MG’s Sports car for the 21st century
RICHARD Hamblin, former Managing Director of OMNI Design, and 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 re-build 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 in the similar terms to OMNI, even if it’s own ideas seem to have been killed stone dead by the XPower SV.
It is impossible to say 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 that 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 change that were creating the desire and purchasing power in that area.”
It is probably no co-incidence 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 since 1981), but was put on ice as the Product Planning department told us it wouldn’t sell – simply because no-one else was producing cars like that at the time.
Following the launch of the hyper-successful Mazda MX5 everything changed. Richard added: “The MX5’s success allowed us to later produce MGF – but it had then to be very different – as the MX5 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.