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

MGR V8 VS Triumph TR8

Both the MGB and the Triumph TR7 simply cried out for V8 power – but when they finally got it, was it all worth the wait. And ar Published: 4th May 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MGR V8 VS Triumph TR8

What The Experts Say...

MGR specialist Clive Wheatley says the 1990’s car is good but perhaps no better than the 20 year older BL effort. What he does warn about is that there are many home V8 conversions out there that are poorly done and really need expert inspection before buying. The MGR V8 really needs better damping says Clive to make it a fine tourer. Wheatley is launching a new V8 wheel to OE spec but split alloy.

A five-speed transmission was standard issue replacing the MG’s familiar overdrive. The interior looked classic but was decked in wood and leather and air con.

The TR8 came about first as a rally car after TR7-V8s (Coupés) were made in select numbers, primarily for motorsport. The real TR8 was made strictly for the US market although as many as 50 right-hand drivers were
built by BL, which as you can imagine, are the most cherished of all out of the 2722 made, before the TR7 was culled in October 1981 – six months after the planned UK launch date for the TR8. BL even had produced workshop manuals and spares back up for the TR8 – it was literally killed off at the 11th hour…

It’s highly likely you’ll come across a converted TR7 if you hanker for RHD and, like DIY V8 MGs, you need to verify how good the conversion is, although one benefit is that the car will have a more powerful tune as the US cars were strangled to 137bhp – coincidentally the same figure the MGB GT V8 posted.

Just a quick word about the convertible. It was too late in the day to change the TR7 once the Yanks changed their minds about open top sports cars, but BL hoped to have a roofless TR7 by 1978. In the end an admittedly strike- riddled BL procrastinated until 1980.

However, the actual beheading of a TR7 was carried out, according to a TR7 expert we spoke to, in a single lunch break by old school BL engineers! Once the controversial roof was removed the beauty of the Triumph’s lines were plain to see – told you so…

MGR V8 VS Triumph TR8
MGR V8 VS Triumph TR8
MGR V8 VS Triumph TR8
MGR V8 VS Triumph TR8
MGR V8 VS Triumph TR8
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


Told you so has been a repeated remark when reminiscing over failed British Leyland models quickly followed by “Why didn’t they do this or that from the outset?”. It seems that simple logic never applied with this truck maker who gobbled up BMC in the late 1960s and ruined everything it touched over the following decades.

V8-powered MGBs and Triumph TR7s are classic examples. Ever since Mini racer Ken Costello slotted in the evergreen Rover V8 unit into an MGB back in the late 1960s, enthusiasts waited for MG to follow suit. But when it eventually did all they got was that engine in low fat Range Rover tune and only in the GT because the Roadster couldn’t, it claimed, take all that power…

And when the TR7 surfaced, apart from those odd looks, folks wanted to know when the V8 would be offered – along with a convertible.

Like most other things blighted by BL, it was too little too late when both arrived just a couple of years before the model was dropped in favour of the boring Acclaim saloon.

At least MG got the chance to right the wrongs in the early 1990s when a special MGB called the MGR V8 was reconstructed to keep the sports car maker alive – 30 years after it was launched – until the MGF surfaced.

Perhaps apathy is why both the MGR V8 and the Triumph TR8 haven’t become the red hot classics they should have as this pair can still sell for similar money to their more basic brothers? It can’t stay this way for ever and as more modern alternatives to the hairy 1950’s Healey, they have much to commend them. What great V8 is best for you though?


Essentially the choice rests between factory-made cars and home spun conversions. There’s shed loads of V8-powered MGBs around, using both the Rover unit and other American units. Some are done as good as the manufacturer could muster, but a lot aren’t and you need to check the handiwork with care.

Just as there was a lot more to an MGB GT V8 than a converted car 40 years ago, the MGR V8 was also considerably re-engineered to accept a much more powerful (190bhp) 3.9-litre.

Project Adder, as it was known, was developed by Rover Special Projects on the heritage MGB bodyshell but sills, arches etc were new. The front suspension was all new too boasting telescopic dampers at last along with vented brakes and 15inch wheels, although the rear suspension remained 1960s albeit with modern damping and a limited slip differential.


Before we get into specifics it’s worth saying now that the fitment of this great V8 transforms both cars beyond belief. It’s not simply the added power that impresses, but also the lusty nature of this ex-Buick lump that also found happy homes in TVRs and Morgans as well. They don’t ’arf go, Squire!

In terms of speed, the MGR is the decisive winner but dint of a larger 3.9-litre fuel injected engine that’s 60bhp to the good of a stock TR8, although it weighs 800lb more than the original 1.8 Roadster of 1962. Nevertheless, its 135mph top speed and a zip to 60 in less than seven seconds puts it firmly in the Morgan Plus 8 and even the TVR Chimaera bracket.

TR8s aren’t exactly sluggish and it all depends whether past owners have hotted them up, as many will have done. Figures gained at its launch suggest performance is slightly better than a TR6 kicking out the same horsepower.

Yet for all their added speed when compared to their four-cylinder forbearers, neither come across as hot rods of the big Healey kind and are more suited for cruising. This is due, in part, to the rather vintage feel of the MG which many will like although it’s generally considered that the standard dampers were always rubbish; fitting the Koni items originally earmarked for the car transforms the handling and also improves the jittery ride. Power- assisted steering was never available when the RV8 was new, but can now be retrospectively fitted for around £2500.

Those stepping out of say an MGC, or the original MGBGT V8, will find the RV8 development a useful improvement, but without spoiling that essential MGB character, which sadly includes excessive wind noise which remains despite the deletion of front quarterlights. On the other hand, the interior is plush in looks and aura, if not quality.

The Triumph TR8 benefits from a considerably more comfortable and spacious cabin that’s ergonomically excellent if far cheaper in feel than the MG’s trim that has a whiff of Bentley about it. Convertible TR7s are a good deal noisier than the coupés as some hoods don’t fit well but the Triumph is still the quieter car with the more solid feel.

In terms of handling, a standard TR8 feels much like a TR7 insofar it’s rather softly sprung and under-damped while the stock TR7 brakes are just about adequate. Having said that, we suspect that most conversions will have been sorted in both departments by now.


Few marques boast such a worldwide following like MG and Triumph so, as you’d, expect as a result, owning and running either V8 is no harder than a four-cylinder TR7 or MGB. Spares and support is generally excellent across the board and as you’d expect, parts for the long running Rover engine pose no problems. There’s a good many dedicated specialists around, too. For example, Clive Wheatley not only caters for the RV8 but has also developed a range of upgrades to make the car better and more reliable. For instance, the windscreen surround is made of steel and rot. Wheatley does a carbon-fibre and glass- fibre equivalent at under £1000. Exhaust manifold gaskets frequently fail but again Clive has superior aftermarket replacements.

And The Winner Is...

It largely depends whether you’re an MG devotee or are turned on by Triumphs. So being unbiased, we’ll give our view! All things considered, not least the fact that there are more around, the MG gets the vote. It’s a modern antique that will appeal to many because it is classical in character yet usefully modernised in all the right areas. And although it’s certainly not without its faults, it still feels like an MGB, which is what really matters. The MGR V8 is just the thing for MGB lovers who have gone through the range bar this one – and they won’t be disappointed in a good one. The TR8 is everything the TR7 promised it could be – but there are many TR lovers who still can’t entertain this 1970’s design which should have gone on to be the true modern Austin-Healey.

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