History of the 1960 – 1961 MG MGA
The MGA was a true leap into the modern age for MG when it was launched at the Earls Court motor show in 1955. From the exposed running boards and mudguards of the outgoing TF, MG moved to a sleek, low-slung and streamlined body that was beautiful to behold and easily the match of anything coming out of Italy at the time. Following MG’s absorption into BMC, it came as no surprise to see its latest sports car make great use of the corporation’s parts bin—so it was powered by a 68-bhp version of the 1489-cc B-Series engine, although pretty much all of the rest of it was brand new. Only some elements of the TD’s suspension system and its rack-and-pinion steering were carried over.
Performance was more than a match for the opposition, and MG it seemed had produced a sports car that everyone wanted. The 0-60mph time was a very respectable 14 seconds, and its maximum speed of 95 mph proved the effectiveness of the aerodynamics. But without doubt, for 1955’s sports car buyer, the leap from TF to MGA must have been hard to comprehend.
The MGA was offered in both roadster and coupe forms, and in both cases, it was drop-dead gorgeous. But it didn’t stand still, and in May 1959, the four-cylinder B-Series was uprated to 1.6-litres for the Mk2 facelift. Lockheed front discs made their first appearance at the same time. But sports cars buyers were a discerning lot, and they always wanted more—and MG was keen to deliver something a little more special. In 1958, the company duly delivered with the MGA Twin Cam.
Harry Weslake designed a new alloy twin-cam cylinder head for the B-series engine, and the net gain was improved breathing and considerably more top-end power. It was expensive new, and is far more valuable than its pushrod counterparts today with good reason. It delivered 108 bhp at 6500 rpm, and a maximum speed of up to 120 mph in the right conditions. But there were other improvements, too—the Twin Cam had Dunlop knock-off wheels and all-round disc brakes. And undoubtedly, the MGA Twin Cam had a certain Q-car appeal in its day.
There were problems, of course. The engine cost a fortune to make, and needed owners to feed it a diet of 100-octane petrol. It was also fragile in service, with known weaknesses from the pistons and bottom-end. Today, all of those weaknesses have been cured, even though a Twin Cam is expensive to rebuild. The sales speak for themselves: 2,111 Twin Cams were made alongside more than 101,000 B-Series MGAs.
But the standard MGA is a delightful thing, and many owners opt to install an MGB engine when more performance is desired. There are a few points you need to look out for when considering buying and running an MGA, most notably corrosion. The floors are wooden, but the sills, valences and wings are all weak spots. Luckily, the bonnet, bootlid and doors are aluminium, so they’re less of a concern. But these are a well enough known quantity that you’re really not too far from a specialist who can help you find the right example. In sum, it is a nice, likeable British sports car—and far less obvious than its ubiquitous replacement.