Costello Roadsters

Listed here are all the known remaining roadworthy Costello Roadsters. Only about 35 of the cars built by Ken and his team were roadsters, which makes them rare indeed; and remember that when BLMC got round to producing their own MGB V8, none of them were roadsters. Most of the Costello roadsters are in the Mk II format, without the bonnet bulge. However, there are a few Mk I models and some Mk III fuel-injected cars from the 1990s. More pictures of each car can be found in the Roadsters Gallery.

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Wes McIntyre - New Zealand
3500cc Mk II Roadster

 

The original owner, Ron Macauley, was living in a flat below his friend Mr. Joe Officer near Heathrow airport in 1972 when he had the Rover V8 Costello treatment done on his owned-from-new 1965 MGB Roadster. This makes the car a Mk II Costello due to the configuration of the carburettors.

Joe purchased the gearbox bell housing and other parts from Costello and the first runs were done mid June '72. Ron was also there and saw the engine running fine but the crank was touching on the cut down sump and created swarfe. Following some minor modifications she became the 'Monster of Heathrow'.

To date the engine still runs sweetly albeit rather thirstily. It has now done 26000 miles from it's conversion. Joe took the car to Scotland for a few years before shipping it to New Zealand for Ron to take over ownership in 1993, making Ron only the second owners. It was kept in Wanaka - the driest province of NZ where rust ceases to exist for some years. Still sporting the UK registration 1FLV the car passed on to Robert Jackson in July 2012, and then more recently to Wes McIntyre who recently contacted mgcostello.com. 

Now sporting the attractive registration 'MGB 08' the car has a total of 125000 miles from new, carries a Costello badge and now a provenance strengthening Certificate of Authenticity too.
 

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Harry Irvine - Derbyshire, UK
3500cc Mk II Roadster

 

This car was supplied and first registered through Cripps Motors of Sidcup, Kent in April 1970. The first owner (Peter Wild) had the car built to Mk I specification. Peter was the book keeper for the fledgling Costello Engineering concern at the time so BGO 819H became the first Costello company car.

 

The second owner was a solicitor from Sussex, whilst the third and fourth owners kept the car local to the Birmingham area from 1974-1988. Harry then purchased the car and has now cherished it for some 32 years.

 

Harry was in fact seeking an MGA when he spotted the Costello looking a little neglected and untaxed, largely due to the ill health of the owner. Nevertheless, the MG garage had sorted it out enough to pass an MOT and it drove quite well, albeit rather noisily!

The car is now in Mk2 form, with a flat aluminium bonnet, side-draught Weber 40 DCOE, eggbox grill, Costello badge on the rear panel and the optional alloy wheels that Costello supplied. The engine transplanted by Costello was a Buick unit, but this unit was replaced in the early 1980's with the current engine, believed to be sourced from a Land Rover, according to factory records.

 

Over the last 30 years Harry has spent about £23,000 on parts and servicing on the car, equating to just £700 per year. He has tried to keep the car as “original” as possible but some changes cannot be helped; the small electric fan (of French manufacture) that was fitted had failed, so a modern 13” electric unit now takes its place. The original exhaust - a fully welded system with tubular manifolds but small diameter pipes - was quite rusty and very loud. This has now been replaced by an MGOC stainless steel system which is quieter but not as neat a fit. In 2020, the rear axle has been reconditioned due to excessive backlash (after only 50  years use!) - the CWP was good and was found to be a MGC ratio of 3.3:1.

 

The car has run on the old standard tyre size of 175/80 R14 HR (actually Dunlop SP Sport 200E tyres) for the past few years. Together with castor reduction wedges in place, this has made the steering less heavy even though a slightly smaller steering wheel is fitted.

Peter Brodt - Frankfurt, Germany
3500cc Mk I Roadster


The rebuild of this ex-Peter Roscoe car is now complete (May 2016) and registration from UK DVLA to German TUV finalised. The car was converted to left hand drive so there was only the problem with the double jointed steering column. Peter, who once owned three Costello vehicles, used a very good mechanic and welder so had no problems.

 

Peter and wife Elfi have enjoyed recent driving tours in the UK, including one in Scotland, pictured here at John O'Groats. Neither wife nor driver and passenger suffered any complaints. 
 
