The MG name could be back under new ownership. Still, it’s the old classic sports cars reducers remember the most. As a British car manufacturer, MG disappeared in 2006, ending more than 80 years of innovation. The MGA began life as an inexpensive and practical two-seater sports car that sold in large numbers. MG should have left the MGA alone. But, chasing more sales turned out to be too big a temptation to resist.
The Twin Cam should have been MG Rover’s ticket to bigger sales, but it wouldn’t be MG Rover’s latest idea that failed to deliver. In 1976 the SD1, despite the power of the Rover V8, collapsed due to poor parts and assembly.
Undoubtedly, Rover had talent which at times proved to be world class. The Lotus Elsie S1 used Rover’s award-winning K-series engine to great effect. In his own cars, things turned out to be less than successful.
By the 1980s Rover’s time was nearly up thanks to a bad run of rebadged models that were somehow worse than the cars they started. Rover slipped into darkness as he left BMW to sort out the leftovers. Here’s what everyone forgot about one of the brand’s greatest creations, the MGA Twin Cam.
ten Early MGA 1500 debut
The MGA arrived in 1955 to replace the aging MG TF Midget. MG was back with a new range of stylish small sports cars. As promising as the MGA was, there was room for improvement.
The first production cars used tried and tested BMC B-series engines producing 68 bhp. Adequate performance rather than fast, the MGA topped out at 98mph, taking 16 seconds to hit 60mph. Still, considering MG still used drum brakes across the board, it was pretty quick.
9 Coupe or Roadster
Adding to the appeal of the MGAs, the British automaker has bolstered the range with a choice of coupé or roadster bodies. They both have their pros and cons. In coupe form, the MGA was more comfortable to drive, offering better sound and sound deadening.
Gearboxes opting for the prettier, sleeker roadster meant sacrificing basic functionality. You won’t find any visible way to open the door from the outside, instead you bend down and pull a simple cable.
8 Basic weather protection
Like most open-top sports cars of the time, the MGA featured a folding fabric roof. More of a “just in case” item, the best owners might hope to stay dry in a light downpour. Roof raised, the fragile frame and coating show the little protection available.
If the roof didn’t offer much protection, MG made things worse with a pair of removable side curtains, with quick and easy removal of the side windows stowed in the trunk when not in use. The simplistic approach influenced MG’s decision to remove the door trim. Exterior door handles and window crank mechanisms are not included.
seven Body-on-frame construction
Introduced as a new generation of MG sports cars, the MGA dates back to 1951. Designed as a Le Mans prototype, the car used fully enclosed or “Ponton” styling resulting in a low drag bodywork. Until then, MG had been a strong believer in higher angular designs.
But some things never change. MG armed with a new sleeker design retained a body-on-frame configuration. While the cheaper tooling and construction costs are a bonus, body flex is less desirable and ultimately prevented the MGA back from reaching its true potential.
6 Cooler and lighter metal wheels
Cost reduction in the MGA construction process did not extend to other parts of the car. Like many of its more expensive rivals, MG offered some customization options for users. The wheels are the most visible, with stamped steel elements or cooler metal rims. The latter, simpler and easier to replace, featured Dunlop counterfeits.
Image-conscious gearheads might spec a set of 15-inch, 60-spoke Moss Chrome wheels front and rear. Besides aesthetics, the wire wheels were lighter, reducing the MGA’s unsprung weight.
5 1958 Twin Cam engine introduced
If there was one area the MGA lacked, it was performance over looks. Despite the best efforts of the MG design and engineering team, the MGA needed more power. In 1958, the wishes of the gearheads came true with a more powerful engine – a larger 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 108 hp.
But the improved power figures weren’t based solely on an increase in displacement. Keeping the B-series as a starting point, MG replaced the heads with a twin-cam design. Boasting more power on tap, the Twin-Cam MGA dove into the 9-second low range in a dash to 60 mph.
4 Engine detonation problems
Despite all the vastly improved performance available, the success of the Twin-Cam MGA was short-lived. In a short life, MG had to reduce the compression ratio at the expense of performance. Engine power fell to 100 hp.
With a huge backlash from owners, Twin Cam production ended in 1960 due to poor sales and warranty fixes. Symptoms included excessive oil use manifesting as engine detonation. Damage to the MGA had a huge impact on demand and the model eventually ceased production in 1962.
3 Low production figures
Not all MGAs are created equal. The more powerful Twin Cam model is the most sought after despite its engine problems. To MG’s credit, all of the car’s mechanical issues were later rectified under warranty. Even so, Twin Cam cars only make up a tiny fraction of MGA’s sales.
Launched in 1955, the MGA amassed just over 101,000 sales by the time production ended in 1962. Of these, 2,111 cars came with the troublesome twin-cam engine. It may have been flawed, but today’s auction prices are well into the six figures, proving that rarity can be more valuable than reliability.
2 Race background
Born to race long before production began in 1958, the MGA saw limited use in competition. In 1955, three MGA prototypes took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, obtaining 12th and 17th places overall.
In the United States, the MGA is a regular at classic car events, winning six SCCA National Championships between 1986 and 2005. However, the MGA was not as successful in the NASCAR series. From 1960 to 1963, the MGA did not win a single victory, and until 2007 was the last foreign automaker to field a team.
1 MG MGB
In the wake of the demise of the MGAs, MG announced a successor in the MGB. On the face of it, the two are different enough to warrant all of MG’s new complaints. But, dive under the skin, and much of the MGA drivetrain was still present.
Beneath a modern unitary chassis and body, BMC’s B-series engine bored out to 1.8 liters. Despite the engine size, the MGB is slower with 95bhp on tap, which translates to a 0-60mph time of 12 seconds. None of that matters, because the MGB was a hit with American gearheads. Over an extended service life of seventeen years, 298,000 MGBs reached American shores.