A successful outing for three EX182 pre-production prototypes at the Le Mans 24 Hours race in 1955 provided perfect pre-launch publicity for MG’s new sports car. Conceived as a replacement for the traditional T-Series MGs and launched in 1955, the MGA combined a rigid chassis with the Austin-designed, 1489-cc engine that had first appeared in the ZA Magnette.
With over 100,000 produced, the MGA was perhaps the most popular sports car of its time. Its curving lines, with long front fenders and short rear fenders, echoed the Jaguar XK 120.
The overhead-valve B Series unit produced 68 bhp (later 72 bhp) at 5,500 rpm on twin SU carburetors. Running gear was based on that of the TF, with independent coil spring/wishbone front suspension and a leaf-sprung live rear axle. Clad in a stylish aerodynamic body and capable of topping 95 miles per hour, the MGA proved an instant hit, selling 13,000 units in its first full year of production.
Finished in red with re-trimmed black leather interior, this left-hand drive MGA 1500 sports new chromed wire wheels and is said to drive well. The car is believed to have been restored at some time and is described by its owner as in “good” condition throughout. It carries current Swiss road registration papers.

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1957 MGA 1500
Years Produced:MGA 1500 1956-59; all MGAs 1956-63
Number Produced:MGA 1500 58,750; all MGAs 101,181
Original List Price:$2,620
SCM Valuation:$13,500-$16,500
Tune Up Cost:$400
Distributor Caps:$25
Chassis Number Location:Plate riveted to heater shelf in engine compartment
Engine Number Location:Plate riveted to left side of engine block
Club Info:North American MGA Register, George Merryweather, 15 Cimarron Trail, Lucas, Texas 75062, 972-429-6079
Website:http://www.namgar.com
Alternatives:Triumph TR3, Sunbeam Alpine

This example sold for $10,248, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams & Brooks’s Geneva sale on March 5, 2001, a more-than-fair price for a car certified as roadworthy by the Swiss government. In fact, with the marque now being reborn, it may turn out to be a bargain. The familiar Morris Garages initials in the beloved octagon were back at Le Mans this year, performing respectably and recalling the MGA that made its debut there 46 years prior.
In 1951, Syd Enever, MG’s chief designer, fitted an aerodynamic body to George Phillips’s TD for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car sat high on its TD frame, but was unmistakably attractive. Its lines were adapted to a lower prototype on a modified frame proposed to BMC chairman Leonard Lord in 1952. Unfortunately, Lord was about to sign a contract to produce the new Austin-Healey 100 and didn’t want another BMC sports car competing with the Healey. The MGA design was shelved, and MG soldiered on with the square-rigged MG-TF.
In early 1955, the design was revived and three pre-production cars were built for Le Mans. Even in near-production form, these cars proved they could make close to 100 mph. By October the first MGAs were introduced at motor shows in Frankfurt and London.
These first MGAs were fitted with a slightly upgraded version of the pushrod 1489-cc BMC B-series engine first used on the MG Magnette in 1953. The MGA version had the requisite two SU carburetors that were synonymous with British sports cars, and a slightly hotter cam. Complementing its smooth curves, the MGA was almost devoid of chrome, aside from the neat grille. The car had no external door handles, and even the trunk had no outside handle, being released by a pull handle behind the driver’s seat.
The cockpit was nicely finished, with a folding soft top that tucked neatly under the rear shroud behind the seats, covered by a vinyl envelope for the separate side curtains. Leather-upholstered seats were comfortable for the period, with the dash, door panels and cockpit surround covered in matching vinyl. The dash held a full set of gauges, with the horn button idiosyncratically inset in the radio speaker grille at the center of the dashboard.
The MGA 1500 is a very pleasant car to drive. Both in period reports and from current experience, its handling is as good as any car produced in the ’50s. Others may have been quicker or faster, but the MGA is perfectly comfortable in freeway traffic.
The 1500 was replaced in 1959 by the MGA 1600. It was nearly identical to the earlier car except for the slight increase in engine capacity and horsepower, the addition of front disc brakes and a subtle change in taillights. From 1958 to 1960, MG also produced the twin-cam engine, which offered better performance at the expense of dependability. From 1960, a “De Luxe” version of the 1600 was offered, equipped with the four-wheel disc brakes and racing wheels of the twin-cam car. In 1961, the 1600 engine was upgraded to 1622 cc, offered in the MGA Mark II.
When buying any MGA, make sure the body is in very good shape, with little or no rust. Mechanical repairs are easy and parts are readily available. There is little difference in desirability between the 1500 and 1600 models, though prices of all MGAs are starting to creep up. With its lovely lines, great handling, comfortable interior and good performance, the MGA is finally getting the attention it deserves. At $10,248, this car was a bargain.—Gary Anderson
(Historic data and photo courtesy of auction company.)

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