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Buying guide for members wanting an MGBGTV8 for everyday use

Gordon Hesketh-Jones (Harvest Gold 1904) from Cornwall has clocked up over 250,000 miles in his V8, so provides a useful guide from the perspective of a high mileage V8 enthusiast! (Dec 04)

The first thing you should consider when buying an MGBGTV8 is what do you want the car for - is it for going to shows and events or are you planning to use the V8 for regular use, long journeys and high mileages. Your responses to these questions determine how you approach your search for an MGBGTV8. Rather than repeat much of the very useful article prepared by Dave Wellings, my comments are based on my experience running, maintaining and modifying a V8 for regular, high mileage use.

advisable to fit an inline petrol filter to protect against corrosion debris from the petrol tank

Engine
It is advisable to ensure that an inline petrol filter is fitted to protect against corrosion debris from the petrol tank getting to the carburettors. Geoff Allen confirms the original BL part number was 603183, the later part number was Unipart GFE7004, and he thinks it is probably still the same number. This item is scheduled to be changed at each "B" service (1200 miles or 12 months) so any new owner would be advised to change it anyway. The filter is secured in a clip part number BHH1212 later part number 603185 which was still available in 1998 so probably still is. It should be fitted to the bulkhead adjacent to the heater box with a 10 UNF Philips screw, there is a tapped weld nut in the body for this purpose.
Geoff also confirms that a filter in this location was a standard fitment throughout the production run at Abingdon. I am also fitting an additional inline filter between the fuel tank and petrol pump after experiencing difficulties with a new electronic pump and gum in my carburettors. Fitting it means cutting out a section of the copper fuel pipe, then clamping two pieces of rubber pipe onto both the copper pipe and the in-line filter using stainless steel Jubilee clips (I never use ordinary plated mild steel hose clips). All very fiddly modification but it will be better that than the having carburettors gummed up again. I have heard that a number of members have found the new electronic fuel pumps are slightly more reliable, but I have found the "extra reliability" is a bit of a myth. My traditional pumps lasted for more than 100,000 miles on both an MGBGTV8 and a Range Rover, whereas the more recent SU-Burlen electronic device failed in Bavaria after less than 70,000 miles of use. With low use V8s there is a difficulty with the points in a traditional fuel pump sticking from lack of use when laid up so maybe the longevity issue is less of a concern than reliability. In some cases K&N air filters or a similar pattern have been fitted they are more efficient than the standard set up but create more induction noise. However once moving, this will not be heard over the noise from the exhaust and from the wind noise from the steeply raked windscreen.

Some cars have been modified with the use of the stainless steel tubular manifolds used on the RV8. These manifolds exit the engine bay through holes cut in the sides of the engine bay or inner wing, rather than passing down between the engine and chassis rail with the standard setup, and reduce the overheating to which the MGBGTV8 is prone. If RV8 manifolds have been fitted, then check that the oval strengthening plates have been neatly welded around the two exit holes as you will see is done with the RV8. The sump has the main well in the centre with a shallow front and rear section. The shallow rear section allows the exhaust pipe to cross over. Rover SD1 and LandRover sumps don't have the shallow rear section which forces the crossover pipe to sit much lower than standard however sumps off the Rover 3500/3500S have the same shallow rear section and oil pick-up points as the MG V8 version. Some cars have lost the correct pancake-style air filter boxes which are hard to source. In particular the connection boxes to the cast-iron manifolds which were designed to aid engine rapid warm-up are very rarely seen, but turn up occasionally.

If an SD1 gearbox has been fitted, check that the top of the engine is pretty well parallel to the ground; if it tilts down towards the rear, then the cross-member at the rear of the gearbox has not been modified properly and there will be excessive wear on the front universal joint of the prop-shaft leading to premature failure. The heater control valve fitted at the rear of the engine is a constant source of trouble as it usually fails to switch off properly. There are some notes in the V8 Workshop Notes series to explain how to overcome this.

must show some care and respect for the relative fragility of first, reverse and second gear

