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Brrr-illiant Published: 20th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


Fast Facts

  • Best model: Original GT
  • Worst model: Bad home made versions
  • Budget buy: Cheap Costello cars
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L3890 x W1520 mm
  • Spares situation: Excellent
  • DIY ease?: Excellent
  • Club support: Brilliant
  • Appreciating asset?: Yes, so buy soon
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Great buy, best MGB of all
No roadsters offi cially but hatch gives this sports car fi ne practicality, especially in two-seat mode No roadsters offi cially but hatch gives this sports car fi ne practicality, especially in two-seat mode
Apart from larger alloy wheels and subtle V8 badging and higher ride height, V8GT looks like a normal MGB, making it a superb Q Car. Model was launched in late 1973 so anything before an M-reg plate could be a home made one Apart from larger alloy wheels and subtle V8 badging and higher ride height, V8GT looks like a normal MGB, making it a superb Q Car. Model was launched in late 1973 so anything before an M-reg plate could be a home made one
Cabin is essentially MGB with different dials (a non standard wheel is fi tted here). Cabin is essentially MGB with different dials (a non standard wheel is fi tted here).
Rover V8 fi ts like a glove and is lightly stressed although a lack of servicing will gum up the works Rover V8 fi ts like a glove and is lightly stressed although a lack of servicing will gum up the works
Only V8 logo gives game away Only V8 logo gives game away
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Too little, too late! That’s what critics said about the MGBGT V8 when new. Today, its vintage driving feel is the key to its appeal as a more practical and cheaper alternative to a similarly powered Morgan

Pros & Cons

Style, packaging, practicality, V8 engine, value for money, specialist support
Ride, antiquated handling, no offi cial roadster option

It just doesn’t make sense ! Today the under-rated MGB GTV8 can cost the same as a normal MGB GT to buy and own. Given the extra performance and smoothness, plus the usual easy MG running costs, this V8 makes a high-performance Q car bargain. However, back in 1973, that wasn’t the term used to describe the car the MGC should have always been, thanks to the V8’s staggering £500 price penalty over the 1.8! This was especially hard to swallow when buyers found that the car was little improved, apart from the powerplant. Fast forward the thick end of 40 years and the car’s Morgan-like character is now part of this MG’s charm. Here’s how to buy a good one!


Racer Ken Costello may have been the fi rst to produce one for the road, but the engineers at Abingdon had been trying to shoehorn a V8 into the MGB for years (some say as early as 1967, but offi cially since 1971). It is said that they fi rst tried the in house Daimler V8 unit. Once cash-strapped MG decided to use the Buick lump, this had to be done as cheaply as possible. Although working on a relative shoestring, MG still had more resources than daddy of the MGB V8 Ken Costello (who continued to make his own conversions up until recently) and so was able to engineer the power unit to fi t under the standard ‘B’ bonnet properly. This was unlike Costello who retained the original V8 carbs, resulting in an ugly bonnet bulge (until a later switch to Weber carbs). On the other hand, MG made do with the lower-tune 137bhp Range Rover-spec V8, while Ken went the full-fat Rover 3500S route. The MGB shell needed minimal changes to make the V8 fi t and, as it was 40lb lighter than the cast iron B-Series unit, this engine helped alter weight distribution from 47.8/52.2 (front/rear) to a more satisfactory 49.4/50.6. Unlike the laden MGC, the V8 even retained the conventional MGB front suspension set up, although the ride height was hiked by about an inch in the process, pre-empting what the company reluctantly would do to the MGB a year later. Indeed, in 1975 the V8 received those infamous rubber bumpers, despite this model never being exported to the USA! After the disastrous launch of the MGC, expectations were pretty low for new MG and the reception for the V8 at its 1973 introduction was lukewarm, despite giving MG fans what they had desired for years. During its three year production run only 2591 cars were made. Some months V8 production barely broke into double fi gures. Apart from the rubber-bumper addition in October 1974, the car remained essentially unchanged until it was quietly put out to graze in 1976 – only to be revived with the RV8 in the 1990s.


