MG RV8 Burr Elm Gear Knobs


The full story behind the Solid Burr Elm Gearknobs for the MG RV8


Why Mr Starkey has the Burblers nickname of von Knobhausen


~   Scroll down for photos of the two shapes available and for how to buy   ~


Most, if not all, MG RV8 owners admire the burr elm fascia and door cappings that complement the beige leather upholstery so perfectly. Sadly, the leather gearknob quickly deteriorates and spoils the overall ambience of the interior which is why, some years ago, I searched, albeit in vain, for a  matching burr elm gearknob. The knobs I discovered were never going to match so I decided to get one made. Now, many fine craftsmen live and work here in Norfolk and I soon found one nearby with exemplary woodturning abilities.

Considerable thought went into the design of the knobs. We thought we should replicate the original knob but later decided to also craft the ‘new’ shape which is loosely based on a Morgan design and, in my opinion, looks and works better than the original [both shapes are available to order]. With the help of a highly skilled engineering colleague, the threaded alloy insert was designed and made to secure the knob and also support the leather gaiter.

The new knob soon attracted the attention of fellow Burblers and within a few weeks a number of them (mainly new shape) were ordered. My woodturner told me that burr elm was now hard to get hold of and that he only had enough wood to make very few. Problem!

A week or so later the wife of a neighbour sadly died. I delivered a condolences card and met him in his drive so we chatted about the tragic event. His house and garden are beautiful and we talked about how it had changed over the years. Momentarily, this took his mind off his very obvious grief so I talked more about the garden and the changes. The valley in which we live used to boast a considerable number of elm trees, many of which have now died and been felled. My friend then told me about a big one he’d felled some 27 years ago – one which had an owl nesting in it – but that’s another story!

Continuing the distraction, I told him about the gearknobs and asked if he knew the whereabouts of any burr elm. “Come round the back, Terry,” he said with a glint in his eye. He led me to a wood store which contained several large blocks of what turned out to be beautiful burr elm! “Take some,” he said. So later I returned in my car to collect my newly discovered treasure. I thanked him and asked why he was being so generous. “My wife and I did our courting in an MG TC, so I’ve always had a soft spot for MGs,” he replied tearfully.

Some weeks later I took him out for a spin in my RV8 and once again helped to put a smile on his face. Ah, the magic of MG.

My wood turner cuts the wood into suitably sized blocks and then carefully turns them into the lovely shaped knobs. There is quite a high rejection rate because he never knows where the ‘pithy’ bits are inside the wood which often fly off, making the block unusable. At the time of writing no fewer than 235 knobs have been made from this wonderful burr elm and sent to owners of RV8s and other MGs all over the world. Sadly, there is no more of my friend’s wood left but a new batch has been found in Geddington, Northamptonshire, so the story and, more importantly, the supply of gearknobs, continues!

I hope you like the story. I feel it somehow illustrates the sentiment behind that famous motto of the MG Car Club.



Happy gearchanging!

Terry Starkey, aka VK.

.How to Buy . . . To order, email Terry direct at  terry(at) – substitute @ for (at).  Specify which shape you’d like and supply your postal address. Terry will give price and payment details – non-UK customers are asked to pay via paypal.

Despatch is by recorded delivery. This is not a commercial enterprise and is not profit-making. It just keeps Terry out of mischief!



The MGCC V8 Register’s webpage on the subject of Knobishness;

And also, read Macmillan Cancer Support’s report on the funds raised by the auction of the unique 100th burr elm gearknob in 2010.

And see here for the story of the making of the 100th.


New shape . . .  …………………………………………………………………….……………….and original shape.  Your choice!

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