NZ Classic Driver
CHARLES CLARK’S 1991 MGB V8 BRAYSHAW
By the early 1980s the MGB was no more, having gone the way of most affordable sports cars, as performance-minded drivers opted for hot hatches rather than open-top roadsters. It was a situation that wouldn’t change until Mazda single-handedly revived the breed in 1989 with their MX-5.
Although the MGB had gone, there was still a small demand for new cars from some New Zealand sports cars enthusiasts. At that time the NZ Motor Corporation (NZMC) were making the change to Honda, but they were still fielding the odd inquiry about new MGs. With this in mind, NZMC, contacted well-known specialist Rod Brayshaw, owner of the independent MG Car Company of New Zealand based in Palmerston North.
The upshot of the discussions that followed led to Brayshaw agreeing to build a run of brand new MGBs using brand new British Motor Heritage (BMH)-built bodies, BMH-rebuilt drivelines along with other new parts. As part of the agreement with Brayshaw, the resulting cars would be recognised as authentic factory MGBs
– in effect a continuation of the classic MGB – and the MG Car Company were duly authorised to build 25 new cars.
Production commenced in November 1988 and would continue through to July 1990. However, only nine of the originally planned 25 cars were ever built. During the production run, NZMC also advised Brayshaw that they were planning to discontinue sales of the Rover SD1 Vitesse and that they had three Rover V8 engines and matching five-speed gearboxes, units kept in stock for warranty use but no longer required.
While the MG factory had never produced a V8-powered roadster due to the additional cost of strengthening the car’s convertible body, Brayshaw’s company were able to take on such a project due to their more limited scale of production allied to their extensive experience in restoring classic MGBs. As a result, of the nine Brayshaw MGs, three of them would be V8-powered, five-speed roadsters – truly very significant cars in all respects.
Charles Clark has been the caretaker of his Brayshaw MGB V8 – #RBN 007 – since 2002. First registered in 1991, his car is one of only three authentic V8 roadsters in the world to be factory-approved and registered for road use. Rod Brayshaw retained ownership of #RBN 006, a blue roadster, while the third car, #RBN 008, resides in the South Island.
With a compression ratio of 8.3:1, the 3.5-litre Rover engine fitted to Charles’ car was tuned to develop 150kW. With a profile change, the cam comes into play at 3000rpm, giving superb performance in third gear between 80-120kph, exactly when required on New Zealand’s demanding and winding backroads whilst still allowing leisurely highway motoring – 2500rpm in fifth gear give a cruising speed of 100-110kph.
Charles has always worked very closely with MG specialists Ray Hartley and Paul Walbran with regard to the tuning and servicing of the car. Both have assisted Charles in ensuring that any changes are correct and appropriate for the chassis and the heritage of the vehicle, on the understanding that this is a very special MGB.
Originally shod with tallish tyres on 14-inch 72-spoked chrome wire wheels, the MG currently runs genuine 15-inch Minilite fitted with much lower profile tyres to provide superior performance on tarmac. However, for best performance on gravel the taller tyres on the wire wheels are preferred as they tend to dig into the gravel rather than slide over the top of the loose metal.
Over the years Charles has gradually upgraded the car, fitting fast road springs and modern shock absorbers, while a half roll-cage allows him to run the MG in limited competitions, hillclimbs and track days
After 20 years of ownership and 60,000 miles of “Safety Fast” driving, Charles is still delighted with the car – “It is kept in top condition,” he said, “and continues to put a wide smile on my face each time I roll off its dust cover in the garage.”