Originally dubbed ‘Project Adder’, the RV8 was in part a response to the popularity of the Mazda MX-5, which was launched in 1989, and in part an attempt to modernise MG’s image by once again entering the British sports car market. Despite its modern appearance, a tight development budget of £5 million meant the RV8 shared more than five per cent of components with its predecessor, the BGT V8, including body shell and live rear axle, though the 3.9-litre V8 was purloined from Range Rover. A lack of design focus and marketing clarity was reflected in sales, with only 1982 cars being built between 1993 and 1995, the majority of which were exported to the Japanese market.
Following economic decline in Japan, many of these cars have since returned to British shores and are usually very low mileage, which has ensured a consistently high quality supply of cars, helping to keep prices high.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Though it shared body shells with the BGT V8, the RV8 units all underwent zinc coating and wax injection, so should be relatively rust-free. Low mileage will also mitigate the risk of rusting, but there are a number of areas to check before you buy. Constant exposure to the British weather will eventually tell, as will exposure to salty sea air on imported cars. Windscreen surrounds rust quickly where moisture collects behind rubber seals, particularly where the pillars meet the bodywork. This can be difficult to spot, so make sure you take a close look. Many windscreen surrounds were replaced under warranty by Rover UK, so check through the service history to make sure this has been done. If not, assume there will be a problem. Lift the rubber seals to check that the underside is dry and there are no signs of rust.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
The 3.9-litre all-alloy V8 is a strong unit, but does require careful and particular maintenance. Frequent oil changes are essential, as the engine will quickly sludge up and drastically increase wear. Check the service history to ensure this has been done regularly. Heads have a tendency to leak into the valley gasket, so check that the engine is clean and oil-free. Any significant oil leak could necessitate a new gasket and head skim, which will be expensive. Check the fluid levels; anti-freeze is vital to protect the alloy engine. If the coolant is too diluted it may indicate neglect in other aspects of maintenance.
Despite its updated looks, the RV8 running gear is of fairly archaic design. As a result, many owners choose to uprate certain items, particularly suspension. If the suspension has been changed, make sure that it is documented in the history file and that the work was carried out by a specialist. Steering is also frequently the subject of modification. There are kits available to retro-fit the power steering unit from the MGF, but once again make sure this has been carried out to a very high standard. If any modifications have been made you will have to inform your insurance company, as it is regarded as a safety issue.
INTERIOR & ELECTRICS
All RV8s were fitted with plush leather and wood-trimmed interior, a feature that would have it compared to the Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Elm dashboard and interior trims can suffer from cracks if exposed to the sun for extended periods. These can be repaired, but will be expensive. Make sure the dash has no covering that may hide cracks or splits. Leather gear knobs wear heavily; check this if originality is important to you. Many will have been replaced by now, even in low mileage examples.
The RV8 is a true British classic that retains the essence of the original BGT V8 with fewer of the reliability issues associated with cars of a certain age. The RV8 is also an attractive investment opportunity, with the limited numbers produced ensuring that demand will always keep prices robust. A raft of low mileage imports from Japan has meant that buyers now demand low mileage examples, but also remember that mileage is no indication of quality – tyres and fluids may be old and ineffective, and rubber hoses and seals may be perished. It is vital that you go through a potential car with a fine-toothed comb; often, low mileage cars inspire less confidence than a well-used example.