Sold for £17,417
“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 a V8 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 a 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’ (even more so with this example) 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 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.
Coming ‘fresh to market’ as they say, this cracker of an MGB GT V8 has been in the seller’s ownership for some twenty-five years and it is only the slow progression of the odometer between MOTs that has prompted its sale; time for someone else to give it the use it deserves. First registered in September 1974, the MGB’s chassis plate displaying its ‘GD2D1’ Chassis Number confirms it to be a genuine factory V8 and in fact the 61st from last of the highly desirable ‘chrome bumper’ examples produced.
The MG’s coachwork is in excellent order with just a small ‘dint’ in the boot – see picture – virtually its only blemish and even that looks to be the sort of thing a dent-removal specialist could magic away. Good panel gaps and straight trim lines are the order of the day and these are, we feel, indicative of a car that is structurally very sound underneath and in very excellent condition ‘up top’. The floor pans, castle rails and jacking points remain solid while the sills appear sound and straight with correct seams, mouldings and drain holes. It is well worthwhile spending a little time examining the photos of the car’s underside in the gallery.
Finished in Damask Red, as popular now as it was when the cars were new, the GT looks delightful. With a very nice paint finish showing good depth and shine, the car could be shown proudly as it is and indeed the owner has done just that. There are just a couple of slight ‘blebs’ on the off side front wing near the scuttle and also next to the sunroof aperture but overall the paintwork is very good indeed.
Fitted with a full length period Webasto ‘sunshine’ (as it was referred to back in the day) roof, the cockpit can be transformed into a bright and airy space without the trials, tribulations and damp trousers associated with a full convertible roof – not to mention the slight problem of BL’s refusal to combine the V8 engine with the ‘B’ roadster body – and this is in good condition with no rips or tears. Inside the original black cord cloth and vinyl trim is in pretty good shape with just a small nick in the side of driver’s seat as illustrated in the photo gallery. The carpets are for the most part in similarly good condition though those pieces covering the rear wheel arches in the boot could do with replacing and a good vacuuming wouldn’t go amiss – what else are you going to do on a Sunday morning while waiting for the pub to open? Inertia reel seat belts are fitted along with a Moto-Lita wood rim steering wheel, replacing the slightly underwhelming Factory original.
The chrome-work is very presentable with no major pitting or blemishes while the correct compliment of three V8 badges are positioned on the grill, boot and near side front wing, (not the off side, we know times were tough but really BL?). The original Dunlop part alloy, part steel construction wheels appear to be sound but could perhaps benefit from some light refurbishment. As these have been unobtainable for some years now it is encouraging that the full complement of five are present while the premium brand tyres fitted all have a good to excellent depth of tread remaining.
The V8’s engine has been rebuilt around a Rover SD1 block, heads and major internals while retaining all the MG specific ancillaries such as manifolds and rocker covers for a ‘factory standard’ appearance. The owner will supply the original block with the car for a ‘matching numbers’ option. It now seems, as one would expect, to give a significant dose of extra grunt and also happens to sound glorious through its big bore exhaust pipe. Sensibly, discrete Lumenition electronic ignition has been fitted and the car remains totally docile in traffic. Twin cooling fans kick in and out as intended holding the temperature just below the mid-point on the gauge even after a protracted period idling, at which point the oil pressure sits at a comfortable twenty psi.
On a ‘spirited’ test drive the MG ran very well once clear of a plethora of local speed humps, even eliciting a slight ‘chirrup’ from the rear tyres - in second gear - with the third and fourth gear overdrive working well, smoothly flicking in and out on demand. The V8 feels tight and up together, doubtless also benefitting from the very worthwhile telescopic rear shock absorber conversion that has been carried out.
With a V5 registration document in the long term owners name and MOT valid until June 2018 this B GT V8 is ready to be enjoyed by a fortunate new custodian.