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MGA

MGA Published: 23rd Sep 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Do you drive this great classic or are thinking of buying one? Here’s how to ensure that you get the best out of your car for years to come

MGA was the sportster that bridged the gap between MG’s raffish pre-war era and the company’s post-war designs culminating with the MGB which retained most of the mechanical make up before it bowed out 35 years ago! Keeping your one in capital A fettle is super easy thanks to prolific parts supply provided by a veritable army of specialists and backed by magnificent club support. And MGAs are so easy and pleasing to work on.

1. Engine output

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The early three bearing MGB engine, which looks like an MGA unit and retains the mechanical speedo drive, spells 20-30bhp straightaway – the same as you’d get from conventional tuning methods but for far less cost.

B-Series is an easy unit to tune; Approx £700 for Stage 2 heads, £400 for racier camshafts and up to £3000 for a supercharger kit good for 30 per cent extra power.

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Tough and tolerant but heavy tuning is best with later five bearing block, but these aren’t a straight fit. If new unit is required, you are better off buying a tuned one, available in various stages, from the likes of Moss for around £3000. As a rule, the ‘1622’ delivers two-thirds 1.8 power and up to 95-100bhp tuned. Roller tappets (£800) give sport cam lift without needing an engine strip.

2. body & chassis

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Be particularly careful if you decide that you’d like to fit a safety roll hoop (for track work?). If you want it to serve its proper purpose, ensure it goes through the body onto the chassis and the rear chassis legs. It also requires special body mods to effect properly. Fibreglass panels (popular during the 70s) are still available and while they save £££ can now seriously devalue car.

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Obviously, you should check for signs of rust on a regular basis; don’t assume imports will be ok – not all US states are dry. Check chassis legs, floorboard supports, wings and sills. And make sure the wooden floorboards haven’t rotted badly either. Converting left to right-hand drive is straightforward and not dear but price premiums for LHD cars may make it unwise from an investment standpoint.

3. Bottom end

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Fitting the 1798cc MGB engine is the most effective means of added poke because it’s a very strong unit with more scope for enlarging. You can take the ‘1622’ out to 1.8 and it’s safe to do so, but don’t bother with the original 1500. With an MGB block, you could even go further, using the Oselli kit, to stretch it to 1950cc which forms the basis of a nice road engine. Complete engines around £3000.

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Early 1500 cars have weak cranks so any tuning should be mild (Stage 2). The ‘1622’ crank will fit a 1500 block, but only if you machine crank and the block to suit as it will foul otherwise; not difficult as specialists can help. A better compromise is the Twin Cam’s special 1588 crank. Stronger than 1500, it fits without modification but these Twin Cam parts are both expensive and rare.

4. Front suspension

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Hoyle Engineering (http://www.hoyleengineering. co.uk) offers front coilover kits incorporating double wishbones, softer springs (mounted closer to the wheel) and adjustable spring seats to adjust ride height. New ARB links are included, as are replacement bottom stub axle bolts for changes of camber. Too exotic? Then opt for normal uprated dampers and anti-roll bar with poly bushing to suit.

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Replace all bushes – lower wishbone bushes and front antiroll bar bushes are available in polyurethane (http://www.polybush.com) – and last longer, too. Barring these, there’s little to go wrong as long as regular lubrication is carried out to the trunnions. Dampers (Moss) retail at £175.96. Cheap recons don’t last long warn specialists so it’s worth paying for top quality ones.

5. Transmission

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The very popular Ford Type Nine box fits, but chassis rails must be strong as they carry cross-member for the unit. Kits are most suited for 1622; 1489cc cars can be converted but need later engine back plate. The transmission tunnel cover needs modifying, and many also find the existing MGA gear lever gaitier too restrictive for the Type Nine shift pattern. Alternatives to the rare Ford box now include MX-5 and BMW units. Bear in mind that you need strong bhp to pull that fifth gear.

