MGB GT V8 in the driving report: Small car, big engine

Reinhard Schmid
MGB GT V8 in the driving report
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K leine Cars with oversized engines have always had one special charm. And towards the end of the 1960s, when it was becoming increasingly difficult for mediocre sports cars to stand out from the increasingly powerful automotive crowd, many car manufacturers planted fat engines in comparatively dainty cars.

Hunger for more power and more engine

Sports cars like AC Cobra and Sunbeam Tiger were only the forerunners of a trend that even seduced Mercedes-Benz into the mighty 6.3 -Liter eight-cylinder in the W 108 and to experiment with the 600 engine in the pagoda. The Mercedes Roadster with a six-liter V8 got stuck in the prototype stage.

Other car manufacturers were more daring, especially in England. After all, the need for action was particularly great there. The small sports cars with their original engines fell behind in the important export markets.

In addition, the jump into a higher price class also promised substantial profits. The Triumph GT6 and the MGC were the first attempts, but because of a lack of fine-tuning, they were flops. The MGC with the overweight Austin straight-six in the bow disappeared in 1969 after only two full years of production and almost 9,000 copies. Triumph lasted longer, the GT6 had been built around 40,000 times by 1973.

Mismanagement of the British automotive industry

The idea of ​​a more motorized MGB was of course not yet completely ticked off. The history of the MGB GT V8 is also the history of the British automotive industry in the 60s and 70s, when attempts were made to keep up with the continental and growing Japanese competition with new collaborations and company mergers.

In 1968 the Leyland family was thrown together. The new large corporation was called British Leyland Motor Corporation. It emerged from the Leyland Group, which had swallowed Standard Triumph in 1961 and Rover in 1967 and BMC plus Jaguar. That the colossus didn't work and was nationalized by the Labor government in 1975 is another story.

Two V8 engines were standing for election

After all, the mega merger offered MG the chance to choose a new engine for the planned super MGB. There was a choice of two eight-cylinders: TheRover V8 and the Triumph Stag engine. The reasons why the top machine guns chose the rover drive are obscure. But no doubt it was a wise choice.

Because while the Stag engine, composed of two Triumph four-cylinders, attracted attention due to its technical inadequacies, the light-alloy eight-cylinder bought from Buick proved to be a direct hit. It not only fueled cars as diverse as the Range Rover or the Morgan Plus 8, but also impressed with its durability, low thirst and good power delivery.

The decision to install the eight-cylinder only in the coupé also seemed wise. After all, a large part of the production was to be sold on the US market, and there new safety laws threatened to put an end to the open automobile. At MG 1972, no one could have foreseen that everything would ultimately turn out differently.

Successful operation - the roadster becomes a fastback

Coupés are often more elegant than the identical open-top Versions, this wisdom also applies to the MGB. The MGB GT made its debut five years after the MGB Roadster, and not only auto motor und sport tester Manfred Jantke took a liking to the new Coupé: 'The conversion of the classic MGB Roadster into a Fastback Coupé is both formal and practical Visible well done ', he noted in a first test in issue 24 from 1967. He not only praised the better clarity of the closed MGB GT, but also the large trunk, which was very easily accessible through the tailgate, which was still quite innovative at the time. Finally, he did not forget to mention that this retrospectively roofed car looked like it was made from one piece.

The balance of the proportions and the harmonious overall picture were no accident. Although the first drafts for an MGB Coupé were made in Abingdon, the Pininfarina company took care of the stylistic precision work and the construction of the first prototypes. With the MGB GT, the grand master from Turin did not limit himself to welding a roof structure. A taller windshield and the flat, tapering fastback rear end gave rise to a completely new car that was soon given a fitting name: Poor Man's Aston Martin.

Driving MGB G was an expensive pleasure

Although the MGB GT was significantly cheaper than an Aston Martin, you couldn't be too poor: In Germany, a GT cost at the Introduction of nearly 15,000 marks, almost 5,000 marks - or the equivalent of a new VW Beetle - more than an equally powerful Fiat 124 Coupé. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder known from the roadster, with which MGB pilots found it extremely difficult even against a 1300 Alfa, worked under the gently curved hood.

Not only the American MG buyers demanded more power. It came at the same timewith the coupé in the form of the cast-iron six-cylinder from the Austin-Healey, which made 145 hp but did not fit particularly well into the petite MGB. The front axle had to be redesigned and the bonnet got an ugly hump - the result was anything but convincing. The heavy engine in the bow made for a very inharmonious driving behavior, so that the MGC was not a great success.

After the MGC flop, the British try a light V8

The light eight-cylinder fit much better in the small MG. The original front axle construction could be retained, and the hood closed without a hump over the 3.5-liter engine. However, the two SU carburettors had to move to the bulkhead of the MGB GT V8. They suck their air through two snorkels with integrated air filters. At first glance, the power output seems to be modest. Only 137 hp from 3,528 cubic centimeters are hardly a record. Especially considering the fact that the same engine in the Rover SD1 or Morgan Plus 8 made around 20 hp more.

