1955 MG Magnette ZA
Absolutely Striking, High Quality Professionally Restored Left Hand Drive
Stock Appearance with Subtle Mechanical, Cosmetic & Safety Upgrades
A Rare “Magnette” with Extensive Documentation & Ownership History!
INTRODUCTION – 1955 MG MAGNETTE ZA
While many U.S. collector car enthusiasts may be unfamiliar with the MG Magnette, the car was a very highly respected sporting Saloon in Europe and other parts of the world. In fact, quotes from major road test publications and Buyer’s Guides of the day do a wonderful job in describing the Magnette’s attributes. Consider the following expert evaluations/comments:
- Classic Motorsports – “The Magnette is one of the ultimate “good news-bad news” cars. The good news is that they offer great looks, decent (and easily upgradeable performance), strong handling, comfort, room and exclusivity. And the looks: those are worth mentioning twice. Few sedans then and now have been as handsome. The bad news is finding one. Finding a good Magnette takes work. Finding an owner that is willing to sell a good Magnette is even tougher.”
- Classic & Sports Car Buyer’s Guide, February, 1999 – For: “Attractive styling, very reliable and comfortable. Against: Very few good ones left
- Classic & Sports Car magazine – “The elegant Z type Magnette was MG’s last proper sporting Saloon”
- Classic Motorsports Magazine Buyer’s Guide – “The advanced design of the 1954-1958 MG Magnette’s makes it a very desirable sporting sedan…if you can find one that isn’t a rust bucket.”
- “The Magnette is at its best when used as it was designed; a rare combination of sporty good handling and luxury rarely seen now, let alone in the 1950’s.”
And, finally, “The mechanical parts are simple, strong, long lasting and do their job well. When they do break, they’re easy to fix and cheap to repair.”
DECODING THE NUMBERS OF THIS 1955 MG MAGNETTE ZA
It is our understanding that relatively few MG Magnette’s found their way to North American buyers. However, cars were imported to Canada and, as a left hand drive car; it is certainly possible that the car was initially brought into Canada.
The cars original VIN # was KAA41 / 11373 and, as a result of being out of the California Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) system when the owner located the car, it was inspected by the California Highway patrol and assigned VIN # of CA657368 after being inspected and found to be totally proper. It is important to note that the California issued title is clear (no salvage, theft, etc.) and both original and California VIN #’s are noted on the VIN tag.
The cars original VIN# decodes as follows:
- KAA41 / 11373
- K = MG Magnette
- A = 4 Door
- A = Black (Original color)
- 4 = LHD (Left Hand Drive) North American Market Car
- 1 = Synthetic Paint
A few additional significant details:
– The car was first licensed in California in the 1960’s as is supported by photos of the car prior to restoration (refer to photos) where the car was fitted with license #KOW855. Our research indicates that this license plate was issued in the early 1963 timeframe suggesting that this car has been in California for over 50 years.
– Subsequently, personalized plates reading “55 ZA” were added to the car after it was restored. The car currently wears period correct black with yellow lettering California license plates 7L6865 with correct 1955 tags son the plate. Add on registration plates legalize the car with an expiration of Nov. 2019.
DETAILS—THIS PARTICULAR 1955 MG MAGNETTE ZA
In many respects it is easier for us to describe the quality and level of restoration on this MG than a car that has received an older restoration or one that was subject to a lower quality, partial restoration or “rattle can restoration.” The MG Magnette ZA was restored properly under the guidance of a long time British enthusiast who was very particular, indeed. The result is an absolutely lovely Magnette that is in a league of its own.
The paint, body and interior restoration were completed by a British Car specialty shop with close to 40 years of experience restoring, servicing and maintaining British cars. The Magnette was not restored in a mass production environment but in a shop that is known for high quality, painstaking restorations. The work was performed over the course of over 1 year by professionals who were committed to having the work done properly so that the owner could enjoy the car and show it at classic car shows.
While it is impossible to describe each and every part of the restoration, a review of the well-organized documents includes everything from the smallest parts to the complete rebuild of major components. Over the course of 25+ years specializing in British sports and unique vehicles, this example is not only highly unique but tastefully done to a high cosmetic and mechanical standard.
