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Old established classics but with a modern twist make the MGR V8 and TVR S worth considering Published: 7th Sep 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


What The Experts Say...

Clive Wheatley has been involved in V8 MGBs for more than 30 years and while he likes and specialises in the RV8, is not blind to its deficiences, the chief one caused by the car’s poor quality damping as standard. Clive advises fitting the Krypton-filled Spax unit he markets. It transforms the drive and is the first mod any owner should make, even if they are not fast drivers, he adds, because it also improves the ride. He is not a lover of some PAS systems he’s seen fitted to the RV8; steering customers towards the easier to fit and superior EZ electric conversion. Add the extra 50bhp that TVRs enjoy and Clive says this latter day MGB can be turned from a good car into a great one.

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Harking back to the past for future success is all the rage in the car market which must tell you something about today’s models! Volkswagen, Fiat and Mini are three of the most popular manufacturers relying upon its classics to offer something different to today’s buyers. Vauxhall has just brought back the Viva while a designer has just come up with a modern take of the Morris Minor Traveller that deserves to be taken seriously (see our News pages).

Twenty odd years ago, MG and TVR needed to dust off a couple of classics from the 1960s and 70s to keep them afloat – the MGR V8 and the TVR S respectively – but thoroughly brought up to date. For many, this sounds the ideal classic to own – so what’s the right one for you?



Just when you thought that the MGB was dead and buried after 12 years, Austin Rover brought the old roadster back to life with a bang, boasting the type of suspension set up the old MGB deserved decades previously. As before, a Range Rover unit was used, this time a 3.9-litre, albeit suitably tuned, ironically by TVR, to a healthy enough 190bhp.

The Blackpool specialist also put this unit to similar good use in its TVR S, which essentially was the old Tasmin/350 chassis topped by the classically-styled M-Series body. Launched almost a decade before the MGR, initially the S used the Ford Capri 2.8i engine which then was upped to the free-revving 2.9, gaining 10bhp for a useful 170bhp as a consequence. The ultimate was the V8S introduced for 1990 which boasted the same 3.9-litre Rover unit but higher tuned than the MGs for 240bhp.

In terms of models the TVR offers more choice with two engine picks and four trims according to year. The S2 boasted some styling tweaks, OZ alloy wheels and a Penthouse special edition, in honour of that famous mens’ mag.

The S3 sported the most significant styling changes which included a retuned suspension which entry and egress was eased by longer doors. The S4 model was marketed as a V6 only but benefited from the V8S braking system.

Both the MGR V8 and the TVR S make pretty successful pastiches that will appeal to many enthusiasts. The TVR is the cheaper option with prices starting from £6000 for a respectable example, which is about half the price of a similar MGR V8, the latter where their comparative rarity can push prices for top examples close to £20,000.



While not as beefy or focused as the Chimaera that replaced it, the TVR S is more the driver’s car than the MG where in contrast, the R V8 feels first and foremost more a comfortable tourer.

The main problem with the MGR V8, according to MG experts, was caused by a typical Austin Rover penny-pinching attitude. After getting the fundamentals right with the MG’s new advanced suspension, with its telescopic damping, the cheap factory spec dampers (Konis, too) negated a lot of the changes. Thankfully, aftermarket Koni or Krypton-filled Spax types are the solution (speak to leading RV8 expert Clive Wheatley) along with polybushing and, if you wish, braided brake pipes to firm up the middle pedal. The end result is a sports car of the Big Healey mould.

TVR rarely gets the handling wrong on its cars and the S versions are no exception and it was one of the best roadsters of its era and, indeed, as much fun as a Chimaera, perhaps more so because it is slightly smaller and more nimble. Shod on proper quality tyres (many may not be), it’s a great cross country classic sports car.

In terms of pace the TVR edges it, care of an additional 50bhp in V8S, making it quicker than a similar-powered Chimaera with a 0-60mph time of 4.9 seconds and ton topping in less than 13 seconds! Who needs a more expensive super car?

However, don’t think that the Fordpowered alternatives are second raters because they are not. Agreed they are notably less pacey but entirely fast enough for many owners. What they lack most is the lust of that great V8 and that growl of course because the German V6 was never renowned for its refinement.

The MG’s manual steering is quite heavy work but an electric conversion can be fitted from RV8 expert Clive Wheatley. The S also requires a lot of arm work but there’s no PAS so you may have to opt for an EX electric conversion if you need some assistance.

Apart from its plusher look and fittings, the MGR’s cabin will be familiar to any MGB owner and much the same can be said for the TVR S although both look more refined than they actually are.

The TVR feels less vintage but the MG, with its tasteful wood and leather, has a touch of the Big Healey about it. That really sums up their respective characters; the MGR V8 feels like a 1960’s machine albeit usefully updated, the TVR less so, thanks in part to a more modern chassis originally developed by ex Lotus staff for the 1980 Tasmin.



Running a TVR isn’t at all a problem despite the carmaker going to the wall. There’s plenty of independents around while TVR Parts – – ensures a continued source of spares for both classics and contemporary models. And apart from parts supply, there’s special technical assistance for repairs and knowledge. Mechanically, the TVR S is a mix and match of 1980’s hardware so it is easy to source bits from respective companies. Both power units are old school overhead valve designs meaning they are easy for a DIY mechanic to work on but spares are more plentiful for the Rover unit.

It’s best to have a TVR expert check a car out for you – or buy from a TVR independent for peace of mind because they don’t wear too well, especially if used hard as they were intended. Hidden chassis rust is the main problem; they were powder coated when new but not especially well.

There’s more TVRs around with 2600 produced but only 410 V8S versions. The MGR V8 was always a limited run model and less than 2000 were made between 1992 and 1995 with a staggering 75 per cent going to Japan – only 307 were officially UK registered although many exported cars have found their way ‘back home’.

The RV8 is as durable as a normal MGB and only requires similar checks when purchasing although pay special attention to its limited slip diff as it’s expensive to replace or overhaul. The lovely looking interiors don’t wear too well but the beauty of an MGB is scope you have for replacing trim with standard replacement or custom alternatives.

The strange thing about the MGR V8 is that despite their exclusivity, their residual values are little greater than an identical MGB or MGB GTV8 although a larger gap is forming. Owning one couldn’t be easier – it’s an MG after all – and spares and support from specialists and owners’ clubs is as superb as ever.

And The Winner Is...

Perfect pastiches in their own way, it depends what you are after. The MGR V8 will appeal to MGB lovers who want to step up from a 1.8 – but there’s more to it than that. Thanks to its bespoke design, starting with a BMH bodyshell, there’s a genuine hand-built feel about this Queen B and – dare we say it? – a more solid car than the TVR with much less of a kit car feel. But if you want a driver’s sports car above all else and one with classical styling, then it has to be the S, a car we’d take over the more showy show boating Chimaera any day.

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