Frontline MG B LE60 | PH Review
A ground-up, V8-powered reimagining of the MG B GT that's even better than we dared hope…
By Matt Bird / Wednesday, 4 October 2023 / Loading comments
The restomod isn’t a new phenomenon anymore; Singer Vehicle Design will celebrate its 15th anniversary next year. And yet remade gems continue to emerge from the unlikeliest of sources. Frontline Developments probably isn’t known to many outside of the MG community, but it’s actually been doing its thing – making Bs better from top to bottom – since 1991. Those of you with long memberships and very good recall might remember that Frontline has put its expertise into a couple of very special turnkey limited editions before (where typically it specialises in bespoke commissions), both the LE50 and Abingdon Edition launched about a decade ago to rave PH reviews. They updated the B almost perfectly: rorty four-cylinder power (courtesy of a Mazda MX-5, poetically enough), a beautifully redone interior and properly sorted handling, all wrapped up in that unmistakeable – yet subtly enhanced – body.
For the LE60, Frontline could be excused for doing similar again. There weren’t many of the previous pair, and there really isn’t much beating a lightweight British roadster with a fizzy four-pot under the bonnet. But it is possible to go a little better, and that’s what the LE60 aims to do. It marks 60 years of the MG B in the only way possible: with a thumping great V8.
Though the block is the trusty Buick-Rover original (with an aluminium block, let’s not forget), the rest is all to Frontline’s exacting specs: forged pistons, roller cams, a new head, bespoke crank and so on. Like the entire car is still kind of an MG B (it’s the axles, front subframe and steering assembly that keep it as a very extensive restoration), the engine is still kind of a Rover V8. Just better in every single way. It’s now at 4.8 litres and in the region of 375hp and 300lb ft; Frontline reckons this masterpiece of an MG B is capable of 0-60mph in four seconds or so, with a top speed of 170mph. It certainly feels that fast on the road, aided by it weighing just 1,100kg despite the dramatically bulked-up bodywork (we’ll deal with that later).
Even more endearing than the sheer speed, however, is the character of this V8. If ever you need to explain to someone why the configuration is so admired, there’s no finer exponent of the breed than this unit. The 4.8 docile at low revs, avoiding the reluctance of anything more highly strung, and able to roll along at a decent lick at what feels like little more than idle. The mid-range is muscular, romping the MG along with a Hollywood car chase as the backdrop; and the thing rips around to comfortably more than 6,000rpm like nothing with this V8 ever has, the benefit of those lighter internals unmistakable as the revs just keep coming faster and faster. The sound hardens at this point, the thunder hammering through and making the retro road racer feel complete. And utterly compelling. Frontline says the customer LE60s will have quieter X-pipes for cruising; don’t be surprised if a few keep them straight through. From gently rocking on its axles when revving it stationary to hollering all the way around the tacho, this is everything good about eight cylinders in a vee.
The LE60’s five-speed manual is, perhaps more than any other aspect, the perfect representation of what Frontline is capable of. While it makes use of Tremec hardware, the tuner’s own parts are spliced in as well, tirelessly developed and made into a brilliant manual gearbox. It’s a burly shift yet never an uncooperative one, the gate perfectly defined so it doesn’t matter if you’re racing through every ratio or block shifting – there’s never any doubt. The throw is short and deliberate, which makes the LE60 feel tough and the very opposite of a delicate classic, but it can be flicked around the gate with ease. The clutch bite is well-defined. The lever is exactly where you’d hope to find it, and just the right size. Even subjected to a strenuous day of filming (watch this space) the prototype never baulked or overheated or did anything even remotely amiss. It behaved like a modern manual gearbox, only with proper feel and satisfaction. Exactly as a quality restomod should.
To a powertrain of rare quality, Frontline pairs a superb chassis. This car has been built from a new BMC body, then drastically hacked away to accommodate massively wider tracks and arches. The front is six inches wider than it would have been, the rear ten inches. It goes to show just how dainty a B was (or how massive cars are now) that the ’60 looks small now. While plenty of the setup is new (including custom Nitron dampers and a multi-link conversion), there are still MG B bits to it, including a live rear axle. This isn’t a new sports car, and it doesn’t handle like one.
