Shaw's Garage

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shaws garage where all the british car nuts hang THE British Bulldog

My Favorite British Sports Car

shaws garage where all the british car nuts hang THE British BulldogA short time ago a friend sent me an e-mail with an address to a British Airways Site. On this particular site was a question; What is the most beautiful British Automobile ever made? I am not certain that there is a right answer to this query. All of us love John Rued's 100. Butch Mitcheltree's E-type is the stuff dreams are made of. John Ulrich's GT V8 conversion is a wickedly delightful conveyance, and his Bugeye is wonderfully nasty! The list could go on for pages, for there are a number of beautiful and desirable cars present in the garages of my friends.

But, on a personal level, there is only one British Sports Car that has the combination of looks, racing heritage, performance, simplicity and that intangible fun something which makes such a car as much a beauty to drive as to behold. While all of the cars mentioned before, and more, are candidates to meet this combination of traits, for me that vehicle must be the MGA.

The Early Years

The first MGA was really a rebodied TD race car, designed by Syd Enver, the famous MG engineer, for George Phillips to race at Le Mans. Known as EX.175, the car was only marginally successful. The XPAG engine was not up to the excitement generated by the beautiful fully enveloping body. A second deficiency of the original design was revealed when the TD frame required the driver to sit absurdly high. This failing so irritated Enver that he designed a new frame which was wide spread so as to allow seat placement between the frame rails.

The car generated a great deal of excitement, and the boys from Abingdon were very eager to place their new design into production. However, MG had become a part of BMC, and the head of that concern had decreed that the new Austin Healey 100, also a very beautiful car, was to be placed into production and did not need in house competition. It was not until the 1956 model year, 4 years later, that the MGA was introduced to the public.

The Development of the MGA

The first production MGAs had a 1488 CC overhead valve engine, a 4 speed transmission and drum brakes. The steering was rack and pinion, with a double wishbone front suspension and a live rear axle suspended in semi elliptic springs. The car was fitted with 2 SU carburetors, a folding top and side curtains. There was also a heater fitted which was relatively effective. It was, for the time, a car that was modern, comfortable and quick.

The car was upgraded in later years. In 1959 a 1588 engine replaced the 1488, which was, in turn replaced by a 1622 engine. The front brakes were changed to Lockheed discs in 1959. There was also a Twin Cam variant introduced in 1958, which came with disc brakes at all wheels, and an engine which was quite powerful but which needed careful attention to survive. Sadly many of those who bought this car were not up to maintaining the engine and it had a high rate of failure when it was neglected. There were a few Mark II Deluxe cars made. These were Twin Cam chassis fitted with the 1622 push rod actuated overhead valve engines, and are considered by many to be the most desirable of all MGAs.

The "Modern" MGA

A new variant has arisen in the past 10 years. This is an MGA which is fitted with an MOB drive train. Such cars are known variously as modified or super sports MGAs. My own MGA, which Bill Evans calls an MOB in MGA clothing, is such a vehicle. It started life as a 1957 1500. However it is now sporting front disc brakes, a 1860 CC 5 main B engine, an overdrive full synchro transmission, a Salisbury type 3.90 B rear end with GT pistons, and GT springs lowered 1.5 inches and a GT sway bar. It is a car that combines the looks of the MGA with the performance of the MOB. It is a car that I am not afraid to take anywhere, and have taken from Oregon to Canada to New York.

MGA Enthusiasts.

There are several of my friends who own and drive MGAs. If you are interested in an MGA restored to original specifications, Brian Goldsmith, Dan Forehead, Dave Barnes or Ken Grant might be good references. If you are interested in a modified variant, Steve Espelund, Larry Underwood or I would be happy to assist you. Leo Thietje and Bill Petta are working on MGAs, and Dave Erickson also has a nice 1500 that will be showing up more and more often at the different events. I know that any of us would be quite happy to talk about our cars, as would any other MGA owners in the Flatwater Austin Healey Club or Her Majesty's Royal Nebraska Patrol.

The MGA is a delightful little car that combines the best of classic British motoring. It possesses the beauty of the streamlined racecars of the early post war era. As our friend Kent Prather proved by winning the G Production title at the SCCA Run Offs, it is still a pretty fair race car. All of this information builds to one conclusion-if you are investigating buying a classic sports car, the MGA is an option well worth considering.


The Year 1999 in Review

The Year 2000 in Review

The Year 2001 in Review

The Year 2002 in Review


Shaw's Garage | Projects | MGAs | MGA Modifications | MGBGTs | something different

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