The MG RV8 is something of a throwback to a bygone era. British company British Motor Heritage, itself owned by the Rover Group, was re-manufacturing the MGB bodyshell for the restoration market in the late 1980s/early 1990s. However, seeing the success of the new Mazda MX5 two-seat roadster, Rover decided to join the party and took the Buick-derived V8 that used to power the MGB GT V8 and then, the Range Rover, and installed it into the remanufactured shell.
It chose to retain the leaf-sprung rear suspension of the original but fitted conventional telescopic dampers to the front to modernise the handling. The car was fitted with modified versions of the original MGB panels – boot and bonnet were essentially the same though wings were stretched to accommodate a revised rear axle with a limited-slip differential and larger wheels – and the result was the MG RV8, in essence a grown-up MGB roadster with a V8 motor slightly larger than the original – now 3.9-litres instead of 3.5l.
Response in the UK and Europe was lukewarm following its debut in late 1992 but demand was huge in Japan; of the 2000-car production run, more than 75% went to the Far East, though they began to return to British shores around ten years later, when they were sold into the trade network in Japan and subsequently exported.
This example is one of 1583 that were exported to Japan and was first registered by MG Japan on July 21 1994. It was owned by a lady driver in Shinagawa in Tokyo, where it covered a relatively low mileage, of 34,010km or 21,256 miles. It was re-imported to the UK in late 2004 where it re-joins the UK contingent of the remaining 400-odd examples. The current owner purchased the vehicle from the importer in 2005 and has driven and maintained it meticulously ever since.
He found himself drawn to the MG brand, even though his formative years were influenced by American muscle cars. As a result, he always wanted “something with a V8” and when the RV8 came up for sale, he decided to treat himself. In the interim 16 years, he has looked after it and enjoyed it but now has another MG project that demands his time and space and so he is presenting this excellent example for auction so it can continue to give pleasure to a new owner.
There is a staggering amount of paperwork with this car. In addition to the original documentation, there is a comprehensive and extensive record of all modifications, replacements, service and repair work carried out since it returned to the UK and the owner will pass all relevant information on to the new owner.
There is the original UK V5 registration document from when the car was first registered in the UK, as well as its original Type Approval certificate and a certified copy of the car’s factory build record. The car is accompanied by its original owner’s handbook and the service logbook – in Japanese though this has been translated into English and a copy included.
There is also the Rover Japan Sales and Service Network handbook and Japanese audio equipment handbook, all housed in the original wallet. There is also a (English) workshop repair manual that the owner purchased as well as a UK owner’s handbook and original advertising brochure that he sourced and the documentation for the UK aftermarket audio that the car now features.
There is also a significant amount of information provided by the owner, including a list of the remedial work carried out when the car arrived in the UK; modifications that were carried out to convert the car from Japanese to UK specification (although it was always right-hand drive); a maintenance summary; a list of components repaired or replaced and a comprehensive fuel consumption log. There is also every MoT certificate that the car has held since it arrived back in the UK, including the current certificate which expires in February 2022.
Literally every mile that the car has covered in the UK since its import in 2004 is detailed in this incredible history – a testament to the owner’s passion and love for the brand and this car in particular.
The car’s interior is in very nice condition, with what appears to be evidence of light wear and use, as would be expected with the low mileage. The owner does explain that the previous owner in Japan appeared to have done lots of short journeys – despite the low overall mileage, the driver’s seat base was heavily worn and as a result, the front seats were swapped for a matching pair from another imported car in the same colour – beige leather - before he took the vehicle on. Both the front seats now show no real signs of wear though they would appear to benefit from a good clean.
The carpets are in excellent condition, the owner having always used a set of MG over-mats and rubber mats on top of these but he points out one area on the driver’s side where replacement carpet has been fitted. He was unaware that a heat shield under the car had failed and the heat from the engine and exhaust caused a small part of the carpet and heel mat to melt. He replaced the carpet on that side but suggests that the colour match is not quite perfect.
The steering wheel and gear knob show little signs of wear and the walnut burr across the door tops and the dashboard is in lovely condition, all having been replaced when the car arrived in the UK.. The owner confirms all the gauges and electrical system operate as they should including the Japan-only air conditioning system.
The original Japan-specification speedometer, which read in kilometres per hour only, was replaced when the car was imported, with a reading of 34,010km but will accompany the car when the auction ends. The replacement is an original empirical MPH version that now displays a mileage of 17,667 miles, giving the total of 38,885 miles.