Gearbox
You must show some care and respect for the relative fragility of first, reverse and second gear, or you may pay dearly. Original gearbox parts, in particular the layshaft, are no longer available. The bearing recesses inside the gearbox cases can become oval and so no longer locate the gear-train correctly. Many cars now have Rover 5 speed boxes as a replacement, usually from the SD1 Rover which incorporate an oil pump and were specifically designed to cope with the torque of V8 engine so are much more robust. On tyre size I am not so sure so many V8 enthusiasts have gone for fatter, low profile tyres - I know of five cars in Cornwall alone on the original-size of tyres. Those that are now on 185/70 or 195/70 tyres will find it is at the expense of heavier steering. The clutch is robust and will easily take more than 150,000 miles of road use. The same cannot be said for the clutch cylinder and its slave cylinder, but these are easily available and cheap to replace.

Axle
Although the rear axle fitted to the MGBGTV8 is said to be fragile, some of our members have covered over 300,000 miles on the original axle without axle whine or clonking noises, but there have been some failures of the pinion pin roll pin. It is easier to deal with noisy or worn differentials now than 15 years ago, as spares and alternative solutions are much more available now. If it clonks on take-up then it's a reasonably easy job (and cheap) - to change the thrust washers in the diff and replace the pinion pin if any signs of wear. If the axle is the 1800 MGB ratio (3.9 to 1) then you will be able to check this by comparing the revs and road speed. You should see around 28 to 29mph for every 1,000revs in overdrive top gear for the V8 gearbox or 5th gear on the SD1 Gearbox with the original V8 specification rear axle.

fortunately two years ago MOSS tooled up to make new lever arm shockers to the original design

Suspension
The suspension on many cars has been altered to incorporate stronger anti-roll bars, firmer bushes and coil-over-shock-absorber arrangements at the front, and anti-roll bars also telescopic shock absorbers at the rear. It should be noted however that in an effort to avoid axle tramp and power steer caused by the extra torque of the V8 engine, the rear springs of the factory V8 have six leaves and are rated at 550lb (249.7kg) whereas the 1800 MGB has 5 leaves rated at 400lb for the early cars or 450lb for the later cars. Check therefore on the number of leaves on the rear springs. If you find in a test drive that applying the power then lifting off causes a degree of rear-end steer, it probably means that the "U" bolts holding the springs to the axle are badly worn and need replacing - an easy job.

It has proved difficult to find a set of telescopic shock absorbers which can work properly with the short

sharp movement of the V8 springs compared to the softer movements of the 1800 MGB springs. The lever-arm shock absorbers fitted to the rear as standard equipment went out of production at the end of the 1980s and until recently only reconditioned units were available which gave a very short life. Fortunately two years ago MOSS tooled up to make new units to the original design; these are expensive but worth buying.

It is only practical and safe to refurbish the V8 Dunlop wheels once

Wheels
Refurbishment of the Dunlop composite wheels is possible by specialists such as Motorworld (Tel: 01753 549360). They used to have a good stock of new steel rims but these have now all been sold so you need to make a careful check of your existing wheels for deep rust pitting on the rims when buying a factory V8 because badly pitted rims cannot be re-chromed properly. The alloy centre is re-machined during refurbishment which erodes some of the pattern. When done twice, the raised circle starts to join up with the raised edge of each cut out and is a good indicator of past refurbishment. Motorworld maintain that it is only practical and safe to refurbish the V8 wheels once. Many factory V8s, and virtually all V8 Roadsters, are now fitted with alloy wheels, the most popular being the Minilite range available from many different suppliers.

Brakes
The basic system is very similar to the 1800 MGB but with thicker discs and the larger twin-piston callipers which are MGB outers with Triumph 2.5 inners. Some V8 enthusiasts have retrofitted the Rover 3500S calliper set-up which is similar. Many cars will now have ventilated discs and most are prone to brake squeal as the anti-squeal shims originally fitted by the Factory are no longer available. Some cars have been modified to use the dual-circuit master cylinders fitted to the post 1976 MGBs. The brake servo rarely seems to give problems but check for signs of aging on the rubber pipe leading to it from the inlet manifold.

