It’s no surprise that the MG RV8 has earned its status as a cult icon. It’s got all the essential hallmarks – classic styling, rorty powertrain, and (most importantly of all) extraordinary rarity. It’s one of those cars that was such a good idea, it really should have been more popular… but then, of course, ubiquity might have diluted its cachet.
What’s the story behind it? Well, with the revered MGB having gone out of production in 1980, it had more than earned its position in the pantheon of all-time classics. By the end of the decade, British Motor Heritage had put the MGB bodyshell back into limited production to serve the huge restoration market, and this development caused a spark of intrigue at MG Rover HQ: they could see that Mazda’s retro-styled MX-5 was already becoming a runaway success right out of the blocks, and the car-buying market was evidently hungry for classically-styled roadsters with modern appointments and performance. And so, after what was probably quite a lot of complicated meetings with accountants, the decision was made to develop the basic MGB silhouette into a new model for 1991: the RV8. The fundamental proportions were retained, but the styling updated with over 90% of the panels and details replaced. The chassis still had leaf springs and drum brakes at the rear, but up front everything was upgraded with an independent double-wishbone setup with coil springs, telescopic shocks, and an anti-roll bar. The track was widened for superior roadholding, there was an LSD out back, and the big news was the fuel-injected 3.9-litre V8 engine. The interior was also a pretty special place to be, with Connolly hide and veneered burr elm trim. It all added up to the quintessential British soft-top for the nineties. A few were sold in Nightfire Red or Oxford Blue, but the classic-car ethos was most appropriately bolstered by the image of Woodcote Green paint, the option which the vast majority of buyers went for.
The most interesting chapter of the tale loops back to the initial spurring-on of the MX-5: you see, it was the Japanese market that really embraced the retro stylings of the RV8. To British buyers, the exciting proposition was slightly hindered by the list price of over £26,000 (pushing it close to Jaguar money; by contrast, an MX-5 was around £15,000), but the Japanese market positively lapped it up. Of the 1,983 MG RV8s that were built between 1992-95, an impressive 1,579 of them (80% of total production) were shipped straight to Japan. Of course, it was inevitable that some of them would find their way back home over time, and the number of RV8s registered with the DVLA today is far more than were ever officially sold here. That’s the thing about icons, they get ever-more desirable as more time passes…
As you’ve probably deduced by now, this RV8 was originally supplied to Japan – the rear number plate recess is a giveaway. It made its way to Europe in 2005, as is evidenced in the paperwork, its owner based in Northern Ireland where the car clearly lived a pampered life. It’s had an odometer change at some point so the mileage isn’t quite as low as the current reading, but we’re assured it’s still an impressively low-mileage example, and this is borne out by the condition inside and out – it really is incredibly tidy.
The car comes complete with its original owner’s handbook, along with the manuals in the correct MG Rover wallet. We can see from the various receipts and invoices in the file that the car lived in Northern Ireland after it was imported from Japan; an invoice for over £2,600 in 2005 shows that a variety of works were carried out at that time, including fitting a new hood, refinishing the wood trim, and fitting new parts such as a radiator shroud, wiper arms and striker plates – along with rustproofing the chassis, which is a very important job to carry out on Japanese imports as it’s not a thing habitually done in that market. In invoice from the following year evidences further rustproofing along with burnishing the paintwork to remove any minor scratches and bring it all to showroom condition. There are a variety of other maintenance receipts, and an invoice from Tokyo Auto Trading Ltd in 2005 showing that the import was arranged by Robins Garages in Ilfracombe, with the car being purchased for ¥750,000.
The mileage is currently displayed at 6,235. However, when the vehicle was imported from Japan, the odometer read 19,861. The odometer was then changed upon importation, and currently reads 6,235.
The cabin of the RV8 is a rather splendid place to be. MGB aficionados will be well-versed in the style and textures of classic MG interiors, but while some of that will be familiar here, this is really closer in spirit to a Jaguar or perhaps Bentley: the Connolly leather is high quality and beautifully soft, and the wood trim is no fanciful pastiche but the real deal. In this case, the wood has been refinished to restore its original lustre, and it looks superb. The matching door cappings and gearknob are similarly good, and the seats are in excellent condition with just a little natural patination to the leather on the seat bases. The seats tilt forward correctly to allow access to the rear luggage area. Cream is a notoriously unforgiving colour, but the trim and carpets are all clean and tidy here, and it’s the same story inside the boot where we find good carpeting, the spare wheel in its correct housing, and a Pioneer CD changer to complement the Pioneer radio-cassette head unit in the dash. We also find a fully stocked Black & Decker tool roll inside an MG-branded briefcase, which is a lovely detail.
Woodcote Green is the ideal choice for an RV8, and the finish looks glorious here. All of the correct trim is in place, all of the panels hang correctly with nice even shutlines all around, and the paintwork has been professionally polished and treated to remove any minor scratches and bring it all back to its factory-original shine. We see no evidence of scuffs, dings or stonechips, and the car was treated to a new soft-top in 2005 which is still in great condition today. The correct 15” cross-spoke wheels are fitted, all in excellent condition with no kerbing or tarnishing, and shod with 205/65 tyres with good tread. Being a Japanese-market model, the car has the JDM-spec rear bumper with rectangular plate recess. As well as being straight and tidy up top, the MG is similarly decent underneath, having been fully rustproofed after arriving in Europe. The car also comes with a full tailored tonneau for covering the cabin when parked without the roof up.
The powertrain of the RV8 was made up of proven parts from across the group, with the 3.9-litre V8 having proven its worth in many a Range Rover. In this application, it wears Lucas multi-point fuel injection and is good for a robust 190bhp and 234lb.ft – enabling an effervescent 0-62mph sprint in under six seconds. The torque-rich delivery is key to the car’s character, making it as much a grand tourer as a sports car, and the Rover R380 5-speed manual ’box is a suitably sturdy unit with well-judged ratios.
With its low mileage, all of this componentry seems to never have been over-stressed, and the owner reports that it’s a good runner with no notable issues.
The idea of owning an MG RV8 is a supremely attractive one. After all, it’s entered into its second life now: at its inception, the model was conceived as a modern but retro-styled car to evoke the memories of a beloved classic. Nowadays, sufficient time has passed that this ‘modern’ car has become a bona fide classic in its own right… and the real clincher is that, while oodles of MGBs were built, the production figures for the RV8 were incredibly low. So it’s got that cachet of obscurity baked right in, and the spec makes it all the more attractive: a torquey V8 mated to an agile chassis, topped off with a sumptuously trimmed interior of superlative refinement. Why wouldn’t you want one? It ticks so many boxes. And once that decision’s been made, the example we have here makes a very strong case for itself: low mileage, all-original, and in absolutely beautiful condition inside and out. Just the thing to make some memories in the glorious summer that’s hovering over the horizon.
** The photos in this listing have been provided to us by the seller **
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