By on September 16, 2020

Today’s Rare Ride combines a traditional roadster design from the Sixties with updates from the Nineties, and uses an engine from somewhere in between.

Let’s learn more about a hodgepodge which is the very limited production MG RV8.

To understand today’s subject, we’ll take a quick stroll back to 1962. Said year saw the introduction of a new roadster from BMC, the MGB. Unlike older body-on-frame sports cars, the MGB used a modern monocoque structure, and filled it with older components from 1950s MG cars. The new design was just the thing to sate the public’s desire for a lightweight, affordable roadster. MGB was almost instantly successful domestically, and crucially for BMC’s cash flow, sold well in the United States.

The MGB was updated slowly over the years, and a GT hatchback version was added. For a short while there was also an MGC that featured an inline-six engine. BMC became British Leyland, time marched on, and by the late Seventies the MGB was sold beside a more modern offering from Triumph, the TR7. Management felt the MG was eating up TR7 sales, so they cancelled it after 1980. The reality was the classic British two-seat roadster market had dried up at that point, and it made little difference to TR7 sales. Things were quiet the rest of the decade, until a little offering from Japan came along in 1989: the Mazda Miata.

Suddenly two-seat roadsters were cool again, and Rover wanted a piece of the action. There wasn’t much money to develop anything new, so the brass turned to British Motor Heritage. The subsidiary was created in 1975 to supply parts for classic British cars, but branched out to body shells in 1988 with replacement MGBs. MG Midget bodies were added to the production line in 1991. BMH could theoretically start small production of updated MGB bodies in short order, and on the cheap.

But some changes were in order to make the ancient MGB Nineties-worthy. A light suspension rework occurred, but left the basics (including the leaf springs) intact. Front brakes were discs as in all previous MGBs, though drums remained at the rear. Underneath, a limited-slip differential appeared. The body shell was updated to look more modern, but retained the hood and doors of the original MGB. Power arrived via the 3.9-liter Rover V8 as seen in the Range Rover. MG was familiar with such an engine placement, and had done a similar one before: They used the 3.5-liter Rover V8 in the MGB GT V8 of 1973. The 3.9 in early Nineties guise made 190 horsepower, and pushed the RV8 to 60 in 5.9 seconds.

The production of the newly created RV8 was piecemeal. BMH made the body shells, and sent them to the Rover plant at Cowley (it makes Minis now). Cowley applied the paint, then the bodies went to Longbridge (1905-2016) for assembly. Built on their own line and largely by hand, the RV8 featured real wood trim, luxurious Connolly hides, and many ruched details.

As a result, the old-new car was expensive, felt old fashioned, and was not popular with reviewers or consumers when it went on sale in 1992. Still intent on competition with the Miata, Rover exported the majority of the 1,983 RV8s to Japan. Only 330 of them were reserved for UK sale. The RV8 was churned out slowly until 1995, at which point the 32-year-old design was finally retired.

Today’s 1994 example is at auction right now in England. In a nice metallic green with tan hides, the price is £3,000 as of writing, and its reserve is not yet met.

[Images: seller]

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33 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1994 MG RV8 – Small Roadster, Big Engine...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    Slight tangent- The story of the Miata convertible roof is an amusing anecdote to both the ingenuity of British motorcar engineering as well as the high quality of Japanese mass production.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    In Michigan, these rusted out so that they are a V7 or less.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Nice Reatta.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    It’s absolutely criminal what Rover did to the styling, especially the 1978 Chevy Monte Carlo-esqe character lines on the front fenders and rear quarters.

    Also, the wood and ruched leather just doesn’t square with the crank-up windows.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Love the color combination – that shade of green is gorgeous, and you can’t go wrong putting that over a tan interior.

    I was thinking this would be a fun car for five grand or so, reliability issues notwithstanding, but apparently the bid is now up around ten grand.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      British Racing Green.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I always thought BRG was a brighter shade, and usually it’s non metallic. This strikes me more as a “forest green.” But I suppose I’m quibbling. It’s a lovely color no matter what its’ name is.

        • 0 avatar

          Agree this is not BRG. More of Nineties Grand Cherokee ash/forest green.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            It may not be BRG.

            I had a used TR7 in that color with big white racing stripes over the driver’s side.

            Beautiful color. Loved the color. My wife loved scooting around in it.

            But we had to get rid of it because like many cars of the seventies it required a lot more TLC than we could give it.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            I think of BRG as a darker green as well, but this doesn’t look too bad, especially with that nice interior.

            I thought at first that the color might have been too “lime-ish,” except my original expression might have had an offensive connotation when referring to the citizens of the country of this vehicle’s origin.

            It is a shame that the British auto industry essentially was suffocated, because when the Prince of Darkness wasn’t rearing it’s head, a lot of the metal they moved was nice indeed.

            I wonder if something like this exists today in a kit car which could take a Honda K24 or a Toyota four-banger, say? Might stand out a bit from the usual ’65 Mustangs and Tri-Five Chevvies at the Cars & Coffee.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          BRG, hunter green, forest green, I think they’re all pretty close. I’d have to look at a chart because I don’t remember which shades are officially darkest and lightest.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            Found it, in the omniscient wiki, RGB hex codes for each:

            Forest Green 228B22
            Hunter Green 355E3B
            BRG 004225

            FWIW, that’s objectively from lightest to darkest. Forest is also “greener,” not just a lighter shade. Hunter also has a slightly brownish hue.

            Something else to keep in mind with these hex codes and the color palette, the RGB in subtractive color theory is a bit of a misnomer. It’s better to think back to additive color theory, which uses the primary colors red/yellow/blue (mixing paints at home depot or mixing paints in third grade art class, i.e. yellow + blue = green) and then think of the red/green/blue in subtractive color theory as more like the secondary colors, orange/green/purple (in other words, orange + green = yellow, green + purple = blue, and so on).

