The V8 Route
This is the third version of this page as I made some errors on the first one and manage to lose the second one when I last added some other pages.  This latest version includes some more action shots and poses and an additional under bonnet shot.  I am sorry if the quality of some of the shots is quite poor as they are scans from photocopies of an old magazine.

Whilst reading the HRCR magazine "Old Stager" I came across an article about a British Leyland Special Tuning prepared works/privateV8 Marina used on the 1974 World Cup Rally - it didn't finish the rally, so no fuss was made about it at the time.  This fired me up though, thoughts of thundering through British forests with a V8 under the bonnet was great.  The HRCR cut off age for Post Historic rally cars is 31/12/1974, so that's why I had to have any early Marina.  

The two shots above are from a November 1974 test of the BL V8 Marina by the AutoCar weekly magazine.  They were taken at the MIRA testing grounds.  The left shot shows the Marina on the test track in a gentle drift round a corner.  The right hand shot seems to be on the slippery stuff.  I can't get all the reg number but it looks to me like XLM ??? ?



This is a shot of the V8 Marina and I think that it must have been taken before the rally as Major Helmsley is smiling.  You can see that the usual Castrol livery is deleted and large FODEN logos were stuck on instead.

I was pondering long and hard about the 'nipples' on the roof of the car in the action shots and the pic below.  The AutoCar explained that the Marina carried two spare wheels inside and two more on the roof.  If you come across a Marina V8 purporting to be this car, look for evidence of the 'nipples' on the roof, you could be onto a winner.

These two shots are of the V8 Marina engine.  The first is in the workshop and the second whilst the car was being tested at MIRA.  It clearly has an MGB V8 intake system with the carbs at the rear of the engine and the air cleaners facing forward.  The rocker covers look like crackle finished Rover 3500S covers with the ribs along them.  The brake and clutch master cylinders seem to have outsized reservoirs.  I couldn't see a radiator at all in the first shot, but the second pic shows it was mounted where the front panel should be.

If you look carefully in the background you can see a Dolomite, another Marina Coupe and something with a boot lid up, possibly another Triumph Dolomite.



The new pic shows the radiator behind the 'roo bar and some two tone airhorns on the nearside wing.  The radiator header tank has moved to the offside from a standard car and there seems to be two large reservoirs on top of the servo (possibly dual circuit brakes?).  I have seen the same reservoirs on a Triumph Stag recently so it's likely they were raiding the corporate parts bin.  Does anyone have any ideas of what the radiator might be?  Possibly a Rover P5B, it seems almost square?

The command centre - extra dials where the radio speaker was in the dash and a rally trip meter instead of the glove box.  The gearstick seems shorter than normal owing to the different gearbox and the roll over bar gets in the way of the door.  I can't tell what the seats are, but they are not standard that's for sure.

If anyone has a Special Tuning instrument pod that I could buy or borrow to make a copy, please get in touch - .


The shot to the left is a later Marina V8 pickup that BL Special Tuning built for Car & Car Conversions, the installation was basically an MGB V8.  This one had a Holley carb and Offenhauser inlet manifold.  You can see that the brake and master cylinders appear to be standard.  This one has the radiator expansion tank on the right hand inner wing and possibly two ignition coils on the left wing.  Ben Clayton has a colour shot of the same car taken about 10 years ago on his website - .

One of the American companies (Mallory ?) fitted two sets of 4 cylinder points into a V8 distributor.  This allowed better control of the sparks at high revs, when compared to one contact breaker set for 8 spark plugs (a so called dual point dizzie) perhaps that's why there are two coils.

I originally credited this shot the the BL V8 Marina, but if you look more closely the anoraks like me will see that the car has a Leyland Australia front grille.  You can just about see the registration number from this shot; I think that it is CFR 871 S, but the number plate is white on black and not black on white.  This then is an Australian Marina rally car, you can see the ST stripe down the side and the Castrol stripe down the bonnet.  If anyone has any info on this or any other Aussie Marinas let me know.

Update 27/09/2012 - I have received some new information about this car from Glenn Gilbert in New Zealand, he confirms that the car does have an Aussie grill, but in fact the registration number is South African!  When Leyland closed the Aussie Marina production line it was shipped to SA where production recommenced - whilst living in Cape Town Glenn bought a 6 cylinder Coupe from the local factory.  He says that Leyland SA produced several V8s and rallied them locally.  I wonder if there are any left around?

This next bit is an extract sent to me by Skip Harris in the USA from something he has published, it is based on the contemporary report of the V8 Marina and it's woes on the rally published in the AutoCar in November 1974.

"Not many know that a BL-prepared V8-powered version of the Marina Coupe’ was entered in the 1974 London-Sahara-Munich UDT World Cup Rally.  Foden, builders of trucks, commissioned BL’s Special Tuning department.  The results were impressive, though it did not take the trophy.

The MGB version of the engine with a custom intake manifold was coupled to the MGC overdrive gearbox driving a Salisbury 3.01 Powr-Lok limited slip diff. Minilite 13x6 with Dunlop 175-series tires got the power to the ground.  A custom cross-flow radiator, electric fan, and MGB oil cooler made the engine happy.

Fitting the engine proved no problem as the weight is comparable and there is adequate room in the engine compartment.  As is standard procedure for this type of event, the body was strengthened at suspension pickup points. Rigid polyurethane foam in all longitudinal body sections and CO2 re-welding of all seams did the trick.  Stiffer 5-leaf rear springs and larger torsion bars up front plus enlarged discs and drums were included.

