Pretend you haven’t already seen the eye-sore in the image above these words and try telling me that the MG SV XPower’s spec wouldn’t have got your new car juices flowing in the early 2000s.
We’re talking about a front-engined rear wheel drive coupe with a carbon fiber body built in Italy just a handful of miles from the supercar valley that’s home to Maserati, Pagani, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
We’re talking about a car styled styled by the guy who drew the McLaren F1, and powered by V8 engines with between 320 hp (324PS) and 385 hp (390 PS). And we are most definitely talking about a car with the kind of head-turning ability to rival any mid-engined exotic.
But you can’t unsee that picture at the top of the page. I remember thinking how embarrassingly trashy the MG SV looked when I tested one 18 years ago against a TVR (it lost), and coming back to it today I’ve got no reason to change any mind. In fact, I hate it even more.
Maybe it would have worked better if it had a face with enough presence to match the rest of the car, or vaguely attractive wheels that were big enough to fill the comically overblown front arches. Or… who am i kidding, it’s just awful, the kind of car Fast and the Furious scriptwriters might have loved to have given to Brian O’Conner’s British cousin.
Awful, but fascinating. Looking for a halo machine at the turn of the new century, MG bought out Qvale, whose odd-looking Mangusta had itself evolved from the ugly Gandini-designed De Tomaso Bigua. After reskinning its new toy to make a milquetoast coupe concept called the X80, MG and designer Peter Stevens decided to go large with the attitude.
The production process was a convoluted one involving carbon fiber body panels being manufactured in the UK then shipped to Italy for fitting to a chassis, which was then shipped back to the UK for final trimming. Base SC-spec cars got a 320 hp (324 PS) pushrod V8 from a Ford Mustang that always felt a bit underwhelming in a car that cost the same as a contemporary Porsche 911 Carrera, though the more powerful 385 hp (390 PS) SV-R with its Roush-tuned 32-valve V8 was available for buyers who felt the need for the kind of urge the styling promised.
Sadly for MG, there weren’t many buyers for either model. Only 82 production cars, including 42 SV-Rs, were completed before MG went belly up in 2005. Which makes this late-model 2005 SV-R a little bit special, even if it is a lot ugly. A left-hand drive example that’s covered just 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from new, but said to need some recommissioning before being ready for the road, it’s heading for auction with Bonhams on March 31 where the preposterously low €20-25,000 ($22-28k) estimate and lack of a reserve might should attract interest.
If you want to read more about the origins and demise of the SV, or any other Austin/Rover/MG/BL gems and duds from the 1960s through to the 2000s, check out the excellent AROnline website.