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Fast Facts

  • Best model: Deluxe
  • Worst model: Anything bodged
  • Budget buy: Any tatty car
  • OK for unleaded?: No; an additive or conversion is needed
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L 3960 x W1470 mm
  • Spares situation: Excellent, but TC bits costly
  • DIY ease?: Fine, but TC needs special care
  • Club support: Superb
  • Appreciating asset?: Yes, more so than an MGB
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Good buy and classier than an MGB
Chromework readily available but can be costly to restore Chromework readily available but can be costly to restore
Cockpit is snug and Spartan but okay plus is easy and certainly cost effective to restore Cockpit is snug and Spartan but okay plus is easy and certainly cost effective to restore
Fickle Twin Cam now sorted but expensive to keep Fickle Twin Cam now sorted but expensive to keep
B-Series more sensible bet. MGB unit a popular swap B-Series more sensible bet. MGB unit a popular swap
MGA is still a popular winning racer and said to handle better than an MGB MGA is still a popular winning racer and said to handle better than an MGB
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This evergreen 50 something is the link between pre and post-war MGs and arguably Abingdon’s best ever sports car

Pros & Cons

Looks, driver appeal, easy to own and maintain, great specilaist abd club back up
Crude interior, space, overpriced examples, dubious Twin Cams, complex range mix

Combining the separate chassis of the former T Series sports cars and the contemporary all modern look which culminated with the MGB, the MGA was the perfect recipe that, for many, makes the best (and most important) MG ever and why it’s still highly regarded. If you want one then don’t delay as desirability and prices are on the up – bolstered by an increasing number of MGB owners fi nally discovering what they are missing no doubt


Without doubt, while MG was still on a roll after WW2 it was falling behind the times and fast. The raffi sh T Series roadsters were becoming outdated and, by in the summer of 1954, MG knew it needed an all new car – pronto! The company already had something that it knew would do the trick, the record breaking EX135 of 1951 and special-bodied TD racers. MG management planned for a quick fi x for spring 1955, although the similar looking MGA didn’t surface until that September due to production problems. Although the MGA still used principally TF-based running gear, onebenefi t of the delay was that the new fangled B-Series engine was used instead of the venerable, smaller XPAG unit. Although hardly high tech, the unit provided a useful 68bhp (very soon uprated to a worthier 72bhp). The uprated separate chassis featured widerspaced rails to allow a much lower seating position and consequently lower centre of gravity for better handling, which many still rate above the supposedly more advanced MGB. Not surprisingly the lovely looking MGA quickly found favour – and no wonder, it was a substantially better car than the TF. In 1956 a shapely coupe (care of Morris bodies) joined the range to supplement the optional fi breglass hard top. It’s become an endearing style, helped by clever use of the curved rear window of the A55 Cambridge/ Oxford to achieve a stylish windscreen. With competition in mind, the108bhp Twin Cam was launched in 1958 with a rousing 115mph top speed. The new engine, based on a strengthened B-Series block with an aluminium twin-cam head, was not dissimilar to the Jaguar XK design in numerous ways. Pre-empting the Lotus-Ford Twin Cam unit by four years, it was uncannily equal both in cubic capacity and outright power.

Actually Lotus scored an unlikely – coup over MG:durability. As wonderful as the 108bhp 1588cc B-Series unit was, (designed by Morris and not MG by the way, while Austin was developing its own rival!) it proved too fi ckle and fragile for road use; holed pistons and oil leaks resulting in large warranty claims. Fixes by MG included new design pistons, lower compression ratio, modifi ed distributors – and an urge to owners to use best quality fuels, which weren’t particularly widespread at the time. Excessive oil consumption was another bugbear plus there were faults with the tappets. Shelved after two years in 1960 after just over 2000 sales, the thoroughbred (all disc braked) Twin Cam MGA was – and still is – a stonking car when running right (silver lining was the ultra rare De-Luxe, which was essentially a Twin Cam with a conventional engine). The 80bhp MGA 1600 was launched in 1959 with front disc brakes (31,600 built). Aside from a pokier engine, the hood design was improved while the Coupes benefi ted from increased boot space. In 1961 a 1622cc (86bhp) MkII version was introduced with a higher ratio rear axle. For more details on the various MGA models see our special box out.