Conveying the owner’s appreciation and passion for this car is made easier by summarizing the substantial receipts, binders, photographs and awards that pertain to the 1955 MG Magnette ZA.
The receipt folder and books contain virtually every receipt for the work performed and there are multiple books that are inches thick. The new owner will receive these books along with folders full of receipts from the previous owner and other materials referenced in this write up. Specifically, the documents that will go to the MG’s new owner include:
– Operation Manual (Owner’s Manual) – MG Magnette Series “ZA”
– Restoration Binder (2” thick) – Highly organized with the following tabs:
– Photographs (Including the car when located, during restoration and completed
– A CD with restoration photos
– Articles on the MG Magnette
– Finish & trim (Colors & fabric swatches used for the restoration
– Parts / Service – Business cards of vendors, suppliers and restorers
– Financials – DETAILED records of expenditures, vehicle expense projections, etc. (Additional details provided later in the write-up)
– Clubs / Registers – MG Magnette Clubs. Registers, etc. (USA & Abroad)
The car has been shown extensively and extremely well received. The dash plaques in the trunk partially document the cars show history and, in addition it has received the distinction of the following:
– Best of Class “Winners Circle” Plaque – Highly respected Dixon All British Show
– Greenstone Concourse – Best of Show & First Place Award
– Winner All British Awards (Winner’s Circle)
– MG Magnette Series “ZA” Illustrated List of Service Parts (BMC publication May, 1954)
– Brooklands Road Tests (Of Sporting Saloons) Including the Magnette ZA & ZB
– B.M.C. MG (Large) Magnette Workshop Manual
– MG Magnette Original Post Card from Motor Classics
We ask that you keep in mind that as nice as this MG is, the owner would not classify it as a “Trailer Queen” and, in fact, the owner of the car regularly drove the car in various MG club events and on special tours on beautiful clear California days. The MG has proven to be reliable, totally sorted, and a crowd pleaser at shows where it receives considerable attention for its uniqueness and quality.
Highlights of the restoration include:
- The MG was completely disassembled by a first class, professional restorer. The engine drive-line and other components were removed and the car was prepared and painted by a high quality specialty painter with a reputation for frame-off restorations
- Completely rebuilt and highly detailed MGB engine # 18GFWEH6712156 (indicating that the engine is a 5 main bearing unit sourced from a 1967 MGB)
- Considerable time was spent to properly color sand, polish and prepare the paint so that it is “flat” and free of imperfections
- All major components properly re-painted or powder coated as needed
- Totally new, complete system including RC40 rear exhaust, LCB front pipe
- Completely new fuel system with new stainless braided fuel lines
- New clutch, pressure plate, flywheel, transmission seals (factory unit) and related components
- All new cooling system, hoses, water pump and related components
- Totally rebuilt front end & steering. New shocks, CV joints, boots, ball joints, etc.
- Extensive receipts for all new trim, fasteners, hardware both inside and outside of car to a show level
- All exterior chrome, window trim and other chrome parts replaced with either NOS, re-chromed or quality parts (Many sourced from overseas sources to ensure 100% authenticity)
- Completely new interior custom upholstered interior fitted at considerable expense
- New carpet set, recovered door panels, rebuilt gauges ($1,200+) switches and a list too long to outline in detail
- Highly detailed (quite an understatement!!) engine bay, trunk and interior/ exterior
- Absolutely beautiful original / restored MG steering wheel & center MG button (Functional horn & turn signals) (Trafficators are not functional)
- Factory steel restored MG wheels and center hubcaps / trim rings
- High quality Metric Radial steel belted tires in size 165R15” (Excellent tread and new, never used spare)
- “Dyna-Mat” used for interior sound deadening
- Trunk custom carpeted in gray with binding, fitted with factory spare (painted to match other wheels) and jack
The owner enjoyed the MG as an occasional weekend car accumulating very minimal miles since the restoration was finalized. It remains in beautiful mechanical and cosmetic condition but has been totally “Sorted.” There are no electrical issues and everything works including the turn signals, wipers, dash lights, lights, heater and defroster.
While the MG has the appearance of being totally stock it benefits from a few significant upgrades. Specifically, the following improvements have been made to improve the cars performance, make it more comfortable and add a level of safety.
