SOLD for £17,903
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“Telling British Leyland what they ought to do has become a national pastime, and one of the most common demands (from Motor among others) as well as one of the most widely forecast events has been the marriage of the popular MGB GT body with Rover’s 3.5 litre V8 engine. The two together seemed natural, especially after Ken Costello had shown the idea to be practical” Motor, August 25th 1973.
After 10 years in production and 10 years of both the press and public crying out for the MGB to be given the power its more than capable chassis deserved, in 1973 (some years after engineers such as Ken Costello had proved it did fit) British Leyland eventually succumbed and dropped their ‘in house’ Buick derived aluminium Rover V8 engine into the bay that could have been designed for it. In an instant power leapt from a respectable 98 BHP to a very healthy 137, despite the raging fuel crisis persuading the powers that be (or is that lack of powers) that the ‘low compression’ engine was the one to use even though this resulted in a further whole 6 ‘free’ bhp being spurned. The up-side was the V8 was in a totally unstressed state of tune and with a negligible weight increase over the iron block and head B Series unit (the B GT V8 weighed in at barely 7lbs more than its 4 pot sibling and a massive 228 lbs less than the car it directly replaced, the MG C), the rest of the car could mercifully remain pretty much as it was for its lesser brethren. Even the twin SU carburettors were treated to a redesigned inlet manifold and ‘lobster claw’ air cleaner arrangement to avoid the need for a bespoke bonnet. This was crucially important to BL who were still smarting from the engineering and production nightmare that was the MGC which required redesigned suspension and yet was still perceived to be an inferior driving machine to the car that spawned it. The Rover V8 was by comparison ‘plug and play’ as the young bloods say these days.
Despite what on paper looked to be a shoe-in winner, the V8 remained in production for but three years and while a run of 2,591 cars (or 2600 according to Ex-Abingdon V8 expert Geoff Allen) might sound respectable by say TVR standards when model runs often failed to break into three figures, the half a million MGB’s produced in total does emphasis this variant’s rarity. The lack of visual differentiation was perhaps in part responsible for less than runaway sales figures though for someone looking for a stealthy ‘Q Car’, the discrete V8 badges and unique alloy centred wheels were probably all they wanted.
Never produced by the factory in roadster configuration, either because the convertible’s body-shell was not considered strong enough to handle the additional power (or perhaps more likely its substantial torque,) or due to powerful, open cars being ‘too scary’ as some commentators of the time would have people believe, the fastback GT was the only body style available. Standard too for all factory V8s was the overdrive gearbox and MGC derived 3.07:1 differential ratio, all of which combined to produce a 0 to 60 time of 8.6 seconds and top speed of 124 mph, neither of which were too shabby for the early to mid-1970s.
Notwithstanding a build date of 28th February 1974 and its dispatch to dealers Stewart and Ardern in Barnes, London four days later, this flagship of the MG range was not registered until November 4th that year, underlining the fact that in their day these were perhaps the GT for the cognoscenti as opposed to the common or garden MG buyer, if there could ever be such a thing. The MG’s ‘GD2D1’ Car Number recorded on the relevant plate on the bonnet slam panel, along with the British Motor Industry Heritage Certificate and V5C in the car’s file confirm it is a genuine factory V8 and a highly desirable ‘chrome bumper’ example to boot.
The V8’s bodywork is in nice order with good panel gaps and straight trim lines the order of the day and these are, we feel, indicative of a car that is structurally very sound underneath and in good condition ‘up top’. Notorious for starting and perpetuating body rot, the beaded wing seams all appear to be problem free. Underneath, the floor pans, castle rails and jacking points remain solid while the sills appear sound with correct seams, mouldings and drain holes though for the sake of completeness we have included a photograph of the slight unevenness to the metalwork where the front wing overlaps the outer sill. It is well worth while spending a little time examining the photos of the car’s underside in the gallery to appreciate its very solid condition.
The B is finished in the ultra-rare shade of ‘Mirage’ (Mr Allen states just 17 V8s were produced in this hue, all with black interiors) and though this was clearly not a common choice when the cars were new, we feel it suits the car exceptionally well, being just that bit different to the classic Old English White. With its nicely applied paintwork the car could be shown with pride (as the previous owner did at events such as ‘MG Live’ at Silverstone in 2018) or perhaps further detailed should you so wish. There is just a little light ‘orange peel’ in a few lower areas of the car but these only reveal themselves on close inspection.
Fitted with a good quality Triplex tinted sunroof, the cockpit is a nice bright and airy space to inhabit. The comfortable, supportive front seats are trimmed in black leather and show little or no wear at all while the original cloth rear seats have apparently seen little use. The carpets are in similarly good condition with the foot-wells protected by good quality MG logoed over mats. The crackle finish dashboard is free from cracks and scuffs and all the glazing is in good condition, the front windows now operated via classy drilled aluminium winders. Racy red inertia reel seat belts are fitted along with a Moto-Lita leather rim steering wheel replacing the slightly underwhelming Factory original, though this accompanies the car. The previous owner added the red tape ’12 O’clock’ marker to the rim as an apparent dig at a friend who had just paid Porsche over £500 for a similar addition to his 911… Frankly if ever you end up urgently needing to know how much opposite lock you have wound on, we salute you.
The chrome-work is very presentable indeed with just a little very localised flaking on the off side end of the front bumper as shown in the photo gallery. Bright-work badges remind you of the engine’s cylinder count and configuration no fewer than four times and the home country of MG is proudly acknowledged on the tailgate (GB ‘plate’) and both rear wings (Union Flag emblems). The original Dunlop part alloy, part steel construction wheels are in tip top shape and as these have been unobtainable for some years now it is encouraging that the full complement of five are present. The Michelin tyres fitted all have a good depth of tread remaining. The engine bay is not overly detailed but rather charmingly ‘honest’ and workmanlike with no evidence of any major fluid leaks. New high performance leads have been fitted and it looks ready for anything the new owner might like to throw at it.
Extensively rebuilt back in 1994, the V8’s engine starts very well and ticks over smoothly at a very creditable 600 RPM showing 60 PSI of oil pressure even with a warm engine. On a limited test drive the MG performed very nicely feeling tight and ‘up together’, doubtless benefitting from the very worthwhile Spax adjustable telescopic rear shock absorber and parabolic spring conversion that has been carried out which both improves and better controls the ride.
The MG’s great condition is matched by its extensive history file containing the current V5C, the aforementioned Heritage Certificate plus a large quantity of old MOT certificates and tax discs. Numerous bills covering maintenance over the past thirty years are also present, the highlights of which are the engine rebuild in 1994, fitting of leather seats in 2009 and bodywork restoration in 2012. Notes on file also cover the fitting of the handling kit along with a comprehensive list of the known whereabouts of all seventeen V8s finished in Mirage when new, GGO 777N being described as an “excellent original car”.
There is also a charming, fastidiously maintained ‘Log Book’ in which the previous owner recorded the MG’s mileage, journey and work carried out even down to the brand of polish used; please see the photo gallery. The recent fitting of a new fuel tank and solid state pump is duly noted.
A very comprehensive and sensibly selected range of spare parts is packed neatly under the boot floor so the new owner can either stock up the workshop or embark on a continental tour depending on how the mood takes them. A CTEK trickle charger is neatly wired into the car to protect the battery from any periods of inactivity and a fire extinguisher is mounted in the passenger foot-well. The overall impression is of a sensible approach to the active use and diligent maintenance of the car.
Having owned the MG since September 2014, the previous owner sums up his experience with the car stating it “Only needed the usual doses of TLC, supplemented with copious quantities of Waxoyl and WD40!”