MGB GT V8 - Classic of the Week

Dropping the Rover V8 engine into the MGB GT bodyshell gave this sports car a whole new lease of life. Today, it’ll still win you over with its raffish charm and big stick performance

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WHAT’S IT LIKE TO LIVE WITH?

The one thing that dominates the around-town experience is the heat. Despite having all that engine beneath the bonnet, the V8 was only ever given the ’B’s standard radiator grille to breathe through, which is why so many of them have been given aftermarket cooling systems and additional bonnet louvres. Not only will you feel the warmth seeping in through the vents, but keep it at idle and it isn’t long before the temperature gauge starts creeping up and the electric fans kick in. Otherwise, it’s got all the MGB plus points:  great visibility, a petite size and a hatchback for your shopping bags.

HOW EASY IS IT WORK ON?

The wealth of support afforded to MG owners, not only in terms of club expertise but also off-the-shelf parts, lands you in good stead if you’ve got a GT V8. Most of the components are easily available, and the engine’s commonality with other Rover and Land Rover models mean there is still plenty of expertise on hand as well as a healthy supply of available replacement parts. Don’t be surprised if the one you’re looking at isn’t standard, though – the V8 responds well to tuning, so plenty of owners have already gone down this route to free up more power than the standard 137bhp.

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WILL IT WIN PEOPLE OVER AT CLASSIC CAR SHOWS?

The V8’s vying for the attention of two very different breeds of showgoer: the casual classic fan who’ll dismiss it as yet another MGB and walk past it without a second glance, and the clued-up MG cognoscenti who’ll be foaming at the mouth over those Dunlop wheels and the fact that a factory ’B V8 is a rare beast – only 2591 were made. Then again, you can always stack the odds in the car’s favour by starting it up. Who can resist the angry growl of a Rover V8 engine? There’s also plenty of clubs catering for the MGB, and virtually every event in the country welcomes them with open arms. Even the Goodwood Revival’s ‘Over The Road’ classic car park allows all but the later models.

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HOW IT WILL COPE WITH A LONG WEEKEND?

As long as you aren’t planning on utilising the back seats – unless you saw off your limbs, they’re virtually unusable – there’s plenty of practicality to back the V8 up as a (vaguely) sensible purchase. There’s lots of room for luggage when you lift up the rear hatchback, there’s tons of legroom and headroom, and the ride is comfortable enough to make long motorway journeys bearable. The V8’s easygoing character helps, too, with its unstressed demeanour meaning it’ll return similar economy to a B-series model on longer runs. Expect anything up to 30mpg on a gentle slog up the motorway, and 25mpg when you’re on the back roads.

WHAT’S IT LIKE ON A TWISTY COUNTRY LANE?

While it isn’t the last word in pin-sharp cornering – for that you’ll want the Midget – the ’B GT’s supple suspension and tactile steering mean it’s a delightful companion on back roads. Where the V8 model really excels is in the addictive engine note and the mass of easily accessible torque, which makes covering ground quickly an effortless and hugely enjoyable experience. The brakes are more than up to it, too, thanks to 10.75-inch discs up front. Get one with a Britax or Webasto sunroof – as our test car does – and you also get the roadster’s wind in your hair experience without losing practicality.

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