The Carchive: The MG RV8

I’ve got my bolt-cutters and flashlight, please join me with your balaclava and soft soled shoes so we can quietly break into the abandoned Leisure Centre of time and throw ourselves down the wobbly waterslide of motoring past. Welcome, once again, to The Carchive.
Last week we looked at Rover Groups great white hope for the resurgence of MG in the ’90s, the MGF. Well, I’m feeling pretty comfortable here in pre-millenial Britain so let’s hang back for a little bit. Actually, no, lets wind backwards to ’92 and look at the other roadster that Rover tried to tempt us with that decade.
It’s the RV8.

“Thirty years after the birth of the MGB the MG marque lives again; reviving a golden history of track winners, record breakers and classic road cars”.
The MGB lasted from 1963 until 1980, and when it died Austin Rover didn’t bury it quite deep enough. Remarkably in 1975 British Leyland had sufficient foresight to establish a division, under the name of British Motor Heritage, to continue producing body panels and spare parts for classic British cars, and it was to them that the original tooling passed after the Abingdon, Oxfordshire factory gates closed for the last time in 1980.
Heritage bodyshells never went out of demand from MG owners whose cars had succumbed to the mighty appetite of the tinworm. The monocoque body of the MGB was riddled with built-in water traps and keeping corrosion at bay was an endless battle, so sometimes doing a hard reset and replacing the entire body was worthwhile – though expensive – if the mechanical basis of a much-loved car was otherwise fine.
And then, in the late ’80s, Austin Rover had a go at fiddling with a heritage MGB bodyshell themselves.
“The RV8 is unique, the most exclusive, luxurious and powerful production MG ever built”.
True. Just two thousand would be built, of which the majority went overseas, a lot to the lucrative Leyland obsessed Japanese market. The RV8 was expensive, too- it seems Rover thought they could basically name their price.
For their considerable outlay the RV8 buyer would get carpets you could wade through, enough leather to reskin a field of cows and sufficient wood to explain where all the Elm trees had disappeared to. This was all all just garnish and veg to accompany the meat under the bonnet, where you could find the classic Rover V8, bored out to four litres and fuel injected. It rumbled out a lazy 190bhp at 4750 rpm and 235lb-ft of torque at just 3200rpm.
“Created for connoisseurs of great British sports cars, the MG RV8 is destined to become a classic in its own lifetime”.
Yeah, the problem was that connoisseurs of the great British sports car were already amply served with the TVR S, Chimera and Griffith, all of which were equipped with a Rover V8, all of which offered a lot more than 190bhp and none of which were essentially a reinvigorated MGB. An MGB that still had drum brakes and a live axle at the rear. Plus, ironically, one of the best Great British Sports Cars was now Japanese, with the Mazda MX5 offering way more than the MGB ever did, for a very reasonable price. No end of soft-focus photos of master craftsmen going about their exacting business was ever going to fool anybody. I mean, highly polished timber and bovine tannery was never really a focal point of MG in the past, so why now?
Nowadays there are more RV8s on the road than ever before, both with cars that were re-imported back from Japan (presumably after the Japanese saw reason) and with RV8 replicas based on original MGBs.
The one thing that I think might have worked was never marketed. I always preferred the coupé GT version of the MGB, it may not have offered the romantic wind-in-the-hair experience of the roadster, but it had a separate appeal as an all-weather cruiser. Plus, it was available from the factory with a V8. I wonder what would have happened if Rover had offered an MG RV8 GT?
(All images are of original manufacturer materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of, presumably, SAIC by way of BMW. It’s highly improbable that there’ll ever be a proper MG again. I mean a proper one).

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  1. mdharrell Avatar

    “…and with RV8 replicas based on original MGBs.”
    I had no idea. This gives me hope for the success of kits designed to put rubber bumpers on the earlier chrome MGBs.

    1. Inliner Avatar

      I’m pretty sure there’s enough of both rubber (polyurethane?) bumpers and chrome bumpers, with 500,000+ produced, to go around. Kits to convert Bs into Cs, though, that’s an untapped market.

      1. Hubba Avatar

        Assuming you have the money, all you need is a an existing title and a chassis plate.

    2. Hubba Avatar

      Depending on what you want, you can do just a mechanical upgrade or styling. You can also buy a new V8-ready shell in your choice of chrome bumper, rubber bumper, or RV8.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Yup. But ditch those wheels.

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        Don’t forget to scroll down to ‘see more’.

        1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

          My phone wouldn’t let me do that.

    2. JayP Avatar

      Sweet Jesus.

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        The last one is actually a real MGR with a GT turret welded on so it is the only real one.

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