A young teenager growing up in a small Texas town in the 60’s, as I did, was generally unaware of the existence of any automobiles other than Fords or Chevys.
That all changed for me when, on a high school class outing to San Angelo (which might as well have been New York City for us country kids), one of the chaperoning teachers wanted to visit a new car dealership in town, and asked if any of us students wanted to go along. Of course, I was the first to volunteer for this excursion, since I seem to have been born with a wrench in my hand.
The dealership turned out to be–guess what?–a British car dealership. I walked through the front door, and right there on that showroom floor was the most beautiful mechanical creation I had ever seen–a brand new MGA roadster in stunning British Racing Green. It was love at first sight for me, and the image of that beautiful little roadster remains burned into the back of my brain to this day.
Of course a high-school-aged farm kid is not going to be going out and buying a new MGA, nor any other car, new or used, for that matter. Instead, my first car was a father-chosen light green 4 door 1953 Chevrolet, which was literally owned by a little old-maid school teacher.
But the image of that MGA never was far from the top of my wish list. It was several years later, when shortly after finishing college, that I was able to obtain my first MG, an MG TD. It's a beautiful, classic pre-war design that got lots of attention, but frankly with its primitive brakes and under-powered engine, left a lot to be desired as a driver.
Fast forward to 2007, when I finally decided it was time for me to own my life-long dream car. After a year-long search, I finally discovered “my” MGA, a beautiful red 1959 1500 model with tan leather interior, just waiting for me at a classic dealer in California. I made arrangements to fly from my home in Austin to see the car first hand. Sure enough, “Cedric” (all our cars have names) was everything it had been described to be: it had a near-concours paint job, shiny and new chrome, a beautifully restored engine compartment, and best of all, the perfect color: Orient Red exterior, and camel leather interior.
There is certainly no short supply of MGAs in the world, with over 80,000 of these endearing roadsters built between 1955 and 1962. Yet, the “good ones,” those that haven’t succumbed to rust, or haven’t been abandoned out in a field, are becoming more and more scarce. It took just a short test drive and brief physical inspection for me to realize that Cedric was one of the “good ones.” I struck a deal right then and there, and Cedric joined the fleet.
I elected to drive our new (to us) MGA from Newport Beach, CA back to our home near Austin, Texas. Fourteen hundred miles and 4 days were sufficient for me to become acquainted with “Cedric”. In that time period a solid bond was formed between man and machine.
That little 1500cc engine was happy as could be buzzing along at 80 mph for long sustained stretches across the California and Arizona desert. The gear shift lever, as they say, “falls readily to hand,” and the solid 4-speed transmission shifts easily with a very short throw. As with many cars of the era, there is no synchromesh for first gear, necessitating a full stop before selecting it. This is never a problem, however, because the torquey little engine can pull away smartly in second gear from almost a standstill. The superb rack and pinion steering is unparalleled in quickness and precision. It requires minimal steering effort, in spite of the lack of power assist, and has virtually no play. A movement of a couple of inches or so on the wheel will steer the car right off the road.
And that glorious little 4-banger engine provides all the power any sane driver could want for enjoyment. Its hard-working 68 HP engine revs happily to its 5500 RPM redline, and sounds great all along the way.
The brakes, albeit drums all around, are superbly balanced, bring the car to a quick stop with light foot pressure required for the unboosted system (later MGA 1600s did come with front disk brakes).