For the debut of its new MGA in 1955, MG wisely chose that year's LeMans 24-hour race; after a succession of open-wheeled models, there were fears of an adverse reaction to such a streamlined car and it was felt that by showing the MGA in competition first the aerodynamic shape would be accepted as a performance essential. There had been some delays, however, in getting the go-ahead for production, MG owner BMC declining, having already agreed with Donald Healey to build the Austin-Healey 100. It was the success of a highly streamlined MGA prototype, which took several speed records up to 153 mph, that finally persuaded BMC to relent.

The Twin-Cam MGA was introduced midway through 1958. The 1588cc unit was rated at 108 bhp at 6,700 rpm, providing the car with a 0-60 mph time of 9 seconds and a maximum speed of 115 mph. The suspension was by independent coil springs at the front and a live rear axle with leaf springs, the car had a close-ratio gearbox and the specification was rounded off with disc brakes all around.

The car featured here is a roadster finished in white with a black interior and is described as being in excellent overall condition. (The photo is of a similar car.) Fitted with the desirable close-ratio gearbox option, it was extensively restored in the U.K. during the late 1980s and has covered less than 500 miles since.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1958 MG A Twin-Cam
Years Produced:1958-1960
Number Produced:2,111
Original List Price:$3,542
SCM Valuation:$17,500-$22,000
Tune Up Cost:$600 (complete)
Distributor Caps:$20 with Lucas trademark
Chassis Number Location:Plate in rear of engine compartment
Engine Number Location:Plate on step on engine block
Club Info:North American MGA Register, P.O. Box 11746, Albuquerque, NM 87192, 505-293-9085
Alternatives:Triumph TR-3B, Alfa Romeo Giulietta/Giulia Spider Veloce, Porsche 356B Cabriolet

This Twin-Cam sold at the Coys International Historic Festival at Silverstone, on July 31, 1999 for $24,257 (including commission).

The MGA must have been the most anticipated and eagerly awaited sports car in British automotive history. MG had been quick off the blocks in 1946 with the TC byface-lifting the pre-war TA Midget, then made marginal improvements to produce the TD. But by 1950, the cycle-fendered, vertical-radiator cars were as dated as War Bond posters. For LeMans in 1951, MG’s Chief Experimental Engineer Syd Enever designed in secret a “skunk-works” body over the MG-TD chassis and running gear for a private entry.

The production MGA was introduced in 1955 with three prototypes running at Le Mans. With its 100+ mph capability, superb handling, comfortable interior, eye-catching style and reasonable price, the car was an immediate hit.

Speed records had always been a source of MG development, and a 1957 effort by Stirling Moss at Bonneville in a custom-bodied streamliner not only produced a land speed record for 1500cc engines at 245.64 mph, but also resulted in a twin-cam version of the MG engine. This engine was immediately introduced on the 1958 “special top performance” MGA. This model also offered four-wheel Dunlop disc brakes, larger tires, center-lock Dunlop steel wheels emulating those on the Jaguar D-type, and a deluxe trim package. Discreet twin-cam badges on the trunk lid and next to the front shroud vents identified the car. Options included competition seats, an oil cooler, and a close-ratio gearbox. The engine was probably second only to the Jaguar XK as a piece of attractive mechanical sculpture.

However, the Twin-Cam also offered a lumpy idle in a temperamental engine that was a pain to tune, with a nearly inaccessible distributor and valves that had to be shimmed for adjustment (something that Alfa owners wouldn’t have found unusual, but a huge imposition on the perhaps more easily mechanically-challenged MG owner.-ED). In addition, the engine was noisy and burned oil like an industrial furnace. MG actually established a resident engineer in the U.S. to help

dealers sort out these problematic cars. Within two years, the engine had been dropped and the remaining performance bodies with four-wheel disc brakes and trim package were used up by installing the latest 1600cc push-rod engines and screwing on a “Deluxe” badge. In any case, the MGB was already in the wings by this time so the MGA, in any model, was not long for this world.

There is no question among market followers that the Twin-Cam is the most valuable model of the MGA. Given today’s technology, the engines can be built to provide nearly smoke-free, reliable performance. However, values seem to be stagnant in the $20,000 to $25,000 range, which is a surprisingly small premium over the $15,000 to $18,000 a first-rate pushrod car can bring. Perhaps the world just isn’t prepared to pay $30,000 for an MGA body, no matter what drivetrain it clothes. This Coys sale was certainly right on the money this year; a similar car sold at Brooks in Monterey in August for almost exactly the same price. For the MGA enthusiast who must have the rarest of the breed, a Twin-Cam is the only way to go. However, for the rest of us, a nicely sorted Deluxe or a late-model standard version will definitely have a better fun-to-money ratio.-Gary Anderson, Publisher, British Car magazine

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