MGAs may be starting to catch up with Austin-Healey values, and this might be a good time to buy

Chassis number: HDA4361077 The MGA was produced by the MG division of the British Motor Corporation from 1955 to 1962. The MGA replaced the older T-type cars and represented a complete styling break from the older vehicles. The car was officially launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1955. This car, “670 YUC,” has a B.M.I.H.T. certificate showing that it was built as a left-hand-drive car during December 1958 through January 1959, and it was shipped to the United States on January 5, 1959. The extensive history includes a California Ownership Certificate. In June 2009, the car was re-imported to the U.K. A very thorough inspection by a professional restorer reported no corrosion. They then stripped the body down to bare metal, repaired minor dings that were found and repainted the car in Blaze Red to a high quality. The car was carefully rebuilt, using original parts wherever possible. The level of craftsmanship is truly impressive, with accurate bodylines and perfectly fitting doors. Mechanically, the engine was found to have been expertly maintained, with many new parts. But to be certain of its quality, the vendor installed new gaskets, seals, core plugs, and head and manifold studs and nuts, converted the cylinder head to unleaded gasoline, and rebuilt the fuel and brake systems. The result is a spritely and reliable driving car reported to pull well through the gears. The ride benefits from rebuilt steering and front and rear suspension with all new bushes, rubbers, seals and track rod ends. The kingpins had already been renewed at an unspecified time. Fresh tires were fitted on new gray wire wheels. Electrically, the car was treated to a new wiring loom, right-hand-drive halogen headlamps (LHD lamps with vehicle), new taillamps, and a new safety gauge, with other gauges and switches cleaned and re-used. The starter motor, dynamo and wiper motor were serviced, and the car converted to a single, 12-volt battery with isolator and key. The cabin was retrimmed with all new black leather with red piping by a leading MGA specialist. New bumpers, grille and wheel spinners were fitted, and the windscreen frame re-chromed. The car has a new tonneau cover. It has the original hood sticks, which need repainting, but no hood, although that is easily obtained from various specialist suppliers. Rarely do we see cars of this type that really make you stop and take notice, but this is one such car. In this price range it is nearly impossible to find a car as usable, efficient and attractive as this MGA Roadster.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1959 MG A 1500 roadster

This car, Lot 153, sold for $35,182, including buyer’s premium, at Silverstone Auctions, Northamptonshire, U.K., on November 4, 2011.

In automotive history, as in so many other things, timing is everything. Rather than venerating the estimable Austin-Healey today, we could instead have had similar affection for the MGA — had it not been for an unfortunate set of events that took place in 1952 within the British Motor Corporation.

The original concept for the sleek lines of the MGA goes back to a streamlined version of the MG TD, designed at Morris Motor Company by Syd Enever to race at Le Mans in 1951, and an updated prototype he developed soon after. Unfortunately, Morris had by then been merged with Austin Motor Company into the British Motor Corporation. Worse, for anything coming from Morris, BMC was being run by Leonard Lord, who had been running Austin, and Lord had just contracted with Donald Healey for rights to produce the Healey 100 around an Austin 4-cylinder engine.

Believing that one company shouldn’t produce two competing, swoopy-fender sports cars, Lord shelved the Enever concept. It wouldn’t appear again until 1955, when BMC realized that the T-series MGs had gone past their sell-by date and needed to be replaced. (Ironically, at the same time, to bring the MGA into production Lord moved production of the Austin-Healeys to the MG plant at Abingdon.)

MGAs on the rise?

Now, of course, when we look at the MGA and the Healey, we think of them as products of the same era. Consequently, followers of the markets for two-seat roadsters have wondered for some time when values of MGAs might begin catching up with the escalating prices of Healeys.
Maybe now is that time, and folks in the market for a sporty-but-practical hobby car should start looking for good values in MGAs.
In the interests of full disclosure, I’m pretty sure of my ground when I say that an MGA can be every bit as entertaining as an Austin-Healey — and actually has better handling. I own one of each, and it’s the MGA that I choose to vintage race, while my Austin-Healey is used for club tours.

The differences start with the structure. The MGA is a body-on-frame car, and the frame looks as if it was designed by the same person who designed railroad bridges for the British Empire. By contrast, the Healey has a much lighter frame, and it relies on the structure of its semi-monocoque body for torsional rigidity. The consequence is that the MGA is considerably more rigid, and the car corners with considerably more authority.

On the other hand, the Healey engines, even the 4-cylinder versions, put out 18 more horsepower in stock version than the MGA 1500, so off the line the Healey gets more respect. In addition, the Healey’s suspension components are sturdier, although it didn’t have the rack-and-pinion steering advantages of the MGA.

The MGA also suffers a bit in the interior space department, with a smaller cockpit than the Healey, although they are almost exactly the same length. The advantage goes to more practical trunk space in the MGA.

Ride and performance changes

This very nice 1500, one of the first generation of MGAs, is a typical example of the quality and price available on the market today. As described in the catalog, it is a rust-free California car that has benefited from a recent body-off repaint and restoration of the suspension, electrical and fuel systems.

Starting there, anyone racing an MGA today can give you a list of tested improvements that can make the MGA comparable to any street-version Healey without sacrificing reliability.

With today’s components and methods, engines can be built that produce as much as 50% more horsepower than stock — with little sacrifice of reliability or drivability. Or just as easily, a good MGB engine and transmission can be bolted into the MGA with almost no change in appearance of the engine compartment.

Beyond that, for safety’s sake as well as to improve reliability and stopping ability, the shocks, springs and brakes of an MGB front suspension are bolt-on replacements for the much weaker and less sturdy MGA suspension — an upgrade that is not only accepted but recommended in most racing associations.

If you’re looking for value, reliability and fun in a classic 1950s sports car — and are still hoping for some price appreciation in the future — you might stop looking for Austin-Healeys and start looking for a nice MGA. In the end, I would have to call this car well bought today, and very well bought looking at a five-year time frame.

(Introductory description courtesy of Silverstone Auctions.)