The MGA With An Attitude
A most useful accessory for a few hours work and very little cost.
Click for larger pictures.
navigator's desk with computer navigator's desk with books and maps

I don't know if anyone else has done this yet, but I have been getting a few inquiries, so it's time to post this one. This is a Navigator's Desk which I installed in my MGA just before the Alaska trip in 1997. It was originally intended to hold a lap top computer, but has since proved very useful for many other things. In basic form it is an 18 inch square of 1/4 inch plywood supported on a minimal steel frame below the dash. When stowed it lies at a small sloping angle perpendicular to the face of the dash, parallel to the bottom of the radio. The right front corner stops against the angled frame rail of the car chassis. When pulled out, the front edge of the board is still supported by the steel frame while the back end will rest in your lap. The resulting angle is ideal for a lap top computer, for reading a road map, for reading and writing rally notes, and it lies (not coincidentally) immediately under the MGA map light.
desk frame with slide panel
The frame is constructed from 6-1/2 feet of 1/8x1 inch steel strap and weighs just 2.7 pounds. The plywood shelf weighs only 1.8 pounds, and this loose part can be removed when not in use (like when I go autocrossing). At a meager 4-1/2 pounds total this is a very useful accessory. For the weight conscious, it may also displace a 1/2 pound clipboard. For the space conscious, it can also serve as a parcel shelf for longer touring trips. A casual and unsuspecting passenger might bark their shins on the thing getting into the car on first try, but in fact it only hangs a few inches below the dash and is recessed a couple inches farther forward.

As shown the frame is welded construction, but if you don't have a welder handy it could just as well be assembled with a few more screws (countersunk flat heads on the inside). The front end attaches to existing threaded holes in the MGA frame front goal post. The right top end attaches to the flange of a body brace under the front body cowling (drill one or two small holes). The left top end attaches to the under dash brace running forward from the heater control mounting location (drill one small hole there). As you can see from the following pictures, it can be installed or removed with minimal affect to the car. The picture immediately below has it propped up at about the correct angle as installed in the car.
desk frame side view
desk frame front view
If you get creative you may make some improvements on the plywood shelf. This one started out bare, with some intention of adding small side and back boards (but ran out of time just then). During the Alaska trip it commonly carried the lap top computer, a DC to AC inverter, the computer's AC to DC power supply, a charger for a portable battery pack, and fairly often a guide book and maps. After a time it picked up a few velcro tabs to retain a CD drive, and later took on the large clipboard clamp. It could certainly use a pen holder, maybe a couple more paper clamps, and perhaps a stopwatch clip. Side boards with a small top lip might do well for keeping loose items from sliding off on the driver's foot. Once the thing is installed the uses keep increasing. You might even consider making more than one board for special applications.

The following pages contain drawings and construction details for anyone to make their own MGA Navigator's Desk. As usual, anyone is welcome to make one for their own use. If you want to consider producing them for sales distribution, keep in mind the design is copyrighted. (Translation: I'd like a small piece of the action).

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