By the time the V8 fi nally found its rightful home in the MGB, the engine outshone the rest of the car and so merely highlighted the vehicle’s many shortcomings, due to sheer old age. However that ‘vintage’ feel which was so criticised when the car was new is now much more appreciated, along with touring capabilities that outstrip a similarpowered Morgan with ease. The MG’s performance is still effortless and smooth and it can still show a GTi a clean pair of rear tyres (0-60mph in 7.7 seconds and as much as 125mph according to one road test!). Such is the torque on tap there’s little need for boy-racer antics. This torque is handy because second gear is still too low on the MGC-sourced transmission. On the other hand, despite no automatic option, this is effectively a two-gear car and the standard overdrive gives a lovely long-legged and economical 28.5mph/1000rpm gait. It’s a shame that wind noise from the screen pillars negates this touring advantage. Ironically, the initial fears of poor economy that killed the car rarely manifested themselves on the road: the V8s drank about the same as normal MGBs as the engine was so lightly worked in comparison. You’d think that, with its improved weight distribution, the V8 would have handled better as well. While it’s an improvement on the lumbering MGC, it still didn’t handle as predictably as the four-cylinder MGB. Road tests at the time put this down to the too stiff ‘police spec’ rear suspension and added ride height that spoiled the drive. Other known MGB traits, such as the rock hard ride, that wind noise, poor heating and ventilation and lack of overall refi nement are of less consequence now than when the car was new. Certainly, thanks to its compact size, useful rear hatch facility and sheer usability, this MG is still a tempting daily driver and a practical classic. Like the MGC, the V8 is being seen in a far better light now, compared to when it was new and competing with more advanced contemporaries. The ancient design and over-ambitious pricing made it a no-goer for many pundits when new. One of the sternest critics was Car magazine, which headlined its test “Too Little, Too Late, Too Much” and had much to complain about, reckoning it felt like just like an MGC with a V8 fi tted. “It’s not a bad car; it’s just not a very good one” was the organ’s critical verdict. That may have been true as a new car back in 1973, but fast-forward almost 40 years and any faults are now part of the car’s character. And, as any owner will tell you, an MGB GTV8 certainly has plenty of that!


As only 2591 were built and there are not too many for sale at any one time, you’d think prices would automatically be at a premium over a normal GT, but this is not always so. A roadlegal V8 might be found for £4000, a decent car for around £7000 and a concours winner for £10,000 to £15,000, which is about the same as an ordinary 1.8 model. Home-made V8s are certainly worth less than the real thing and much depends on the workmanship (see box out for advice) but genuine Costello conversions are beginning to command a premium over the factory car at long last.


As with any MGB, it’s a case of how far do you want to go. For many, a standard V8 is quick enough, so just needs the chassis tweaking. Lever arm dampers were fi tted front and rear, but it’s possible to swap to telescopics. This works well but the ride will be even harder. To really sharpen up the handling it’s worth fi tting uprated front and rear anti-roll bars with poly bushes, although the ride will be made a harsher. Servo-assisted brakes were fi tted from the outset and this essentially standard MGB set up