Nigel Bryant, a previous owner of this car (pictured here below) has been in touch with mgcostello.com and relates the following interesting history on this car. In his own words:

Back in 1997, my Land-Rover Defender was stolen from my forecourt and, fancying a complete change, I decided to re-invest the insurance compensation in a V8 MGB. In March, I found a black Costello Roadster advertised privately by a man called Jim Garman, who lived just off the King's Road in Chelsea. I seem to recall that he was a mining engineer and he had to move abroad, so he was keen to sell the car. Even in those days, I realised this was a rare model and should be a good investment, so I got a National coach up to London to inspect it.
 
It was street-parked but looked impressive with its roll-cage and full harnesses, although the bonnet was damaged where it had recently come undone and smashed back against the windscreen. Hopelessly smitten, and hence blind to any other shortcomings, I haggled Jim down considerably to £7,250 and collected the car a few weeks later. It was a 'bit of an animal' and not the easiest car to get accustomed to, especially amidst congested London rush-hour traffic, but it got me home to Poole OK.
 
Dawn revealed a few oil leaks and various other flaws, but the main priority was to get the bonnet fixed. I was given details of someone that seemed keen and able to do the job promptly, so I dropped the bonnet off at his workshop, whilst I attended to the other small repairs on the car.
 
Countless enquiries about progress were met with increasingly unbelievable excuses as to why the bonnet wasn't ready. At one point, the original fibre-glass bonnet was deemed too badly damaged to fix, so I bought a used metal one so that the bulge could be transferred to that (fifteen years later, I still have the metal I cut out!), only for the plans to change yet again, back to fixing the original - but with no actual result.
 
Whilst the car was on the road, I arranged for an amateur-photographer friend to take some 'decent' photos of it. By chance, the day that we had booked coincided with the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, so, although it was a beautiful sunny day, the local Sandbanks beach was deserted and we managed to blag our way right onto the promenade, normally packed with people and definitely out of bounds—see pictures above.
 
I thought such a collectable car would be easy to sell, but in those 'pre-internet' days, that proved not to be the case. I even paid a fortune to display the car for sale at the renowned Beaulieu Autojumble, but still with no success. Some potential buyers pointed out (correctly) that the car had sagged whilst being re-silled sometime in the past, which explained the dodgy shut-lines, and the 'clonking' door closing. Eventually I was offered about £5500 (as I recall), and as I was desperate, I accepted. This was in Sept/Oct 1997.
 
I believe the car went somewhere locally, in Bournemouth, but I never saw or heard of the car again. Today, I checked the DVLA database and saw that the car was still around and on the road, but I have no idea where. Finding your excellent website, I felt compelled to fill in another missing part of the Costello jigsaw, even though I no longer own the car. Hopefully the current owner will contact you one day, and it is good to see that Costellos are being recognised for their part in motoring history.
 
Whilst I kick myself for not still having mine, as I see from your website that it is even rarer than I thought at the time, it's sale was unavoidable back then, and my experiences with it were almost exclusively expensive and frustrating. I can only hope that my 'new' old MGB V8 will prove cheaper and more enjoyable to run.

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Richard Fairclough - Wakefield, Yorkshire, UK
3500cc Mk I Roadster

In 1984, Richard Fairclough acquired this Costello Mk I roadster which once belonged to a friend who had owned it from new. They had both driven it on a memorable two week, 3000 mile, round Europe tour not long after it emerged from the Costello Engineering workshops in 1971 and Richard had been seriously impressed. Three years on, the car was sold and disappeared from view, but nearly two decades later, Richard spotted what turned out to be the very same car in Autotrader and couldn't resist buying it.

 

Over the next five years, he and his wife Liz used the car on a regular basis, not least as a means of ferrying their daughter Helen to school. By then the car was in need of some expensive TLC and was subsequently retired to the garage. However, a big event brought it out of retirement.

Helen - who had grown up being pretty keen on the Costello - decided she'd like to use it at her forthcoming wedding and on honeymoon - so, generous father that he was, Richard gave it to her as a wedding present. However, by arranging for it to be kept in his garage afterwards, he still has driving rights! The roadster required some £15,000 worth of refurbishment - all of which was completed prior to its nuptial duties - including new doors, front wings, a full leather interior, an engine rebuild and a re-spray in Mercedes jasper blue metallic.

 

The car is equipped with non-original (but period) 14 x 6 Wolfrace wheels, shod with 185/60 HR14 tyres, though it still has the original SUs and a Mk I Costello badge on the rear panel. The gearbox is original, as is the Buick based engine (though it has had a new crankshaft), the front suspension has been fully re-built and the rear suspension fitted with uprated springs and Koni telescopic dampers.

