After 20 years of the highly traditional T series sports car, MG appeared to break with its usual modus operandi’. The MGA came to its public as an unknown Adonis, the first MG with a full-width body and streamlined curves. In fact, though the styling was indeed radically new, it had (as always with MG) been evolved over four years from a prototype shell based on the ‘TD’ series, and progressively refined.
The engine was a BMC B series already chosen for the MG Magnette sports saloon. Its size meant the hood line could be lowered, reducing the drag coefficient. Mutterings about ‘underpower’ were stilled when the MGA (suitably handicapped) totally outperformed its predecessor and stablemate, an MG IT 1500. The MGAs stylish aerodynamics alone were shown to add just under 10 secs to its top speed.
The MGA faced the future squarely. Traditionalists were disappointed, but the company was firmly fixed on innovation and improvement. Almost immediately the engine was uprated (from 68 to 72 bhp). Then came a ‘bubble-top’ coupe version with the sports car luxury of wind-up windows, and the first of a procession of stylistic adjustments throughout the car’s production.
The Twin-Cam of 1958 looked normal, but reveled in a competitive ability to hit 114 mph (183.5 km/h) or more. In anything but expert hands, it was unreliable. In its place came the MGA 1600 Mark I & II, which did most of the same things, and stayed on their respective feet. Finally, every development was incorporated into a few, leftover, twin cam chassis and designated the MG MGA 1600 Mk II Deluxe. It was now a brilliant, beautiful, high-performance sports car (with a really snappy name!), but its time had passed. Luckily, the MGB was waiting in the wings.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1955 (until 1962)
1,489 cc 01W Straight Four
Top speed of 98 mph (157 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 15 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Besides starring in a 1970s Kellogs Com Flakes commercial on Golden Gate bridge, the MGA has an excellent Hollywood pedigree. Among other films, it features in Animal House (1978) and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1968). Most conspicuously Elvis Presley liked the red 1960 MGA 1600 Mk I roadster he uses throughout Blue Hawaii (1961) so much that he bought it. You can see it at Graceland.