The original Japanese-specification audio system has been replaced by a European one, as the Japanese versions use different radio frequencies not compatible in the UK or Europe. The carpeting in the rear parcel shelf is in excellent condition, as is the tonneau cover, to hide the convertible roof when in the removed position. The owner confirms that the two rear side trim panels were refurbished, as the cards had begun to deteriorate.
The hood was replaced with a new Prestige version when the car was imported though the tonneau cover is original and in excellent condition. Chrome window-winder handles were fitted to replace the original all-plastic examples that detracted from the car’s pedigree. The hood operates smoothly and stows nicely behind the front seats with the tonneau cover hiding the mechanism when fitted. One area of slight damage is where the handle for the passenger-side door mirror has caught the door trim and torn a tiny section of it as the door has been closed repeatedly over the years.
The boot is in excellent condition, with carpet covering the full-size spare wheel, which the owner admits appears to have suffered some kerb damage in its previous life in Japan. It sports a tyre with good tread depth though it was fitted to the wheel new in 2012. The car still has its original jack and wheel chocks though there is an aftermarket wheel brace and the original toolkit is also missing; the owner has assembled a basic toolkit in an MG-branded roll to accompany the car.
Like the interior, the exterior of the car is in very nice condition; far better than one would imagine for a car that is almost 30 years old. The Woodcote Green paint is in excellent shape, with no more than very occasional stone chips that are far less common than expected. There are two small chips in the windscreen glass but not that would affect either vision of the MoT viability of the car.
The original windscreen frame, formed in steel, was replaced since it had started to corrode from the inside out, as is common on these models. This was evident with bulging at the bottom of the screen and to prevent this happening again, it was replaced with a carbon and glass-fibre frame. The original windscreen was retained.
The original Japanese-specification number plate surrounds were removed and UK-style plates fitted and the black windscreen wiper arms were replaced with stainless steel versions.
The front bumper is missing the fog-lights familiar on UK-specification versions as the fans and heat exchangers for the air conditioning system are located here instead. The lights are all original specification, as the Japanese market is right-hand drive, like the UK. Both front and rear MG badges appear slightly discoloured, the result of age no doubt while there is also some evidence of age-related deterioration to some rubber, such as around the aerial.
The car appears to have suffered no significant damage in its past; all the panels appear straight and undamaged and the shut lines seem to match. There is information in the repair summary included with the car to indicate that there were some minor bodywork repairs in 2016 and 2017.
The wheels are the original design and were treated to chrome paint in the past by the owner to address the deteriorating lacquered finish. In 2018, he returned them to the original polished alloy finish, though he admits that the rims are not in perfect condition. The tyres are A-rated for wet grip and were fitted new in 2019.
As you would expect by now, this car wants for nothing mechanically. It has been thoroughly serviced throughout its lifetime and the exceptionally low annual mileage in the UK means that much of the work carried out has been well in advance of the mileage requirements though the owner has worked on a time-service basis.
In the 16 years he has owned it, he has spared no expense, with the car receiving four new Spax dampers when one of the original failed; worn bushes in the remote gear change linkage replaced; the plastic coolant filler plug, which is known to blow out, was replaced with a metal version; both the heater fan and one of the air conditioning fans were replaced and one of the catalytic converters was also replaced. In the last two years, the car has also had a new battery, fuel pump, water pump, tyres and clutch master and slave cylinders.
The engine starts and idles smoothly with a deep, rumbling V8 burble. There is no smoke evident and the owner confirms the car drives perfectly. The gearbox is smooth, the axle makes no noise and the ride, while a little on the harsh side as is common with this model, is forgiving with no noise or play in the suspension. The underside of the car shows some surface rust though none that would cause concern.
This is a very nice example of a car that combines the romanticism of British sports car with a degree of modernity. Of the 2000 made, there are some 600 in the UK according to how many left.co.uk, split roughly 50/50 on the road and declared SORN. This example is most definitely on the road and is ready for the next owner to take it on and continue to enjoy this classic-inspired sports car.
The sound from the Range Rover-derived 3.9-litre V8 is delightful; it is deep and throaty, with a distinctive burble that leaves little to the imagination. The prospect of driving this car around, with that exhaust note and an induction roar enhanced by the replacement air filter directed at the driver’s ears with the hood retracted on a warm, sunny day is enticing. It's not an easy car to drive – that’s well-known – but when approached as it should be, as a gran tourer as opposed to a point-and-squirt scratcher, it actually fulfils its role remarkably well.
The fact this car has such an incredible pedigree and has been maintained to such a standard with no thought to the cost makes it not only a dream for car fans but also potentially, a sound investment for the future. These models will only increase in value and in years to come – and we don't doubt that this car will be around for a long time – they will become a rare homage to the golden era of British sports cars.
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