The last MGB sports car was built in 1980 and although the MG name survived, it did so only as an alternative badge on its parent company’s saloon models.
BL Cars, custodians of the marque, made the clearest possible statement of its long-term endorsement when to, universal surprise, it unveiled a widely acclaimed mid-engined MG concept car at the 1985 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Work on the project had began at BL’s Canley design studios earlier that year and the styling was the work of Gordon Sked, director of external design, under the direction of Roy Axe.
The MG, dubbed EX-E, was a low, finely proportioned coupe with well executed curves and a cockpit dome apparently inspired by Group C racing cars and the canopy of fighter aircraft!
Significantly the body was completely devoid of spoilers, which pointed the way forward to a new generation of cars that featured less cluttered and more aerodynamically refined lines than their predecessors.
It structure was similar to that used for the experimental 1982 BL Technology project ECV (Energy Conservation Vehicle) 3 in that it featured an aluminium frame with external plastic panels bonded to it. The EX-E’s drag coefficient was a creditable 0.24.
Although the show car was engineless, it was designed to receive the 3 litre V6 alloy engine developed for the Metro 6R4 rally car announced earlier in the year. It was also intended to be fitted with is four-wheel-drive system. Wheels were shod with substantial 7J 245/17 section tyres and top speed was a theoretical 275 km/h (171 mph).
The double wishbone suspension was shared with Project XX that emerged as the Rover 800 and Honda Legend executive saloons in the following year.
The interior complemented the car’s dramatic exterior. Above the red LED (light-emitting diode) display was what BL described as a ‘reflex information monitor’, a head-up display that featured such vital information as engine revolutions under hard acceleration and cruising speed.
There was also a futuristic telephone, the dial of which was integrated into the fascia next to a compact disc player, and a sophisticated navigation system. The microphone was attached to the headrest with sound being relayed through stereo speakers.
Well-received at Frankfurt, when an appreciative audience broke into spontaneous applause on its unveiling, the EX-E kept MG name in the public eye, although the marque would not be truly reborn until the 1995 arrival of the much praised, mid-engined MGF. In retrospect the EX-E can be seen as representing the starting point for that project, stylistically and mechanically.
Wood, Jonathan (1997) Concept Cars, Paragon, ISBN 0-75252-084-9.