The MGA With An Attitude
WHERE and HOW to BUY an MGA - BUY-108

At 12:56 PM 2/16/2007 -0700, Brady Mann wrote:
>"I am interested in a MGA based on the styling and simplicity. Parts are available, and are relatively cheap."

All of the right reasons.

>"The problem is finding one."

That's not a problem at all. There are lots of MGA available in any condition you may like, from parts cars to restored show cars. How many do you want? Just bring your check book to the market and you can have anything you like. The MGA is one of the first sports cars that was built in large enough quantity that there are enough to go around, so anyone who wants one can have one (at the right price of course).

>"The only current reasonable source seems to be ebay."

Well, that is a source for a relatively large number of MGA on any given day.

>"Other sites seem to have outdated ads up to 3-4 years old."

Poor management of the web sites. Ads on our local club web site are always current, and information changes almost daily on demand. See here:

>"I can't seem to catch a good driver here in Illinois. Any leads?"

Make me an offer I can't refuse, and maybe I'll sell you mine. Same goes for almost any other MGA currently on the road. If you want a little better price you should probably stick to cars that are advertised for sale. If you don't like the current prices for MGAs you might be in the market for a nice MGB. This would not be the same styling of course, but the MGB is nearly identical in mechanical parts, performance is similar, creature comforts are better (a little better), and they are also still appreciating in value.

I am neither a dealer nor broker in used cars, so I have very little interest in beating the bushes to find a good deal on price. I do casually monitor some sales, so I have a fair idea about current market value in general. I may offer a few suggestions on where to look for one.

The more patience you have, the more likely you are to end up with a car you like at a price you can live with. If you ultimately can't find one you like at a price you think is reasonable, you have a few choices. You might change your opinion about what they are worth and increase you budget for a purchase. You might decrease your expectation for quality and settle for a lesser car within the allowable budget price. Or you might forget about an MGA and buy an MGB or a Miata for a daily driver car.

Meanwhile, while you're still searching for an MGA, you can keep one eye on eBay for a reference to what's available on the market and general price range. You should pay absolutely no attention to asking prices, totally ignore any ad posted "reserve not met", and only consider known prices of cars that actually sell. EBay is not a bad place to buy a car, but you need to have enough patience to wade through the riff-raff ignoring all the junk you don't want, and paying close attention only to cars that meet your expectation for quality level. Keep in mind that fresh paint and new interior does not equate to being restored (even though many are advertised that way).

If the body has never been off the frame for underbody clean up and repair and repaint, and you buy it, you get to do it. If you don't want to find yourself involved in a full body off restoration project, you have two choices. You can pay a reasonable price for one that has been fully restored. Or you can buy a non-restored car (hopefully) cheap, drive it as-is for as long as you can put up with it, and then sell it to someone else for whatever it might be worth at the time. One thing you should not do is to buy a junker cheap and "fix it up" to be a nice daily driver, expecting to somehow save some money. If you read my first couple of articles on Restoration, you should realize why that is not possible. The least expensive way to have the car you want is to decide first what condition you want, and buy a car already in that condition.

You will likely find very few offerings of MGA in local newspaper classifieds. You may find MGA for sale in Hemmings Motor News, but usually at somewhat inflated asking price. You may find a few web sites with current ads, like the Moss Motors classifieds for instance. When looking at offers for properly restored cars in the more popular public forums you might expect to find somewhat inflated asking prices.

You can check classified ads that may appear on local club web sites. For a list of every known MG and all British car club in North America see here:

Visit any British car show and you may find a nice one for sale.

Looking to buy a good MGA is something like looking for a good job. It helps to have patience and do some serious networking (which is not as tough as it may first sound). It is highly recommended to join a local club, go to some meetings, get to know the folks familiar with these cars, ask lots of questions, buy a few beers for your new friends if it helps, and pay attention to the comments of people who know about such things. Association with a local club may get you lots of assistance in your search and purchase from people who know the cars intimately, which should greatly improve your chances of satisfactory results.

You can also hook up with some related internet resources. I suggest you join up and monitor the MGA BBS on the MG Enthusiasts UK server. Also hook up with the mgs e-mail list on the server and post your request there. There are also Yahoo Groups forums for MGA cars, MGA Twin Cam (and Deluxe), and MGA hardtop. You might be amazed at what cars (and parts and services) may be available at any given time if you just raise your hand and ask in the right environment. The more you get in with the "in crowd" the more you find the intimate information that may not be available to the general public. The more you learn the better prepared you will be to buy the right car for your needs and desires, and more likely to avoid the pitfalls.

If you don't mind paying "retail price", you can check with an number of British car dealers and restoration shops. Around here we have:

Northshore Import Sportscars - - Lake Bluff, IL
Steve's British Connection Ltd. - - Sandwich , IL
International Classics - - Skokie, IL

For a fat price you can always pay someone to restore one to your specifications. My favorite restoration shop is Eclectic Motor Works in Holland MI, where a very experienced staff can do any work on an MGA for you including full restoration.

One of the best offers for a freshly restored MGA was recently seen on eBay. I'm rather surprised that no one took the offer. The short of it was an offer to do a full restoration to order for $23,000-USD (in 2007), presumably including sourcing the car prior to restoration. I have been seriously thinking about commissioning the guys to restore one at that price just so I might sell it for several thousand dollars more (assuming they do a good job of course). But it is not my interest in life to be buying and selling cars.

If you are not willing to pay the going labor rate to have one restored, you are obviously trying to "steal one" for less than it is worth. You can do this of course, at least if you are willing to settle for a car with some usage on it since it has been restored, and less than a perfect professional restoration. If you buy one that was privately restored you can generally buy it for about the cost of restoration parts and services with little or nothing included for personal labor time. Buy one with several years and some miles on it since the restoration, and it may be even less. Personal restorations and private sales should always be lower price than through the pro shops.

Happy hunting,

Barney Gaylord
1958 MGA with an attitude

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