A supplemental gas tank was installed to assure at least 450 miles between fuelings.  This was delivered to the engine by dual SUs in parallel.  A couple of 3-gallon drinking water tanks were installed in the cabin for obvious reasons.

Headlamps were Lucas halogen, supplemented by 4 Cibie Super Oscars on a big ‘Roo bar.  Full roll cage with fibreglass doors, boot lid, and bonnet, as well as Plexiglas side windows and heated rear window were added.  The car, with all these extra items, only weighed a bit less than 700 pounds more than stock:  none of which was due to the V8!

At the end of the first two stages out of, they were fifth owing to babying a fresh engine in need of running-in.  No surprises across France, but the four long stages across Spain began to provide a taste of things to come.  Nonetheless, the team was third overall at this point being only 2 seconds behind Andrew Cowan in an Escort, and some guy named Zasada driving a Porsche.

High speeds and high heat didn’t sit well with the Dunlops, and the Marina was slowed across the Sahara.  But, the Ford’s axle broke, and Cowan gave all his spares to the Marina team.  Border crossings, frontier formalities, and cryptic route instructions added to the grief, but the team persevered.  The sand was not easy to traverse...over soft patches “it was best to drive at 80 or more and hope to plough through.”  They stopped to help the Citroen team dig out of a dune.  Next morning “we flew a long way at over 100 mph off what appeared to be a small bank, dropping into an enormous area of very soft sand.”  They plowed (I know, they spell it “ploughed.”) across most of it, then stuck, and had to dig out.

Two hundred miles short of Madoua in southern Niger, the back axle cracked.  Repairs were made with local help and a welder.  To no avail, though:  Down the road the other side of the axle housing broke in a similar fashion.

This finished the Marina’s rally; as the team said:  “A disappointing end, as BL had built an excellent car, and the component that failed was the only major item not built by them.”

Update September 2010

I got a call out of the blue from Major Helmsley (ret'd), a friend of his had found the web article above and passed on the link to him.  He was very chatty and ended by sending me an article that he had originally written (I think) for his regimental magazine.  It didn't add greatly to the sum of knowledge about the car but did contain the following gem of a picture (finally a colour photograph showing the original livery).  The blue bonnet and yellow flash were a complete surprise to me , you can clearly see the radiator behind the comprehensive 'roo bar on the front.

 Update February 2012

Once again out of the blue, this time an email from Ray Bell who said that he was in correspondence with Gordon Mitchell in Australia, with a fabulous story to tell.  Here's his email

Hi Chris,

I was just directed to your page, good work on putting that stuff on the net!  A number of things, however, could polish it up.

First, did you know that a spare car was built? Maybe it was used for testing, I don't know, but the car ultimately made its way here to Australia and finished up in the hands of racing driver Gordon Mitchell in Perth. Gordon at that time had a job which took him to Melbourne, and from there he was able to race it in the Eastern States, so it managed to see a lot of circuits.

If you want to know more about how the original was built, I'd suggest you contact Gordon Mitchell.


I had heard that there had been a second Special Tuning car to the World Cup Rally car, the story was that it had been prepped for UK Rallycross but after testing was sidelined (I would love to know why - anyone?).  I followed up with a query to Gordon Mitchell in Australia and got this reply!

Hi Chris,
Yes. I had the spare car and raced it all over Australia in the mid to late 1970s. I bought in Canberra and it had been brought into Australia by a British Embassy staff member as I recall.
I did a lot with the car and it even won the West Australian Hillclimb Championship outright in 1979, beating the Holden Dealer Team Torana A9X and some other pretty impressive cars in the process.
As far as I know it is still here in Western Australia but I don't know exactly where or who has got it now. It hasn't been seen in public since about 1980 or 1981.

I asked for any information or pictures and Gordon was good enough to send me several including these;

I bought the car in mid to late 1976. I kept it until about 1981. I sold it to a guy here in Perth, Western Australia - but unfortunately apart from one unsuccessful race meeting in the car after that it has never been seen since. I think I would struggle to locate the guy now after all these years, but last I heard the same guy still has it. I have never heard of it being resold.  I do know that my car was a little bit different in specs to the one you have had details of. For example it came to me with a Holley 4 BBl carb mounted on a Weiand manifold I think. It went very well for a 3.5 litre V8 and I remember that it did rev out quite well. It was a sweet engine.

Pictured here racing a Camaro and either a Galaxy or a Fairlane

Later livery, bonnet bulge and a 'Ducks Arse' tail wing

Update September 2012

Since this article was originally written a number of V8 projects have appeared on UK roads.

Dave Richardson now owns this street sleeper Coupe.  Built by an ex-Austin Rover engineer, it features Ford Sierra front Macpherson strut suspension and a forward rather than bulkhead mounted steering rack.  There are still a number of small items that Dave needs to deal with, but this is on the road now and was exhibited at the Morris Marina Owners Club National Rally where it won best modified.  David has plans to replace the twin SUs with a 500cfm Holley on a low-rise manifold - nice!

Dave also owns a radically modified V8 Van which is many years from roadworthiness - maybe one day?

Ben Clayton is also readying a V8 Coupe, this time fuel injected, it needs the brakes and rear axle sorting amongst other things.  This one has a later 3.9 litre V8 from a Land Rover Discovery, with a four speed auto gearbox.


Ben's cut away the front valence to make the installation process easier. You can see that he's welded strength back in and housed the radiator under the slam panel.