Because, in contrast to other manufacturers, MG assembled the V8 in the Range Rover version with lower compression. Conspiracy theorists like to argue that the Leyland superiors ordered this power reduction so that the class difference between the MGB GT V8 and the more expensive Triumph Stag would be preserved.

An MG dealer was even faster - and presented the first MGB with V8

The braked foam of the rover engine in the MGB GT seems even more incomprehensible when you know that almost one Year before the appearance of the MGB GT V8, the car dealer Ken Costello from Kent presented its own version of the MGB with an eight-cylinder engine. He transplanted the 157 hp version of the Rover V8 into the MGB GT and Roadster, which only differed from the production version in terms of aluminum wheels and a thick hump on the bonnet. After all, Costello was able to sell around 200 V8s at prices that were just above those of the later factory V8.

Even though the first prototypes of the MGB GT V8 were built in 1972, it took until April 1973 for series production to start in Abingdon. At least MG no longer had to worry about competition from the Costello V8: the engine deliveries from Rover to Costello were canceled without further ado.

We don't know if there was actually a Leyland bosses conspiracy. But in any case, the slightly tamed version of the V8 in the MGB has its advantages. Anyone expecting a wildly tearing, loud roaring monster engine in the elegant GT will be disappointed. A gentle, yet emphatic push shows that the GT V8 is not a pocket-sized muscle car, even if the performance is excellent.

The MGB GT V8 runs 199 km /h

The British trade journal Autocar measured a top speed of 199 for the MGB GT V8 in 1973km /h and an acceleration from 0 to 60 miles (96 km /h) in 8.6 seconds. So you were undoubtedly one of the faster. But the elasticity values ​​were even more impressive: the V8 only needed 6.6 seconds from 30 to 50 miles (48 to 81 km /h) in fourth gear.

That is still the main discipline of the MGB GT V8 today. If you depress the accelerator pedal in fourth at city speed, the small coupe pushes forward so vehemently that most new cars, on the other hand, look bad. The aluminum eight-cylinder is not even particularly loud. Because the MG is not a riot maker either. Well-muffled, but very well-sounding eight-cylinder rumble emanates from the stainless steel exhaust system, and even at speeds above 4,000 it never gets unduly loud.

Even long-legged people can sit comfortably in the MGB GT V8

In the interior, only the small sports steering wheel reminds you that this MG has been on the elegantly curved back for 30 years. After all, it also enables long-legged people to sit in a dresser sitting position on the sweaty fabric seats. The folding roof - at that time a popular retrofit option for the MGB GT V8 - provides little relief. Nevertheless, the pleasure prevails. The gearshift works with short, crisp paths, the overdrive engages cleanly, and the suspension is firm, but never uncomfortably hard.

How the chassis, brakes and steering feel when you let go of 137 hp and 258 Newton meters on the - also optional - spoked wheels on the Salisbury rear axle is not something you really want to try out. The MGB GT V8 even encourages you to do this Not. It's not a corner heater, but a well-kept touring sports car - a real Gran Turismo that can not only transport two passengers, but also carry plenty of luggage under its tailgate.

At the wrong time in the wrong place

Given its qualities, it is hard to imagine that the MGB GT V8 was a flop. But it came exactly with the oil crisis, which made its market opportunities in Europe dwindle. And since Rover did not offer a variant that was exhaust-gas cleaned according to US law, MG completely dispensed with an export version. In the first year of production it still sold quite well in Great Britain, then the conversion to a rubber boat came, which finally crashed it. In 1976 a total of 176 GT V8s were built.

However, it was not MG's last attempt to gain a foothold in a higher class. The 1994 MG RV8 was still a bit of a half-hearted approach. In 2001, the MG ZT 260 followed with a Ford eight-cylinder. But this project did not work out either. In 2005 MG had to file for bankruptcy.


  • 1962: The MGB Mk I replaces the A
  • 1965: Production of the GT begins .
  • 1967: MGB GT and Roadster are heavily revised, at the same time the MGC appears with the Austin six-cylinder, which is also available as a GT.
  • 1969: Production of theMGC is discontinued due to lack of demand, only just under 10,000 copies are built (including GT).
  • 1972: First prototypes of the eight-cylinder MGB are built.
  • 1973: The MGB GT V8 with The eight-cylinder Rover is presented, and production starts at the same time.
  • 1974: From September onwards, all MGB will receive the plastic impact surfaces and a higher chassis.
  • 1976: The last copies are built, a total of 2,591 GT V8s, of which only seven are left-hand drive. 1,856 GT V8s are chrome models, 735 rubber boats
  • 1980: Production of the MGB is discontinued, roadster and coupé are phased out at the same time.
  • 1993: MG Rover builds the MG RV8 by hand as a small-series sports car with a four-liter engine, 2,300 cars will be assembled by 1996.


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