What To Look For

  • The MGB V8’s monocoque is a real rust haven. Although a Heritage shell starts at £4200, you’ll also have to fork out for paint and, if you’re going to do the job properly, you’ll also buy new brakes, steering, suspension, electrics and trim for the interior and exterior. Before you know it, that’s another £4-5000 on the bill.
  • If you want to do it cheaper, then a second-hand rubber bumper shell is required as these feature the modifi ed inner wings and front end.
  • The sills rot and are prime fodder for bodge merchants, because repairing them properly isa convoluted process; for the best results, the front and rear wing sections (below the trim strip) need to be cut off. The alternative is to unbolt the front wings.
  • Because the sills are tricky to repair, there are various bodges that are regularly tried. The fi rst is to fi t a cover sill, which just hides the problem. The second is the use of a stainless steel over-sill, which looks very pretty – but also masks potential problems. To be certain you’re not buying a pup, take a look from underneath and see that everything lines up properly. If the door windows clip the rear post then that’s a sign of poorly-fi tted sills.
  • Structural rust is commonplace. Look for soft inner wings; press the panel in the engine bay as a quick check and, while you are there, inspect the chassis where the steering rack is located. This can stress-crack. Unless you know MGBs this can be missed – even by MOT testers – but repair panels are available.
  • Check the back of the front inner wheelarches by fi rst removing the front wheels. This will allow you to see if the box section that’s positioned at the top is still there – it collects mud and rots away if it isn’t cleaned regularly.
  • While you’re checking the rear wheelarches, take a look at the spring hangers, which may well be rotten. Next to the offside hanger is the battery tray (chrome-bumper cars have one each side); easily overlooked. Make sure it’s intact by checking from underneath and also make sure the fl oorpans are in good order – there’s a good chance they won’t be.
  • Because the top of the fuel tank is corrugated to strengthen it, water collects between the top of the tank and the underside of the boot fl oor. So, if you can smell fuel, assume the tank has perforated and needs replacing.
  • Make sure that the double-skinned tailgate isn’t rotten. The fi nal bodywork part to check is the bottom of each door. Although skins are available for £20, it’s normally more costeffective to buy a whole new door at £160 because fi tting a skin properly is involved.
  • Swapping those rubber bumpers (only 735 were made) that add 70lb to the car’s weight isn’t a simple job as there’s some fairly major bodywork surgery involved. It can be costly too if a professional does it; £1500 or more.
  • That V8 engine is lightly stressed and, with proper and regular oil and fi lter changes, should see six-fi gure mileages with ease. Infrequent lube changes cause the hydraulic tappets to play up, due to sludging; they become clattery.
  • As with all alloy engines, lack of suffi cient-qualityanti-freeze will lead to internal rusting and potential overheating problems. As the MG’s cooling system was stretched anyway, check for hot running – or over-cooling if the thermostat has been removed. MG V8 specialist Clive Wheatley (01746 710810/www.mgv8parts. com) sells uprated radiators for over £200.
  • One essential check to save potentially disastrous engine damage concerns the thread on the bolt on the nearside of the airbox, at the back of the engine. It should have a protective nut and serrated washer on it, as the original ‘spot’ soldered bolt often works loose and drops into the carburettor… You can guess the rest!
  • The V8 used a modifi ed MGC gearbox. Check for undue noise, jumping out of gear and sheer wear. If the box is knackered, you can opt for a fi ve-speed SD1 conversion. MGOC sells a full nut and bolt kit to do this, but costs some £2000.
  • Clutch problems usually centre around the carbon-fi bre release bearing breaking up. Also, make sure the pedal isn’t spongy. If it is, the hydraulics are on their way out.
  • If there’s any vibration coming from the driveline it’s probably because one or both of the propshaft U/Js has worn. Under all that power, the MGB-derived rear axle may well have wilted and become noisy and sloppy. Bank on a few hundred for a recon unit, or you can buy a limited-slip alternative from MGOC, costing around £700.
  • The MGB’s simple suspension set up coped okay with V8 power and doesn’t generally give problems, except for the kingpins – which need to be greased every 3000 miles. It’s a well known wear point. Jack the front of the car up and try rocking the wheel at the top and bottom while somebody applies the footbrake. If there’s any movement detectable at all, the kingpins will need replacing, at £45 each plus fi tting.
  • The front wishbone bushes also perish and collapse, but a visual check is all that’s needed to see what state they’re in. Always ensure that proper uprated V8 ones are used over the standard MGB sort.
  • Steering is heavy, but should be precise enough, with no wandering or excessive free-play. New or reconditioned racks aren’t too dear, plus there’s even an MGOC power-steering conversion kit, but the price for fi ngertip steering is a grand. Somewhat cheaper are castor reduction kits,which will lighten up the standard set up which was originally designed with cross-ply tyres in mind. However these should NOT be used on an MGB fi tted with a Heritage crossmember, as they already run a reduced castor.
  • If it seems that there’s rear-wheel steering on a test drive, it’ll be because the U-bolts and rubber bushes locating the rear axle have come loose or corroded. But it’s a cheap fi x with the kit costing just £15. A new propshaft is a £150 touch.
  • Lever-arm dampers were fi tted, front and rear, and they are notorious for leaking and wearing. Make sure all the rear tyre is visible – if it disappears under the wheelarch the (police spec) springs have sagged and need replacing.
  • The V8 rode on special Dunlop rims which used alloy centres, so expect electrolytic rusting between the two surfaces. Bear in mind that, if you need new rims, the sort fi tted to the limited edition Jubilee MGB are the same type. Or you can buy reconditioned types from V8 specialist Clive Wheatley. He also sells virtually everything you need for the car incidentally.

Three Of A Kind

Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
In-house rival to the MG, this was also V8 powered, with more bhp but less go, plus it was a hard/soft top instead of a hatchback. Initiallydodgy, Stags are now pretty durable and desirable as cut-price Mercedes SL rivals. Still strong value for money and with a fi ne specialist and club back up. Of course, many cars were converted to Rover V8 power and these are good, if done right (many not) but values lag behind the real thing.
Daimler SP250
If the MGB GT V8 didn’t go as well as it looked when new, then the Daimler SP250 was – and remains – the complete opposite. With its quirky stylingand questionable body rigidity, what made the Daimler great (in common with the MG) was its engine, in this case a pure V8 gem. Quick and sporty, ‘Darts’ are now starting to hit double-top and prices are on the increase. See full buyers guide in this issue!
Rather late in the day, MG Rover launched the roadster V8 – almost two decades after MG, as a company, bit the dust!Based upon the Heritage bodyshell, with a full-fat 190bhp and totally reworked chassis,without doubt it’s the best sorted V8 MGB and most luxurious around. The MG RV8 feels like a cross between a Morganand a TVR and prices are similar
to those for standard MGBs.


If nothing else, the MGB GT V8 must be one of the best classic ‘Q’ cars around. Add in the car’s great value-for-money and it’s surprising that the BGT V8 isn’t in greater demand. It’s a practical performance sports-hatch that we like immensely, warts and all. We heartily recommend it as the best MGB of the lot.

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