MG Montego EFi and Turbo Buying Guide
Long maligned as yet another BL flop, the MG Montego was a relatively capable sports saloon by mid-1980s' standards. Here’s how to get the best
How much to pay
• Project £150-400 • Good £1000-2500 • Concours £4000-8000 •
Running costs ★★★★
DIY Friendly ★★★★
When Austin Rover launched an MG version of its Metro, it wasn’t expecting sales to take off in the manner they did. By the middle of the 1980s, each of its mainstream Austin ranges was joined by a sporting MG, and the Montego EFi and Montego Turbo were the largest and most powerful of these offerings. Designed to compete with fast versions of the Ford Sierra and Vauxhall Cavalier, they suffered the stigma of being part of the former BL empire, and received largely undue criticism as a result.
By and large, the changes were cosmetic, with lower suspension, uprated interiors and spoilers galore, though the turbocharged model launched in 1985 had a useful chunk of extra power. 150bhp from a 2.0 engine was impressive back then, and until the early 2000s the MG Montego Turbo enjoyed the distinction of being the fastest production MG.
Seriously rare now – if you find a good one, it’ll be a car to cherish.
Your AutoClassics MG Montego inspection checklist
The MG Montego used the BL O-Series, shared with prestige versions of the Austin Montego saloon. All were 2.0, eight-valve four-cylinder units, and all are torquey. In the EFi, it produced 115bhp, as with the Austin equivalent. In the Turbo, an SU HIF44 was used alongside a Garrett turbocharger, giving 150bhp. This engine was unique to MG.
The O-Series is a reliable engine in service, and you’re unlikely to encounter any major issues. It’s worth checking that the cambelt has been changed though – ideally every three years. The O-series is an interference engine, so failure will mean bent valves at the very least and potentially the need for a whole new engine.
There are rarely problems with the turbocharger or injection systems, and HIF44 rebuild kits are available if your carburettor is a little worn. Check the heat shield is in place, as the carburettor can vaporise fuel if exhaust heat is allowed near it. Ancillary systems are simple, though starter motors can be prone to failure. The Lucas M79 is used, which can be found in scores of other models of the period.
MG Montegos all used a derivative of the PG1 gearbox, jointly developed between British Leyland and Honda, and first seen in the Austin Montego in 1984. This gearbox was used in MG Rover products right to 2005, and replacements are easily sourced. It is worth noting that the MG versions used the K7AR gear set – others are available for improved cruising, but it’s certain your car will have had a replacement if the sticker on the top of the box shows a different combination.
Many uprated examples will have had the gearbox from the Rover 820 Vitesse fitted, with steel caged bearings and a Torsen diff. This is a worthwhile modification for uprated cars, and should improve the longevity of the gearbox.
Listen for wearing synchromesh on Turbos, and gearbox whines. Realistically the Turbo is nearing the limit for the amount of power and torque you can safely put through a PG1, and many will have been driven hard at some stage.
Suspension and brakes
There’s little to go wrong with the suspension on an MG Montego – it’s fairly simple MacPhersons all round. Check the dampers for leaking, and with a bounce test on each corner to determine if they are worn. Standard shocks were oil filled on the EFi and gas filled on the Turbo – many aftermarket suppliers offer gas shocks, and we would recommend these if your potential purchase needs to have them replaced.
Brakes are also simple, with a ventilated disc/drum setup. Turbo brakes are no bigger than EFi, so there is no point in an upgrade – however both systems should stop the car straight and sharply. These are performance cars, so ensure they’re wearing quality tyres with appropriate speed ratings.
While MG Montegos are no worse for rot than the majority of their rivals, that doesn’t mean that they won’t corrode, and corrode badly. Primary areas to check are the triple-skinned A-pillars and sills, plus the wheelarches, door bottoms and anything low on the car. Montegos also rot above and below the rear window, and underneath the rear quarterlights – cars that have sat can often show staining above the wheelarch as a result of rust-stained water running down the flanks.
Montegos aren’t yet valuable enough to warrant full restoration, and the lack of availability of panelwork reflects their market position. It might be worth fabricating smaller areas, but if you are viewing a car with advanced corrosion in the floors or around the rear window, we would advise you to shift target onto another example.
One bonus is that the front wings bolt on, so any rust here (which is not unknown) can be rectified relatively easily. While round the front, check the indicators as they’re prone to shedding lenses. Secondhand replacements are available, but obviously it’s better to avoid the issue if you can check before you buy.
Front spoilers for late EFis and all Turbos are shared with the late Countryman estate, while early EFi chin spoilers are shared with GTi and Si models. Early EFi tail spoilers are rare, but later models used identical spoilers.
The dashboard should be the first place you check. UV light causes them to dry out and split across the top, while the instrument binnacle surround can lift and warp. While these dashboards may look like plastic, they are in fact made from compressed cardboard with a vinyl top layer, which makes them virtually impossible to reshape once warped. Splits can be cured with filler and paint, however, so a dashboard can be revived if it isn’t too far gone. Uncracked and unwarped dashboards are rarely seen, and are prized by enthusiasts.
None of the trim is available new, though it is possible to obtain materials for retrims of later cars with full velour. Early interiors are more difficult, but secondhand trim is available. If your car is from the first nine months of EFi production and has a digital dashboard, then replacements are difficult to obtain when broken. It is still worth looking, rather than converting to analogue, because the conversion is relatively involved and would reduce the value of an unusual early mode.
Headlinings sag, and while re-covering is possible at home, a specialist would do a far better job. You don’t need to remove the windscreen to get the board out; with care and effort it is possible to remove the headlining through the front passenger door with the front seats reclined.
- 1984: MG Montego EFI launched.
- 1985: MG Montego Turbo launched.
- 1987: EFi gains 14in imperial wheels, minor control facelift and Turbo spoilers.
- 1988: Both models facelifted, given 15in alloy wheels.
- 1991: Turbo discontinued.
- 1992: MG Montego discontinued.
The MG Montego EFi and Turbo are often overlooked by people wanting a 1980s sports saloon. We don’t think this is fair – they are no worse than the competition, and arguably more interesting than many of their rivals when new. Everyone knew someone with a Montego and it will always be a talking point – literally, in the case of early digital dashboard EFis.
There’s no reason why you can’t use one daily either – with over 30mpg achievable from an EFi and Turbos not far shy, the running costs are relatively reasonable and servicing is a cinch. And they’re not all the rotboxes people think – get a good one and look after it, and it will stay in good condition. There aren’t many left so if you can find one, buy one.
|MG Montego Turbo|
Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics