The British-owned motor industry has produced relatively few concept cars over the years, but when one has been built it's generally been worth waiting for. The MG EX-E was just such a concept. By the time it made its debut at the 1985 Frankfurt motor show the MG marque seemed to be on its last legs. The MG B had been axed years earlier and the only presence MG had was due to cars such as the Metro, Maestro and Montego. What was needed was a shot in the arm to show that there was still life in the company, and that’s exactly what the EX-E did.
Although the EX-E was unveiled as a non-runner, it had been engineered to accept the 3.0-litre V6 engine that was normally found in the MG Metro 6R4. This was a compact unit closely related to the legendary Rover V8 powerplant, and it could be tuned to produce a reliable 400bhp; a pretty good basis from which to start.
In the EX-E the quad-cam 24-valve unit was detuned to produce 250bhp, and to help put the power down the car was equipped with four-wheel drive. Transmitting this power to all four wheels was a five-speed manual gearbox and there were all sorts of tricks up MG’s sleeve to keep the car on the straight and narrow. As well as a central viscous control unit, there were limited slip diffs at the front and rear.
Adjustable ride height was also fitted and thanks to an exceptionally low drag factor of 0.24, it was estimated that the EX-E could travel all the way up to 171mph before running out of steam. Located behind the car’s two occupants but just ahead of the rear axle, the EX-E had the classic mid-engined layout of any supercar worth its salt; this was a car that would put driving enjoyment far ahead of such mundanities as luggage or passenger space.
The car took its name from the fact that it was an EXperimental MG-E – although when MG finally made a proper comeback a decade later it was with the MG F. Although that was a quite different car from the concept shown at Frankfurt, the essential premise of the F was the same in that it was a mid-engined sportscar, even if it was somewhat less potent. More importantly though, the EX-E gave a good indication of what the F would look like when it finally appeared.
One of the things that didn’t survive the translation to showroom car was the extensive use of darkened glass, which was all fitted flush to make it look more futuristic. A strong wedge shape with pop-up headlamps was a classic sportscar styling cue. Also standard for the genre was an interior that didn’t have to worry too much about production constraints. That’s why there were plenty of electronics, leather on just about every surface and theoretical equipment which could have been fitted, but didn’t actually work in the concept. To that end there was a partial head-up display (dubbed as the reflex information monitor) that showed key information in the driver’s line of vision and there were also four-stage cruise control, climate control plus automatic headlights and windscreen wipers.
All these bits of equipment were only the start though; a comprehensive entertainment and telephone system (incorporating satellite navigation) was also shoehorned into the MG’s interior. There was also an ignition system which required a card to be inserted into a slot and a personal identity number to be entered before the car would start. Of course none of it worked as at this stage electronics were still in their infancy – but many of these ideas are now a production reality in mass-produced budget cars.
||Roy Axe, Gordon Sked
||Mid-mounted, 2991cc, petrol V6
||5-speed manual, four-wheel drive