The MG Car Club Sydney MG RV8 Register
Alan Heritage is the MG Car Club Sydney’s RV8 Registrar.
Telephone: 0418 459 496 (M)
Email: [email protected]
The MG RV8
The story of the RV8 starts with the introduction of the Heritage MGB bodyshell at the British Motor Heritage’s (BMH) facility at Faringdon.
During a visit to the then new facility in 1988, several UK MG Car Club V8 Register members asked about the possibility of a V8 roadster body shell being made available to cater for the growing number of MGB roadsters being converted to V8 power.
Previously, BMH management had rejected the idea, maintaining that the body shells were only to provide a ‘service replacement’ for the owners of existing rusty MGBs. However on this occasion, it was admitted that consideration was being given to producing a V8 body shell, even though this specification had never been developed at Abingdon.
Much work was carried out in examining the feasibility of producing a brand-new 1970s style roadster. Two prototypes were built using original MGB roadster body shells. The first was fitted with a fuel injected 3.5 litre Rover V8 engine from the Land Rover factory at Solihull and was based on a US spec roadster. This car was eventually used as a basis for a styling model and was in a “teaser” brochure issued in advance of the RV8 launch. The second prototype was based on a brand-new rubber bumper MGB roadster body shell. This car was fitted with a 3.9 litre Rover V8 engine and significantly uprated suspension – a precursor of the set up which would ultimately emerge in the RV8.
After much soul-searching, BMH chairman Les Wharton decided that the potential pitfalls and sheer volume of work required to bring the car to production were too great to justify and that BMH’s efforts would be better applied to their core business of servicing the classic car market, leaving actual car manufacture to Rover. However, the groundwork had already been done, so that when the project was taken on by Rover the prospects of it reaching production were virtually assured- with an active role retained for BMH in the production of the body shell.
Once BMH had concluded that the production of a complete car was outside their sphere of operations, the idea was taken up by the newly formed Rover Special Products (RSP) team. RSP began researching the project in April 1991, starting with a survey of market groups which they believed would be most likely to respond to the car. The survey revealed that the most probable potential customers were those who were affluent, middle aged, and likely to recall with nostalgia the era of open sports cars, even though they may not have been customers themselves.
The first car that could properly be described as an RV8 development car was built in the Autumn of 1991 and was little more than a kit of parts assembled in a Heritage MGB body shell. It had a Land Rover fuel-injected V8 installed, coupled to the familiar Rover 77mm in-line gearbox. At no stage was any serious consideration given to any other power plant, not only had the Rover V8 been proved to work well in the MGB body, but it was also perceived as having the right credentials for an expensive sports car and, further more it would be easier to certify for production than an engine which had not previously been used in the MGB.
The RV8 was designed from the outset to take advantage of as much existing MGB hardware as possible, yet the finished product was to contain only 5% original components. The vast majority of parts, including engine, drive train, electrical system, body and trim, are all either totally new or adapted from other Rover products. Many of the parts which had been used in the MBG were no longer in production, or were only available in reconditioned form, or were simply deemed unsuitable for a 1990s car.
The suspension is a case in point, since the original MGB V8 used the already outdated Armstrong lever arm dampers to provide the upper wishbone at the front, with very stiff multiple-leaf cart springs fitted at the rear. The RV8’s redesigned suspension comprises a modified MGB front cross member with a “coil-over shock” spring setup with modern Koni telescopic dampers, whilst the rear suspension uses double taper springs and appropriate fore/aft restraints fixed to massive brackets at the front leaf-spring mounting to prevent the axle tramp which could afflict the MGB GT V8 during hard acceleration.
Under the bonnet is Land Rover’s 3.9 litre fuel injected version of the venerable alloy V8. The two stainless steel exhaust manifolds disappear out of the engine bay via large reinforced hole in the inner mudguard panels, leading into twin catalytic converter tucked tightly way on each side of the transmission.
Aside from the choice of ‘solid’ or ‘pearlescent’ paint finish, the only other factory fitted option available at the launch was a compact disc player with auto-change unit, mounted in the boot.
It was always planned to only keep the RV8 in production for approximately two years and to limit production numbers to around 2,000 thus guaranteeing exclusivity.
Although the RV8 was not shown to the public until the October 1992 Birmingham Motor Show, the issue of ‘teaser’ photos and of an advance brochure the previous June had already gained it widespread attention. The first non-company people actually to see the car were a group of about 20 representatives of Britain’s two main MG Car Clubs and the leading UK and USA based MG enthusiast publications. The viewing took place on Wednesday, September the 16th, 1992, little more than a month before the launch.
