Sports car projects : MG DR2/PR5

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

MG’s might-have-been bruiser

MG DR2/PR5

Throughout the mid- to late-’80s, the Austin-Rover design studios produced several MG sports car mock-ups, most of which came to nought. Things became more serious following the launch of the Mazda MX5 in 1989, and Rover’s management realised there was genuine money to be made in open-tops.

This proposal created by Design Research Associates under Roy Axe was targeted at the USA as MG’s big return stateside in the lead-up to the launch of the mass-market MGF. It never made it beyond the running prototype stage.

F the launch of the game-changing Mazda MX5 in 1989, Rover’s management finally woke-up to the huge potential for the MG marque beyond the badge-engineered saloons that it had been buiding since the arrival of the Metro in 1982. Several sports car ideas had been floating around Canley since around 1983 – including one proposal for a new Midget, and what would ultimately become the MGF – but there had been little will within upper management to develop any of these exciting concepts into production reality.

Following the MX5’s launch, Gordon Sked’s reported reaction – he felt like crying when he saw the new car – and the subsequent positive greeting from the press and public, the Rover board finally lent its support to the new sports car programmes. But only if they could be made in a cost-effective manner. A number of projects began in parallel, a number of which would be farmed out to outside contractors such as MGA.

The MGF won out, but not before this interesting sports car, codenamed DR2, was sketched out by Roy Axe’s team at Canley in late 1989. As Roy told AROnline back in 2003, the car had been deliberately styled so that it could fit within the MG or Austin-Healey marque, as the revival of both were seriously being considered during the development of the sports car portfolio. So, the adoption of a drooping side feature line could have been a Healey signature, but the curvaceous front end was very much cast in the MG mould.

As for the prototype (above), it was shaped in clay in the studio, was approved by Rover for further investigation, and passed back to DRA to build a running concept. Roy confirmed that the engineering team visited a local TVR agent, and bought what was described as a near-concours example. ‘I didn’t have the heart to tell the salesman what we had planned for it,’ he laughed.

When the TVR returned to engineering, it was stripped down to be used as the donor car, and the Axe-penned body was fit on to its tubular chassis. The interior is straight out of the TVR, not the one that Axe had designed, as was the running gear. With its Rover V8 and rear wheel drive, it was fun to drive in the traditional way – but following a management ride ‘n’ drive exercise, and Rover’s subsequent pull-out of the American market, the car lost out in favour of the mid-engined MGF. By this time, the DR2 had been renamed the PR5 (for Phoenix Route).

The running prototype remains at the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon (below).

MG Dr2/PR5

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

9 Comments

  1. I saw this concept at Gaydon yesterday and it really does look fantastic. Seemed to have a very Jaguar look to me, but maybe it just shares features with the later XK8. Would have loved to have seen it make it beyond this stage. With a KV6 and RWD it could have been fantastic.

  2. The dopey Leyland management seemed incapable of realizing their biggest customers for MG’s was America. The imbeciles must have been typical Brits with an uneducated anti American attitude. Hundreds of thousands of MGA & MGB sold to America and Leyland close the shop in favor of a Euro Market toy car MGF/TF. Too delicate and too complicated for the Yanks who were used to lifting the hood and fixing the crap Lucas electrics or unsticking the flooded SU’s. Complete IMBECILES.

  3. #2. You seem to have little or no idea about the difficulties of selling into the US market in the late 1960s/early 1970s, when the move to outlaw open cars was at its height , and when the whole concept of low slung sports cars was threatened by the bumper height and headlamp height regulations . Furthermore, some 13 years elapsed between the demise of the MGB and the introduction of the MGF . You are also rather too free with your use of the word Imbecile . Life is not quite so simple as you perceive it to be

  4. those examples above are both nice looking cars for the time its a shame they didn’t make them, then again its s shame jag didn’t make a short tail xj40 and a station wagon XJ40 and the MG6 don’t make a wagon now…..it make you wonder what these companies think with sometimes if only they thought like most men do….rather than….ok ill stop now.. alex

  5. It does almost make you cry. Especially the red car. They could have produced this – instead they came up with the short squat, looks like it was designed by a CorsaChav MGF. From grace to gurn in one decision. And didn’t they have the KV6 kicking around by that point? Or am I too early. Even the 2.0 16v turbo as mentioned re the 800 could have made a good fit… Even Chrysler could manage it. 3.2 v6 for the home market 2.4 for the UK in the Plymouth. Hell if they were really desperate – dredge up the 2.2E6 and slap a turbo or two on that (with maybe a 18v or 24v head) – smooth as silk and goes like a rocket.. Just don’t tell them they’ve just bought half a landcrab..

  6. A nice looking car that, I imagine it would have been at a significantly higher price point than the MGF, and is almost too up large and upmarket for an MG (that long bonnet!), and more an Austin Healey or even a TR!

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