Unique of the Week: MGB GT V8

Classic Cars / Comments

This is what happens one someone stuffs a V8 into the engine bay of an old MGB GT. Probably not the safest thing out there but certainly one of the most fun to drive.

Picture the following: stuffing a big V8 into the engine bay of a Mazda Miata. It's been done countless times before as the car has modern construction and safety features. In other words, it can handle the extra power without potentially killing its occupants. But what if that V8 was put into an old MGB GT? With its sketchy reliability and even more questionable safety features (or lack thereof), the MGB GT had just that: a V8 engine. Most know the classic MGB as a roadster but the hardtop GT version was also a popular road racer.

MG began offering the GT V8 model in 1973. It was powered by a Rover 3.5-liter V8 and was actually the lightest mass-produced V8 in the world at the time, weighing just 318 lbs. It produced around 137 horsepower and 193 pound-feet of torque. Going from 0-60 mph in about eight seconds, it had a top speed of 125 mph. Those numbers may not sound like much, but anyone who's ever driven in an MGB will know otherwise. Interestingly, the additional power and torque coming from the V8 didn't require MG to do significant chassis changes. Handling remained excellent as well.

But just for comparison, the standard MGB roadster and GT at the time came with a 1.8-liter inline-four, so the GT V8 was another beast entirely. The automotive press and enthusiasts, as you would expect, absolutely loved the car. So you'd think it'd be a no-brainer then to export it to the US. This didn't happen for a few reasons. One was that MG would have to spend the money to develop a left-hand drive version. The second issue was those pesky new US air pollution regulations. Perhaps MG's biggest concern was the fact that it actually took away the spotlight from its base model.

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The company also didn't have the production capabilities to handle the potentially high demand. MG was a part of British Leyland at the time and the automaker also built the Triumph Stag, another V8-powered two-seater, so building an in-house competitor didn't make a whole lot of sense. A total of 2,591 GT V8s were made by the time production ended in 1976. Because the MGB GT V8 didn't make it stateside, enthusiasts have attempted to build their own versions, such as this guy in the US. Now up for sale on eBay is this one-off, custom-built MGB GT V8 race car.

It originally started life as a standard GT V8 but was bought with the sole intention of turning it into the finest MGB GT V8 racer for historic and vintage racing. It now packs a 4.6-liter Rover V8 that's mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Basically the entire guts of the car are new. No expense was spared in its construction and details. It features a full roll cage tied to the front and rear frame rails, fiberglass front fenders, aprons, rear roll pan and rear hatch. It also has a custom front suspension and instrument panel. Finer details include a chrome bullet style left side mirror. The list goes on as this car is truly one-of-a-kind.

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