|The MGA With An Attitude
SIDE CURTAINS For Roadsters - TT-110
At 07:50 PM 6/16/04 -0700, Tom Gunderson wrote:
>"I am looking for The correct set of side curtains for my 57 MGA,1500 roadster."
Are you a glutton for punishment, or just a concours enthusiast? See here:
"Correct" 1500 side curtains are the flip-up style (photo compliments of Walter Tange) with thin Isinglass panels top and bottom. They were really effective at taking your driving glove off your hand, made it tough to get your arm out to feed a toll box, and precluded any free air ventilation. These were hated so much (back in the day) that when the 1600 came to market (in May 1959) with sliding type windows many of the original 1500 type side curtains were relegated to the trash bin. Today the original 1500 type side curtains are being retrieved from the dust bins to be restored for originality (at great expense).
(More about original 1600 type side curtains on a following page).
See additional information for side curtains used with bolt-on hardtops in the Hardtop section.
Bare metal side curtains used with bolt-on hardtops were considerably cheaper than the cloth covered units, so they were popular replacements for the 1500 type units (which were generally hated and often replaced after people saw the sliding panel units). They were also available for nearly three years before the 1600 type side curtains were produced. As a result there are a LOT of 1500 roadsters carrying this type of side curtain (even without a hardtop).
Photos above and below show an original Weathershield bare aluminum side curtain to be used with the alloy hardtop. Notice seals along bottom and front, but no seals along top and back. This is because the hardtop has seals built into it. The front panel is fixed while the rear one slides. Missing front seal in photo below.
Photo below shows a Moss Motors bare aluminum side curtain placed in front of the Weathershield part. The Moss part is virtually identical to the Weathershield part except that it also has seals along the top and back, and both panels slide.
Per Confidential Service Memorandum MG/338 dated 22 Nov, 1960, all of the aluminum frame side curtains were ultimately superseded by the fabric covered units. As a result, any fiberglass top sold after that date would have been delivered with fabric covered side curtains, same as the later 1600 rag top style.
Back in 1968-69 I bought a '56 1500, then a '58 1500, and then a '57 1500 all within one year, and they all had the aluminum replacement side curtains. I don't think I ever saw a set of original 1500 type side curtains until after my current MGA was finished restoration in the late 1980s. At our first British Car Festival in Chicago (actually Wheaton IL) in 1987, there were about a dozen "restored" MGA (at least repainted), but not an original set of 1500 side curtains in the bunch. In 1988 I was at NAMGAR GT-12 in Marietta, Ohio, with a (then) record 107 MGA in one place. There may have been one or two 1500's in that bunch with original type side curtains, but you couldn't buy them new at that time.
If this is strictly for concours show, the original 1500 type side curtains may be kind of neat for show and tell. But for form, fit and function in every day use they really suck, primarily because you can't open a vent, but also being hard to make hand signals or toss coins in a toll box without opening a door.
By the late 50's there was a decent market for replacement side curtains for the 1500 cars, so there were a number of aftermarket companies like Amco and MG Mitten getting into the act. Most of the aftermarket units had aluminum frames with rubber strip all the way around. There were some variations in exact form of the mounting brackets, but most were nearly identical in appearance on the outside. The current Moss Motors replacement type units are about the best rendition of this style. They have rubber seals all around, and two sliding Plexiglas panels. Hard to see here in the glare of the flash, there is a narrow angle brace aluminum strip just inside the front corner of the front window, extending from the bottom frame to the front frame. The main front mounting bracket is a welded part of this bracket, giving the assembly increased rigidity when installed.
Here is an example of an aftermarket side curtain made by Amco. Notice the somewhat unique slightly rounded top front corner of the frame. Also notable, the main front mounting bracket is articulated to swing on a single mounting screw. While this is significantly less rigid than a fixed bracket, it does allow the bracket to fold flush when the side curtains are placed in the traditional stowage bag behind the seats. This is more important with the later production cars where there were modifications to the battery cover and folding top frame to have the stowed side curtains sitting atop the battery cover, and the folded top stowed slightly farther back.
Pictured below is another example of an aftermarket side curtain similar to the one above, but maker unknown. This also has bare aluminum frame, rubber seal all around, two sliding Plexiglas panels, and articulated mounting bracket. Absence of the front angle brace allows the bottom frame rail to twist under load. To prevent flopping in the wind there is a hook or latch bracket at top front to catch the edge of the windscreen frame.
>"Should I get the vinyl split set and were can I get a good set."
Clarke Spares and Restorations is maybe the best specialist for restoration of MGA side curtains. He has been doing it for at least 20 years, and makes many of the parts. www.clarkespares.com
If you want to be "correct" for everyday use, any of the aftermarket type side curtains are legitimate period accessories for the MGA 1500. If you want original type flip-up units for show, then either get out your firmly padded checkbook to buy a new set, or be prepared for a long search or restoration job on an original set. If you want a set of flip-up type to restore, keep an eye on eBay. They do pop up there occasionally, but don't expect them to be cheap.
>"I have a set of aluminum framed curtains. These curtains do not have the rubber trim across the top of the curtain or down the front. This curtain never had that rubber trim."
Those may actually be worth something to someone who has a factory bolt-on hard top.
Per Confidential Service Memorandum MG/338 dated 22 Nov, 1960, all of the aluminum frame side curtains were ultimately superseded by the fabric covered units (with narrow edge flanges). As a result, any fiberglass top sold after that date would have been delivered with fabric covered side curtains, later 1600 rag top style.