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For $223,000, the Frontline LE60 Restomod Nearly Perfects the MGB GT

frontline mgb le60
The Quarter-Million MG RestomodDAVID SHEPHERD
frontline mgb le60
DAVID SHEPHERD

I hear the Frontline LE60 before I see it. A small enclosed trailer quakes to its V-8 soundtrack and it gradually backs down the ramps and reveals itself to an otherwise unremarkable day in the U.K. By which I mean it's just about to drizzle with rain. The noise is BIG, as opposed to the tiny but artfully pumped-up MGB GT shell. And the car looks so purposeful. Its flared metalwork isn't overwrought but really conveys that this familiar-looking little coupe is different in all the right ways. It just looks right.

So, this is the next stop on our restomod tour, and it feels left field but also positioned right where these reinvented, re-engineered, and massively invigorated cars should. The MGB GT coupe is a handsome, perfectly fun sort of classic, but in original form, it's not the last word in dynamic excitement and raw sports-car performance. The Frontline LE60 puts that right with a 375-hp 4.8-liter V-8, a much-modified and strengthened shell, a huge amount of chassis development, and top-drawer components. All-up, it tips the scales at just 2420 pounds. That means a power-to-weight ratio to match a Porsche 992 GT3 RS.

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As usual, all that good stuff has a high price. Just 30 LE60s will be built and sold starting at $223,000 plus taxes. That's a whole hill of money when you can get a really, really good Superformance Cobra—the archetypal brawny, V-8-engined sports-car experience—for around $120,000. Frontline might wince at the comparison, and we suspect these appeal to very different customers, but it does rather illustrate the scale of the challenge of making a Sixties MGB GT feel special enough to command such a lofty sticker price.

frontline mgb le60
DAVID SHEPHERD

Even so, the LE60 hits all the right buttons. The Pininfarina-designed MGB GT was introduced in 1965 and is a fantastically proportioned car. However, the Frontline is radically evolved, and the brand new shell is much stronger and much more imposing. They've avoided the hot-rod look of the period 'Sebring'-bodied race cars, which featured tacked-on bubble arches and opted for a smoother, more cohesive style. It's beautifully realized and deceptive too. The front is 6 inches wider than a standard car and the muscular shape culminates in rear haunches broader by 10 inches. It's a whole different animal to the donor model.

The MGB GT does have a V-8 in its backstory, of course. Back in '73, the MGB GT V8 was launched. Its 3.5-liter all-aluminum Rover V-8 was derived from a Buick V-8 and soon became a classic "British" engine in the following years, powering everything from the Rover SD1 saloon to TVRs and a host of other low-volume sports cars. It produced a mighty, um, 137 hp. Bizarrely, British Leyland, the disastrous conglomerate that would slowly nosedive the British car industry into the ground, chose not to sell the V-8 version in the U.S. So we had to make do with the puny four-cylinder variants that wouldn't even get close to 100 hp. Anyway, the point of all this is to say that the GT needs a lot of re-engineering to handle a fulsome 375 hp at 6300 rpm and 317 lb-ft of twist. Oh, and, of course, Frontline will sell the LE60 to U.S. customers very happily indeed.

So, Frontline—established in 1991 by Tim Fenna and based in an old Benetton F1 facility in Oxfordshire, England—has been through everything. Along with the wider, much stiffer seam- and bumper-free pressed steel shell handmade by British Motor Heritage, there's a six-link rear suspension arrangement to better locate the live axle and improve traction, stability, and refinement. Coil-over and adjustable Nitron dampers have been developed, and the LE60 is also fitted with a Quaife torsion limited-slip differential. Frontline claims that the roll center is lowered "drastically." There are also uprated brakes with six-piston clippers on the front and four-piston items at the rear. It rides on 16-inch Dunlop-style alloy wheels with Michelin tires. The footprint is increased but still seems pretty modest, with 215-section fronts and 225 rears.

