﹒Imported from the car friendly climates of south Africa
﹒Very low miles
﹒Recent light recommissioning and further undersealing before hitting UK roads
*Interested parties should note that we previously sold this MGA to Malta, however due to the new import duties of 18% as a result of brexit, the buyer was unable to complete and the MGA is now back on the market*
The idea for the MGA came from the 1951 Le Mans 24 Hour race and a special streamlined body created for George Phillips’s racing car, designed by MG engineer and stylist Syd Enever.
Enever’s streamlined body was developed for a purpose – namely to provide the best possible aerodynamics in an era when such things were still considered a dark art. So while streamlining was the first priority, the fact that it looked sensational was a happy serendipity.
What followed was a demand from MG owners for a car that looked like the Le Mans racer, and thus the MGA was born – though it was slow in gestation as British Motor Corporation boss Leonard Lord was originally against it. He’d just signed a deal with Donald He
aley to create Austin-Healey and he didn’t want to upset the new arrangement by launching new sports cars under a different brand.
But soon after, sales of the more traditional MG models, which were critical to BMC’s export success, were in freefall. So Enever’s design was revisited and signed off.
It made its debut at the 1955 Frankfurt Motor Show and still looked way ahead of its time even though the Le Mans car had appeared four years previously.
Yet despite its incredibly modern looks, the MGA was actually quite traditional underneath, with a separate body-on-frame chassis and the 1,489cc OHV B-Series engine taken directly from the MG Magnette saloon, offering a modest 68bhp.
As the MGA evolved, it was made more modern and faster, with disc brakes and a Twin Cam engine appearing as part of the model’s evolution, while a Coupe was added to the range soon after launch.
It’s the early convertible models that are considered the prettiest and purest examples, though, and that’s what we have here – a genuine right-hand-drive ’58 MGA 1500 in Chariot Red. An original and very smart survivor.
One of the reasons this car has survived as well as it has is because it spent most of its life, from 1958 until 2019, living in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The current owner used to live and work there in the motor trade so is well connected to a lot of classic car specialists in the region, from which this MGA was sourced. Prior to that it had been privately owned and restored in the 1990s, though it has had a more recent respray since.
It arrived in the UK late last year and was subject to some light recommissioning, as well as being undersealed properly ready for the UK weather. Despite it being MoT exempt, the owner put it through a test to ensure it met British safety requirements before being used on our roads.
There’s some history with the car relating to its time in South Africa, the RSA is still displayed proudly in the windscreen. It’s not a comprehensive record of the car’s past, though – it’s far better viewed in the context of being a rot-free import that can be used and enjoyed rather than a future museum piece, which to many will be part of its appeal – not least because of the model’s eligibility for historic motorsport series.
All of the UK paperwork including a current V5, official import papers and an MoT test carried out in June 2020 comes with the car.
The MGA’s interior is a fairly simple affair, but that’s no bad thing. The black leather seats are both in good condition, while the carpets are also in good - but not perfect - order, with some wear and tear but nothing drastic or off-putting – again, just what you’d want in an MGA you bought to use rather than keep as a show pony.
The thin Bakelite steering wheel, handbrake beneath the knee and short, stubby gear lever take some getting used to, but also give the car a sense of occasion, as do the optional ammeter and oil pressure gauge, fitted in a separate pod beneath the dash.
Although a South African car, the speedometer still reads in MPH, as it dates from an era before the republic adopted metric speed limits.
Rot-free MGAs are rare things indeed, especially in right-hand-drive. But the fact that this car came from South Africa and lived its entire life in a warm and dry climate means it has survived with no rotten panels at all. It’s good underneath, too, having recently been treated to some thorough rustproofing ahead of its new life in a damper and more temperate climate.
The paint isn’t original – far from it, in fact, as there are still traces of paint dust and overspray from a recent new coat of Chariot Red, though the overall finish is excellent and gives the car a handsome shine. A bit of minor attention to detail will get rid of the small areas of overspray, such as on the boot rubbers.
Most of the chrome is original and although parts of it are slightly deteriorated, there’s no major rust or pitting – just a gentle patina that really suits the look of the car.
The painted wire wheels have all been refurbished to an excellent standard, which sets the car off nicely.
While the real appeal of an MGA convertible is wind-in-the-hair fun, there’ll be times where you need the roof, especially in the UK. The hood on this car is fully functional and the mechanism is in fine order and the car now comes with new side-screens that were fitted post photoshoot.
Under the bonnet you’ll find BMC’s venerable B-Series engine, as found in almost every MG built between 1954 and 1981.
Because this is a 1958 car it gets a modest power increase over the earlier MGAs, from 68bhp to 72bhp, which gave it a top speed of 96mph when new and a 0-60 time of just under sixteen seconds – about the same as a modern city car, but back in 1958 that was a decent enough turn of pace.
Twin SU carbs give it a great soundtrack, while all-new fuel pipes throughout are a recent safety modification, but have been carried out in a sympathetic fashion using cloth-wrapped rubber pipe as would have been the case when the MGA was new. It starts on the button, settles to a smooth idle with no timing chain rattle and doesn’t belch out any excessive smoke. Plus, if it does ever go wrong, most B-Series parts are available off-the-shelf from the many MG specialists there are out there.
One of the most imposing things beneath the bonnet of this car is its Smiths heater – the very same unit found under the bonnet of many a Fifties or Sixties British classic, but a rare and desirable extra for a South African model and a very unusual find – one which will no doubt be welcomed by the car’s next British owner, even if the heater has seen very little use over the past 62 years.
If you’re after an MGA that has all of the style and charm that the model exudes, but at the same time want a car you can use rather than a concours contender, then this one is perfect.
It looks fantastic, but it isn’t perfect and that means you can use it with impunity and without fear, either as a fun open-top classic for high days and holidays or as the basis for a competition car – it’d suit both purposes, as well as being a good solid basis for further improvement if you wanted to take it all the way.
As it stands, it’s a really fun and useable example which enjoys the rot-free benefits of coming from a dry climate, as well as being an accessible way into owning a classic whose value has shot up in recent years.
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