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Driven: the MG LE50

  1. For years you’ve been able to buy a brand-new MGB, in DIY form at least. All the parts were available. But it would still be 1962 standard: wheezy of engine, wobbly of handling. And with build quality only as good as your own skill with a socket set.

    Here’s a better idea. A brand-spanking MGB using new-original parts on the surface, and new-modern systems underneath. It’s got a 215bhp tuned MX-5 engine, and matching six-speed box. That’s 215bhp in 941kg. Which should get you awake.

    Words: Paul Horrell
    Photos: Barry Hayden

  2. In fact if it had original-type suspension and brakes, it wouldn’t just get you awake, it would get you in a hedge. Luckily it has thoroughly modern brakes. Plus the front wishbone suspension is a far better design than originally. At the back, a well-located coil-sprung rear axle replaces the authentic MGB setup whose blueprint was The Haywain.

  3. Frontline Developments, from Oxfordshire, call it the MG LE50 because it’s limited to 50 examples, and this is the MGB’s 50th anniversary year.

    For every LE50 sold, they buy a scrap MGB. Its serial number and registration go to the LE50. Because there is enough of a percentage of original-type parts in the LE50, the DVLA is happy to allow the new car to be classified as that old scrap one ‘repaired’. So it gets exemption from road tax.

  4. MG Car Club members are then invited to come and strip the scrap carcass for spares. Finally it’s crushed to prevent any cloning shenanigans.

    Now then: 215bhp in 941kg (a lot less than an original MGB because the old engine and gearbox were iron castings, and these are aluminium). Factor in a tiny frontal area and short gear ratios. This is simply a hoot. Tickle the accelerator and it darts forward, floor it and it lunges. It sounds like a little ’60s racer.

  5. The chassis is beautifully judged - the best of both worlds, ancient and modern. The ride is remarkably supple, partly thanks to the tall-sidewall tyres. So the car does float and pitch a bit on back roads if you use all the power. But because it’s so tiny, you still need less than your fair share of road.

  6. In corners it’s super-agile. Most of all it’s involving. Modern cars just cursorily text you when you’re at the limit. Instead the LE50 man-hugs you and gives you all the detail well ahead of time. So you can easily use all the modest grip. The first roundabout proves that with an LSD this is the easiest and most controllable oversteerer I’ve ever driven. And, yes, I’ve driven the Toyobaru.

  7. It’s all remarkably thorough. The new shell comes from the official Heritage plant, made on original MG tools. But it’s not standard: it uses the bracing panels developed for the 1992 MG RV8. The RV8 had a 3.9 V8 and an open roof, remember, so if the shell was strong enough for that, it should be enough for this closed car. Especially as, to be extra-sure, this one is seam-welded too. The RV8 passed crash tests, so the LE50 must be a far safer prospect than most classics.

  8. There’s loads of soundproofing. The seats are custom-built around your very own torso. You can even have a very neat and beautifully calibrated electric power steering option.

  9. And the detailing is just gorgeous. The period heater knobs control an effective modern a/c system. And the instruments are still Smiths and wear their original-style typefaces. But they run to 170mph and 9000rpm.

  10. Definitely not 1962 numbers. Neither is the price, at £49.900, but you can see where it goes. This is beautifully crafted and thought out. Anyway, everyone loves drivers of old cars. You can’t put a price on being loved.

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