Costello V8 Roadster - an imaginative
development of an MGB
Ken Costello began supplying his conversions which squeezed a V8
into MGB roadster and GT shells from 1970. It was an imaginative
development of the ageing MGB utilising his skills as both part-time
racer and engineer, eventually converting over 200 MGBs in all.
This stole a march on BLMC as it would be almost three years before
MG had their MGBGTV8 ready. The early Mk-I cars have the distinctive
Costello power bulge in the fiberglass bonnet. Here Lawrence Wood
explains how he moved rapidly to acquire a beautiful example when
it came up for sale in August 2006 on the V8 website and the pleasure
of owning what is becoming a rare model. (4.1.08)
Costello conversion almost doubled
the cost of the car in 1970
BRG 5008 (GHN5202408) with black leather interior was first registered
in June 1970 and sold by University Motors of London for £1,319
to a Mr Hodson-Mackenzie of London SW10. Just over a year later
the owner had Costello Motor Engineering Ltd convert the Roadster
from 1800cc 'factory' power to a 3500cc Rover V8 unit. In October
1971, the conversion by Ken's company cost £917; so almost
doubling the cost of the original vehicle.
Original Rover V8 engine installed by Costello with the twin
SU set up requiring the bonnet bulge. (Photo: Lawrence Wood)
The car now sports a recorded mileage of 23,000 which has been covered
since a new speedometer was fitted around 1991 when a bare metal
rebuild was undertaken. The true total mileage is likely to be nearer
150,000. The car has now had just five proud and fastidious owners
since 1976 and has clearly been well maintained throughout its life
regardless of cost.
many were there and why that bulge?
Ken Costello never kept accurate figures of the number of
V8 conversions he performed before Leyland joined in the fun.
It is thought however that perhaps only as few as 14 V8 Roadsters
were built in the MK-I guise - this required the large bonnet
bulge to provide clearance for the two SU carburetors. Most
surviving Costello conversions are of the MK-II format which
did not require the bulge as different carburetion was used.
Where did this Costello V8 appear for sale?
Lawrence was hankering
after a Roadster with V8 power for some time after enjoying owning
a MGBGTV8 conversion. He had his eye on a Heritage-shelled rebuild
car in West London and was almost ready to put down a deposit when
he saw the advert on the V8 website for a rare Costello V8 Roadster
model, apparently in excellent condition. He moved quickly to purchase
the car almost as soon as it was advertised. The enthusiasm from
other bidders clearly showed how sought-after these Costello V8
models have become.
When Lawrence acquired the car it had been sitting idle for nearly
a year so required a new starter motor, alternator and complete
service by its new maintainers, Enginuity of West London.
File full of history of the car
Accompanying the car was a full, two-inch thick file outlining a
complete history including the original bill of sale from University
Motors and an invoice for the Costello conversion itself. It was
also featured in BBC2's "The Car's the Star" in the late
1990s with the then owner proudly photographed next to the motor,
interviewed by an admiring Quentin Willson.
motoring in France
the spring of 2007, Lawrence enjoyed a trouble-free road trip to
France, surviving the Good Friday heat and stress of the Paris peripherique,
negotiating the cobbles of St Germain and effortlessly stretching
the Costello's legs through the open vineyard roads of the Champagne
region. This trip saw the car cover nearly 1,000 burbling torquey
miles and drew many an admiring glance from envious moderns on the
cross-channel ferry. Other memorable trips included the 2007 South
Downs Run from Petersfield to Eastbourne, regular return drives
from London to Dartmoor, and several exciting track days courtesy
of the MGs-on-Track.
New 4.6litre engine fitted
Sadly, in October 2007 the head gasket suffered a terminal failure
whilst driving along the M4 toward London. With the engine block
now warped beyond repair from the excessive overheating, there was
no alternative but to ditch this original Costello-fitted power
source and fit a new V8. Enginuity provided many options, but Lawrence
settled on a 4.6litre low-compression V8, built by Cosworth under
license from Rover.
New 4.6 litre engine has been installed. (Photo: Lawrence Wood)
Now still running in, this new unit provides just over 220bhp and
nearly 300lb ft of torque. The ton comes up at only 3000 revs, and
economy is surprisingly good for such a large displacement.
Enginuity is better known for its specialism in TVRs and Triumphs,
leading the mechanics to judge that the Costello now has a performance
somewhere between a modern Chimaera and Griffith 400; quite frightening
in a car with no airbags and 37-year old brakes!
Using the power and improved handling
on the track
Paddock Hill corner at Brands Hatch at an MGoT track day. (Photo:
Track day at Silverstone. (Photo: Lawrence Wood)
Track days have proved very exciting
With masses of lazy torque on tap and the additional fitting of
a Panhard rod and lowered rear springs, handling is twice what it
was, so cornering with great confidence is now a reality. Other
recent additions include a mohair roof, modern headlamps and CD
player, so it not only sounds fabulous and has the looks too.