Flower Child

RBW Roadster side view, in a field of daffodils

A British classic, re-imagined - Credit: Rod Kirkpatrick

The RBW Roadster is a 21st century take on the classic MGB – with electric power and a host of modern refinements

Automotive icons don’t come much bigger than the MGB. Launched a month ahead of The Beatles’ first single, it was a child of the swinging sixties, priced within reach of the young and the hip. Half a million were sold over the next 18 years, making it by far the most successful British sports car of all time.

But the car you see here isn’t actually an MGB. And neither is it a product of the 1960s. Built using brand new components, including a fresh British Motor Heritage body shell, the RBW Roadster is an all-electric 21st century take on this classic design.

21/03/21 Classic motoring manufacturer RBW EV Classic Cars, based in Lichfield, Staffordshire t

Very definitely an MGB, but it manages to stand out from the crowd - Credit: Rod Kirkpatrick

It’s the brainchild of entrepreneur Peter Swain. Back in 2017, he borrowed an MGB for a day out in the Cotswolds with his wife, who fell in love with the shape but felt that an original example might be too unreliable and too difficult to drive.

The day after, Peter found himself in the garage staring at the car and wondering what would happen if he put an electric motor in the back and a set of batteries in the front. He made a few calls and struck up a partnership with German engineering giant Continental to find out.

The resulting car combines modern convenience with classic style. There’s no gearshift and no clutch, but what you do get is power steering, satellite navigation and even an optional reversing camera. There shouldn’t be any authentic 1960s breakdowns, either, as the components are all tried and tested items from the Continental parts bin.

RBW Roadster crossing a stone bridge

Classic lines, with something entirely different underneath - Credit: Rod Kirkpatrick

RBW isn’t the only company that electrifies classic designs, but Peter claims it’s the standard of engineering that sets his apart. We’re told more than 30,000 miles of testing were put in before the car was finally signed off. It’s a ground-up redesign too, with modern brakes and suspension, along with a brand new interior.

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The bodywork is also fully de-seamed to give it a smoother appearance, while the bonnet is taken from the later MG RV8. The result is still very definitely an MGB, but it also manages to stand out from the crowd (which is just as well considering the Roadster’s £90,000 starting price).

In fairness, the exterior finish is superb, with the sort of deep gloss shine that you’d expect on a modern luxury car. There’s almost limitless scope for customisation too, with 360 different types of leather, along with numerous stitch patterns and colour combinations.

interior of RBW Roadster

There’s almost limitless scope for customisation, with 360 types of leather, plus numerous stitch patterns and colour combinations - Credit: Rod Kirkpatrick

It’s a joy to drive. The electric motor delivers effortless torque, making the RBW Roadster usefully quicker than an MGB, without being outlandish – performance is roughly the same as you’d expect from a tuned version of the original. There’s no engine noise, of course, which does seem a little disconcerting at first – unlike some electric conversions, it doesn’t use the original gearbox, so there’s not even any transmission noise.

Skimming along the country lanes, it’s easy to forget that you’re in a brand new car. Traditionalists will bemoan the lack of an engine, but at 1,286kg it still handles like a lightweight sportscar. What’s more, a 160-mile range and a battery that can be charged from a 3-pin plug in around eight hours means that the RBW Roadster could conceivably be used as daily transport. For those who hanker after a classic car but find themselves put off by the rigours of the traditional ownership experience, it might be just the thing.