in traffic as heat soaks through from the engine bay but, as long as the cooling system is in good order, the twin electric fans can cope with the worst of stop-start grind. There is synchromesh on all the gears too, although with so much torque available, you can let the engine do the work rather than having to stir the gearbox mercilessly. Perhaps this is why an automatic was never made available. It’s marketed as a 2+2 but that rear seat is really for occasional use only as it’s seriously shallow and leg room is minimal. Luggage space is generous for a sports car of this era however, and easily accessed through the rear hatch. In fact, with the rear seat folded flat any BGT is a surprisingly versatile load lugger. Add a sunroof and you have one of the most versatile all year classics around.

Ease of Ownership?

When the MGB was 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 ensured 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 shoehorning nightmare than you might imagine. In fact, all the items that are most likely to need servicing are easily accessible from above. Even the oil filter is conveniently sited remotely from the block in theoffside front corner of the bay. But as ever with a classic, you 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 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. You’ll need to top up the carburettor dashpots at the same time. Other jobs you may have got out of the habit of enjoying are wheel bearings that need lubrication at 12,000-mile intervals, and gearbox/overdrive oil that needs welcome refreshing after 24,000 miles or two years. It almost goes without saying that the parts back up for the BGT V8 is MG excellent, and the envy of most other marques. Certainly you can shop around for both new and second-hand parts from a vast network of specialists, and nothing need keep your B off the road for 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 antique, design, it remains in production right up until late 1980!


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


MkII introduced with full-synchro 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, forces MG in to action to make its own car. Costello loses his V8 engine supplies from Leyland…


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 that’s okay 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 and 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...

It’s strange that back in the 1970s, owners were crying out for the V8 – yet they are hardly hugely prized today. Perhaps it’s still the fear of the lower fuel economy (not true according to road tests) that keep BGT V8’s so affordable because it’s certainly the best MGB by far thanks to that evergreen V8. It may have been launched at the wrong time back in 1973 but the MGB GTV8 now makes the ideal practical performance classic.

Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%

Britians top classic cars bookazine