Roadster Replacement: 1958 MG Magnette ZB

1958 MG Magnette ZB

Some of my favorite cars have the MG badge on them. Family responsibilities necessitate a back seat though. The padded board in the back of my MGB GT just didn’t cut it when it came time to transport junior around so this Magnette looks tempting. It’s nothing like a MGA, but I bet with a few tweaks, it could be fun to drive. It’s too far away for me though, so if any of you are interested, it’s located in Bedford, New York and is listed here on craigslist for $4,500.

1500 B-Series

The 1500 B-Series engine found here is the same as that fitted to our MGA. Sure, it may be detuned a little, but with a free-flowing head and exhuast it should be able to keep up. Heck, if you are going to go to all that work, you might as well drop a 1800 from an MGB in there and call it a day. Actually, I wonder if the engine and tranny would fit in there…

Magnette Interior

Those seats look a lot like the ones in our A too, but they are most likely the same ones found inside the Wolseley 15/50. That’s because this car was basically a rebadged BMC sedan. The MG version had some nice upgrades such as dual SU carbs, but most sports car guys probably wouldn’t consider it the real deal.

MG Grill

Then again, almost every MG sports car used parts from other mass-produced vehicles in order to benefit from economies of scale. That’s not always a bad thing, but I doubt this car has the magic that “real” MGs enjoyed. A grill and badge does not an MG make. Still, it would be fun to see what you could do with a Moss Motors catalog and some ingenuity. What do you think – could this make a good roadster replacement for a family guy?

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Comments

  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    If I remember correctly, when the Magnette first came out it was marketed as a four seat sports car–shades of Nissan’s Maxima “4DSC” campaign.

  2. RichC

    The Z Magnettes are real MGs, just as much as the last T series contemporaries. It was an original design by Gerald Palmer and had great success in rallying and racing. The discussion, or argument, kicked in when the Farina Magnettes were introduced. Those were indeed badge engineered with Riley 4/68 and 4/72 as well as Morris, Austin and Wolseley BMC products.

    • big rick

      well said…there was nothing “badge engineered” about ZA’s and ZB’s.

  3. Dolphin Member

    These are very nice vintage British sedans, and this one has a very appealing paint job. The interiors on these are very appealing, altho small, which was that way it mostly was in the UK back then.

    Too bad this one needs so much work, especially to the body & paint. Even at $4500 the price is probably a bit above market for a car that needs so much body and interior work. The one referred to in the CL ad that sold for $14K looks nearly perfect, so not directly comparable….just a goal to shoot for. Maybe a close offer would do it.

  4. Steven C

    These are on my short list of cars i would really love to have one day. I’m not even into any other mg’s, something about these really appeals to me. I would build the most trick mgb 1800 that would be streetable and a 5spd trans for mine.

    • big rick

      don’t forget some disc brakes up front….if I recall Triumph Stag front brakes did the trick

    • K.C.

      If the V-8 engine from a MGC fit, and could be sourced, that would make for an interesting upgrade.

  5. nessy

    Well would you look at that? This used to be my 90 year old Uncle’s car. There is only one in the US in this color combo so I know the car. I sold it to this guy along with a few other rare British cars including a Jowett Jupiter and a Hillman that my uncle had in his collection a while back. The guy is telling the truth, he had a job transfer and is moving across the country and can’t take everything with him. This is an honest seller and a good guy to deal with. This was always a good running and driving car. I hated to part with the car myself but I did keep my Uncle’s 1949 Triumph model 2000 Rumble Seat Roadster.

    • Roger G

      Very cool, the things that show up on the internet, eh? Too bad about the condition, needs a bit of fettling in the body and interior, but the engine isn’t bad looking. You could still have a second chance. Now the Jowett would have been quite interesting…

  6. Joe Muzy

    I like the color combination . Shouldn’t be too hard to get back in shape

    • big rick

      Two tone cars were called “varitones” and had slightly larger rear windows than the mono-colored cars. Most were white over red, but there are lots of great combinations…2 shades of green, silver over blue….google mg magnette

      • Roger G

        Yup, but this one is a standard ZB painted two-tone. It doesn’t have the Varitone trim.

  7. Robert Sullivan

    I had a black 58 and had a blast with restoring it. Parts are available and not that expensive. And looks like it’s now below $4K. I’d love to take on this project but I already have 2 MGAs waiting for my attention.

  8. Gearhead

    I was checking this ad out earlier today. I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a Magnette. But look closely at the body. One thing I know about MGs: there’s no such thing as a little rust. If you can see the rust, there’s a lot more hidden. Add in the poor seats and wood, and this one will cost way more than its worth to fix up.

    I’ll keep looking…

    – John

  9. Paul B

    Beautiful cars, real MGs. I’ve never been inside one but our next door neighbors had one when I was a kid and I admired it for years. Price is a little high on this one given how much work will be required to make it even a good driver. But I hope it finds the right home.

  10. Rev Rory

    What’s a ’57 MGA w/ 20R -5 SPD Toyota power, (40DCOE WEBERsAND HEADERS) wire wheels, good body and interior (driver, probably #3-4 quality) top, side curtains, new tyres included. What’s it worth? Taken it on many multi thousand mile trips out west but currently parked with old gas in the tank. (Yes, it ran…) should I sell it or wake it back up?

    • whippeteer

      I would wake it up and play with it again if I had it. Alas I don’t have the disposable income to do so.

  11. Oldgtracer

    A lot of good comments on this car and so interesting to have someone who knows the cars and the seller too…a big plus.
    Though the paint job is interesting, the car is not a Varitone model…as Big Rick correctly points out true Varitone models have a bigger rear window and they have a special stainless trim which is pretty much unobtainium now.
    There is a wonderful Magnette forum with terrific, helpful posters and parts can be sourced from a number of places…one fellow in Great Britain specializes in Magnettes so much of the metal bits…particularly the areas that rust out are available and not very expensive, considering they are turned out by hand.
    As for modifications…there have been many. The majority are fairly simple, changing the 1500 MGA motor with a later 1800 from an MGB is pretty simple. Common change to transmission is dropping in a Datsun 5 speed with adaptor. The front disks from a MGB are a simple change…and some folks have even changed out to wire wheels which look pretty sharp too.
    My Maggy had all of these and a/c which made it far more usable than my MGA and able to use it with more of the family in tow.
    Oh, by the way, KC, the motor in a MGC is a straight 6 similar to that in the big Healeys. This is big, heavy motor and I would think too much for the Magnette. However, if you really wanted to make it go…I’d look at the aluminum block Rover which weighs less than the original MGA and can easily provide 2 to 3 times the horsepower. This offshoot from the original Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac aluminum block is readily available.
    Add some wider wheels from the TR6 which shares the same lug pattern and looks similar to original wheel and you’d have quite a sleeper!

  12. Mike

    If you can find a good MGB for parts you will want to switch the rear end gears too. The ZB has a 4/10 rear end which is not a good choice for driving in the U.S.

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