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)
Costello 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: Philip Jones)
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 win.
Tartan Red 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 suspension.
car has been built with an eye on historic endurance racing
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 hard tops.
Costello V8 with the characteristic Costello bonnet bulge, is
ahead of a Factory MGBGTV8. (Photo: Philip Jones)
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.
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 racing.
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