JOHN BOLSTER TESTS THE M.G.A.
Abingdon’s New 2-litre Two-seater a fast, smooth performer
—80 m.p.h. cruising speed, over 95 m.p.h. maximum
“THE racing car of today is the touring car of tomorrow.” How true are those oft-quoted words when applied to the new M.G.! We first saw the prototype chassis in August, 1954, when George Eyston broke eight International Class F records in a car called Ex 179. The next appearance included the body as we now know it, and, under the number Ex 182, the team performed marvels at Le Mans. Now, fully fledged as the M.G.A., the new model is on the market, and I have recently done a week’s hard motoring in one of The first production cars.
When I tested Ex 182 in July, I described the chassis briefly, and I had already given a more detailed account in the issue of 3rd June. Suffice it, therefore, to say that the frame is of box section, and wide enough for the driver and passenger to sit within its members. The independent front suspension is by helical springs and wish-bones, while at the rear the semi-elliptic springs locate the hypoid axle on the Hotchkiss principle.
The engine is a well-known model of the B.M.C. range, but developed in this case to-the Voint where it produces 68 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. This is a sturdy design, with twin~ carburetters and push-rod-operated overhead valves. It is assembled in unit with a four-speed gearbox, synchronized on the upper three ratios, and with a traditional M.G. central remote control. Also traditional is the fly-off hand brake—why don’t all cars have them?
The body follows the lines of the Le Mans cars, but is more elaborately appointed. The grille preserves memories of the old M.G. radiator, but the octagon motif has, thank goodness, gone from the instrument panel, appearing only unobtrusively on the steering wheel boss. The instruments are indeed round, plain, and functional, and the test car’s speedometer was completely accurate.
[engine photo caption]
POWER-PLANT: The 1 1/2-litre, push-rod engine is accessible enough for all normal maintenance. Large “trunk” on the left is the heater air-intake. The 1 3/4 ins. SU carburetters have separate air-cleaners.
RECOGNITION is made easy (above) by retaining the typical Abingdon shape for the “radiator” motif.
ANTI-CRASH arrangements (right) for the neat tail include a substantial bumper with over-riders.
The upholstery, trim, and finish are most attractive. At the rear, the luggage boot has a moderate capacity, because the spare wheel, in a soft cover, takes up a good deal of the space. ‘The hood gives plenty of head room, good rearward vision, and folds neatly out of sight. The excellent sidescreens, with spring-loaded hinged bottom panels, have their own compartment in the flap which covers the hood. The backs of the seats fold forward, providing easy access to the all-weather equipment.
The driving position gives a good sense of control. I would perhaps prefer the steering wheel to be a little farther away, and my own preference is for a rather more reclining seat back with a cushion giving better support to the legs. However, these slight changes could easily be made by the owner if desired, and an adjustable wheel is available. The forward vision is excellent, thanks to a falling bonnet line.
On driving off, one is at once impressed with the gearbox. It is as nearly crash-proof as anything I have driven outside the automatic class. The changes )go through beautifully, and third gear is high enough for frequent use on the open road. After being baulked by a slow vehicle, one takes a coup de troisième and the speedometer is soon climbing into the seventies again. The clutch is smooth in action, but can be made to slip if fast changes are attempted. As the hydraulic operation gives agreeably light control, it would be easy to fit stronger springs for competition work.
The makers suggest 80 m.p.h. as a cruising speed, which seems to suit the car admirably. I had the speedometer on the 100 mark a score of times, under favourable conditions on the road. One tends to drive fast because the riding comfort is so good. The first impression is that the suspension is fairly hard, but this soon disappears, and at the higher speeds the comfort is most marked.
There is none of that continuous up-and-down movement that mars so many modern cars. The stability is exceptional, and the M.G. corners fast under perfect control.
This is a car of very definite character. It is obviously a sports model, but it remains at all times practical. With the hood and sidescreens erect, the heater turned on, and the radio playing, it can serve very well as a town carriage. Milady’s dress will not be soiled if she is going to a dance, and though the low build exacts a certain technique of entry and exit, that is soon acquired. This is as good a shopping car as any other, and the latent performance can temporarily be forgotten.
As befits a genuine sports car, it is better without the hood for long, fast journeys. With the top folded away, there is no wind noise, and the engine revs, willingly as the miles or kilometres pass quickly by. At the slightest check, the left hand has found a lower gear almost before the driver realizes it, and
FIRST sports two-seater M.G. ever to have a separate luggage compartment isthe “A”. The spare wheel is covered by a fabric envelope, and anchored by grips to the locker floor.
the car is accelerating away without any excessive exhaust noise.
