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MG Magnette

MG Magnette Published: 17th May 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MG Magnette
MG Magnette
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Why should I buy one?

This MG was, along with certain Rootes cars and Vauxhall’s underrated VX4/90 the last of the sportsmens’ saloons that provided palatial performance and the Magnette was arguably the last bastion of the old school sporting saloon. The ZA and ZB have long been regarded as ‘beginner’s Mk2s’ leaving the less liked Farina model way behind as it’s more an upmarket Morris Oxford than the sports saloon the Z cars are. But they have their merits including rarity yet cheap prices. And it’s still an MG, remember.


What can I get?

Costing almost £300 more than the Cortina when new, £200 dearer than the Oxford, the MG was a class apart from the Ford. Today, you can pick up one for £5000 with ease and half this for a half decent goer; few classy 60’s saloons are such value. In contrast, ZA/ZB have really taken off and £20,000 or more is not uncommon. There again, they are the real deal where as the faux Farina is little more than a warmed over Morris. The Magnette Mk IV of 1961 boasted a larger 1622cc engine, wider tracks and beefier anti-roll bars to improve its sloppy handling, and it’s the best pick if you have the choice. Also, consider the near identical Riley and Wolseley alternatives where you’ll also find more examples fitted with automatic transmission.


What are they like to drive?

The attraction of these Farina Magnettes isn’t because of their sporty performance. Despite its ‘halfway house’ MGA engine, the Magnette took a wheezing 19 seconds to hit 60mph and could barely break 85 full pelt, according to road tests at the time. However, with a weekend toy classic it’s much more about a car’s character and some may be attracted to the relaxed nature of the Magnette which doesn’t feel quite as fussy as the old ZA/ZB (overdrive was never offered but an MGB ’box or fivespeeds can be made to fit). Also the B-Series engine can easily be hoiked up to full MGA tune and above.

Similarly, the MG’s handling can be improved by way of conventional uprating although it’s the steering which lets the side down as it’s not the crisp and precise rack and pinion set up as on the original Magnettes. But, Farinas ride better and the MG is a good saloon for casual cruising where you can savour that wood and leather cabin that’s just like a Jaguar.


What are they like to live with?

Thanks to the banger racing fraternity, there’s probably more Rileys and Wolseleys left; the latter had the standard tune Oxford engine but can be simply brought into line with the MG of which a fair number have been modified over the years with MGB engine, disc brakes and so on – this would increase or detract their values by the way. Mechanically, it’s an easy to maintain although there’s almost 20 greasing points to keep you busy. Body parts aren’t so plentiful and they rust with a vengeance although interchangeability within the ranges is good. The posh interiors may all wood and leather, but many are shabby due to their Jag-like costs of refurbishment.

Specialists are more select than for the most other popular MGs, but NTG Services of Suffolk is about the best qualified to help Magnette owners and, it goes without saying that, being an MG means almost unmatched club support.


We reckon

Given the choice, you’d go for a ZA/ ZB but you have to pay for the privilege. Not a patch on them, but if you like your sports saloons to be stately rather than speedy, then the later Magnette holds its own unique appeal. Farinas may not be as characterful or half as sporty as before but they are still delightfully different, classy and above all fine value for money.

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