History of the MGA & Magnette
Short History of the MGA & Magnette
The MGA is a small, by North American standards, British sports car which was made in Abingdon from May 1955 to July 1962. The original car was a Roadster with a 1500cc engine. In September 1956, a Coupé version was produced with the same engine. In April 1958, the first MGA with a 1600 twin cam engine was produced, and in May 1959 the MGA got a 1600 push rod engine. A total of 101,081 MGA’s were made, with over 90% being exported from the UK. This included cars assembled from kits of parts in Australia, South Africa, Canada, Ireland, Holland, Mexico, and even Cuba. Of the total production, 9922 were the coupé model.
During the eight years of production, the body shape changed very little with different front grilles, rear lights, and badges being used. Many MGA’s on the road today have 1800cc engines from the MGB. Some have a 5-speed gearbox and a higher ratio differential to make the car “long legged” for modern roads.
Engine Numbers (on tag riveted to the engine block):
There were four different engine types used in the MGA:
- MGA 1500 (1489cc) Engine number prefixes BP15GB or 15GB-U-H, numbers 101-51767, and 15GD-U-H, numbers 101-7816 (high starter position)
- MGA 1600 (1588cc) Engine number prefixes 16GA-U-H or 16GA-U, numbers 101-31660
- MGA 1600 Mark II (1622cc) Engine number prefixes 16GC-U-H or 16GC-U-L, numbers 101-8851
- MGA Twin Cam (1588cc) 16G-U and 16GB-U, numbers 101-2272
Body Changes and Identification:
MGA 1500 Roadster and Coupe cars and early Twin Cam cars have small white front side lamps, and single red rear lamps (indicator, brake, and tail light).
The MGA 1600 has larger diameter amber/white 2-bulb front side lamps, and two piece rear lamps – amber or red indicator, and red tail/brake light. This car has front disc brakes, and the brake master cylinder is taller.
On the MGA 1600 Mark II, the rear lamp has a single combined red/amber (or all red) lens that is horizontally mounted. Also this car features a set-back radiator grille, and the dash is vinyl covered. All coupes have a vinyl covered dash.
MGA 1600 Mark II Deluxe and Twin Cam cars have four-wheel disc brakes, and centre-lock steel wheels. Brake master cylinder and clutch cylinder are separate units. Many have removable louvered panels in the inner front fenders. (1600 MkII photos by John Rapson).
“1600”, “1600 Mk II” and “Twin Cam” badges are fitted, as appropriate, near the air vents on each side of the bonnet and on the lower edge of the boot lid below the MG badge.
Cars can have steel wheels, spoked wheels or center-lock steel wheels.
The car identity plate is fixed with screws to the top side of the heater shelf. This has the Car Number (or VIN/Chassis Number), and Engine Number stamped on it on 1500 cars. The later cars did not have the engine number on this plate, just “See Engine”.
There is also a painted plate with a Body Number stamped on it, fitted to the firewall near the right side bonnet hinge. The Body Number was not recorded by the factory.
The MG Magnette first appeared at the 1953 London Motor Show. Sometimes people refer to this as the 4-door model of the MGA, but in fact it was built 2 years before the MGA was launched. (This has led to some wag producing tee-shirts stating “MG Magnette -1953, MGA-1955, so which is the variant?”).
The Magnette model ZA was built up to 1956, and in 1957 the ZB Magnette appeared with increased engine power, and a “Varitone” option (2 color paint) with a larger rear window. Semi-automatic transmission was also an option from 1956.
Production of the Z Magnette ended in December 1958 after 36,601 had been built. In 1959, a Farina styled Mk III Magnette appeared, and in 1961 a Mark IV with 1622cc engine, was produced. The last of these cars was made in 1969. These latter two models have nothing in common with the Z models.
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Last updated on March 24, 2010.