Maidstone Sports Cars built the first stunning MGB GT RV8 Coupe for a UK customer.
The RV8 panelling really suited the B GT shape and was immediately noticed by both the public and the press. It was soon featured on the front covers of all the leading MG magazines and was seen by millions of viewers when Chris Goffey chose to drive off into the sunset in that car at the end of the BBC's Top Gear programme. Following the incredible media attention even Rover studied it as a viability study and BMH produced one experimental bodyshell as a styling exercise.
The first GT RV8 Coupe we produced is still in daily use on the roads of Kent and East Sussex but now with a 4.6 litre, stage II engine producing nearly 300 BMP on its injection system. The response from MG enthusiasts has been truly amazing and from all over the world we have received enquiries on all aspects of the vehicle. We have now produced four of these vehicles, mainly for abroad and have helped with information and parts for the building of another two. A further UK version will soon hit the roads in the Bournemouth area.
Unfortunately for many people the realisation of the costs of building a bespoke hand built high performance car was off-putting to say the least, and often after explaining the costs involved the favoured reply was "Perhaps when I win the Lottery". However we still have enough takers to have at least one car in production at any one time. We are currently finishing another MG RV8 Coupe for a Portuguese gentleman. This customer had seen all the publicity and decided he would like this model. He already owned a 1978 black bumpered MGB GT which he had driven from Portugal to visit a friend in London. He visited us on the Friday, discussed his requirements, desired an estimate by Saturday, accepted and flew home on the following day leaving the vehicle in London. We recovered his MGB GT and transported it back to our workshops at Headcorn.
The vehicle was totally stripped back to a bare shell and placed on stands. The first job was to convert the car from right hand to left-hand drive. Not so easy on a late model car. All brackets were fabricated and holes cut. The steering column turret was modified, moved and aligned. We fitted a left-hand drive crossmember and rack to ensure everything was in the correct place. The next stage was to modify the engine bay for the V8 engine and the 5-speed gearbox. Using our templates, holes were marked and cut for the RV8 manifold positions in the inner wings and then reinforcement panels were fabricated and welded into position. The radiator support brackets were removed. The oil filter bracket was fabricated and fitted into position. The radiator slam panel was also modified so as to accept the RV8 radiator. The gearbox tunnel was cut and a raised box welded into place to allow for the larger five-speed unit. The modifications are quite straightforward for a V8 conversion on a rubber bumper car but it is a different story for a chrome bumper model.
With the basics out of the way our attention turned to the RV8 modifications. A pair of RV8 sills were fitted. These come complete with all the holes for the skirts plus the under door extensions and fit in the same way as standard MGB items. On our first conversion we had made and used our own rear wings but now we used a pair of genuine RV8 rear wings. Question was. Could we adapt these to fit a GT because they were made for a roadster? In theory it should have saved us a lot of work but I was loathe to cut up an expensive new panel. The old adage, "Measure twice, cut once," certainly came into use but still at one stage they never looked like they would fit. Welding in a new top section we made up solved the problem and everything looked good. Standard RV8 rear wheel arches were aligned and spot-welded in. These are wider and a different shape from 'B' ones and are relatively easy to fit.
The standard RV8 front wings were modified to fit the GT around the windscreen pillars. Other mounting points are the same as the standard MGB. A fabricated towing eye designed to hang down lower than the new front bumper was installed. We also fitted our own rear floor strengtheners which join the central crossmember to the spring hangers. Our anti-tramp bar mounts were then welded to these new chassis sections for added security. This whole process stiffens up the shell and stops the spring hangers from being ripped out by the large amounts of horsepower. It is important at this stage to weld up all the unnecessary holes and fit any additional brackets before any painting is undertaken.
An RV8 bonnet was louvered to help with ventilation of the engine bay. A full panel "fit up" to ensure everything aligned correctly was undertaken, and this included the bumpers, skirts, nose panel and headlight surrounds. When we were satisfied everything was removed and the body could be prepared for painting. The owner insisted on retaining the original black colour and this was duly applied in two-pack paint and cured in a low bake oven. The car was then lacquered as we find this leads to less visible scratches' when polishing. The shell now looked magnificent and the bumpers, skirts etc. could be brought out of store and the build-up begin. The front suspension was a simple straightforward installation as we used the RV8 front suspension assembly as supplied for a LHD rubber bumpered car. A problem was caused by the studs (which did not match the pattern of the ones on the rear RV8 axle we were using) but all problems can be solved and we managed to obtain correct front hubs with matching stud threads.
The rear end used new uprated leaf springs with anti-tramp bars and Koni shock absorbers with polyurethane bushes. Twin handbrake cables were adapted to run onto the MGB handbrake.
New brake lines were fabricated along with twin fuel lines for the injection system. The fuel pump and filter were mounted, as was the RV8 fuel tank with its integral swirl pot and return feed.
