By Tim Vachon
We winched this beast onto our trailer from an Amarillo, Texas open field. Bought online in 2006, this tired MGA was designed as a poor man’s roadster, made to drive in the local race, run around and then put back home for future adventures. They made a boatload of these British cars and most of them were imported to the States. We like the MGA. It has a light body with no external handles and has a separate chassis.
I could easily handle most of the mechanical aspects, so we rebuilt the chassis from the ground up with a later Miata engine w/5 speed transmission, and upgraded to MGB disk brakes and suspension. We also installed a pair of Weber 40 DCOE side draft carburetors. The engine bay sports the original MGA radiator and has a Miata engine mated to the MGA exhaust system with a stainless turbo-header. An MGB electronic distributor replaced the Miata electronic ignition components. The fun began when the MGA chassis was set to drive and tune without the car body. What a real blast! Finally, when we got it driving right, we installed the body. We kept the Amarillo Texas sunburn body as it never needs attention and we invite folks to feel the faded, cracked and rusted surface before the oil and fuel fumes waft in. The British soul remains as the Miata twin cam even weeps a little oil along with the Weber carb fuel.
We never saw the need to install the top or a heater. We enjoyed all the elements year round, barring the rain and winter storm driving. We installed higher profile tires with the Carrol Shelby tribute Saab 15″ rims so this 1959 MGA Samurai could handle most local forest roads along with the hard roads. We used MGB Smiths’ gauges in the dash and the standard choke and starter cables.
So let me tell you why every drive is an exciting adventure!
It was another crisp January morning. I headed out to the 1959 MGA to sample the infinite headroom in cool leather seats, and take in the leaking oil and fuel fumes. A hard tug on the door and I slide into the leather seat. The view of the glass covered instruments on the flat steel-dash is what I need. The start sequence is unpredictable and mostly requires a logical step thru the analog dash switches and pull cables. Ignition….on, fuel pump switch…click, long pull on the choke….ready. I pull the starter cable and the Samurai twin cam engine fires up with the rhythmic bongo inlet beat of the dual Italian carburetors. I could stop right here with the reward of a successful start but I venture on. I engage the clutch and the dynamics begin. We’re rolling man, forward motion! There is more as I muscle thru the gears and now have to decide where do I want to go? Any open road is an adventure, speed is all relative as we drive along. The feedback is great. Sound, smell, smiles, everything feels right; so, I roll on and sometimes make it all the way home ready for another satisfying ride the next day.