            Dark green is still my favorite car color and British Racing Green is one of my particularly favourite shades of dark green as a car colour.

            ;)

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        As others have posted, BRG was never metallic. For those of you who belong to Facebook, the current group photo for ‘Sunbeam Tiger’is the BRG Sunbeam Tiger IA that used to belong to CBS commentator Andy Rooney that was restored in the last several years.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Yeah, that color combination makes this look like a mini Jag, in the best way possible.

      Mercedes used a similar color in the early 2000s – kind of a burnt green/brown combination. Absolutely stunning. I looked at a GL in that color and made the trip to see it just to see what it looked like in person. Much better than the pictures, and I would guess the same is true with this MG.

      I’m usually color agnostic, but certain tones just work for me. This is one of those.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Interesting, my first thought was ‘why didn’t they paint it BRG ?’ .

    This metallic greenisn’t BRG .

    I wonder how good a car it is, does it handle well ? .

    I had a 1967 MGB GT and even after much work I was able to over drive the suspension with the 1800C.C. stock (rebuilt) engine pretty easily ~ at speeds over 85 MPH I didn’t feel safe in the twisty bits where proper British Sports Cars are supposed to shine the most .

    FWIW, they didn’t up grade the front brakes to disc, all MGB’s had front disc brakes .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar

      I fix.

      Always a bit out of my depth with old BMC things.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Austin then BMC then British Leyland was always like GM ~ they used basic parts and you could mix and match them like crazy once you figured out what fit what .

        Simply and decently engineered almost _zero_ quality control in the manufacturing is what killed them .

        Once you went through your new BMC product and fixed all the myriad things wrong they were reliable and cheap to operate and fun to drive but no one wanted to do all that to a new car .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    TR4

    “Front brakes were updated to discs”

    In fact, the MGB had front discs from the beginning in 1962. As did its predecessor the MGA since 1959.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    The MGB was a clean, classic design that looks as good today as it did in the ’60s. This thing is an example of what happens when you try to “improve” on perfection.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Thank posting for this Corey. Shame they were only RHD.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m guessing there was no way that ancient platform would pass crash regs for sale in 1992. And with no airbag, their time would’ve been very limited even if they had made it crash worthy.

      • 0 avatar
        Pig_Iron

        Excellent point. When my kids and their cousins rode in the back of my brother’s old Mustang, they said “Hey, where’s the seat belts?”. It only had laps in the front.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Good for them!

          I was with my brother and SIL and their two kids at dinner not too long ago, and as we were leaving the restaurant, my nephew asked to take one of the keys to their Odyssey and go wait in the van while my brother paid the bill, and my niece and SIL stopped in the restroom. I walked out to the van, and my nephew was tapping on his tablet, and buckled in. When I said that the car’s not moving, he stopped me and said that “I don’t even sit like this without my seat belt on,” and at nine years old, he’d been doing that ever since he could recall!

          I wonder if any suppliers have come out with inertia-reel seat belts with shoulder harnesses for the back seat of ’60s Mustangs? Lord knows they’ve got everything else to build brand-new cars out of whole cloth, and with a lot of FoMoCo support and licensing!

  • avatar
    Tstag

    This car was designed to warm up the market for the arrival of the mid engined MG F. Apparently when BMW bought Rover they took one look at the MG F and panicked when they realised that it could disrupt BMW Z3 sales. They were right in the UK the MG F would outsell every rival on the market including the popular Miata. Indeed they were so concerned they refused to let the MG go on sale stateside. Which is a shame as it was a cracking car!

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Eligible for import to USA.

  • avatar
    Yankee

    I had both cars mentioned. In my younger days, I had a 1977 MGB, 4-speed, British racing green. Looked great sitting still, which is what it did best. Probably the worst car I ever owned. It was poorly built and painfully slow. My girlfriend at the time had a stick shift 3-cylinder Geo Metro and I couldn’t keep up with her on the climb through the Blue Ridge Mountains despite my dual carbs and straight exhaust. Fast forward many years later and I owned a Miata for 5 years which was one of the best cars I ever had. The Japanese are masters at reverse engineering. They did exactly what they did with American VCRs a decade before: took an existing concept, analyzed how they could make it better, simpler, cheaper, and more reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Dusted by a Metro…ouch.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Which of the two would be easier to push?

        Even a TR7 when new and running properly (rare) was a fun car to drive. The TR8 I suppose would be even better.

        But the quality control would probably be best called uncontrolled.

        As @Nate posted if you were to buy one, and went through it with a fine tooth comb to correct all the factory faults you could have a fun weekend runabout. But few would do that and in time they were often ‘cheap’ first cars for students who would run them into the ground or projects that never got completed.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          @Yankee ;

          Well yes, the ’77 had the smog choked engine, the cam timing was retarted by 4 degrees from 1974 on wards, a fairly simple task to remove the timing chest and replace the (worthless and sort lived) single row timing chain and gears with the DuPlex gears & chain from a pre smog era one cheap parts and boy howdy did it wake them up .

          MGB’s were never supposed to be fast, they were _SPORTS_CARS_ ~ a thing few Americans under stand nor enjoy .

          No way even a bone stock ’77 would get dusted by a Metro unless it wasn’t properly tuned .

          I agree they’re better looking than going fast cars but I was often told my ’67 MBG GT was “! really fast !” when I know is was a plodder, I just like driving slow cars quickly .

          The primary fault with older British cars (Motos & trucks too dammit) was lack of concern by management of any initial build quality .

          Similar to GM’s Delphi debacle recently but far more pervasive .

          Even if you’re building out of date technology there’s never any excuse for shoddy works .

          -Nate

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