 

'Elvis', as this 1971 Costello is affectionately known, was featured in the October edition of Classic Cars and again in MG Enthusiast (Jan. 2009). It was also awarded Best Car in the Car Park at the 2008 Harrogate North of England MGOC Weekend, which just shows how hard work - and hard cash - pays off.

 

See more about this car in the Articles section of the site in the 2018 Classic Car Show 'Anger Management', 2008's 'Multi-Cylindered Swap Shop' and 2009's 'Love at First Sight.'

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Richard Read - Adelaide, Australia
3500cc Mk I Roadster

Richard's Costello is one of two residing in Australia. Richard is now proud to announce (June 2014) that his 1972 Costello Mk I roadster is now back on the roads of South Australia, having owned it since 1983.

Not much of the car's history is known, though Richard does still have the original service book which only lists the V8 engine number. It is therefore assumed the car was converted from new. Stamps in the book also show that some of the servicing was done by Costello Engineering. The original owner was a Mr. Osborn with an address in Birmingham, UK, with the supplying dealer shown as Patrick Motors. The original British registration was COB 257K.

It still has the domed fibreglass bonnet, and the egg box grille, but its original SU carburetors are now in storage.  The engine has been uprated with a mild cam and a four-barrel Weber carburetor in keeping with how some of the cars were specified. The suspension has been rebuilt to standard specification. The wheels have been replaced with more appropriate ones similar to minilites as those previously fitted were 7 inch wide monstrosities. This enabled the guards to be returned to standard.  Unfortunately, as is often the case, the rear badge was stolen at some stage. This has since been replaced courtesy of Peter Brodt.

 

The car was equipped with a locally sourced hard top and painted yellow when purchased. It has been returned to its original Old English White with a correct soft top. The only significant issue since restoration has been coping with the warm climate. An overflow tank has been installed to ensure the radiator is always full and a water level and temperature monitor are also fitted.

Geoff Peters - Surrey, UK
4600cc Mk I Roadster

In Geoff's own words....

My first MG was a B Roadster in red, bought in 1974 for £1,000.00 which, according to the DVLA, is now in white. I liked the proportions of the B very much. Back in those days a Roadster was a great car to take young ladies out in as they could sit up on the back shelf and no one cared, it was well before seat belts became compulsory.

Many potential customers were taken for test drives by Ken Costello in his personal car, including me! I bought his car from him in 1978 and I still own it - 7759 KO.

The original green log book is still with the car with all the previous owners from 1964 (when it was the original 1750cc) before Ken converted it for his own use and demonstrator.

I fell in love with V8s and eventually ended up at Ken Costello’s place in Kent. I had seen a DeTomaso Pantera somewhere and thought ‘Wow!’, but they were out of my price range (not any more though as Geoff now owns several! – ed.). Ken took me for a spin in his test car; a Roadster in Ford Metallic Red with a 3.5 litre, high-compression engine (7759 KO). He had originally started painting it in Rolls Royce Regal Red but said that he could not source any more paint. So, today, under the dash, it’s still in Regal Red.

He scared the heck out of me on the test drive and I thought, ‘yep this is what I want!’. We talked about converting my car which I think he was saying would be about £2,500. He showed me his gearbox that he had designed and tried to convince me to have one and then told me he was selling up, as Rover had stopped suppling him with engines and he wanted to concentrate on his gearbox. So, he said, why not buy his car? We eventually agreed on a price of £3,500.00. I then sold my other Roadster for about what I paid for it. I had started working in the offshore oil exploration industry, so had long onshore breaks, resulting in the BV8 clocking up a fair bit of use. Some great summers were enjoyed in 7759 KO.

Sadly I wish I had left the car exactly as I had bought it, but I was young and just wanted to customise it. Over the years I tried out all sort of mods, most of which were unsuccessful.

Today it has a 4.6 litre V8 with Holley carb and Tremec T5 gearbox (as the original one was just not man enough and failed), as well as a limited slip diff. In 1979 I tried a cruise control unit from the USA which failed and so I tried to drive the car home with a bit of string attached to the carb, with the bonnet ajar, but sadly the safety catch had not latched and as I got up to speed the bonnet blew over the car and wrapped around itself around the screen and whacked me on the head nearly knocking me out.

The roof was down on a nice summer’s day. Ken had installed an aluminium bonnet, which was exceptionally light and it just bent around the screen which surprising did not break. The bonnet was badly damaged, so I bought an MGC steel bonnet as a replacement. I did not want the car to look like a C, so I commissioned it to be modified along the lines of an Aston DBS Vantage. This is the bonnet which remains on the car to this day.

