Garage Bound for 45 Years: 1961 MG MGA

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Sometimes procrastination can pay off in unexpected ways.  Take for example this 1961 MG MGA roadster for sale on Craigslist in St. Louis, Missouri.  This pasty white sports car has been hidden away in a garage for 45 long years while the owner put off restoring the car.  That adds up to 45 years of protection from the elements and it also spanned a period where good MGA automobiles brought bigger money than they do today.  Now it is back on the open market again after being sold by the previous owner’s wife to the current seller.    Complete except for a windshield, the car has been partially disassembled and will need a bit of metalwork in the cockpit.  The good news is that the $6,000 asking price is quite reasonable for an MGA in this condition.  Would you be interested in finishing this long-overdue project?  Thanks to T.J. for the tip on this British beauty!

It is often said that the restoration of a good car without significant corrosion damage will always be cheaper than trying to bring a rusty car back from the brink.  Starting with a good car also increases the odds that you will see the restoration through to the end.  It is cheaper and easier, and you have to rely on craftsmen much less.  While the MGA you see here is not perfect, the previous owner did pick a good one.  There is some damage here and there on this car.  However, that damage is slight and easily remedied in a home shop.

We are told by the seller that the car is very complete.  The previous owner’s wife also testified that the car was running at one time.  The fact that the SU carburetors, intake, and exhaust manifold are off may have started with an issue as simple as the carburetors were difficult to synchronize and the intention was to send them to a specialist.  Or whoever was doing the mechanical work was getting ready to pull the engine.  No matter what happened, the seller tells us that the engine still turns.

Before you fall in love with the jaunty profile this MGA has with the windshield missing, the seller tells us that the windshield frame does come with the car.  Sadly, the windshield is long gone.  Moss Motors offers both a clear windshield and a tinted windshield for the car at $529 and $549 respectively.  You could also go with the sleek, racing look by simply adding a set of Brooklands-style windscreens.  These half-moon-shaped glass shields were made popular by racing cars and are still available as an aftermarket piece.  You would have to give up on having a convertible top if you switched to Brooklands windscreens.  However, the car would look so good you could overlook a rainstorm or two.

The major issue with this car is that the floorboard perimeter supports will need to be replaced.  These are the lipped pieces of metal that run the perimeter of each side of the cockpit.  Their purpose is to provide a ledge for the wooden floorboards that MG used.  Yes, MG was still using wooden floorboards in 1961.  In fact, the MGA was a rather antique car technology-wise and not that far removed from the last of the T-series cars.  The body, however, was as modern and as gorgeous as it got in its time.

A peek inside the trunk reveals that some minor rust abatement and patching will be necessary in here.  The way the rust seems to be concentrated between the bump for the differential and the top half of the pan where the gas tank goes makes you wonder if that is a low spot for water to pool.  Regardless, there doesn’t appear to be much damage beyond a few small holes that can be welded up with little fuss.

In all, this is a very solid example of the MGA that just cries out for a good restoration.  Imagine a solid car like this with a built-up B-series engine with a Moss supercharger, a five-speed conversion, and a set of Brooklands windscreens in British Racing Green.  MGAs are some of the most beautiful cars ever produced, and the prospect of one capable of going fast and looking awesome is a powerful draw.  Thank goodness this one is too far away for me, and I have too many projects as it is.  Someone though will be rewarded with a good car thanks to extended procrastination.

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Comments

  1. Brett Lee Lundy

    just a question for the more knowledgeable out there, couldn’t you convert this to a metal floor pan especially if you are having to remake the lips that hold the wood? Is this a common conversion?
    On another question I have never sat in one of these, is this a tight fit? I’m 5’11 225lbs and to my disappointment I did not fit in an XKE after driving 7 hours for a bucket list car only to realize my size 13’s covered 2 pedals at a time and I had to open the window to close the door. I was heartbroken the Jag was a dream of mine since before I could drive and to find out you dont fit was devasting.

    Like 5
    • tompdx

      Was the test drive in a Ser 1 E-type? The Ser IIIs are quite a bit more spacious and can be had with an automatic if needed for your size 13s. But to answer your question, MGAs are much smaller than E-types. And no, I’ve never heard of anyone converting to metal floors, though I’m sure it’s been done!

      Like 4
      • Eric_13cars Eric_13carsMember

        If I recall my 59 MGA correctly, there was a lot of legroom. I’m about Brett’s size (albeit a lot lighter) and I had plenty of room.

        For the instance vehicle, while it looks pretty clean, there was some discoloration on both sides in the rockers below the doors. Also, it looks in one of the CL pictures as if the top frame is present. I’d like a look at the battery boxes, another point of rust on these. It’s an easy car to renovate (as differentiated from ‘restore’). Very simple and primitive…so primitive that mine came with a crank as an auxillary starting capability…seriously…that’s what that little hole in the center of the bumper area is for. Parts are very available and I like the idea of a B engine swap, and perhaps transmission w/ OD too. I’d upgrade the front drums to discs too.

        Like 2
    • 914Shifter

      I have owned several MGA’s. I have never heard of anyone converting to metal floors. I am sure it could be done, but I would not be afraid of using the plywood as intended. The floors are very strong when in place, even though the CL pictures with the wood missing makes it look somewhat precarious. This would be a really pretty car when done, and they are easy to work on!