The response to the RV8 by the motoring press, who are inevitably a much more hardened and objective bunch of people than the majority of single marque enthusiasts, was perhaps predictable. Rover had made a point of emphasising that the new car was not intended to compete for sales with other cars and not surprisingly the press latched onto that argument and turned it on its head. Its obvious rival was the TVR Chimaera, similar to the RV8 in terms of size, engine (Rover V8) and price, but featuring a reinforced plastic body and a far more sophisticated suspension.
Unaffected by the Octagonal bias of the average MG enthusiast, magazines such as Autocar & Motor and Performance Car were in two minds about the new MG. They were happy enough with its performance and thought it managed effectively to overcome its comparatively primitive suspension; both however concluded that for those not utterly smitten with the MG name, the TVR was the more rational purchase.
Following its launch in Japan, at the October 1993 Tokyo Motor Show, Rover’s Japanese subsidiary received around 1,300 serious enquiries for the car. The changes needed were minimal; both the Land Rover Discovery and the Range Rover were already being sold in Japan, making any alterations to (for example) vehicle emissions comparatively easy. A total of 1,583 cars were ultimately exported to Japan.
Due to economic and social factors, Japanese owners are now sending their “ageing” cars to auction from which they are generally exported to the UK or Australia. In recent years, owners of luxury or high performance vehicles like the RV8 have had little chance of enjoying their capabilities on Japanese roads and these are most often selected for export.
Early depreciation is intense and this type of car commonly loses as much as 40% of the original value within the first three years. In Japan there is a stigma to using or acquiring anything used. The vast majority of cars are still acquired as new vehicles from a dealer. Private car sales are technically non existent as all cars must either be sold to a dealer or pass through an auction.
Also the cost of owning a car in Japan is high. Typical costs include:
- Annual Road Tax: 70,000 JPY
- Shaken Renewal (Rego Inspection): 120,000 JPY at 3 year, 5 year, 7 year, 9 year intervals etc (not including essential repairs or replacement items necessary to pass the test.)
- Parking: 50,000 JPY monthly
- Insurance: 10,000 JPY annually
- General Maintenance & Repairs: are never undertaken by the owner but by a dealer at a high price (At the time of writing 1 AUD$ = 100 JPY approx.)
The major factor behind the rapidly falling car values is the Shaken. As the Shaken cost is the same at each renewal, the aggregate cost will eventually amount to more than the value of the car itself. This explains why only an “eccentric person” (or an enthusiast) would consider keeping a car longer than seven or nine years.
It is thought approximately 200 RV8s have been imported into Australia from Japan to date
“MG V8 Twenty-One Years On… From Introduction to RV8”
By David Knowles and the MG Car Club V8 Register
FIRST PRODUCTION & PRESS CARS
|900015||K 60 MGR||British Racing Green||Dealer Demonstration Car|
|900016||K 6 MGR||Old English White||Dealer Demonstration Car|
|900017||K 14 MGR||Woodcoote Green||PressCar|
|900018||K 18 MGR||Nightfire Red||Dealer Demonstration Car|
|900019||K 16 MGR||Le Mans Green||Dealer Demonstration Car|
|900020||K 20 MGR||Le Mans Green||Dealer Demonstration Car|
|900021||K 11 MGR||Nightfire Red||Dealer Demonstration Car|
|900022||K 70 MGR||Oxford Blue||Dealer Demonstration Car|
|900025||K 17 MGR||Oxford Blue||Dealer Demonstration Car|
|900026||K 50 MGR||Le Mans Green||Dealer Demonstration Car|
|900027||K 19 MGR||Le Mans Green||Dealer Demonstration Car|
|900028||K 13 MGR||Oxford Blue||Dealer Demonstration Car|
|900029||K 12 MGR||Nightfire Red||Press Car|
|900030||K 15 MGR||White Gold||Dealer Demonstration Car|
Significant Dates Concerning the MG RV8
June 1991: Rover grants approval for RV8 project to proceed.
January 1992: First MG RV8 prototype is presented to Rover Dealers.
June 1992: First Brochures of MG RV8 are released.
20th October 1992: MG RV8 unveiled to Rover Chairman John Towers at Press Preview of the Birmingham Motor Show.
31st March 1993: First MG RV8 completed at Cowley Chassis No 251 Metallic BRG VIN SARRAWBMBMG000251 destined for the British Motor Heritage Museum.
October 1993: MG RV8 makes its Japanese debut at Tokyo Motor Show, Rover swamped with orders.
13th January 1994: First Batch of RV8’s Leave England bound for Japan.
22nd November 1995: Last MG RV8 Chassis No. SARRAWBMBMG002233, Woodcote Green leaves England bound for Japan with plague proclaiming the Chassis No. 002203 which will no doubt trip up historians in the future.