Now I keep considering a resto to put it back to how I bought it, but just have too many other projects to take it on. The original egg-box grille I sold to Dave Vale after he created V8 Conversions. I’ve recently purchased a mark-2 V8 Costello badge from fellow enthusiast Peter Brodt, so that’s about as far as my mods will go.

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3900cc Mk III Roadster
Germany

The previous owner, Jurgen Kuhnle, already owned a recently-converted, 4.6 litre, race-prepared V8 GT, spotted this red 1972 roadster on eBay. It's an almost completed restoration which had lain idle for the past seven years with only 620 recorded miles on the clock.

Patsy Turl - Dorset, UK
3500cc Mk II Roadster

 

First registered in November 1976. Still has the original Service book along with a copy of the application to licence a new vehicle signed by Ken. At this time the car was painted Glacier White.

3900cc Mk II Roadster - France

Originally fitted with 3500cc Buick-based engine and all the Costello attributes, plus leather upholstery, mohair hood, walnut dashboard and Moto Lita steering wheel. In 1991, it underwent major bodywork refurbishment, involving a number of new panels and a bare metal re-spray.

3500cc Mk II Roadster Czech Republic

Fettled with new double-duck hood and carpets, refurbished period Wolfrace wheels, and original Connaught green paint. First registered LAC 541P in August 1975 and subsequently became MGB 88V in January 1980.

3500cc Mk II Roadster - New Zealand

The previous, and first owner purchased the car in UK as a brand new 1800cc in 1973, and took it to Ken Costello for a complete makeover. First registered in NZ in Feb, 1982. For various reasons, it wasn't used much in the early 2000s and was eventually put into storage for a while. The new owner invested in a Costello Certificate of Authenticity and a MkII badge.

Mk II Roadster - Belgium

Previously belonged to Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian PM and MEP. Previously, the owner was Ben Mullaert who organised the Ardennes Gathering for Costello owners in 2010.

Began life as a red 1978 RHD Costello Mk II GT exported as an MOT failure to Belgium where it was rebuilt - to Costello specs - into the modified shell of a later model, four-cylinder, US specification MGB.

3900cc Mk III Roadster
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The previous owner, Jurgen Kuhnle, already owned a recently-converted, 4.6 litre, race-prepared V8 GT, spotted this red 1972 roadster on eBay. It's an almost completed restoration which had lain idle for the past seven years with only 620 recorded miles on the clock.

3500cc Mk II Roadster
Denmark

This car used to reside in the USA and has an interesting history. Relatively few MG enthusiasts in the USA have actually seen one of the original Costello V8's, because none of those made during the original production run was built for export to the USA. This one was privately imported in 1990.

3500cc Mk II Roadster
Germany

Costello worked on this Roadster after series production ended. First registered in UK in July 1976, the engine change to a 3.5 litre Rover V8 having already been completed. All the other Costello hallmarks remain, the rear axle has the correct 3.07:1 final drive ratio and the car has a Mk-I Costello badge on the rear panel.

3500cc Mk III Roadster
UK

Brian's car is a late Costello (Mk III) fuel injected version, completed in 1992 on a 1978 roadster. It was fitted with a 3.5 litre Rover engine on 9.5:1 compression, carrying the Costello fuel injection plenum chamber and Lucas type L injection. Originally supplied to TVR with a Costello-designed 5-spd gearbox. 

3500cc Mk II Roadster Germany

 

Until fully registered in Germany, the car currently carries the registration number NAB 976D, but once wore the private registration 5830 MG.

4600cc MkI Roadster - UK

First registered June 1970, purchased for £1319 from University Motors, London. Costello Motor Engineering Ltd installed a 3500cc Rover V8 in P6 spec in October 1971, for £917, almost doubling the price of the original vehicle. Accompanying history file is over three inches thick and includes every single bill and receipt, including Ken's original invoice.

Mk III Roadster - Denmark

In the early 1990's, Costello started production of MGB V8 EFI models (the Costello Mk III) making about ten, of which this is #2. This particular car was exported to the USA to be sold there, converted to LHD, but it later returned to the UK, which is where Neils purchased it.

4600cc Mk II Roadster
Germany

Bought direct from Costello in an unfinished state with a number of problems, particularly with an underperforming engine due for a rebuild. Later fitted with a brand new 4.6 litre, 277bhp engine from RPI. This was followed by a good deal of general fettling.