Instead, it drives like the best front-engined, rear-drive classic you could imagine, with grip, traction and control that feels frankly extraordinary. But there are also limitations, as there should be, usually just in suspension and wheel travel, that remind you of its roots (wait until you see it on three wheels). Folk after a new car could buy one at this level – those wanting the best of old and new schools must consider the LE60. That any cracks in its repertoire happen at frankly unbelievable speeds for anything MG B shaped only validates what’s been achieved.
Over a bumpy, bucking B road, the Frontline is a dream. It’s still compact and wieldy, and the way it shrugs off imperfections really is remarkable – which only encourages more use of that glorious engine. The strengthened chassis and expensive dampers really pay dividends, because the LE60 just seems so assured and confidence-inspiring in any situation. While there’s a huge amount of grip on offer, its cornering attitude leaves you in no doubt about where the engine is and which wheels are powering. It’ll lift an inside front wheel when really trying, too, yet feels completely unfazed by it, which neatly sums up a lot of the driving experience: it’ll do lovely old car things, while not feeling like it’s going to crumble at the duress. It feels like a race car fit for Revival, in fact, while stopping short of ever seeming harsh or overwhelming.
The brake pedal is firm and the power immense, and it feels great to have the front ever so slightly dive down into a corner before rearing up again with all that V8 muscle to power out. The power steering added by Frontline is perhaps a little too light, though that can be adjusted to buyer taste; it’d be good to have it more in sync with the effort required from the other major controls. Lacking the pin-sharp response of modern steering means you’re always quite busy at the Nardi wheel, but again that feels right for something that’s ostensibly an MG B. You expect something like the LE60 to keep you involved, even as the capability is ramped up by modern components. That balance has been really nicely struck here.
The same theme crops up everywhere. The LE60 doesn’t make the mistake of becoming an homage. It’ll go jolly fast, but not without some effort on your part. It’ll corner handily, but you’ll have to think about braking and weight distribution. It’ll cruise along merrily enough (thanks in part to 25kg of targeted sound deadening), though the view out is unlike anything new. And it’ll dawdle through traffic, only people will love your car – so it couldn’t be anything straight from the showroom. In fact, the closer you get the more special it becomes. Doing away with the bumpers gives it a great hot rod look, and the whole exterior is remarkably free from adornment so it’s really clean and cool. The wheels are a treat, neatly housing the brakes needed to slow a 170mph MG B while still looking retro, and the paint is absolutely gorgeous – Frontline spent a month making sure it’s this flawless. Nothing is left to chance.
Ditto the interior. Everything you see here is done by Frontline in-house, from dash to rear deck, and it’s glorious. Even at this stage of the project, it’s all put together beautifully, and full of lovely details like the one-touch electric windows that look like winders and discreetly installed Bluetooth audio, complete with volume under the armrest like a Bond car. It’s a glorious place to sit, all the way down to Frontline’s own aluminium seats; they’re tailored to each owner, but even the catch-all size offers up enough support, ample headroom, and a decent angle of attack for the offset pedals. It’s not so much fault-finding inside as searching out aspects you don’t completely love. Even during the September heatwave without air-con, the LE60 was a joy to spend time with. And lose a couple of kilos in…
Now, of course, this sort of all-consuming quality doesn’t come cheap. Something like the car seen here will come in at about £230k, thanks to the options selected. A LE60 will start at £176k plus VAT, so £211,200. Given the amount of old MGs once given away for a pint and a packet of nuts, that’ll seem an extraordinary price for a B. But once the effort put into these builds is witnessed (we’ll go into more detail with the EV drive soon) and the result experienced, it’s hard to quibble. A small, dedicated team of enthusiasts spend thousands of hours making the very best version of a classic British V8 they all hold close to their hearts. That passion, expertise and commitment courses through every bit of the LE60 – it’s absolutely brilliant. If you can, it’s hard to think how the money could be better spent. The only downside is having to wait two years for Frontline to work its magic. If ever a car could be worth the wait, this is it.
SPECIFICATION | FRONTLINE LE60
Engine: 4.8-litre V8
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive Power: 380@6,300rpm
0-62mph: 4.0 secs (est.)
Top speed: 170mph (est.)
Weight: 1,122kg (dry)
Price: from £211,200
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