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2 seater open top sports

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      04.02.2001 17:36
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      I have been driving since 1964 and in that time I have owned a number of cars which would now be called (and sold to the gullible) as 'classics' . I will not list them here but, shall we say, the large majority of them were "classic pains in the ****" (and other parts of the human anatomy). However, the MGA that I owned for over two years from December 1967 (568 RHY) when I lived in Matlock in Derbyshire, did not fall into that category. I travelled over 25,000 miles in this vehicle, with a few minor problems (see below), but I always enjoyed it and I immediately regretted selling it (albeit at a good profit). It was a 1959 Mark 1A model (with the '1600' engine and the vertical rear tail lights that included a separate indicator light) in 'Olde English White' . It had a 'factory' hard top covered (professionally) with black vinyl and a grotty hood but and a new tonneau cover. I paid £195 for it (with 10 months' MOT but no tax). It had been on the market at £250 ono, but I had been told that the guy was 'desperate' to sell, so I 'beat him down'. After all, it was winter approaching. ........ I had also been looking for an MGA or a 'Big Healey' for months, at the 'right price', and I have always have my eyes open for a bargain. After taxing it for 12 months (£17.50) and insuring it third party only (£40). I set about 'thief-proofing' it (a switch in the low tension ignition circuit). Remember, these cars did not have door locks or winding windows You could reach in the side screens and open the doors - and Krook-Locks (if they were available then) would have been expensive. I also bought a new hood (in 'powder blue' - don't laugh - it was cheap - 7 pounds ten shillings - because of the colour - £7.50 to you 'young uns') and fitted it myself with my pop-riveter. And there I was Girls. Young (22 years&# 39; old), attractive (well 'moderately'), even if I was just a 'little' over-weight then (a 'lot' now), a (shared) flat in Matlock town, and a Sportscar !!! Eligible, or a Cad in the making ?? I think you can guess which !!! You see there was a teachers' training college in Matlock, with (mostly) delightful young ladies and all (well most) quite impressionable !! Oh happy days (and they really were !). Anyway it's cars that I supposed to be talking about - and not 'lifestyles'. Now a few points about the car. It had 74,000 miles recorded and the engine was not the 1588 cc engine from the factory, but a 'gold seal' reconditioned 1622cc engine (said to be only 12,000 miles' old) to which the original cylinder head and carburettors/exhaust manifold had been fitted. This was roughly the set-up of the 'Mark 2' models (with the horizontal rear light clusters), but their gearing was different I seem to recall. The performance was thus 'very good' and would 'eat' all other MGA's apart from the twincams (or 'tincans' as they were known at the time because their engines often made that type of noise before they 'blew up'). The interior I loved. I did not have a radio, so that grille in the centre of the dashboard was not used. I soon got used to the horn button in the centre of the dash and the separate starter button always felt just right. The steering wheel was a lovely factory-fitted wood-rimmed affair and was adjustable for 'reach', and I did adjust it (close to the chest for 'spirited' driving, close to the dashboard for more leisurely travel. The black leather upholstery was nicely 'matured' and having a hard-top on for most of its life meant that it was not affected by water ingress and mouldy carpets. The hand brake was the 'fly-off' variety. You pressed the button to release it, and then just let go - made for exciting 'standing starts' (well "exciting" was not the word I would have used then - there were very much more exciting things in my life !). Obviously no seatbelts. Although it is listed as a 2 seater sports car, it was possible for a small person to squat behind the passenger seat when pulled forward and the car was in the 'hood-down' mode. It had a boot rack (that was used whenever I went down to my family in South Wales) and steels wheels. I would have preferred wire wheels or even better the centre lock steel wheels that were fitted to the tincans (sorry, I mean 'twin-cams'). The twin-cams also had Dunlop disc brakes all round I seem to recall. The bodywork was beginning to rust in parts, but I waxoyled it (finding that the boot floor was starting to rot) and a can of paint from the local factors applied by brush and rubbed down soon had it looking 'smart'. Problems were experienced with 'touching up' the boot lid and the bonnet, because they were aluminium, and did not take the paint very well. This proved that it had probably not been involved in an accident since the replacement panels were made of steel, but chatting to a guy from a bodyshop at the pub (and the buying of 2 pints of Hardy's Best) brought me a small quantity of 'etching primer' into my possession, and a reasonably good job was accomplished. The tyres were all legal (just), but were radial ply and the car did not handle well. I think that the size was 5.60 x 15, but I saw a garage advertising cross ply 5.90x15 Goodyear remoulds for the bargain price of £10 for 4, so I put those on. It made it ride a little higher, but the tyres looked 'fat' and it handled brilliantly. I say 'handled' because the road-holding itself was not brilliant (it was rather 'tail-happy) and plenty of 'opposite lock' was required when driving briskly. T he only problem with these tyres was that I wore them out completely in little more than 8,000 miles (with the canvas beginning to show through), and good second hand set of Michelin X followed. Mechanical problems? Two simple, but potentially quite serious. I was driving down a '1 in 8' hill (as they were called then) in Matlock when I found "no brakes" on putting my foot on the pedal. Oh Dear ! OOOPS !! (and other assorted exclamations and profanities). I managed to change down to second gear and I pulled on the handbrake hard which locked the rear wheels. Fortunately the tyres still had plenty of tread on the rear wheels and gripped well. At the junction at the bottom of the hill, I stopped with about 2 feet of the car over the stopline, just as a lorry passed from the left. From then on, whenever I saw brown underpants on sale, I bought several pairs !!. There was a fluid leak from the master-cylinder, and a new set of seals (£2 or so ?) and teaching my new girlfriend the joys of brake bleeding in the middle of winter soon fixed this. The second occurred when I was moving to Alfreton about 10 miles away (after the owner of 'our' flat became fed up of the number of parties that we had at the flat). I was driving along the winding road late at night (with cases in the boot and a chair on the boot rack) when there was a 'crash' from the front nearside and the car 'pulled' drastically to the left. I got out. Nothing seemed amiss, but the front offside wheel seemed to have an exaggerated 'camber' .... The bottom joint had 'failed'. Fortunately my AA membership resulted in a suspended tow to a local garage and a lift into Alfreton. A week later it was back on the road (after a reasonable £12 bill, including labour). So why did I sell it ? Well, I wanted something larger and I had 'discovered' the joys of car auctions and maki ng a little bit on the side buying and selling. I just needed a bigger 'stake'. I advertised it at £295, and sold it (immediately on advertising it) in June 1969 in South Wales. Missed it immediately, and never found one that was anything like as good. My next 'foray' into sports cars was a very nice and very rare Swallow Doretti (what dat ?), but that's another opinion waiting to be written ..... If you are considering an MGA today, you have the problem that there are not many about. Those that are will be rebuilt and their desirability will depend almost entirely on how well this work has been done. Parts will not be as easy to get as for an MGB, so that is what I would be considering if I were 'in the market' for a classic MG now. If you are adamant about buying an MGA, join the MG owners club, buy all the books and classic car magazines that you can and start crawling over whatever you find on the market Good hunting !! PS MG Owners Club : Octagon House Over Road Swavessey Cambridge CB4 5Qz 01954 232106 www.mgownersclub.co.uk © Sidneygee 2001

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