The Pick of the Day is an exceedingly rare, what-might-have-been example of British motoring, a factory-original 1974 MGB-GT V8, one of just a few thousand built with Rover V8 engines under their hoods.
The MGB already had been in production for a decade when British Leyland, taking a lead from British mechanic and racer Ken Costello, started wedging 3.5-liter aluminum-block V8s into the long-but-narrow engine compartments. The engines came from another BL division, Rover, although they originally were US-designed Buick V8s to which BL had acquired the rights to manufacture.
The V8 addition was a great idea for several reasons, mainly the increase in performance and the fact that the alloy V8 weighed less than the MGB’s standard cast-iron inline-4. But the automaker produced only 2,591 MGB V8s from their introduction in 1973 until they were dropped in 1976.
Part of the reason for the lack of success could have been the poor timing of introducing a V8-powered sports car at the height of the OPEC oil embargo and amid soaring gas prices, when people had become more concerned about miles-per-gallon than horsepower.
“The Holy Grail of MGBs, the ‘factory’ MGB-GT V8, a rare and exclusive vehicle that came to production against all odds, and yet despite huge accolades, was quickly cancelled, never to enter the American market,” says the seller, a dealer in Media, Pennsylvania, advertising the sports car on ClassicCars.com. “Today, 16 of the factory V8s, live in the U.S. This beauty is one of those 16.”
The V8-powered MGBs were produced only in GT hatchback-coupe models, leaving out the much-more-popular roadsters, and they made them only in right-hand drive for the British market. So naturally, this factory original is RHD.
The 3.5-liter V8 is rated at 137 horsepower and 197 pound-feet of torque, which might not sound like much, but it provides plenty of gusto for this 2,300-pound 2+2 coupe. The V8 is linked with a 4-speed manual transmission with electric overdrive.
There also was an earlier effort to boost the MGB performance, with the MGC putting an inline-6 in place of the 4. But widely reported issues with handling, primarily pronounced understeer and lackluster steering response, doomed the model to a short lifespan.
While the seller provides no restoration history for the MGB V8 in its ad, there is reference to the careful maintenance that the rare car has received during its existence.
“Its first owner here in the states was an influential member of the MGB world and he, like the current caretaker, tended to this car with meticulous care and attention,” the seller notes. “This is a wonderful car with great history and known ownership.”
The asking price is $45,000 for a car guaranteed to be a hit at any British motorcar gathering, as well as a great highway performer. Note that there are plenty of MGB V8 converions that have been created over the years by handy tinkerers, but very few of the real thing.
To view this vehicle on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.