Steering
The steering system is by rack and pinion and the V8 rack gives a quicker and therefore heavier turn-in than the MGB 1800. Original V8 racks have been NLA (now longer available) for many years but can be reconditioned. Fitting an MGB rack, particularly from the later rubber-bumper cars, will considerably reduce the steering effort at the expense of more twirling of the steering wheel.
The steering column, certainly on chrome-bumper cars, is a mixture of parts off the MGB and some Rover models. As originally fitted it had a collapsible centre section as a safety measure but on most cars the nylon pins have broken (probably due to excessive force being used when removing the steering wheel) and have been replaced by steel pins therefore the column is no longer collapsible. An oilite bearing at the top of the column is NLA so check for vertical and horizontal movement of the steering wheel. The universal joint on the steering column gives a long life, but there have been major quality problems with new replacements over recent years.

Electrical
The wiring loom uses the Lucas "bullet" connectors and these corrode, particularly the connections for the horns in front of the radiator. Ideally these should be replaced with new connections covered with heat-shrink silicon rubber tubing. The original headlights were Lucas sealed-beam with tungsten filament bulbs, but most cars now have halogen bulbs and lenses. The Lucas headlights for the sealed-beam have convex glass lenses but only Wipac now make convex lenses. However tests have proved that the later Lucas H4 lenses (which are virtually flat and therefore look less original) give better light with a 60watt halogen bulb than the Wipac lenses with a 100watt halogen bulb. The metal bowls behind the headlights are prone to corrosion so check inside the front wing for this.

The distributor was, like many other MGBGTV8 engine parts, to the same specification as the Rover 3500S but is now NLA. Holden Vintage & Classic (Tel: 01885 488488) purchased the jigs, tools and spares from Lucas when Lucas withdrew from the market. They will not sell spare bearings, shafts, springs etc but offer an excellent rebuild service. Some parts (top plate etc) are the same as for the Range Rover so are easy to obtain. Nearly one million Rover V8 engines were built from 1966 to 2004 so replacement contact sets and condensers are easily obtained, however most of them are of extremely poor quality, so it is best to only buy Lucas or Unipart spares. Some members have fitted after-market electronic ignition systems but several have had problems with these systems.

Lucas LRA469 alternator fits onto the same brackets but gives a 20% higher output current

The starter motor and the alternator rarely give trouble below 200,000 miles but replacements are easily available and the Lucas LRA469 alternator fits onto the same brackets but gives a 20% higher output current. There are a number of in-line fuses in the engine bay near to the main fuse-box. Water can get into these and it makes sense to fit a second fuse-box and route the inline connections to this.

Bodywork
The splash plates behind the front wheels can also rot from the bottom and allow mud to get at the lower part of the sill panel. Stainless steel splash plates are available and can remove this problem. A common fault is for a water leak to develop at the rear corner of the rear side windows; this leads to rust in that area but also allows water into the boot area, however replacement of the complete boot floor is a relatively easy task. The wells either side of the boot a liable to corrosion and it is essential before buying an MGBGTV8 to lift the small carpets to check for serious rust, as it is effectively only possible to replace these floors to the wells when the rear wings are off. Refitting the front windscreen and rear window is difficult to do properly and the rubbers and stainless finishers often show evidence of poor quality refitting. I have found most Autoglass depots have one specialist specifically trained on MGB front and rear screens. The quality of some replacement chrome bumpers varies a great deal both in finish and detail, but as a regular heavier user I feel you have to question whether it is necessary and desirable to retain the full and exact original specification of a car which went out of production some 30 years ago. Do you want to look at the car or drive it! The factory MGBGTV8 is above all a driver's car.

fuel consumption is often a concern until you learn that a V8 driven for fun on open roads can easily achieve 27mpg and more!

Conclusion
With recorded mileages for MGBGTV8s advertised for sale I feel that unless you have MOT certificates right back to the start, you need to take the recorded mileage of a V8 with a pinch of salt particularly as the speedometers fail with monotonous regularity. It is easy to get speedometers rebuilt and recalibrated to your choice of gearbox and tyre size. For prospective V8 owners, fuel consumption is often a concern until they learn that a V8 driven for fun on open roads can easily achieve 27mpg. The range is likely to vary between 22mpg for short runs in Winter, up to 29 or 32mpg when on long motorway runs in the heat of the Summer. To offset this is the fact that an MGBGTV8 is virtually free from depreciation and in fact tends to appreciate slightly each year.


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