15th June 2021

MG RV8, the 90s facelifted MGBotox

The MG badge had survived through the 90s adorning go-faster family fare, but the public wanted more – it wanted a soft top. MG had this covered in the form of MGF development, but the arrival of the Mazda MX5 intensified the clamour for a return to the glory days of the B and Midget. British Motor Heritage had recently announced the remanufacture of new MGB bodyshells and so the company put two and two together and came up with 8.  

The new(ish) RV8 model was unveiled at the British International Motor Show in October ’92, but it was at the Tokyo event where it was met most positively. Fuelled by a love of British eccentricity, heritage and design, around 1500 of the 1983 production run, which ended in ’95, ended up in Japan.

MG was keen to utilise parts already at its disposal, which is good news for fans of V8s. As its name would suggest, the RV8 received a fuel injected 3.9-litre lump that produced 185bhp: enough to thrust the convertible to 60mph in around 6 seconds, aided by a limited-slip diff. The engine was mated to a five-speed gearbox (an LT77S in early cars and the R380 in later) that fed power to, of course, the rear wheels.

Although the basic MGB shell was used, it was effectively puffed out to accommodate a wider track and larger wheels. It retained the same leaf-sprung rear suspension setup as a B, plus drum brakes at the rear. It also utilised the same, lightly adapted front crossmember and double wishbone front suspension as the early car, although archaic kingpins were replaced by fancy new balljoints. Although following the same basic principles as the MGB, the new car’s running gear was uprated to help cope with the additional power and weight. Cutting edge it was not, but the RV8 was about revelling in British heritage, right down to the fitment of non-power-assisted steering.

Updated bumpers and lights gave the car a fresher look along with alloy wheels, but it was still unmistakably an MGB tribute (which was kind of the point). The headlight lenses are actually shared with a 911, although the rears are bespoke and are expensive to replace, so aim to crash through the hedge forwards rather than backwards.

The hand-built cars were not short of leather. The interiors were lavishly adorned with hide and veneer to enhance the feeling of rolling back the years. If you like ruching you’ll love the RV8.

The MGF arrived in ’95 and took the fight more directly to the MX5, ironically giving Japan greater competition than the car it so readily took to its hearts.

Fitting MGB swansong or needless 90s gaffe, what’s your take on RV8?

I looked at several MG RV8s before buying my Nightfire red UK spec (see my blog at www.mgrv8.info) and have found a lot in this article to be absolutely spot on. One additional thought is that the Japanese spec cars I saw tended to have lower mileage than the UK spec cars. I was just a little confused why they appeared to be a lot more "worn". My advice is to double-check the mileage when they returned to the UK as many had their kmh speedometer replaced with a new mph speedo!

Steve, 14/04/2023