1959 MGA Twin Cam Barn Find

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This is another one of those unicorns in the British car world. With dual overhead camshafts, four wheel disc brakes and Dunlop knock off disc wheels, this certainly wasn’t a normal MGA. Unfortunately due to teething problems that have all been solved now, only 2,111 were produced, and a lot of those are no longer with us. This particular car was found after having been stored for 30 years and is now in the hands of a restoration shop in LaJolla, California. They are auctioning the car off here on eBay, and if you want them to restore the car it will be turn key at $85,000 total including whatever you pay for the car in the auction. 

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While the car looks relatively complete, the seller tells us that the seats are not correct for a twin cam. Apparently the shop must specialize in MGA’s; there are several in the pictures and they certainly seem familiar with the twin cam model–they say they have handled 50 of these cars (!) The rust is said to not be structural, but the frame is said to need “normal replacement of floorboard support angles.”

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It still looks like it has attitude, doesn’t it, even if it hasn’t been on a road in 30 years! It will be interesting to see (although I don’t know how to find out unless one of you buys the car) if the purchaser ends up going with this shop to restore the car or not. The shop has made it clear that you don’t have to, but I wonder what a professional restoration of one of these cars typically goes for? I know you can get $40,000 deep into a TR6 (no, I do my own work, but I’ve watched it happen) so there’s no telling what something as specialized as a twin cam engine would cost to have it rebuilt properly.

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Here is that engine, by the way. It certainly looks intact, but the seller doesn’t even know if the engine is free (Why? It shouldn’t take much to check) but they know it won’t start. I like MGA’s a lot, but I’m not sure I’d want to take on the technicalities of the twin cam engine. What about you? Or would you contract with the shop?

 

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Comments

  1. Cassidy

    An interesting way for the shop to get a paying customer: buy the barn find, then shop it to make money on the sale of the MGA and maybe pick up a client all in one stroke. This is better than the shops we’ve seen unloading cars that are more work than they want to handle. Or maybe that’s their endgame all along: “now that you’ve bought the car, would like us to restore it, since its already here, ya know”

  2. Roger Owen

    Ok – I’m mystified by logic here! They will sell the car ‘as is’ to the highest bidder / they will restore the car for 85k (to include the purchase price). Say the bidding gets to around 65k and 2 people are at the high end – one just wants the car as it is the other wants the seller to restore it.

    It surely becomes a bit of a lottery for the seller. On the one hand they could cash in on a sale at 65k, or (effectively) commit to doing a total restoration for just 20k.

    Ummm, conundrum!

  3. Julles

    This is the MGA I wish you guys had bought and done. I know if y’all did the work yourselves it would be a lot less than $85,000 and you could make a seriously good profit. Furthermore, it would have been really neat to see you do the research and then do the work. Every car person’s dream, find a special old car, restore it by your own hands and have it be worth ton’s of money.

  4. Francisco

    The seller also didn’t answer the question about the matching numbers? Maybe he didn’t even look at the engine.

  5. Dave Wright

    Every time I ever got near one of these, everyone warned me what a bad car they were. I was told by real MG experts that a normal MGA was a much better car. These engines look great but were poorly designed and built. It was one of the influences that pushed me toward Alfa Romeo. I remember looking at maby 1/2 a dozen MGA twin cams and never saw one that would run.The power was also disappointing, even on paper.

  6. SarahW

    We have a twin cam MGA locally that is beautifully done. The rocker covers are polished aluminum, but the engine is from a Miata. It never ceases to amaze me how large the MGA twin cam top end is, since it really stuffs the engine compartment compared to the Miata equipped car.

    I think I will stick with my 1622 cc equipped MGA Coupe, not that it is that powerful!

  7. Dolphin Member

    I knew a guy with a twin cam MGA back when they were close to new. He loved the car, which definitely made more power then the OHV MGA that I owned. But he kept having trouble keeping the engine in tune and the carbs running right.

    Years later I read something about that problem being due to vibration of the carbs at certain engine speeds, which caused lean running, which could burn pistons.

    If anyone buys a twin cam MGA they should read what to do about it, which involves flexible mounts to keep the carbs from vibrating so much, here:

    http://mgaguru.com/mgtech/twincam/tc301.htm

    Or if you are going to pay the seller $85K to restore this car, they should already know about that fix, and hopefully do it.

  8. Jerry

    The shop in question Auto Vintagery is run by Jim Alcorn aka Twin-Cam Jim. He knows his stuff and has handled quite a number of Twin-Cams over a long time. He also knows about the float chamber vibration problem and its solution.

    Like 1
  9. jimbosidecar

    I expect he (the seller) can’t lose. If the bidding goes up to say $65K he makes a lot of money on the car which he can then use to subsidize the restoration if the buyer so chooses. Either way, I don’t see how he can lose money on this sale. Hat’s off to him for a creative way to drum up more business. Be interesting to see if other restoration shops start doing the same thing.

  10. Peter Gram

    I have a spare twin cam engine that I can sell if anyone needs one. The engine is in Denmark but can be shipped anywhere.

    Like 1
    • Mark

      Hello. Do you still have or know where I can find a twin cam engine?

  11. Pfk1106

    In ’68 I remember a bright yellow one in my area. The kid was frustrated with it and dropped a 327 into it. It went like crazy, but according to the local mg parts counter, had a problem with brake shoes and throttle cables…go figure…

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