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The very popular Ford Type Nine box fits, but chassis rails must be strong as they carry cross-member for the unit. Kits are most suited for 1622; 1489cc cars can be converted but need later engine back plate. The transmission tunnel cover needs modifying, and many also find the existing MGA gear lever gaitier too restrictive for the Type Nine shift pattern. Alternatives to the rare Ford box now include MX-5 and BMW units. Bear in mind that you need strong bhp to pull that fifth gear.

6. Steering

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MGF EPAS set ups have been cleverly installed, but not necessary unless you find the tiller hard work. Beware of converted LHD cars of which there are many; the column and pinion need aligning perfectly or there may be pre-loaded stresses on the column, it’s claimed.

MGAs have light and direct steering which self centres well – if yours doesn’t, then it could have been badly converted.

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Little goes wrong with the standard rack and pinion system, but they are designed to be filled with EP90 gear oil through a grease point. As with the front trunnions, it’s not unknown for the racks to be filled with grease (steering may be ‘sticky’ as a result) because it’s easier. If this has been done, it’s best to strip and clean thoroughly before reassembling and filling with proper gear oil.

7. Trim

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Any trimmer worth his salt will be able to personalise the interior to your tastes. Better seats wouldn’t go amiss so why not fit uprated bucket types from the likes of Cobra and Corbeau for less than £300 per perch? A smaller sports steering helps tall occupants. Mgaguru.com is a site worth visiting as it has a host of bespoke items (MGA Interior Tech) to make this crude cabin more civilised.

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There are plenty of companies refurbishing MGA seats and scores offering replacement covers in vinyl to match the originals. Brown and Gammons (http://www.ukmgparts. com) markets a brand new pair of original-spec seats in leather from £1100 in a variety of MGA-correct styles. Also the MGOC will sell leather cover kits for around £550. (http://www.mgocspares.co.uk).

8. Brakes

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Standard 10in drums are perfectly adequate if shod with good linings (such as Mintex Classic). If you already have discs (many have), a good fast road spec pad such as the EBC Greenstuff is worthwhile. Volvo 200 Series discs directly fit as do MGB parts. “Don’t fit a servo,” advises Bob West, because it’s unnecessary, and those which are adapted to fit can leave it feeling over-assisted.

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Apart from seized brake adjusters on the drum backplates and sticking handbrakes, there’s nothing out of the ordinary. If the drums are worn and you don’t want to go the disc route (MGB ones fit as you’d expect but it’s not that straightforward) then competition alloy drums are available which give disc-like heat dissipation. Many parts came from A50/A60, so parts sourcing is easy.

9. Rear end

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If you demand the ultimate, Hoyle Engineering markets an independent rear suspension kit derived from the Ford Sierra. But at £1000 in parts alone, this exotic set up is unnecessary unless you plan hard track work. For many owners, simple uprated springs (don’t go mad if lowering) and dampers suffice but MGA experts advise keeping the ‘back end’ as soft as possible. It rides better, plus provides far more forgiving handling.

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Crownwheel and pinion bearings are known to break up – the brass inner races crack on the pinion bearings, causing the pinion to drop! Better to catch them early, as bearing replacements typically start at around £400 if using quality parts. Rear leaf springs settle and if replacing them, don’t opt for lower, stiffer ones. A Watts linkage or Panhard rod controls the axle movement but it also makes back end too stiff warns Barrie Carter.

And another thing…

Essentially much of the advice also applies to the Twin Cam; the differences majoring on the engine, (Jaguar/Dunlop) brakes, hubs and wheels, although all bar the engine were fitted to the lastof- the-line 1600 De Luxe Mk2. As for wheels, larger TR6 rims fit okay as do certain Saab wheels although latter look odd as you’d expect says expert and MGA racer Barrie Carter, who also advises using Avon CR65 tyres for all round road use. Although we’ve driven one, fitting a V8 is a lot more of a hassle than slotting in a MGB but we understand that Mazda MX-5 units have been installed to create a more modern and durable ‘TwinCam’ MGA even if it’s hardly a purist choice… But as kits for the Midget and MGB are made for the Rover K-Series perhaps there lies a better and more authentic alternative? Have a word with the Frontline Developments for advice.

 



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