We originally quoted for a 3.9 litre stage II V8 and then a 4.6 litre stage IIV8, our customer eventually settled for the in between 4.2 litre V8. This engine was fully balanced and lightened using a RC87 camshaft and a super chip. We carefully assembled this unit paying a lot of attention to the camshaft pre-load. We used a Range Rover front cover and a RV8 water pump.
Our customer had another surprise for us, he wanted air conditioning! Therefore we had to plan the pulley arrangements to facilitate this requirement. We purchased one of the RV8 air conditioning unused systems. However, these are only about 75% complete and with some vital parts missing and not available. Please note the RV8 system was made for a RHD car and we were fitting this into a converted LHD model. We love a good problem! After much thought and labour we managed to re-route, change ducts and make up new sets of hoses, modify this and that and get it all in and working. We made a suitable wiring loom and relay system and plumbed it in. It took many hours to sort out but our customer was insistent and considering the climate of the country where the car was to be used, it was a good idea, especially for a black car.
We opted for a RB340 5 Speed gearbox, this being the latest development on the Rover LT 77 which now has synchro mesh on reverse and a normal straight 'H' change pattern. It is also supposedly a lot stronger and more reliable than the LT 77 box. Fortunately it has the same mounting, in the same place with the same fixings. The clutch hydraulics are a mixture of MGB master cylinder and SDI slave cylinder operating an uprated clutch all linked with braided stainless flexibles, and giving a surprising light pedal.
Fitting the complete engine and gearbox is quite straightforward but one needs to tilt the engine slightly away from the steering column, but with stainless RV8 manifolds clearance is not really a problem. The RV8 manifolds also solve that old V8 problem of cooked starter motors. We always use stainless steel Allen bolts to mount these manifolds. Our own heater system was installed using a VW item. The ignition system required many items to be re-routed because of the LHD. We also used an old 3.5 litre injection throttle bracket so the throttle cable could be routed correctly. The injection loom and ECU were all neatly tucked up under the bulkhead and secured. With the under bonnet situation looking more or less complete our attention turned to the interior. Our brief was to fit a walnut dash, but not a stick-on one, so we commissioned a LHD walnut dashboard to be made to accept Magnolia 80mm dials and had everything leather edged to match the biscuit trim. The dash top was also trimmed in leather. The headlining was made of matching biscuit material, as were the sunvisors. A custom made wool carpet set, in matching biscuit, was specially made for the car and fitted. The interior effect was very upmarket.
The four-speaker system, CD Auto changer control cables and roof aerial were all laid before final trimming took place. The complexity of the enormous amount of wiring could have easily caused problems so all systems were tested before the dash and console were installed. The heater controls having been fitted in the console. Extra trim work was required to hide the air conditioning box which was now sited in the passenger footwell. It all looked very neat and luxurious and noticeably different from your standard MGB. We had already dispensed with the GT rear seat and fitted our 'trade mark' rear shelf and flap all nicely trimmed in wool carpet. A pair of leather biscuit seats and headrests were fitted along with a RV8 steering wheel and walnut gearstick knob. The combined effect is stunning; the magnolia dials being highlighted by the walnut dash and leather. The mixture of old and new styles has worked really well. The next step was to fit a central locking and remote alarm system. This transforms the convenience factor and surprises many people when you can walk away from your vehicle, press the key fob and the car is locked, alarmed and immobilized in one hit. At this stage all the glass was 'blacked out' using a special film that adheres to the glass. It does have a safety value because if the glass gets broken it stays in one piece and does not shatter everywhere. However the combination of black paint and blacked out windows made the car look like a Mafia staff car!
The wheel and tyre combination on a vehicle like this is critical to the final look and again we chose a mixture of old and new. To create the desired effect our customer had a preference for a Minilite style alloy so the final choice was a Compomotive design in 15X7 inch with a 225/60 X 15 tyre. Classical and traditional yet still in keeping with the modern look of the vehicle.
The speedometer had to be re-calibrated to match the new wheel sizes and the five-speed gearbox. The calibration involves rotating the rear wheel 10 times and counting the turns on the inner speedo cable. The rev counter had already been calibrated for an eight cylinder engine. Nearing completion it was time to get the air conditioning "Leak" tested and
recharged. This work was successfully carried out by a local air conditioning specialist. It felt very strange to have cold air wafting around the cabin. We are all well aware of the large amount of heat that is generated by a large capacity V8 engine.
Final adjustments took place, emissions were set, headlamps aligned, cowls refitted, fluids topped up and we were ready for road testing. Performance is amazing and if you want to, you can spin the wheels in any of the first four gears. You could get into serious trouble in this car, yet you can still poodle around gently using the masses of torque to make the car feel like an automatic and gear change irrelevant. Or just floor the pedal and really make it bark as you snake up the road searching for traction. The electronic fuel injection has a smooth and clean delivery of power, unlike the big Webber or Holley which have all the sophistication of a bucket and funnel. The GT RV8,S tractability and quite effortless performance is a joy and I can imagine travelling at high speed across Europe in this car, a true trans-continental express.