The MG Abingdon Edition might look like a classic throwback from a bygone age, but it’s a thoroughly modern sports car under the hood.
By Ghaith Madadha
With a wealth of high tech engineering and traditional artisan talent, Britain’s tapestry of niche car makers is characterized by passion, detail, and authenticity. A case in point is Frontline Developments, which was established in 1991 by Tim Fenna and based at Benetton F1’s former Abingdon-on-Thames facility. This modest-sized manufacturer has won plaudits for producing modernized incarnations of the 1962-80 MGB.
The MGB’s glamour is perfectly recaptured by the Frontline Developments MG, which with more power, reliability, and refinement goes beyond faithful nostalgia. It is a great example of a quintessentially small, affordable, and accessible British sports car. Limited to 25 examples and conveying lots of sexy 1960s charisma is the range-topping soft-top Abingdon Edition Roadster.
Frontline Developments builds use tailored CAD-designed seam-sealed rust-proofed 1965-spec British Motorsport Heritage shells. Thoroughly redesigned suspension delivers contemporary refinement and handling yet traditional character. Extensively modified Mazda-sourced engine and gearbox provide reliable power and are matched with contemporary high performance brakes.
Frontline Developments’ MGs are tailored to a client’s individual specifications. Holistically-built and using made-to-measure seats, personalized possibilities include materials, paint, specifications, and mechanical set-up. The Abingdon Edition features chrome details, quality Connolly leather, and Alcantara trim and period-style 15-inch Dunlop alloy wheels.
The most powerful of Frontline Developments’ MGs, the Abingdon Edition’s naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder delivers supercar-like specific output and power-to-weight ratio. It is modified with billet crank and rods, forged pistons, solid lifters, Omex engine management, and 50 mm direct-to-head individual throttle bodies. The lightweight 897 kg Abingdon Edition pulls hard from low revs and digs deep in mid-range, developing 304 BHP at 6800 rpm and 241 lb/ft at 5200 rpm with urgently linear and rev-hungry delivery.
Riding on aluminum independent front wishbone and model-specific six-link rear live-axle suspension, the Abingdon Edition benefits from sharp handling, low unsprung mass, and with limited-slip rear-differential, develops phenomenal off-the-line traction. Dispatching the 0-97 km/h sprint in a supercar-like 3.8 seconds and capable of 257 km/h, its performance is complemented by a charismatically rasping, crackling, and wailing medley of exhaust and induction notes.
The Abingdon Edition is ideal home turf, with direct steering, nuanced chassis tuning and small, narrow, light, and balanced dimensions. It’s agile, maneuverable, and connected when briskly driven through winding and imperfectly pave British B-roads. The Abingdon Edition turns in crisply and tidily, while taut but forgiving adjustable dampers keep it poised and flat when cornering. And with linear power delivery, high rev limit, and superb traction and grip, the Abingdon Edition digs in and pounces out of corners with intuitive fluency. Over rougher tarmac patches, its modified live axle rear suspension proved better refined than expected.
The Bingdon Edition’s classy and cozy cabin, which is tastefully appointed with hand-crafted leathers and metal accents, also features traditional rotary dials, toggle switches, and pushbutton starter. Seated low in comfortably padded and supportive seats, controls are within easy reach. The Abingdon Edition features1960s-style Smiths instrumentation, with digital internals and classic-style JL Audio stereo, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. Also included are Chrystal headlights, electric windows, and remote central locking. And with extensive personalization possibilities, Frontline Developments offer a generous options list that includes air conditioning, heated seats, and integrated satellite navigation.
Engine: 2.5 liter, aluminum in-line 4 cylinders
Gearbox: 6 speed manual, rear-wheel-drive, limited-slip differential
Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 304 (308)  @6800 rpm
Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 241 (326) @5200 rpm
0-97 km/h: 3.8 seconds
Top speed: 257 km/h
Rev limit: 7600 rpm
Wheelbase: 2312 mm
Track, F/R: 1240 / 1410 mm
Suspension, F/R: Wishbones / six-link live axle
Steering: Power-assisted rack & pinion
Brakes, F/R: Ventilated discs / discs