The MG EX224 prototype roadster. Photos courtesy Bonhams.
MG’s beloved MGB roadster remained in production from 1962 through 1980, but in 1964, an ambitious plan was launched to replace both the MGB and the Midget with a single car, featuring BMC’s Hydrolastic suspension, an independent rear suspension and a body sculpted by Pininfarina. Just one EX234 prototype was built, circa 1965, before the project was placed on the back burner, and it’s been in single-family ownership since 1977. On June 24, the sole EX234 prototype roadster will cross the stage at Bonhams Goodwood sale, offering a rare chance to own a unique piece of British motoring history.
The original plans for the MGB called for an independent rear suspension to deliver the best possible handling. Cost containment and time pressures saw the design scrapped in favor of a live axle and leaf springs, but BMC’s chief engineer Syd Enever was determined to equip the car’s successor with four-wheel independent suspension. As BMC was rolling out its Hydrolastic suspension on everything from Minis to family saloons at the time, it made sense to include these dampers on the MGB replacement as well.
A prototype chassis was built up, powered by a 1,275-cc BMC A-Series inline-four, then shipped off to Pininfarina in Italy for its body. The design looks familiar today, with a front end that resembles the Fiat 124 Sport Spider and a Kamm-tail rear that could have come from an Alfa Romeo Spider. What it doesn’t look like, however, is a British car, and EX234 features another one-off design trait: The right-hand-drive car features a chrome spear of trim down the driver’s side (denoting GT trim), while the passenger’s side is devoid of trim (denoting Roadster trim). GT models would have come with both a cloth folding top and a hard top, while roadster models would have used a folding top only.
Had EX234 been put into production, it may well have used the A-Series engine in models destined to replace the Midget, with the B-Series 1.8-liter four fitted to cars meant to replace the MGB. Dimensionally, the EX234 was larger than the Midget and smaller than the MGB, yet it offered more interior volume than the larger MG.
The prototype was tested at Silverstone, reportedly by a list of drivers that included John Surtees. Overall, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive in regards to the car’s handling, passenger comfort and styling, but there were forces in play that would prevent EX234 reaching production. In some ways, the innovative roadster was a victim of the MGB’s success; as the model continued to sell well in the United States, MG’s largest export market, there seemed little need to fix things that weren’t broken.
Simultaneously, cash that would have been invested in EX234 development was reportedly diverted into meeting the evolving emissions and safety standards of the U.S. market. When BMC merged with Leyland in 1968, development money that might have gone to MG was instead spent by Triumph, ultimately resulting in the TR7.
With no path to market remaining, the EX234 remained in storage until 1976, when it was acquired by BMC manager Bob Ward, whose initials, REW, formed the basis of the car’s registration number. In 1977, the prototype was purchased by MG dealer and collector Syd Beer, and has remained in the Beer family ever since.
Today, EX234 shows just 6,400 miles on the odometer, and remains in impressive overall condition. Included with the sale is the factory hardtop that would have accompanied GT models, along with a folding cloth top, a current MoT, the original registration document and a copy of the factory specification sheet. Bonhams predicts a selling price between $50,000 and $64,000 when the one-of-a-kind MG crosses the stage at Chichester this Friday.
For additional details on the Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed sale, visit Bonhams.com.