1959 MGA Twin Cam

Conceived as a replacement for the traditional T-Series MGs and introduced in 1955, the MGA combined a rigid chassis with the Austin-designed, 1,489-cc B-Series engine that had first appeared in the ZA Magnette. Running gear was based on the TF, with independent coil-sprung wishbone front suspension and a live rear axle. Clad in a curvaceous aerodynamic body and capable of topping 95 mph, the MGA proved an instant hit, selling 13,000 cars in its first full year of production.

Immensely popular though it was, the MGA faced stiff competition from the larger-engined Triumph TR3 and Austin-Healey 100-6. Coaxing more power from the standard engine was becoming increasingly difficult, so development concentrated on a twin-overhead-camshaft cylinder head for the B-Series block. Conceived at Cowley by BMC engineer Gerald Palmer and introduced in 1958, the new engine did not disappoint, producing an impressive 108 horsepower at 6,700 rpm.

Considerably faster than the stock MGA, the Twin Cam could comfortably exceed 110 mph, and to cope with the increased performance, Dunlop disc brakes were fitted all around, and Dunlop center-lock wheels were adopted. A high price discouraged sales, however, and the model was dropped after just two years. Production totaled 2,111 cars, a mere 360 of which were sold in Great Britain, and today the Twin Cam is one of the most sought-after of post-war MG sports cars.

This car, chassis number YD11580, left the factory on March 16, 1959, for delivery to Leeds dealers Isaac Swires & Sons Ltd. Just over one month later, the car was competing in the first of the two Tulip Rallies in which it would take part in the hands of private owner Harry Mainz.

Although not a true Works entry, it ran as Number 30, following the Works cars, Number 28 driven by John Gott and Number 29 driven by John Sprinzel. This lineup is illustrated in a period photograph contained in the history file together with a letter from MG Competitions Department staff member Bill Price. The file also contains the original Tulip Rally timing and results books from 1959 and 1960 — plus the car’s original buff logbook that documents the registration number change from XWU285 to JRD333.

Approximately 28 years ago, the car was purchased by Paul Channon, a well-known motor-racing personality and owner of the BMC agency in Bournemouth, who rebuilt it to use in historic rallying. He rebuilt the MGA to a high competition standard, with special camshafts and 9.9:1-compression pistons — plus three-point harnesses, Marchal spotlights, Halda Tripmaster, and so forth.

From 1986 to 2005, Channon competed in 46 rallies with much success, achieving 25 class wins, eight 2nd in class and four 3rd in class, including nine top-three overall finishes (and only two DNFs).

The current vendor purchased the MG at Bonhams’ Goodwood Festival of Speed sale in 2010 (Lot 335), and it has been used sparingly since. Competition-prepared yet easily tractable enough for everyday road use, this very special MGA is in exceptional condition and ready to compete in any historic rally. It comes complete with FIA/HSCC/VSCC papers and RAC logbook, and is expected to possess a fresh MoT by time of sale. The sale also included a substantial amount of documentation on the car, including period photographs and related literature, as well as spare and replacement parts.

Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson - SCM Contributor

Gary is also Editor in Chief of The Star, the magazine for the Mercedes-Benz Club of America. He has been active for many years in the Austin-Healey Club USA and is co-author of MBI’s best-selling Austin-Healey Restoration Guide, as well as editor of the Austin-Healey Magazine. An avid vintage race driver, he ran his 1960 MGA in three Monterey Historics, four Wine Country Classics, and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. He is the author of Motoring: Getting the Maximum from Your New Mini, a comprehensive guide to the new MINI Cooper, available through Amazon.com.

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