The return of an MG sports car has made a list of petrol-heads' most-desired vehicles - but experts are divided over whether it is the right route for the company.

Car magazine Auto Express named the legendary MGB in an exercise to discover readers' top 10 most wanted cars.

MG bosses have hinted at the prospect of a new sports car but under the ownership of Chinese car-maker SAIC, Longbridge-based MG has instead concentrated on saloons and super-minis.

However, a new MGB roadster would be popular according to Auto Express, with readers calls for the return of a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive MG that would be "instantly recognisable as a classic British roadster".

Automotive author and historian Martyn Nutland believes a "return to its roots" would prove a good move for MG and be "brilliant news".

"An MG two-seater sounds like a 'fun car' on a landscape where there is a dearth of such machinery," said Mr Nutland, who recently published a biography of Leonard Lord, Longbridge supremo in the mid-20th century when car production was at its height there.

"That's not to say there aren't plenty of vehicles around that will give a person a fun drive, but the all important criteria is cost."

He added: "I'm sure a mega-bucks Bentley will give you a memorable experience but is only available to a very few.

"On the other hand, a Caterham offers something different, but it's not everyone's glass of essence.

"So, if an MG two-seater emerges that offers affordable fun, it has to be brilliant news, even though it might only be sufficiently affordable to be aspirational for some market sectors.

"And let's remember the MG was for very many years genuinely Britain's most popular sports car, as well as being extremely popular in other geographies. If there can be a return to those roots - great."

 

But Midland-based automotive journalist and chairman of the Midland Group of Motoring Writers, Ian Donaldson, believes MG has missed its opportunity as far as sports cars are concerned.

"I'm sure they've missed the boat. Nostalgia sells a few Morgans but I'm sure most young-ish people have very little idea of what MG once stood for," he said.

"Then there's the heritage already built up around the current affordable sports car, Mazda's MX5. And there's a new one imminent.

"Then, think of TVR. It was a flourishing company in the 1990s, with a range of sexy looking cars that went like stink and broke down all the time.

"Then the Porsche Boxster arrived - a car with a great family name attached, rave reviews and the prospect of stress-free sporting motoring. TVR then died a lingering death."

He added: "Take Aston Martin. Still making cars with looks to die for, there's an obvious lack of cash to do anything deeply expensive, like build a properly new model. How long before the company is controlled from Stuttgart, where future engines are going to be sourced from anyway?

"No, MG has missed the boat. It has enough trouble selling perfectly decent saloons and hatches to worry about a nice product like a new MGB."

Although MG remains tight-lipped about the possible return of a sports car, bosses have in the past hinted at the prospect.

Whatever the case, it is certainly not part of its plans for the immediate future, with an SUV set to join the ranks sometime next year and even an electric vehicle, in the shape of the MG EV, tipped to make it into production in the not too distant future.

Speaking to the Post in June, MG's sales and marketing manager Guy Jones sounded a cautionary note when it came to launching the kind of sports cars the brand was once famous for.

Emphasising the firm had to tread carefully, he said: "We know from the racing side what a hero car will do for the brand.

"We would love to see some higher performance units but we have to be realistic."

MG has a long and proud history as a sports car-maker and this year the marque is celebrating its 90th birthday.

It is perhaps best known to many for the sports cars it produced since the 1960s.

Launched in 1962, the MGB roadster found an adoring audience both in Britain and around the world as an affordable four-cylinder sports car.

It continued to prove a hit for decades and thousand are still on the road, being particularly popular as an affordable classic car.

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