V8 with an interesting history
Garry Heath (Tartan Red 5012) from Buckinghamshire registered his
Costello V8 recently and recalls its interesting former life and
how it is now a competition car! 28.4.05
Tartan Red 5012, a 1973 Costello V8 rebuilt for
track racing in action at Thruxton. (Photo: Philip Jones)
V8 started life as an Abingdon built 1800cc MGBGT in April 1971.
It was sold by the dealer John C Beadle in Dartford to the first
of two owners based in Sittingbourne. Sometime between then and
1974, it received the Costello treatment. We believe it was converted
in 1973 as we received it with a Buick rather than a Rover engine,
but it certainly had undergone the full Costello make over with
the power bulge bonnet, the "egg box grille" and the uprated
suspension. We have found that details on how many cars were converted
by Costello and when are not available and tracking down Ken Costello
today is as difficult as finding Lord Lucan!
A mixed field of classic sportscars from the 1960s and
70s compete in the Thoroughbred Sportscar Championship. (Photo:
In 1985, Philip Rodley purchased the car from its second owner.
He decided to rebuild the car as a concours example and have the
car refurbished by a firm of top panel builders who replaced worn
parts and panels before both parties had an argument about price.
At that stage Philip retrieved the car as a rolling shell and put
it in his garage in Northampton intending to finish the project
himself. Some 17 years later the car had not moved a wheel and Mrs
Rodley decided to have an extension which required the demolition
of the garage. This forced Philip to put the car on the market.
We snapped it up. It was not quite a "barn find", but
not too far away from one.
approach we have had to the rebuild is based on what
the Costello Race Project should have been
Since we received the V8 in September 2003, the car has been
completely stripped and rebuilt as a race car. We have really
benefited from the panel work in 1985 as it handed us a spotless
perfect shell on which to construct the race car rebuild.
The approach we have had to the rebuild is based on what the Costello
Race Project should have been. Quite why Ken Costello, who had a
considerable reputation as a saloon car racer, never raced one of
his own V8 conversions we do not know, but we liked the idea of
creating retro history 33 years after the first Costello should
taken to the track. In carrying out this project, we believe we
have created the World's only racing Costello V8.
Tartan Red 5012, registered ACK 717K, has been built with an
eye on historic endurance racing with oversize fuel tanks and
night time lighting. The car competed in the 2004 Colonnade Thoroughbred
Sports Car Championship as well as the 40 minute endurance race
at MG80 at Silverstone 2004 in which it grabbed its first class
5012 ahead of an Aston in a Thoroughbred Sportscar Championship
event at Thruxton. (Photo: Philip Jones)
It has been built to compete in the "modified sports" category
which has behind it the concept of a road going race car. In keeping
with the spirit of this ACF 717K is road legal, MOT'd and road going
- although not necessarily very road friendly thanks to its racing
car has been built with an eye on historic endurance
Since the rebuild we have made a number of changes to the original
car driven by the needs of racing. We have obviously needed to fit
a full roll cage and other safety equipment and we did everything
we could do to lighten the car, although we did this maintaining the
50/50 front-back balance which was a feature of Costello's design.
One of our first decisions concerned the colour. The original paint
finish in Desert Sand might have been all the vogue in the early 1970s
but to modern eyes it is pretty revolting. It is also not the right
colour for a 1970s MG race car. In the late 1960s and 70s MGs, particularly
MGC's raced for class wins at le Mans and other endurance events.
So we have decided to lean very heavily on the Works cars of the period
which were all finished in Tartan Red with white valances and white
Costello V8 with the characteristic Costello bonnet
bulge, is ahead of a Factory MGBGTV8. (Photo: Philip Jones)
One unexpected problem revealed itself in our first race at
Brands Hatch. As we were unable to test before the race, we arrived
with the differential from our original car. At the start of our race,
the rest of the field simply disappeared up the road. It was only
after the race that we discovered that our Costello V8 had been fitted
with a very long legged diff for motorway use. Out came the calculators
and we discovered our theoretical top speed was at least 180 mph!
We now have a much smaller ratio version. We have been allowed to
abandon the original Buick engine and replace it with a stronger 3900cc
Discovery unit, which has been race-built and delivers over 250 BHP.
This in itself has caused problems.
The gearbox we inherited with the car was the Costello original,
basically an MGB box with odd MGC and other components. As soon as
we cured the differential issue, we started to develop gearbox problems.
Third gear never knew whether it was in or out - not popular with
the drivers! This gearbox finally gave up at Snetterton with a very
big bang going into Russell's Corner. We aim to replace our old gearbox
with a T5 Borg Warner unit which is promising to be unbreakable! Apart
from this the Costello has been very reliable for our first season's
This year we hope to be out in time for the MGCC 75th Anniversary
meeting at Silverstone where we will be competing in a number of races.
Any V8 enthusiast is very welcome to come and say hello in the paddock
- we would love to see you.
V8 Register -
MG Car Club