Is the MGA better than the later, supposedly more modern B? It’s an argument which rages on, but those in the know resolutely say the earlier car, with its separate chassis, is the better handler thanks to it’s tautness and superior dynamics. Yet despite the separate chassis, a good MGA rarely feels like an antiquated ‘fi fties’ car although the very fi rm ride may not appeal to every classic enthusiast more in a touring mood. On the other hand there are numerous modifi - cations that can improve both handling and ride. The drum brakes actually work pretty well without unduly high pedal pressures, but of course do tend to fade if used hard on today’s roads. The later disc braked cars are fi ne and it’s a modifi cation that’s well worth carrying out. The B-Series engine is so well known by now and what it lacks in pace it makes up for in guts. The smaller 1500cc and 1600cc guises are sweeter than the 1800 unit found in the MGB although performance is leisurely. Original road tests posted 0-60mph times as lengthy as 15.6 seconds while even a last of the line MK2 (80bhp) isn’t a lot swifter at under 14 seconds. Of course, pace isn’t everything with an old classic car and the sheer low speed pull of the B-Series makes the car’s performance far more respectable that you’d think, plus it’s an engine that’s easily uprated, cheaply.

In terms of practicality, the MGA is not as good as the MGB. The cockpit is smaller and even cruder, heating and ventilation is positively primitive while luggage space is restrictive, which is why so many MGAs wear a natty boot rack.


Despite over 100,000 having been built, MGAs are now a rarity and yet interest is on the up. Prices are well above a B and it can cost as much as an E-type to restore a Twin Cam, so expect few bargains. Naturally a Twin-Cam roadster will tend to fetch the most and all open cars fetch around a third more than closed models, so don’t be surprised to see prices nuding the £25,0000 for top cars and even more for true concours examples. Because of their rarity (just 521 made and few left) pristine UK MkII Coupes could command £20,000 as well. At the more affordable bracket basket cases start at around £2500 (double this at least for a TC), while nice rather than perfect cars can be bought for between £7-£10,000; properly restored examples are £18,000 when sourced from wellknown specialists depending upon condition and originality of course.


.There’s a lot you can do the MGA to make it very usable on both road and track. For moderate road use, the usual stiffening and uprating of the suspension helps a hot while the B-Series engine is still highly tunable. The larger MGB unit can be fi tted, of course, although as it is physically larger needs a bit of graft. Overdrive ws never available for the MGA and while a B’box can be tacked on with some work, it’s far better to use the fi ve-speed unit from a Ford Sierra. A conversion costs typically £1500 and really gives the MGA a more restful gait for cruising, plus the standard Ford ratios suit the B-Series engine brilliantly and rid the car of that slogging second gear ratio. This five-speed mod, which cuts revs by a useful 20 per cent and raises the second gear ratio, is only available on the 1588cc a n d 1 6 2 2 c c engines. However, you can adapt the earlier 1.5-litre if you use a later backplate say the specialists.

