The MGA With An Attitude
COUPE FOR TOUPEES (pg 3 of 3) - LT-103c
From Classic and Sportscar magazine, January 1992

"He intended to use it mainly for his golfing trips and it only had clocked up a couple of thousand miles when he sold it to my dad in 1959," says Roger. "It was really bought for my mother - dad a was a saloon car man - but I passed my test in it in 1960. Both my sister and I learned to drive in it, in fact." Roger and a friend completed an epic 4500-mile, six week trip around Europe in the car in the summer of '64 without a hitch. It was sold in October of that year to a university friend and after that spent much of its time in London, changing hands nearly every year, and changing colour twice.
A bout of nostalgia sent Roger in search of his old car in 1986 and it eventually turned up in Gloucestershire, still running but fearsomely rusty. Roger managed to reunite uncle Harry - by then in his 90th year - with XAC508 just before he died.


One Peter Wood restoration later, XAC508 now sits in Roger's garage, snuggled up with a mint 10,000-mile Ferrari 308GT4. It's back in its old colour and as near to how it looked back in 1957 as Roger can get it.
A trip back to the car's birthplace was as good as any way of trying it out.
Getting into the A is a tricky contortion if you're as bulky as me - I tended to get my legs wedged against the door pillar - but it's a cozy, intimate little cockpit once you're installed. Uncle Harry used the passenger seat for his golf clubs, probably because they wouldn't fit on the doggy shelf behind the rear seats. Legs stretched almost horizontally to reach dinky pedals, big diameter, sprung Bluemels wheel set close to your chest, you fire the B series engine by turning the ignition key and pulling the button marked "S".

First is a long movement, to a low geared crash ratio that gets the car off the line smartly but noisily, layshaft rattling vintage-style against a background of SUs sucking through their little chrome air filters. The stubby lever snicks precisely and quietly into the remaining three synchronized gears, a direct metal-against-well-oiled-metal feel. A heavy pedal works the hydraulic clutch, but the bite is fine.
I headed out through Birmingham's outskirts towards the motorway, past factories that used to supply the wheel bearings, the springs, the electrics and all the other parts that went in to an MGA 35 years ago. Only the Jaguar body plant at West Bromwich looked alive and well, and I wondered how long it would be before even that was turning out thinly-disguised Fords.
Motorway driving - the M40 was the quickest way to where we were heading, Abingdon - showed up the short A-road gearing of the MG, limited to 3750rpm in any case because the engine was still running in. That's 70mph, plenty fast enough to give your eardrums a pounding because of the resonating effect of the steel roof. Under power then engine is deafeningly raucous.


Too-stiff rear springs and rock hard dampers set the back end a-bouncing over ridges too, so the coupe is happier away from motorways. On A-roads the car is a solid taught-handling delight. Around Abingdon the close gearing and that low top let the barking B-series made the most of its healthy mid-range urge and out 1750rpm limit felt just enough. If there was roll I couldn't detect it, heightening the feeling of slop-free precision in the rack and pinion steering that needs little more than a guiding wrist action at speed. Cornering is neat and neutral with a tendency towards light oversteer and grip levels high on the fairly modern radials fitted to this car, which just drifted gently on patches of dampness. Four drums without servo help pull you up squarer and stronger than you'd expect, although they need pressing forcefully.
On my return to Birmingham Roger tucked the car up in its garage again and showed me pictures of him and the car on holiday in France: "I won't ever sell it" he says, "and now my daughters are showing an interest in it." The little plain-Jane MGA coupe has come full circle.

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