Somehow, and we struggle to grasp why, the original MGA concept (EX175) was stillborn. It perhaps had more to do with parent company BMC favouring the work of Donald Healey, but nevertheless, the green light was finally shown to Abingdon in 1953. A fateful entry at the infamous Le Mans 24-hours of 1955 saw prototype MGAs finish 12th and 17th overall, respectable for a new and untested model in the world’s toughest circuit race.
Production MGAs arrived in September of the same year, powered by the new BMC B series engine of 1489cc displacement, initially making 68bhp but soon tuned to deliver 72bhp. Despite its new and seductive wind-cheating lines – the work of MG’s design chief Syd Enever – the underpinnings of the MGA were familiar to those who’d fallen for its predecessor the MG TF. Rack & pinion steering kept the direct (2 ¾ turn lock-to-lock) feel of earlier T series MGs with the same quad-drum brake arrangement.
The A got an exotic, if fragile, twin-cam engine in 1958 but more significant was the displacement boost for the standard B series engined car a year later. The 1600 MGA made nearly 80bhp with the extra performance reigned in by Girling disc brakes up front, allowing it to live up to some of the sporting promise exuded by the A’s record-breaking Bonneville Salt Flats fame.