The acceleration is not of the kick-in-the-back variety, but the well-chosen gear ratios allow the best use to be made of the available performance. This is really quite a big, roomy car, and nobody would guess that it had only a 1 ½ litre engine. Large enough to be comfortable but small enough to be nippy in traffic, it is an ideal size of vehicle for many purposes. Thanks to its road-holding and brakes, it can put up a better average in safety than certain sports cars with considerably larger engines.
Very powerful brakes are a valuable safety feature. They can be used hard and often without the slightest sign of fading, and the usual increase in pedal travel does not manifest itself. In fact, the brakes are more than adequate to the speed and weight of the car. The lights are sufficiently effective for 60 m.p.h. cruising, but I would prefer to add a spotlamp before driving at maximum speed in the dark, except on roads I know particularly well.
For those requiring additional performance, perhaps with competition work in mind, the makers can supply all the necessary parts and information.
Wire wheels with knock-off hub caps are another extra that will appeal to many. In its standard form as tested, however, the M.G.A. is a most attractive car. It is fast and a delight to drive, but it is comfortable and practical as well. Its appearance excited universal admiration wherever I went, and the more discerning were quick to remark that it was beautifully made. Above all, at a basic price of £595 it represents remarkable value.
Having driven the competition model, Ex 182, from which this car was derived, I can say that little has been lost and a great deal gained in grooming the machine for production. The excellent roadholding and steering of the prototype are fully retained, and the loss in performance is less than I expected. The sound and heat insulation make a big difference, and the hot driving compartment of the “racer” has been eliminated. This is a jolly good little sports car; if you want one, hurry up and get in the queue!
SPEFICAT1ON AND PERFORMANCE DATA
Car Tested: M.G. A Sports 2-seater. Price £595 (~844 Os. lOd. including P.T.).
Engine: Four cylinders 73.025 mm. ~x 89 mm. (1.489 c.c.). Pushrod-operated overhead valves. 8.15 to 1 compression ratio. 68 b.h.p.. at 5.500
r.p.m. Thin SU carburetters. Lucas coil and distributor.
Transmission: Borg and Beck 8 ins, single dry plate clutch with hydraulic operation. Four-speed gearbox short central remote control, lever. Ratios, 4.3, 5.908, 9.520, and 15.625 to 1. Open propeller shaft. Hypoid rear axle.
Chassis: Box section frame swept out to full width of body and passing above rear axle, Independent front suspension by wishboncs and helical springs with rack and pinion steering. Rear axle on underslung semi-elliptic springs. Twin-piston hydraulic dampers all round. Bolt-on pierced disc wheels, fitted 5.50 x 15 ins. tyres. Lockheed hydraulic brakes, 2 L.S. in front, in 10 ins, x 1 1/2 ins. drums.
Equipment: 12-volt lighting and starting, speedometer, rev.-counter, ammeter, Water temperature, oil pressure and fuel gauges. Radiator blind; heater and denuister, radio, flashing direction indicators, self-parking wipers.
Turning circle, 28 ft. Weight, 17 cwt, Ground clearance, 6 ins.
Performance: Maximum speed, 96.7 m.p.h.,
in gears: 3rd, 75 m,p.h.; 2nd, 45 m.p.h.
1st. 28 m.p.g. Standing quarter-mile, 20 secs.
Acceleration: 0-30 m.p.h., 4.8 secs.; 0-40 m.p.h.,
7.2 secs.; 0-50 m.p.h., 11.8 secs.; 0-60 m.p.h.,
15 secs.; 0-70 m.p,h., 18.8 secs.; 0-80 m.p.h.,
Fuel Consumption: Driven hard, 29 m.p.g.
A Overall length, 13 ft. 0 in.
B Wheelbase, 7 ft. 10 ins.
C Overall height, 4 ft. 2 ins.
D Overall width, 4 ft. 10 ins.
E Front track, 3 ft; 11 ½ ins.
F Rear track, 4 ft. 0 ¾ in.
G Seat to roof,,3 ft. 1 in.
H Steering wheel to seat back, 1 ft. 5 ins, max., 11 ins. min.
I Floor to centre of steering wheel, 1 ft. 9 ins.
J Seat back to front floor board, 3 ft. 11 ins. max., 3 ft. 5 ins, min.
K Length of seat 1 ft. 6 ½ ins.
L Height of seat, 1 ft. 9 ins.
M Floor to edge of seat, 7 ins.
0 Length of boot, 2 ft. 6 ins.
P Height of boot, l ft. 2 ins.
Q Width at elbows 3 ft. 8 ½ ins.
R Length of boot door, 2 ft. 2 ins.
S Width of boot, 3ft. 3 ½ ins.,
T Width of door opening, 2 ft. 4 ½ ins.,
U Width of boot door, 2 ft. 6 ins.
[top photo caption]
FACIA PANEL is well thought out, and purists will note the provision of a tachometer. Provision is also made for H.M.V. radio (shown) and the shape of the spring-spoked steering wheel allows the instruments to be read easily.