Major Project: 1957 MG MGA Roadster

Britain was once the home of a thriving locally-owned automotive industry, and in the years following the end of World War II, these marques could sell their products into foreign markets faster than they could roll them off the production line. Sadly, many of those iconic brands no longer exist, and those that do are generally owned and run by foreign concerns. MG is a perfect example of this chequered history, as this brand passed into foreign ownership in 1994. It then found its way back into British hands in 2000, before being acquired by Chinese owners in 2005. Whilst under the stewardship of its original owners the company managed to produce vehicles like this 1957 MG MGA Roadster. This particular car has been in storage for many years, or possibly even decades. It has now been brought out of hiding, and the owner is looking at moving the car on to a new home. It is located in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set a BIN of $6,750 for this true classic, although the option is available to make an offer.

I’m not going to beat about the bush here, because this MGA needs nothing less than a full frame-off restoration. Having said that, the frame itself carries a pretty reasonable coating of surface corrosion, but it does appear to be structurally sound. The body is finished in Orient Red, and there is evidence of some amateur repair and repaint work visible in various locations. Sadly, there is also evidence of the sorts of rust that can typically afflict the MGA. The worst of this is in matching spots on both sides of the vehicle and is in the area from the rockers through to the rear doglegs. Given the fact that this is such a common occurrence with the MGA, replacement panels are pretty readily available. There is also damage to the rear fender on the passenger side, and while it looks like the panel might be able to be salvaged, it will almost certainly be more cost-effective to replace it entirely. One cool feature is the fact that this car rolls on wire wheels rather than steel discs. Having said that, the wheels are showing some significant corrosion, and if they are to be revived successfully and safely, they will require the attention of a specialist in this area. The majority of the trim and chrome is present, and while it generally looks like it would be fit to restore, the beautiful grille will need to be replaced.

From a styling perspective, the MGA was a quantum leap forward when compared to its predecessor. If you park and MGA beside an MG TF, it is astounding to believe that the production lives of the svelte and swooping MGA and the more upright TF were separated by mere months. The secret to this change was largely due to what was housed under the hoods of the two vehicles. The MG TF came equipped with the XPAG 4-cylinder engine, which by 1955 was almost old enough to receive a pension. For the MGA this engine was discarded, and with access now available to the newly-introduced and significantly more compact BMC B-Series engine, this allowed for a far lower body line, and as an added bonus, a far lower center of gravity. These attributes brought significant improvements to both overall performance and handling, although the MGA was still no ball of fire in a straight line. The 1,489cc 4-cylinder engine produced 72hp, which found its way to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. Performance figures saw the MGA manage to cover the ¼ mile in 19.3 seconds, which was nothing to write home about. However, to understand the difference that the engine made, you really need to drive the two cars back-to-back. The MGA doesn’t feel significantly faster in a straight line than the TF, but the story is very different when you point them both at a twisting piece of road. The MGA simply feels more planted and sure-footed, and a lot of this difference comes down to the lower center of gravity from the new engine. The owner does say that this particular MGA is not in running condition, and it isn’t clear when the engine last fired a shot in anger. In fact, it isn’t clear whether the engine even turns freely. I guess from a positive standpoint, these are a remarkably simple engine. If it turns freely but is in need of a rebuild, this is not a particularly complicated process.

Continuing the theme of major restoration work, we move on to the MGA’s interior. It’s looking pretty sad in there, and the next owner is going to need to spend some cash to return the vehicle to its former glory. Thankfully, there are plenty of suppliers who can supply all of the trim components that will be required to get the next owner up and moving. However, cost can be an issue here, because interior trim components are not cheap. A trim kit will cost somewhere between $1,300 and $1,500, depending on whether there is a preference for vinyl or leather trim. In addition, a carpet set will add a further $400 to the tally. There’s nearly $2,000 before we consider what other interior components or hardware might require restoration or replacement. Still, a fully restored MGA interior does make for a pretty attractive sight.

As a project car, this 1957 MGA has both positive and negative attributes. On the negative side of the ledger, it is going to need a full nut-and-bolt restoration, and some of the parts required are not going to be cheap. On the positive side, the fact is that the MGA is an elegantly simple car, and many of the tasks required to restore the vehicle could easily be tackled in a home workshop. It is possible to find an MGA in the market today for under $25,000, but a really nice one can easily push close to $40,000. This one is going to need a lot of work and capital outlay if it is to reach those lofty heights, so I guess that the next owner will need to ask themselves whether they are willing to commit to such a project and whether they feel that it is financially viable.

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Comments

  1. Robert Thomas

    Last of the MG sports cars with a body on frame.

  2. Dave at OldSchool Restorations Dave at OldSchool Restorations Member

    Pricing is delirious

    Like 2
    • Ed Stull

      Yeah, i redid one back in ‘76 and Moss Motors saved my bacon! Even then, with Wentworth tools and aluminum doors and bonnet and trunk, it was a challenge! Never again at ant price! You have to love it far more than I dod, lol!

  3. Rex Rice

    Run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit. These were trash when new.

    • Donek

      Seriously?!

  4. Dave Looy

    Looks like a $500 parts car to me. Sills and fenders rusted out, frame probably in same condition.

  5. bobhess bobhess Member

    Don’t go with ‘trash when new’ but like the rest of the British cars you could sit and look at them and watch them rust. They had a good running gear and handled better than anything MG had built previously. Unless you want to weld up a vintage race car this one is in the upside down category.

  6. Tom S.

    These simple autos are great for the DIY restorer. This one appears to have a full set of the most common troubles. Online resources for reasonably priced parts and free advice abound, so dig in, do it with love and enthusiasm, and don’t spend each day worrying about whether you’ll be upside down a bit at the finish line.

    Like 1
  7. Karl Sisson

    2 grand IMO

  8. Daves Hot Rod Garage

    yep, 2K. They are really fun to drive. Fairly easy to maintain and tons of parts now available. I pulled mine from a barn in Ohio and put a Miata drivetrain in, restored all mechanicals, electrics and plumbing. Its a wonderful car to drive. i have 22K in it, well worth it!

  9. dogwater

    We are restoring a 1956 for a customer, doors, hood, trunk are all aluminum,owner says when finished it worth 50k ?

  10. Gaspumpchas

    I’m not and expert but you are in a world of poop to fix one this rusty, for 6750 you could buy one that’s running? Possibly something you could drive while you work on?? Best to consult an expert on one like this before you pull the trigger.
    Good luck and stay safe!!
    Cheers
    GPC

    Like 1
  11. Kenn

    Should be more commentators like Tom S, who expresses what the car hobby should be, rather than all the naysayers like Gaspumpchas who, as the saying goes, knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

    • Mike Brown

      I agree. I buy my projects because I like the particular vehicle, not because of possibly making a profit in the end. I’m not into foreign stuff but to each their own. We do it for the enjoyment, not for the money.

  12. Philip Hall

    I bought a ’57 in 1968 for $300. It ended up costing me plenty, especially the wrath of my father when he found out I had borrowed the money from my his sister, my aunt. Dumped money in it all summer but dad got on board helping me with bodywork, paint (corvette yellow)and a friend in upholstery business. It was beautiful but mechanical problems. I threw a rod 150 miles from home, towed back behind a big olds with 15 feet of chain. Talk about a scary ride at 60 on freeway!

    After we fixed the engine my sister blew it up again. Ended up in a garage in St. Louis where my father in law sold it for $200. Perfect body, paint, top and interior. Bargain for someone with a spare motor. I have often wondered what became of it.

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