MGA (Twin Cam)

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Classic British sports car with genuine competition pedigree

You might consider the MGA little more than a pretty face, but the story behind those timeless looks reveals perhaps unexpected competition breeding and a direct bloodline to a streamlined racer built for Le Mans in 1951.

Known as EX172, the car that inspired the MGA was based on the more traditional TD, variations of which had remained at the core of the brand’s post-war product line-up and racing activities. MG badly needed to modernise and, while EX172 was flawed – the driving position was too high and the engine didn’t stay the course – the ‘Safety Fast’ benefits of its aerodynamic design and inherent good looks were too good to ignore. By placing the seats between rather than on top of the chassis rails, MG had the foundations for a more modern-looking car on which its revival could be built.

Launched in 1955, the MGA was immediately well received and produced in roadster and coupé variants, both powered by a 72bhp 1.5-litre engine. Commentating on the latter on these pages in 1959, Bill Boddy mentioned “the MG tradition” and summed the A up as “a safe, fast car, with first-class handling, excellent brakes and decidedly useful performance” while noting that it was “by no means inadequate for club sprints and races”.

And race it did, the MGA competing at Le Mans in 1955 and the TT, where it featured upgrades such as disc brakes and a new 110bhp twin-cam engine. Factory-supported privateers also enjoyed success at Sebring, motor sport helping to establish the US as a vital export market.

By 1959 the Twin Cam had been developed into a production model, transforming performance from “adequate to potent” according to contemporary testers. It proved a troublesome and unreliable road car though, the vast majority of the 100,000-plus MGAs ultimately being powered by 1500 (and later 1600) versions of the standard B-series engine. Subsequent MkIIs featured an improved 1622cc motor with 90bhp, but were more traditional tourers than out-and-out sports cars. That image might have come to define the MGA in later years but, at its heart, it’s more of a racer than most people realise.

Price new: £1195 7s 6d (1959 Twin Cam) Price now: £50,000 (Twin Cam road car) Rivals: Austin Healey 100/4, Triumph TR3, Alfa Romeo 2000 Spider Heritage: Gorgeous roadster and coupé that put MG on the post-war sports car map; raced & rallied with considerable success

SPEAKING TO JAMES COTTINGHAM

DK Engineering is a Ferrari specialist, but its team knows a thing or two about MGs

I’ve got a big soft spot for works BMC racing cars – having owned and raced an MGB for nearly 10 years I know how much fun they can be. MGAs are quick, too, and while racing versions are a lot more than a road car you only have to look at the values of original Lightweight E-types compared with standard ones to see its worth. With proper maintenance the Twin Cam is reliable, too. If you are an MG fan you’ll realise cars like this are very, very special and relatively affordable given the history. I think this one will be bought by someone who wants to compete.