      Like 3
    • Michelle RandStaff

      Marine-grade plywood is stout enough for the floors. The conversion to metal would be more trouble than it’s worth.

      Like 4
      • Ted

        I wonder if Teak Wood could be used? Maybe it’s too expensive, but it would hold up against any water as it is used in making sail boats.

        Like 0
  2. Brett Lee Lundy

    SII with manual trans. but I guess there’s no reason to keep looking at these, maybe I need to watch the series 62 Caddy’s I KNOW I fit in those! lol

    Like 2
  3. bachldrsMember

    @Eric. B engine swap: yes!

    Overdrive transmission? An MGB O/D box requires some sheet-metal and frame fiddling. Much easier to go with a High Gear conversion kit using the Ford Siera box or the Vitesse kit, using a brand new Mazda MX-5 gearbox.

    Convert to disc brakes: No. MGA Mk II already had disc brakes as of 1960, I believe. I had a ’60 model with factory front discs.

    Almost forgot to mention: I want this car so bad my hair aches. Alas I have a nuptial contract addendum reading: “to buy one, ya gotta sell one”. I have four MGs and I really don’t want to sell any of them…

    Like 2
    • Bruce

      For many years I have heard that installing a later 4 synchro transmission in an early 3 synchro MGB requires modification to the transmission tunnel. I have a 67 MGB that has the narrow tunnel. I recently installed an early 70s 4 synchro box with overdrive. It slipped right in with no hammering or cutting of the sheet metal. Maybe I did something wrong?

      Like 0
      • AllenMember

        Bruce,
        Yeah, it’s a tight fit in a metal-dash B and often not recommended unless you “dress” the tunnel a bit with the proverbial BFH. But it can be done, and you’ve proved it! IIRC, there are additional problems in the MGA – some differences in the gearbox mount, etc.
        FWIW,
        Allen

        Like 0
  4. monty

    8K seems a little steep

    Like 1
    • monty

      excuse me I meant to say $6000 seems a little steep

      Like 3
  5. Phil

    I have an MGA in better condition than this one, and running. They are relatively cheap to run, but to put one right is very expensive. It’s a body on frame car, and most if not all the panels have to come off to paint it – because it has a vinyl welting in the seams. It is dysfunctional to try to either paint over the welting, or tape it. Consequently paint is expensive. MGB engines will fit with the right backplate, etc.. OD transmission won’t, but as someone else said, if converting, a 5 speed conversion is available. Anyhow $6000 seems low until you start looking at paint, interior, costs to do a proper paint job, all the bits and pieces, and a motor and transmission – let alone fuel system stuff. I’m guessing it could be a great car, but would be a financial bad investment. Usually my rule of thumb is that there are 3 areas to look at – body, interior, and electro-mechanical. If a project car needs one of the three, you can come out ok – 2 probably not, 3 no way to come out financially ahead – but you might get a really nice car.

    Like 1
  6. Rob RouzerMember

    “The previous owner’s wife said the car was running at one time”????? Gosh, I hope so. This is even more ridiculous than “ran when first stored”…45 years ago. In top condition, this car would be worth around $30K. Just go to Moss Motors web site and see what all the parts would cost. Unless you’re capable of doing a quality paint job yourself, rebuilding the engine, and all the assembly, you’ll spend way more than $30K. As for upgrades, that 5 speed tranny someone else mentioned will run you about $6.5K unless you can find one at salvage or a rebuild. Those Brooklands windscreens? $200 each.

    Like 1
  7. Rob RouzerMember

    “The previous owner’s wife said the car was running at one time”????? Gosh, I hope so. This is even more ridiculous than “ran when first stored”…45 years ago. In top condition, this car would be worth around $30K. Just go to Moss Motors web site and see what all the parts would cost. Unless you’re capable of doing a quality paint job yourself, rebuilding the engine, and all the assembly, you’ll spend way more than $30K. As for upgrades, that 5 speed tranny someone else mentioned will run you about $6.5K unless you can find one at salvage or a rebuild. Those Brooklands windscreens? $200 each.

    Like 0
    • EuromotoMember

      You can say that again.

      Like 2
  8. Roland Schoenke

    I’ve always wanted to buy one like this and restomod it with S2000 components, but keeping the interior and exterior original

    Like 0
  9. Christopher KarentzMember

    Finding a suitable rebuilt contemporary 5-speed overdrive gearbox and adapting to fit can be done for about half of the $6,500 mentioned above. Fun project for sure.

    Like 0
  10. Patrick Gill

    That car is a 1600 Mk1, not a Mk2, it already has front disc brakes, my MGA 1600 Mk1 has an early MGB 5 bearing engine and a 3 synchro O/D gearbox out of a 67 MGB, I cut some of the MGA tunnel away and bolted an early narrow MGB tunnel front part over the top, an easy conversion that still has the correct MGA gearbox feel …………..

    Like 0
  11. Wayne from Oz

    “The previous owner’s wife also testified that the car was running at one time.” Really who’d have guessed. Seems a pretty stupid statement.

    Like 0

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