frontline mgb le60
DAVID SHEPHERD

I love the interior. The open-pore leather is a real treat, and the low-backed "Aluminium Tub" seats are brilliantly supportive. It feels like a quality item. Even so, as a newcomer to the MGB, the driving position requires some adjustment. The central tunnel pushes your feet so far to the outside of the car that you drive almost in a side-saddle position. The steering wheel sits dead ahead, but your feet are splayed to the right in this right-hand-drive example. I'd like bigger, more substantial pedals too. It feels like it should have some sort of intricate racing-bias pedal setup instead of spindly little Sixties levers. Although, to be fair, almost everything is forgiven when the 4.8-liter V-8 starts with a big wave of barking goodness. The little car is suddenly absolutely alive.

The 5-speed Tremor 'box with a host of bespoke Frontline upgrades is the perfect partner to the engine. It shifts so cleanly but keeps the weighting just right—not so heavy as to create a sense of inertia, but not so light as to feel insubstantial. It conveys the engine's strong, linear power curve with perfect clarity, and the sort of miniature but supermuscular Sixties Le Mans–racer vibe is hard not to fall for immediately. But there's refinement too. The wide track really does create a sense of a stable, precise platform, and the dampers are on the softer GT side. Melding a race-car-like character with such ease of use is a very neat trick.

The real magic of the LE60 is the ease with which this chassis—which you imagine should be stretched to its limit or beyond—soaks up the engine's power with barely a complaint. There's so much traction, even in the wet, that Frontline's most powerful version feels incredibly exploitable. I'd expected a real hot-rod feel, a little car overstuffed with engine and struggling to deploy even a fraction of the on-paper potential. Instead, the LE60 takes full power no problem at all in second gear and fires you along at a wicked pace. I keep checking the tires, and yep, they really are 225s, and a fairly sensible Pilot Sport 4S fitment at that.

frontline mgb le60
DAVID SHEPHERD

The engine is a beauty. Bored out to 5 liters but then stroked down to 4.8 to keep a revvy, exciting delivery, the V-8 was developed by Frontline over a three-year period. It features forged pistons, conrods, and a fully balanced crank, plus bespoke heads and a bespoke inlet plenum and drive-by-wire throttle. It has 297 lb-ft to back up that headline horsepower figure and revs to 6500 rpm, with power right to the cut-out. The sound isn't outrageously hard-edged or even particularly loud compared to, say, a Ford Mustang Dark Horse, but there's a real quality burr to it. And it can really thump the LE60 along.

It's not perfect, of course. For me, the electric power steering is a shade too light (this can be tweaked to customer preference), but I also find the rack a bit slow. In combination with a fair amount of body roll, the LE60 doesn't quite slice between direction changes as cleanly as I'd like. It hits the sports GT target, but the look and mechanical makeup feel like they should combine to offer a bit more sharpness. Despite the superb traction that allows you to be quite aggressive with the throttle, the chassis requires more patience. It's a car to stroke along in higher gears rather than hustle. I guess this is a matter of taste, but I'd want to swing the needle a little bit more toward that Sixties endurance racer. A proper plated limited-slip diff would be welcome too.

frontline mgb le60
DAVID SHEPHERD

Even so, this car has so much goodness. Frontline nailed the aesthetic, inside and out. It's so useable and brilliant for covering large distances. The engine has fantastic character and proper bite at the top end when you go looking for it, and the gearbox is superb. Even without ABS the brakes feel deeply reassuring too. The fine-tuning? That's what would keep me as a potential customer engaged: refining things like the throttle mapping (currently it's a little binary), fiddling with the dampers to get more support in the corners, and trying to inject a little more urgency while retaining the lovely GT capabilities.

Of course, this can all be done. That's perhaps why the restomod scene is burgeoning. Ownership goes deeper than the name on the pink slips with these cars. They can be created, or at least honed, in any way the customer so chooses. For some, this vision of the LE60 will be about perfect. Me? I'd push it into sharper territory. However, it's very obvious that the LE60 has brilliant bones. Fleshing out its character in close collaboration with the Frontline engineers and craftspeople would be quite the journey.

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