What Is It Like To DRIVE An MGA?
On 7/21/2011, Ian Cochrane in London, UK, wrote:
"I've enjoyed my B so much that I'm thinking about selling my Ferrari 308GTS and buying an MGA - either a MK2 or a Twin Cam. What difference will I notice between the A and the B"?
You just made my day. I now have a grin from ear to ear. Anyone who considers trading a Ferrari for an MGA is my kind of guy. I have nothing against Ferrari owners, but I personally have no use for an over powered car. There are hardly any roads in the world where you can legally drive one as it was designed to be driven, other than being on a formal racing circuit.
You should arrange to drive an MGA before you buy one. There is an outside chance that you might actually not like it. They are surely not for everyone, but everyone should at least try it once in their life to know what they are missing. If you like the MGB, you might like the MGA more (or not).
The MGA is a 1950's vintage car built with 1920's technology. It is not far removed from the steam age. In fact most steam engines (for trains) in North America were not retired until the mid to late 1950's. That said, the MGA represents a great leap in performance for low priced sports cars (in its day), with performance about equal to the MGB. In the early to mid 1950's cars that would run 100 mph were still rather rare. The later production MGA models perform as well as early MGBs, and are better than some later production MGB. Pure power aside, most MGA will handle slightly better than most MGB, but the ride quality will be "different" (slightly stiffer suspension on the MGA).
The MGA, as most MG sports cars before it, is in essence a street legal race car. It was designed to be driven daily while being raced on the weekends, with most emphasis on performance (and a little less concern for comfort). It is one of the last great side curtain roadsters. When you want to go racing you can remove the side curtains and top and spare tire and tools, leave it all home and go kick ass with a small light car. There is hardly anything on the MGA that is not required to make it go. Even the heater was an optional extra. When you want to go touring you can install the side curtains and put the top up for rain or snow, and go anywhere you like with a "reasonable" level of comfort.
When the MGB was introduced I could never understand why anyone would want to ruin a perfectly good roadster by installing roll up windows. Obviously the factory decided that increased sales volume of a single model was more important than best performance, and that's what the public would buy at the time. The earliest production MGB (pull handle cars) was actually 100 pounds lighter than the MGA due to unibody construction. Over time the MGB got considerably heavier. The later model 4-synchro gearboxes and tube-type rear axle result in increased weight, lower performance, slightly longer life of the gearbox. From my point of view the MGB is a variant of MGA with unibody construction and roll up windows. Otherwise most of the mechanical equipment is very similar and interchangeable, so performance figures are also similar.
When you drive an MGA, the first impression may be that this is a street legal go cart that may go 90 mph. By comparison you may consider the MGB to be the Grand Touring variant of the model with roll up windows, slightly softer suspension a little more noise suppression, larger boot, slightly better heater (maybe), slightly easier to use rag top. Difference in engine power is not so important when you can easily install an MGB engine in the MGA. The general impression of MGA should be a light and frisky car that does what you tell it to, goes where you point it on demand, fits and wears like an old pair of sneakers, urging you to go dancing. Ride quality may not be quite equal to MGB but to me it is reasonable and absolutely delightful in light of the handling character of the machine.
MGA vs. MGB, you will find less space in the boot (use soft sided luggage), less space behind the seats (room for a jacket), a generous amount of space in the door pockets (including holding a 20-ounce drink cup), no glove box but some space under and behind the dash if you want to use it. A chrome luggage rack on the boot lid is a popular accessory for MGA (and maybe some form of high mounted mirror to see over top of the rear load). A sports car is not supposed to be practical for interior space. For a long touring trip I hitch up the trailer for ice chest and camping gear (or a set of race tires).
For what it's worth, I have a house full of autocross trophies to color my opinion, so I may not be entirely unbiased.