Concepts and prototypes : MG sports car by Omni

Before the MG XPower SV made its debut in 2003, Omni Design came up with these octagon-badged supercar proposals.

Managing Director Richard Hamblin shares the inside story…


MG’s sports car for the 21st century

Richard Hamblin, the former Managing Director of OMNI Design, has managed to give us an invaluable insight into the design of the sports car pictured on this page. As the former Director of Advanced Design at the Rover Group, he has passionate views on the health of the MG name and, during the MG Rover era, was very keen to see the marque treated to the new sports cars it so richly deserved.

He told us: ‘…we always believed that money could have been spent on one good, new, trend-setting product! Produce one such car, and you can go on to rebuild the company, then provide the wealth to go on to greater things. With the OMNI MG, we were advocating the concept of an additional, bigger brother to the MGF – just below £30K – of which that car was one. Market research had shown MG would not be credible above £30K, at that stage…’

In fact, early post-2000 MG Rover product planning documents ‘leaked’ to the press spoke of an X70/X71 programme – which would take the MG name further upmarket. So, MG Rover was probably thinking along similar lines to OMNI, even if its own ideas seem to have been killed stone dead by the XPower SV.

MG’s £30k supercar-slayer

It is impossible to say whether OMNI’s car would have been a success or not – it certainly looks exciting enough to have done so, but at £30,000 it was a whole lot more likely to make an impact on the market place than the £70,000-£80,000 MG XPower SV, which is now generally regarded to have been little more than a technically interesting sales flop. The market at which OMNI was pitching its MG design proposal was one that was later filled by the Audi TT, Mazda RX8 and Nissan 350Z – and, with its mid-engined layout, it would have possessed one major unique selling point.

Richard added: ‘When we were advocating the bigger brother, there was no RX8, no 350Z, no TT – it was that gap in the market (niche) we were identifying and the lifestyle/social changes that were creating the desire and purchasing power in that area.’

It is probably no coincidence that the OMNI MG was mid-engined – when Richard’s Advanced Design Department at Rover was putting together the original PR3 project in the mid-Eighties, a classical front-engined layout had been on the cards (and had been since Roy Axe’s arrival at Austin Rover in 1981), but that was put on ice when the Product Planning Department told Richard and his colleagues that it wouldn’t sell – simply because no-one else was producing cars like that at the time.

However, following the launch of the hyper-successful Mazda MX-5, everything changed. Richard added: ‘The MX-5’s success allowed us to produce the MGF – but it had then to be very different – as the MX-5 had already taken MG’s clothes – hence the unusual mid-engined approach.’

It seems that approach was taken again…


All images Copyright OMNI Design, and used with the permission of Richard Hamblin.


Keith Adams
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6 Comments

  1. Another What if ! …. Shame it didnt progress, There are shades of Pagani in there, However the Died in the Wool MG tweed brigade may have thought it “Too Outrageous” 30K would of been a bargain for this Longbridge Honda NSX wannabe (even though it predated it).

    But dare I say it, stick the old Riley name on it (with an interior to match” and It could of been chasing the lower end of Ferrari? especially if they fitted the 6R4 Engine…. Still never mind.

  2. I find it hard to believe that MGR could have developed and sold that for £30k, unless it was a basic, hardcore machine.

    I’m fascinated that the MGf type sports car first wasn’t RWD as nobody was producing a RWD sports car, but then after Mazda produced the MX5, wasn’t RWD because someone WAS producing a RWD sports car, curious logic that…

    • Mike C … All MGF & TF’s were rear wheel drive ( Mid engine ). It was much more “out there” in terms of design than the MX5 which was a more traditional British sports car style. ie front engine

      • Nice design sharing cues with the Pug RCZ I can see. Would have passed muster today with a bit more width and less frontal depth. If it could have become a genuine big Sis to the MGF perhaps with the KV6 or 200bhp ‘T’ I could see it going far. Was there ever a road-legal proto built, I remember seeing what could have been this car on the M40, looked rather like an extended MGF and seemed to have enough neddies to stay ahead of a mildly modded 820 Sport.

      • The point was though that it seems odd to reject the “classic” front engined RWD layout, because nobody else was doing it, only to AGAIN reject the layout because the MX5 was such a big success! Especially as the MGF wasn’t especially “out there” in terms of its styling anyway.

        Indeed the BMW Z3/4 was effectively a big brother to the MX5, with a similar layout but more power.

        The proportions of this prototype slightly reminded me of the Panther Solo, a car which looked stunning in its early look, then looked far worse when it finally made production as a more upmarket proposition. And didn’t sell.

        • Had the front-engined RWD PR2 been chosen in place of the mid-engined PR3, how likely would it have been for PR2 to have evolved beyond its Scimitar SS2 V8 roots into something that is pretty much a lighter 1.6-1.8 / 2.0-2.5 V6 MGF-bodied spiritual descendant of the MG EX234 prototype if still equipped with Hydragas suspension (in the same way the MG ADO21 prototype can be roughly described as the ancestor of the mid-engined MGF)?

          The obscure Caterham 21 is a more extreme and less practical K-Series engined form of what a production PR2-derived MGF could have been without benefiting from having the sort of budget Rover used to develop the mid-engined MGF. A KV6 version of a production PR2 MGF would have also anticipated the Rocketeer Mazda MX-5 V6 conversion.

          Would have to agree it was ridiculous the company most notable for its small sportscars would reject the very same layout that helped it establish said reputation to begin with, the same goes with Lotus for making the Elan M100 FWD on the basis that few people drove RWD at the time and that FWD was a default choice for an accessible sportscar in the view of one engineer because of the FWD layout’s safe and familiar handling.

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