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MG RV8 vs TVR S

If you yearn for a Déjá vu drive, then this pair of retro roadsters reborn provide classic 1960’s looks albeit with ’90’s conven Published: 16th Feb 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MG RV8 vs TVR S

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 deficiencies, 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.

MG RV8 vs TVR S
MG RV8 vs TVR S
MG RV8 vs TVR S
MG RV8 vs TVR S
MG RV8 vs TVR S
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They don’t make ’em like they used to is a phrase that your parents or grandparents must have used at some point – it certainly seems to be one carmakers haven’t forgotten either! Ignoring the established MINI (both Rover and BMW), Beetle and Fiat 500 recreations, take a look at what else is around; TVR has recently resurrected the Griffith name, Vauxhall dug out the Viva name a few years back and Jaguar – at long last – did what everybody has yearned for since 1975 and used the logical F-type letter when it replaced another old established moniker, the XK. Fiat relaunched the Spider with the help of Mazda’s MX-5, itself which started off as a modern interpretation of the ’60’s Lotus Elan. And don’t forget at some of the ones that didn’t make it, such as the lovely Lancia Fulvia of a decade ago. Nope, we can’t let bygones be bygones.

Over a quarter of a century ago, two British sports car makers were in need of a quick fix to bolster their flagging names – MG and TVR – and so dusted off some past pensioned off glories to touch at the heartstrings and keep the names alive.

Essentially, the MG RV8 was a reworked MGB while TVR plonked its classic M Series on a Tasmin chassis to create the S range. Ok, so there was more to it than that – naturally – but both specialists made the formula work, being popular when new and now equally wanted as cut-priced classics.

Which one has your name on it though?

Which one to buy?

H5>Similar yet so different

Their similarity stems from the fact that they are both new takes on contemporary models. In the case of the TVR, the S was Tasmin-derived with a M Series 3000S roadster body but not the Taimar hatchback. With the MGR V8, Austin Rover brought the old MGB back to life 12 years after unceremoniously killing it off. But at least the B returned with a added venom in its sting, boasting the type of front suspension set up the original MGB always deserved.

One common connection to this duo is the engine employed, being that stalwart Rover V8 – what else? In the MGR, it’s a 3.9-litre Range Rover unit albeit suitably up gunned (by TVR) to 190bhp. The V8S also has this unit but rated at 240bhp. It was fitted to the S3s; previously earlier versions relied upon Ford V6 power, initially 2.8-litres from the car’s 1986 début, switching to 2.9 power for the S2 of 1988.

Looks and character may be clincher. This classically-styled TVR is prettier than TVR’s beefy, in-your-face designs that came afterwards from the Blackpool works. As for the MG, despite a radical facelift, it remains very much a B and quite a nice looking one at that. The same goes for the interior where the MG remains traditional as well as luxurious care of its wood and leather giving this MG a bit of the Bentley about it.

The TVR has a similar traditional look and feel too and is of similar quality, prep even more luxurious – they are both nice places to be. One benefit of the S3 apart from superior Rover V8 engine was better cabin featuring four inch long door for easier entering and egress.

Apart from air conditioning there was no development to the RV8 as it was a limited run special although colour count; green, blue and red hues hold the most sway – and values.

The ultimate S has to be the 240bhp V8S because only 410 were made out of a total production run of over 2600 cars. A year later an improved V6 S4C was announced, which, apart from more styling changes, also benefited from the V8’s superior all-disc brake set up.

If you like that sort of thing, both the MGR V8 and the TVR S are pretty successful pastiches that will appeal to many traditional enthusiasts, perhaps those really wanting a Big Healey but now can’t afford one. If only the Jensen-Healey had succeeded…

 

What’s the best to drive?

Jolly good sports…

While not as beefy or focused as the Chimaera that replaced it, the S is more the driver’s car than the MG where in contrast, the RV8 feels first and foremost a comfortable old tourer.

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. One well respected road tester went as far as to claim the S was more fun than many expensive supercars. All are full on drivers’ cars in a way that the RV8 isn’t.

The MG’s main problem according to leading experts, was caused by a typical Austin Rover penny-pinching attitude at the time. After getting the fundamentals right with the RV8’s new suspension, complete with telescopic damping, cheap factory spec dampers (Konis, too) negated a lot of the changes.

Thankfully, aftermarket, superior Koni or better still Krypton-filled Spax types are the solution (speak to leading RV8 expert Clive Wheatley about this) along with polybushing and, the end result is a sports car of the Big Healey mould.

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 only 4.9 seconds and ton topping in less than 13 seconds! Who needs a more expensive super car? However, don’t think that the Ford powered alternatives are second raters because they are not. Agreed, they are notably less explosive but entirely fast enough for many owners. What they lack most is the lust of that great V8 and that growl of course because this German V6 was never renowned for its refinement.

Despite disappointing suspension damping, the RV8 is, without question, the best driving production MGB of all even if the manual steering is heavy work but an electric conversion can be fitted from RV8 expert Clive Wheatley. The TVR’s tiller also requires a lot of arm work – again there’s no PAS so opt for an EZ or Litesteer electric conversion if you need 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 plus you sit lower but the MG, with its old fashioned driving position has a touch of the Big Healey about it, only more luxurious. That sums up their respective characters; the R V8 feels like a 1960’s machine albeit usefully updated, the TVR less so, thanks in part to a more modern chassis, developed by former Lotus engineers who worked on Esprit and Elite no less, before the 1980 TVR Tasmin.

Owning and running

H5>MG, what else did you expect?

Although not as easy as owning an MG running a TVR isn’t at all a big problem. There’s plenty of independents around while TVR Parts – http://www.tvr-parts.com – ensures a continued source of spares for both classics and contemporary models. 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 although spares are more plentiful for the Rover unit.

It’s best to have a TVR expert check any 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 to choose than RV8s with 2600 produced but only 410 V8S versions.

Amazingly, given their rarity (around 350 UK cars but the total tally is now 483 thanks to re-imports), it’s surprising how many RV8s there are in a sorry state – RV8 expert Clive Wheatley (01746 710810 http://www.mgv8parts.com) says that, while simple and sturdy, the car costs a lot more to run than an MGB, perhaps too much for many pockets, which is why a fair few are sadly neglected. What’s more, few seemingly identical MGB parts aren’t compatible. Happily, they don’t rust like old MGBs as the shells were electrophoretically dipped after the metal had already been zinc-coated.

And The Winner Is...

It’s hard to find so much fun and exclusivity for comparatively little outlay. Good S’s can be had for £7-£8000, although it’s normally double this for the V8S, but what great retro roadsters they make. If you’re after pure fun then the TVR is for you, but if it’s a nostalgia trip – albeit a sleep-easy one due to a typical MG back up – the RV8 is the, more sensible choice and at prices that are only moderately above normal MGB values but this will change we’re certain so buy now if this modern antique appeals. The TVR also combines the looks of a traditional TVR but with the dynamics that aren’t that far short of the show-boaty Chimaera. And, currently at better prices, too.



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