A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

By Andy Knott and Colin Grant

A ‘Wolf in sheep’s clothing’ is an idiom of Biblical origin used to describe those playing a role contrary to their real character with whom contact is dangerous, this describes the MGB GT V8 owned by Club Member James Wooster perfectly. Outwardly it looks like a nicely restored MGB GT, but under the skin there is a beast waiting to be unleashed.

James’ love affair with MG all started whilst working in Australia for a year in 2015. He takes up the story ‘I visited the well-known Classic Throttle Shop in Sydney looking for a car. Amongst the rows of exotic cars was an MGB Roadster in blue, being the only car there that was in my budget I bought it! I found it lovely to drive and used it for around five to six months.

The family and I had to come back to the UK early so I had the car shipped back with us as I just couldn’t part with it. Once back in the UK I found that I had too many cars and I needed something fun I could commute into London in every day. I have an Audi RS4, which although powerful, just wasn’t as much fun as the B. I decided my MGB I shipped back just wouldn’t be practical as an everyday commuter so I started to look out for an MGB GT V8. This was inspired by memories of occasionally being driven to school in one when I was a young lad.

The looks, noise, and sheer power of the car still sends shivers down my spine. I spent time looking through classified adverts for one, but I couldn’t find one to the standard I was looking for. I then searched the internet and came across a firm called CCHL Classic and Sportscars Specialist. They specialise in building bespoke V8 MGB GT’s, so I travelled north to visit them in Hull. I was very impressed with their work and liked the idea I could have a car built to my own specification, so I ended up specking a car and I placed an order with them in March 2016, I took delivery of the finished V8 in April this year’.

One nice thing when you are having a car built to your own spec is to follow its progress, James commented, ‘I was able to do this whilst it was being built, having seen the bodyshell in primer and the engine still in its crate having just been delivered from an engine specialist in Ireland. I was impressed with the attention to detail that CCHL are well known for, and found the whole experience very enjoyable. I created a spreadsheet of my spec which was quite complex, having this meant we could keep a tally of the things I wanted fitted to my MG. My main request was to have a car that looked like a standard circa 1967 BGT, as I liked the chrome bumpers from this era.

We asked James to list just a few of the other items from his long spec list; ‘I felt although I wanted a classic looking car I also wanted my modern comforts so I asked for a heated windscreen, power steering, heated seats, and Bluetooth connection, plus a comfy, classic inspired luxurious interior with leather seats and thick carpet etc. One item I overlooked, and which I will fit myself, was a red LED in the dash to indicate when I am low on fuel as I have nearly been caught out a couple of times.

To keep the road and wind levels to a minimum inside the car I had £350 worth of Dynamat installed instead of the £80 worth that CCHL would normally fit. The stereo system was installed by a firm in High Wycombe, I was able to work closely with them on the cable runs and specification of the cable used. The power amp and sub-woofer are located in the boot together with high quality speakers being fitted all round.

All the suspension was to my spec as well. The engine gives out 186bhp and although happy with this I may have it tweaked, I’m looking at altering the exhaust as well as it’s chunky and too low so I will probably have it replaced with a bespoke one from a specialist. My idea was to have a car I could use every day as I do around 1000 miles per month’.

We asked James for his comments on the handling and other things that impressed him about the car, he replied, ‘The handling is incredible and the car is a complete joy to drive with the engine perfectly tuned for coping with London traffic, or equally at home along country lanes or blasting down the motorway. As I spend a lot of time in the car it has to be fun, the B is very predictable in the corners and not spoilt by having modern electronics intervene, meaning it had none of the twitchiness that some modern high performance cars can have.

Another thing I like about the car is the way you can tinker around with it and not get yourself into too much trouble. For instance, because of my stop, start, diving in London I thought it might be a good idea to fit a fan override switch which was so easy to do, something you could never contemplate on a modern car.

The big question, how much did it all cost and has anyone ever offered to buy it? James smiled and said, ‘Total cost of the car was around £45000, which when you consider you have a bespoke car is very reasonable. I actually had an offer whilst at MGLive! this year. I spoke to a chap who had put his business card on my windscreen and on the back had written ‘call me’. He said that mine was the only car he had placed his business card on and he wanted to make me an offer to buy it. I said I would think about it. So during a walk around MGLive!

I discussed it with my son. We agreed that we would not sell the car unless he offered me £85,000 in which case I would order two more! So, I politely declined his offer. This is the first time I have had this happen to me and I have owned some rare exotic cars in the past including a Maserati Granturismo F. My current car, an Audi RS4, is being sold and my next car to share the garage with my MGBGT V8 is going to be a Tesla S P100D but I can’t ever see myself selling my MG’.

Having completed our interview and followed James to our photo shoot location along some of the lovely lanes that surround his country home, we could see that he really has tamed the beast!!