Rare Racer: 1959 MGA Twin-Cam

While certain performance models of different automobile brands can bring and retain significant value, so can former racers that have a provenance or interesting story in their background. Here is just such an example, a 1959 MG MGA twin-cam coupe model, located near Delta, British Columbia and available here on craigslist for $38,000 U.S. Thanks to Roger for this tip!

The original engine, no longer under the hood.

The MG MGA was a British sports car manufactured between 1955 and 1962. The body styles included a roadster and a coupe. There were approximately 101,000 units produced across its eight-model year run and the majority were built for export. Of the total production, only about 2,100 were the vaunted twin-cam model and they were built between 1958 and 1960. What set this hot-rod version apart from more pedestrian MGAs were several features, including a 1.6 liter, in-line, four-cylinder, 108 HP, DOHC engine (later reduced to 101 HP), four-wheel disc brakes, steel wheels secured by knock-offs and an identifying “TWIN-CAM” badge located near the fender vent. Standard MGAs built during the twin-cam’s reign were powered by a 1.5 liter, 68 HP in-line four (’58-’59) or 1.6 liter 79 HP in-line, four-cylinder engine (’60).

Let’s cut to the chase, this twin-cam MGA is now twin-camless. The seller tells us that the twin-cam motor suffered engine failure a few years ago (not all that uncommon a fate for this motor) and a 1622 CC, inline, four-cylinder engine (probably a ’61 or ’62 vintage, good for 90 HP) now resides in the engine room. The wrecked twin-cam motor is included in the sale. The seller tells us that his MGA has a solid race pedigree across North America but gives no indication as to how it currently runs. The four-speed manual transmission is a close-ratio design and power to the rear wheels is via a limited-slip differential. Speaking of the differential, I find it curious that the seller doesn’t mention the twin-cam model’s four-wheel disc brakes – and identifying and valuable feature that sets this MGA apart from others.

Of interesting note is that the seller converted this MGA to RHD to prepare it for racing. I know these cars were built both ways but I would still think that to be an arduous task. Nevertheless, the interior has that road-course racer vibe going on full-tilt with its harnesses and roll cage. The red vinyl/leather (the seller doesn’t disclose which) looks great and contrasts beautifully with the black finish.

The exterior shows a car obviously set up for racing, note the glass straps across the rear window, straps secured to the trunk lid and the absence of bumpers. The body doesn’t show any obvious repair work performed as a result of an on-track mishap – it would be worth investigating that item further. I also note the absence of the TWIN-CAM badge that I referenced above. Maybe that’s an oversight but it seems to me that an identifying feature as such would be important to preserve.

A craigslist posting may not the best place to document this car’s racing history but I would like to know more about this MGA’s competitive past. The seller only mentions that it has raced across North America and calls out Vancouver and Sebring specifically. This is an interesting car with an interesting past and the seller wants an interesting amount of money for it considering that its most notable feature is no longer employed. So tell me, do you think it’s worth it as is, racing history et al, or does it really need the in-place, original engine to clinch a sale at this price?


  1. Coventrycat

    Putting the twin cam badge on now is like a SS badge on a Chevy that ain’t.

    Like 4
    • CJinSD

      It’s more like taking the Z28 badge off of a ’68 Camaro and replacing the 302 with a 250.

      MG actually made cars like this. IIRC, they were called MGA MKII Deluxes. They had the standard 1,622 cc OHV engines and the Twin-Cam’s disc brakes and knock-off stamped-steel wheels. Basically they had a few extra Twin-Cam chassis cars and had given up on the problematic Twin-Cam engine.

      Like 3
  2. sir mike

    The headline of the ad is a little deceiving…but at least the twin cam is included.Seller should state what condition it’s in other than valve failure.Like the coupe better than the roadster.Would be a great vintage racer for a beginner.And why do people put things like this on Craigs??

    Like 3
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      So they can tell their significant others they DID put the car up for sale…(wink)

      Like 7
  3. Redwagon

    Had no idea these existed as a coupe. Much preferred over the roadster. Plus I’m a sucker for black/red cars of any kind.

    Like 1
  4. xrotaryguy

    I never knew about this MG motor.

    The car shows nicely. Though it could be all show and no go. Can’t tell until you chat with its owner/mechanic.

  5. Richard M

    What has happened to the quarter vent windows? All MGA coupes had them.

  6. Bryan Cohn

    The twin cam being blown up and then converted to a 5 main MGB based engine is pretty common in MGA circles and especially vintage race cars. Good builders can get similar power for far less money and work/effort.

    I last saw an MGA twin cam being built by Kent Prather probably 15 years ago and he swore then it was the last one he would touch due to their complexity, lack of parts and so on. I recall he had to have timing chain guides made among other bits.

    The twin cam is a neat engine for the total purist on an unlimited budget.

    Like 1
  7. Ralph

    Hi all, I am the owner of this car. I posted it on Craiglist just to gauge the potential interest. I am definitely interested in selling, as I have way too many race cars, and it is pointless to have them just sitting, not being used. The roadster in the background is also mine, also a twincam. The coupe is YM 3 721, and I did convert it to RHD. Astute observers will note that it is a mirror image of the roadster (black/red vs red/black, lhd vs rhd, #35 vs #53)…… Happy to answer any questions, Ralph in Vancouver BC

    Like 1

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.