If there's one thing the SV has in spades it's interesting history. Its genesis can be traced right back to the De Tomaso Bigua, an Italian car designed by Marcelo Gandini, the stylist responsible for the Lamborghini Countach. One can only assume Gandini was having an off day when he penned the Bigua because pretty it certainly wasn't. First shown at the 1996 Geneva Show, it quickly tanked and even a production version, the Mangusta, never garnered more than a handful of orders. What De Tomaso did do, however, was get full US type approval for the car. This effort essentially bankrupted tiny De Tomaso and an American, Kjell Qvale, stepped in to take over imports of their products into the US under the Qvale banner, with his son, Bruce, taking care of the Modena production facility. The Qvale Mangusta was visually identical to the De Tomaso model and consequently it flopped in similar style.
Cue MG Rover. The top brass were desperate for a top end sports model to take over from the MGF and saw the purchase of Qvale Modena as a shortcut that would save them three years of development. The resultant MGX80 was styled by Peter Stevens of Lotus Esprit and McLaren F1 repute, and was first shown at the 2001 Frankfurt Motor Show. Rather conservative and with a little too much of the Mangusta in its genes, it didn't receive a wholly favourable reception. Few knew at the time that Stevens had had just three months to create this show car.
Realising that some more radical changes were necessary, Stevens went back to Longbridge to restyle the car under the aegis of MG Sport and Racing. Just over a year later, the result was unveiled to the press. The XPower SV was brash, aggressive and certainly eye catching, Stevens citing the movie "The Fast and the Furious" as a key inspiration in the design of the SV. A whole lot of hyperbole was floated about models being available with engines up to 965bhp courtesy of a tie-in with engine tuners Roush, but the production ready version was a bit more sensible, with a 4.6-litre 320bhp Mustang engine on board. As a £35,000 car this would have been a saleable proposition. Unfortunately MG Rover were asking £65,750 and the more powerful 400bhp SV-R version was saddled with an £82,950 sticker price. Instead of going up against Nobles and TVRs, the SV was being asked to contend with Porsches and Aston Martins. It was an ask too far. Although the SV received a broadly favourable press, the prices were just off the wall and when MG Rover lapsed into administration in April 2005, it was possible to count the number of cars sold at full list price on two hands.
An interesting post script came after the liquidation of the company's assets when MG Sport and Racing actually announced a £118,000 profit for the 04/05 financial year, largely due to the sale of leftover SV models. Rumours persist that some buyers received very favourable deals indeed.