Early Wire Wheel Car: 1956 MGA Roadster

I have been drawn to MGAs since I first received a white MGA matchbox car as a gift many years ago. To me, it has always been the definitive British sports car. I have covered an MGB and an MGBGT along with a twin-cam A, so when this standard “A” appeared, I had to take a closer look. Located in West Ocean City, Maryland, and available here on craigslist for $8,500 is this second year, 1956 MG MGA.  Thanks to Ikey H. for this tip!

The MGA was introduced in 1955 and produced through 1962; body styles included a roadster and coupe and total production yielded about 101K copies, most destined for export. Our seller doesn’t have a lot to say about this example, the pictures do the talking. While the rattle can, tiger-stripe primer looks suspicious, the body itself is pretty straight and intact other than the missing dog-leg behind the driver’s side door. He does have a patch for it, however. The chrome is worn but at least the parts are all there. There isn’t word regarding the structural integrity of this MGA but a look-see at the underside is certainly warranted as Ocean City is a beach town with lots of salt air and spray, generally not a great environment for old steel. That said, this MG does appear to be garage stored.

There is no folding top referenced so that may or may not be an item to acquire, or at the least, a tonneau cover. Around the time that I received the matchbox car that I referenced above, a friend of my father owned an “A” that was about a ’60 vintage and I always marveled at the no exterior door handle design. I could never figure out how one opened the doors. It does present a sleek, uncluttered exterior visage.

The seller indicates that the 72 HP, 1.5 liter, in-line, four-cylinder engine runs but that’s it for details. He adds that the gas tank has been cleaned, carburetors rebuilt and the engine tuned, so it has had some mechanical attention. Weighing in at less than 2,000 lbs., these are nice runners and a lot of fun to pull through the four-speed manual transmission when they are at the top of their game.

The interior is about as would be expected, it’s worn but doesn’t appear to be worn out. The floor covering is missing in places and there are aftermarket seat covers in place so the underlying upholstery probably needs work. The instrument panel, however, shows well and appears to be complete. Note the last vestige of a red racing stripe on top of the dash, testament to a prior time or life.

The basics are all here and this MG seems like a sound basis for a refurbishment project. The devil is always in the details and a deeper dive would be warranted, especially in light of the minimalist listing but I wouldn’t be deterred from further inquiry if I were interested in this “A”. As for the price, that’s up in the air; what do you think, too much or about right?


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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Slide the two piece side curtain open, reach in and pull the fancy rope inside the door pocket and you’re in. Solved the problem of my Midget side curtains freezing shut by putting a TR3 door handle on the driver’s door.

    Like 3
  2. ccrvtt

    “As for the price, that’s up in the air…”

    Waaaayyy up.

    Like 3
  3. Bruce

    The MGA is one of the more useful sports cars of the era. If you have no passenger you can transport Christmas trees even on the coldest days if you have the side curtain in place and a tonneau cover in place on the way back. The heater is that effective. However the back of your ears will get cold.
    I grew up driving one of these as my first car to drive on a steady basis. It was my fathers and I learned a great deal about keeping one running and in general is far easier then you might expect. Four full grocery bags will sit in the passengers seat. School books, and all the rest will do the same. Mileage was so much better than my friends with their Mustangs, Camaro’s and others of the muscle car era. Also much easier to park.

    Per Bobhess I never had my side curtains ice up and mine never sat in the garage. A slight tap would shake things open if Ice did form. I would however suggest an up grade to the disk brakes and an MGB engine that is larger in size. Also the MGA-1600 MK II grill as it has much better air flow. In addition the MK II also had a very useful oil cooler. The most critical is the wiring. At this time the English and most European makers used natural rubber insulation for the wiring. By now that has deteriorated to the point that your wiring should be considered to be recyclable copper. REPLACE IT and you will save yourself a great deal of trouble. Patch panes are available from Moss motors and others that are quite true in shape and thickness. While not the easiest to replace they can be fixed and that the fenders are bolt on makes the process much easier.

    There is a reason these were so popular in the day and can still keep up with traffic however they do get buzzy at current highway speeds. If you replace the Plexi on the side curtains make certain you get the right thickness. I know from experience in the dead of January during a cold snap when doing 70+ MPH when the window blows out it gets truly cold and that last 5 miles or so is truly a miserable experience. LOL. In addition make certain that the metal panel behind the seats is there, if it is not you will need one. It is the battery cover and you will pick up snow, moisture and dust without it. I only did that once.
    Take care of it and you have have smiles for years to come

    Of last note the Alfa Giulietta is so tempting. I had both at the same time but for what it is worth the Alfa heater is totally worthless. But also a great car in some ways much better in some ways worse.

    Like 2
  4. stephan homewood

    Price is a bit high for a car that needs a frame off. Working on English rust for a while now, this car will need about $15000.00, in labor and parts to make it a looker. The interior alone will be over $3000.00.Then there is the frame . These cars suffer rot on the floor cross member. Who knows? It has potential yet not at the asking price. $2000.00 would be realistic. Dogleg rot is the tip of the iceberg won’t even talk about the wobbled out 48 spoke wires….
    Still nice to see instead of a lot of American rust

    Like 1
  5. Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

    I had a 59 that a co-workers husband sold to me for $500. I was impressed with the wire knock-off wheels. It was mostly rust free, but needed a wiring harness and a new top, and tires. The engine was okay, but I found that the cast iron head had a crack (which I was able to get a machine shop in Greensboro, NC to weld up). It was originally black but I cleaned up the body and had a body shop shoot it in a lemony yellow. With the red interior and black top, it looked good. I was able to clean up the rust in the lower fenders. The rest of the body was very clean. Not a particularly comfortable ride although it handled very well, and my heater didn’t work all that well. The suggestion to put a more modern B engine is not a bad one. With some more kick, it would be a better ride. The OHC versions were supposed to be pretty good but fussy. The wooden floors were fine. It was clearly a southern car. The harness was very easy to install as was the top. Very simple car. Note the hole in the front bumper. I actually had the crank that came with the car. I was never able to get it to start that way. It used (similar to the early Bs) 2 6 volt batteries in series. I also had to rebuild the Lucas fuel pump. Sold it for about $2500 in the early 80s.

  6. dogwater

    We are restoring one for a customer beware when you pull the rear fenders it will be rusted out behind the doors.

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