What To Look For

  • There are very few unrestored cars left, so you are looking for the quality of restoration which is pretty easy to spot as it is notoriously diffi cult to correctly align doors, sills and wings (even some pros can’t do it right).
  • Is the car a US repat? Out of the 101,081 produced between 1955 and 1962 only 5815 were UK registered (less than six per cent) and over 81,000 went to the US! So long as the conversion has been done properly then don’t worry.
  • Converting from left to right is a weekend job and as the car was so popular abroad the footwell and steering rack locations and cut outs are duplicated.
  • That TF-derived chassis was never particularly well protected when new and understandably can rot for England, especially around the side rails (ahead of the doors), fl oors and the rear suspension hangers. Get underneath and have a good look at the state of the chassis, looking for patchwork repairs over the years. The biggest worry concerns the inner box sections, which are frequently bodged.
  • Another form of rot to watch for are the interaction of aluminium panels and steel attachment points leading to electrolytic corrosion. Check hinge mating surfaces and so on.
  • Even if the chassis appears rot free, check for crash repairs, which on a fi fty something year old is almost inevitable. The best original cars will probably come from the United States although the mechnical and trim spec may be wrong. Don’t turn your nose up just because it will be left hand driver as these cars will boast better bodies as ample compensation.
  • Panel supply is good as you’d expect of an MG, but bear in mind that the Twin Cam used dedicated panels; the wings featured slightly lower headlight positioning while the bonnet was also different, which could make buying old items tricky unless you know your car.
  • You may fi nd that some older, less looked after cars may have fi breglass front wings fi tted; a common ploy during the 60s/70s as the cars were not worth what they are today. Steel wings are important if you want a proper car however.
  • Panel fits say a lot. The doors should have a 1/8in uniform gap if hung right while the shround joining the wings should have a beading that’s in it’s natural grey colour, not painted. The MGA was virtually hand built which means that replacement panels may need to be fettled to fi t properly, particularly the front wings.
  • Badly fi tting door may not be just a hanging issue. Rot can be rampant here, especially by the door catch (remove the cover plate if you can). Grasp the door haldf open and check for excessive movement, caused by piller rot usually.
  • Chief rot spot areas include the entire front of the car, inner wings, rear wings near the door post (especially if the splash plates are missing), sills, boot fl oor, (particularly where the fuel tank is sited) and the fl oors, which are usually in a much worse state on roadseters than the better sealed coupes.
  • Trusty B-Series engine is virtually indestructible even if neglected and worn. It’s an easy unit to vet; listen for rumbling cranks, noisy tappets and piston slap. Oil pressure should be around 50lb minimum when hot. Is the right engine fitted for that era? Upgrades to 1622 and of course the latter MGB engine are popular conversions. It depends on whether originality is vital to you.
  • The twin cam engine was a great idea poorly executed and requires specialist knowledge when maintaining and rebuilding. Penny to a pound that the engine’s cylinder head may have been repaired at some point in the past; jammed tappets could lead to valve crash plus heads could warp if overheated. Good used heads are worth a fortune as a result.
  • The cooling systems needs to be spot on to keep pre-detonation at bay and as the head is alloy, electrolytic corrosion can occur between the head and block face together with furred up waterways.
  • On the other hand, most of the engine’s foibles have been ironed out by now and a properly maintained twin cam unit should prove useable and reliable, although it’s hardly going to be a sleep-easy proposition for heavy use.
  • The Magnette-derived transmission is generally sturdy but weak second gears are common, although all parts available. A conversion to fi ve speeds (Ford Sierra) is a very worthy mod (costs typically £1500) and really gives the MGA a more restful gait for cruising, plus the standard Ford ratios suit theB-Series engine brilliantly.
  • This fi ve-speed mod, which cuts revs by a useful 20 per cent and raises the second gear ratio, is only available on the 1588cc and 1622cc engines as a straight fi t.
  • If properly serviced and adjusted there are rarely problems with the drum brakes, but you won’t stop on a sixpence. To be fair they are okay for moderate driving although the far superior Twin Cam and de-luxe disc set ups are preferable. It’s a popular mod and straightforward to do.
  • The all disc set up on the Twin Cam is broadly Jaguar based and while parts are readily available from a variety of specialists, be warned that a full system overhaul will work out to be extremely expensive. Also note that de-luxe front discs were made by Lockheed not the Dunlop all disc set up as fi tted to the Twin Cam.
  • The suspension system is as orthodox as they come. Look for shot lever arm dampers, weak or broken springs and worn king pins. Like the later MGB, which shared a good number of components, it’s an easy set-up to maintain and improve.
  • The MGA used a mix of steel and wire wheel configurations, with the Twin Cam using dedicated centre ‘knock off’ rims. Wires can be fi tted with corresponding hubs (remember TC use Jag based brakes). Check splines and hubs for wear.
  • Is it a real Twin Cam? Check with the MGOC or Twin Cam Register of the MG Car Club, which has lists of the remaining beauties (also a good starting point if you are after one). All Twin Cams carried a number in the range 501to 2611 with a Y prefi x. D means it’s a Roadster, M signifi es a Coupe.
  • Is it a real de-luxe? These are rarer than TCs as they were a Twin Cam but with a conventional engine. It was never a catalogued model and only 82 of the 1600s were made, plus 300 MKIIs. Chassis numbers ran from 68851 to 100351 (Mk1) and 100352 to 109070 (Mk2). Beware of fakes.

Three Of A Kind

Triumph TR2/3A
Triumph TR2/3A
Chief rival to the MGA was the TR, which had a similar production run. In standard trim it’s the quicker car and that tractor engine has bags of torque. Handling is similar to the MG although the latter has a slightly more civilised cockpit plus there’s a coupe option. Brilliant back up from specilaists and clubs mean you can’t go wrong with one of these Triumphs so it may boil down to which car you like the look of better.
Austin Healey 100/4
Austin Healey 100/4
Perhaps the Big Healey isn’t a direct competitor to the MGA but it it has broadly similar looks and while values are higher you can buy a good one for the price of a decent MGA. Said to be even better then the six pot Healey, the 100/4 is pure British beefcake at its best. Good spares support but ropey ones will cost much more than an MGA to restore (although you can buy brand new bodies). A much roomier choice plus also a 2+ however.
Jowett Jupiter
Jowett Jupiter
For those who want something a little more left-fi eld than a Triumph or MG, the Jowett makes a weird and wonderful choice. However, it’s not a direct rival to the MGA because it’s a tourer and lacks performance; you need to use the revs to get the best out of its 1485cc engine. But the Jupiter is a bit more more affordable than the MGA; you can buy something nice for just £10,000. Don’t expect the same level of spares and support though…


Not without good reason is the MGA deemed the best car Abingdon ever turned out. That mix of classic looks, good driving manners and ease of ownership (if you get a good sound, honest one that is) make the MG not only a great buy for those tiring of their MGBs, but also a great, nimbler, cheaper substitute for a Jaguar XK sportster. And compliments surely don’t come much higher than that.

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