News : MG EX234 prototype comes up for sale

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

MG EX234

The MG EX234 prototype hits the auction scene, coming up for sale with Bonhams at its Goodwood Festival of Speed sale on 24 June. It’s one of the many fascinating ‘might have beens’ in the history of the MG marque, with design kicking off in 1964 when Abingdon’s engineers’ thoughts turned to a ‘next-generation’ MGB that would have better chassis dynamics: specifically, the new car would incorporate the independent rear suspension intended for the original but abandoned as being too expensive.

Designer Syd Enever’s team was responsible for constructing the prototype, code named EX234, raiding the BMC parts bin for the 1275cc A-Series engine and gearbox, Austin Champ rear axle and Hydrolastic suspension units. Suspension was by upper and lower wishbones all round, steering was by rack and pinion, and there were disc brakes on all four wheels.

Once completed, the rolling chassis was despatched to Pininfarina in Italy for bodying, and the result contains hints of the master coachbuilder’s Alfa Romeo Duetto and FIAT 124 Sport Spider, while at the same time incorporating the sawn-off ‘Kamm’ tail that would later appear on the Alfa Romeo 1750. EX234 was intended to replace both the Midget and the MGB and, despite being more compact than the latter, offered a more generously-sized interior. The exterior trim on either side was different: one style being for the GT version, the other for the open roadster.

Back in the UK, EX234 was enthusiastically received by all who drove it. In his book MG: The Untold Story, David Knowles has this to say on the subject: ‘Roy Brocklehurst took the EX234 prototype to Silverstone where, according to Jim Stimson, it was driven by a few trusted experts… including John Surtees. Roy said they told him that the roadholding was as good as any car they had driven.’

So why didn’t EX234 make it into production? At the time of its inception both the Midget and the MGB were still selling well, and it was felt by senior management that there was no pressing need for a replacement. The project was shelved. Following BMC’s merger with Leyland to form British Leyland, the balance of power shifted within the reconstituted group in favour of Triumph, at least as far as thoughts of a new sports car were concerned, and when the time came it was the Triumph TR7 that was chosen, despite the MG marque’s greater popularity in the USA, British Leyland’s most important export market.

In 1977, with only 100 miles on the odometer, EX234 was acquired by the long-established MG dealer Syd Beer, becoming part of his MG Museum collection in Houghton, Cambridgeshire. While there it was driven by motoring journalist John Sprinzel, who had been a works MG driver back in the 1950s.

In the resulting magazine article, he observes that the Hydrolastic suspension ‘kept the car beautifully flat and smooth through the corners, with none of the usual lurch over uneven bits of the surface. There was also no rear-end steer, and I felt that even without any development input that the handling was far superior to the current Spridget.

‘The interior was vast, and for my six foot three inches of height, there was space for legs, knees, arms and elbows. The small steering wheel was set amongst excellent instrumentation, and occupants were surrounded by interior trim far better than has been normal on Abingdon products, with comfortable seats and two compact extra back seats with better legroom than in the MGB GT. There was excellent visibility and really good braking…

‘All in all, I concluded my little road test by thinking this would have been a delightful successor to both the B and Midgets, with good looks, great performance and probably the continued money-making record of many years of Abingdon sports cars.’

Offered for sale by the Beer Family Trust, this unique and historic MG prototype comes with a current MoT certificate, its original V5 registration document and a copy of the original factory specification sheet. The car also comes with a factory hardtop, intended for use on the GT version, and has a folding convertible hood made of an attractive flocked material rather than the vinyl used for contemporary MGBs and Midgets.

This vehicle is quite simply a ‘must have’ for the serious MG collector.

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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

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9 Comments

  1. Oh, how exciting! It looks like a great car in terms of technology and especially in terms of design – a true piece of art that anyone would like to have in his garage!

  2. “At the time of its inception both the Midget and the MGB were still selling well, and it was felt by senior management that there was no pressing need for a replacement. The project was shelved.”

    No need for a replacement. The current car is selling perfectly well. Carry on as you were, chaps.

    How many times did BL/ARG repeat this mistake throughout the following years?

    • To be fair, the attitude you discuss (and you’re absolutely right) was common across British industry. For the ‘best’ example, take a look at our once mighty motorcycle industry.

  3. I know there’d be no money in this whatsoever, but if I was a billionaire tycoon that didn’t need to worry about trifling million £ losses I’d love to give this a go:

    Start up a company in partnership with British Motor Heritage to start limited production of all of these ‘could-have-been’ cars from BL and before under the kit-car laws.

    I’d start by producing cars like this little MG (or the Michelotti MGB successor), or the Healey 4000 with the OHC Rolls 3.9l, or the 2600-engined Triumph big saloon, or the Rover P6BS.

    • Just another thought, could branch out into PI kits for Stags and Dolomite Sprints, or crate engines, or kits to put hotted up O-Series engines into MGBs.

      Oh to be filthy stinking rich…

      • Just the kind of thing I would love to do! The sad fact is, even with a triple rollover Euromillions jackpot, the likes of us could never aspire to the dream!

        Hindsight is a wonderful gift. I sit here most nights, reading this site, with the overwhelming urge to build a time machine and go back to the 50’s and 60’s with the primary intention of banging the heads of management. unions, designers and accountants together until they saw sense!

        Things could have been so different!

        • Like to believe this universe operates on an Everett Theory spectrum of sorts.

          Which ranges from parallel realities where such cars / etc successfully entered production as part of a dominant British Car Industry (which made or large made all the right decisions) to more dystopian realities, where the British Car Industry ends up experiencing fates far worse than what was depicted in the Cuba without the Sunshine counterfactual article seen elsewhere a few years back.

          The fact is that many of the problems stem from much further back than the 1950s-1960s.

          Would love to commission someone to produce cars such as the MG EX234, MG ADO34/35/36, MG E-XE, Rover Mini Spiritual as well as a Rover Minki-II SP Turbo hatchback (with ERA Mini Turbo-inspired bodykit and 120+hp 1.4 K-Series Turbo from Metro SP prototype).

  4. There’s a beautiful eggshell blue Rover P6 prototype around. I saw it at a P6 meetup I once went to in Birmingham. Had plastic covers on the seats if I remember correctly. Does anybody know about it?

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