It has been said that “The devil is in the details” when it comes to the difference between a quality restoration vs. and average or “garage quality” re-do. We ask that you consider some of the items that exist on this car that make the car an unusually high quality example. Specifically:
- No partial touch up or partial repainting since the complete paint / restoration effort
- Excellent glass all around including functional “vent windows” Note: some minor windshield wiper scratches on front middle/right of windshield
- New front & rear window rubbers, vent window seals, trunk seals, door seals, etc. etc.
- Beautiful high quality chrome bumpers with no damage
- Solid tight fitting / closing doors with excellent gaps (left side rear door does not fit completely flush but may be able to be adjusted)
- Trunk & hood gaps excellent (considerable time was spent making them fit very well)
- Fully functional door and rear “boot” locks
- The front prop rod is in place and functional and shows hardly a scratch or chip from use
- Virtually all new rubber, felt trim and other available trim at the time of the restoration
- Proper chrome windshield wiper arms
- All of the lenses and all of the rubber trim bits have been replaced or refurbished as deemed necessary to create a high level car
- Beautifully restored dash and window surround natural wood work including wooden ash tray & factory cigarette lighter
- The interior is striking and finished in a comfortable fabric that coordinates exceptionally well with the exterior blue metallic
- Headliner is beautiful, finished in light gray but not fitted with visors
- All of the interior bright work is either replaced or re-plated including the switches, knobs, gauges and other parts and everything including small items like the interior light work. Note: The gauges alone were rebuilt at a cost of $1,200.00 when the interior wood was renovated
- Very nice, professionally installed upgraded Pioneer MOSFET Super Tuner radio with discreetly mounted (out of view) front speakers in parcel shelf
- New wiring harness with totally functional gauges, switches and control
- Custom installed, color coordinated high quality bound carpeting to match the seats and interior panels
- The MG is fitted with front seat lap belts
- The instruments are fully functional and the tachometer and speedometer appear to display correct readings.
- The engine bay is very clean and free from excessive dirt, grime and oil
- Mechanically, the receipts tell the story relative to extensive rebuild of major components. The engine, front end, braking system, hydraulics, fuel system and electrical system all received a complete restoration. The transmission was disassembled and checked with the necessary gaskets and bearings replaced
OVERALL MECHANICAL & COSMETIC CONDITION
While the details of the mechanical restoration are entirely too length to list, we would be glad to review the details of the file with interested buyers. The details listed above will provide the prospective buyer with the extensive nature of the restoration. As further evidence of the owners commitment to achieving excellence in the restoration, one document summarizes every item that was repaired, replaced or addressed; item by item. The total on one list alone comes to a total amount of $55,000.00, not including the cost of the vehicle. Virtually every system in the Magnette was thoroughly restored with many upgrades and the use of improved British components.
As an example, the car is fitted with a totally rebuilt MGB 1800cc engine (vs. the stock 1500cc unit with most of the “bolt on” components being from the MG Magnette (restored, of course). The engine, with # 18GF-WE-H-12156, us a 5 main bearing engine from a 1967/1968 MGB that was reportedly completely rebuilt. So, from all outward appearances, the engine bay appears to be largely stock but the car has increased performance and reliability due to the larger engine, electric fuel pump and other enhancements.
This MG Magnette is an excellent example of the old adage “A photograph is worth a 1,000 words.” The photographs coupled with the extensive restoration documentation tell the story about the high quality of the restoration and its present condition.
While the extensive mechanical and cosmetic restoration was completed several years ago, the car has been used minimally for shows and weekend travel and was rarely exposed to even clear California days. Any imperfections in the exterior paint and trim are extremely minor and in no way detract from the overall appearance and attractiveness of the “ZA.” Most recently, due to the owner’s illness, the car remained in the garage with his other collectible British cars but was uses occasionally to ensure that the Magnette was always fully operational.
The interior is absolutely fantastic with considerable attention to detail dedicated to the restoration of the wood dash components, wood trim around the door and other dash details (including the lettering on the heater controls, wood on the ashtray, rear seat center armrest and a host of other details). All of the work was completed by professional upholsterers using the original, correct seats (front and back), door panels and other panels. The steering wheel is totally restored and lovely. The workmanship is of the highest quality and the color choices are very well matched to the striking blue metallic exterior of the Magnette ZA.
Clearly, another feature of the MG is the quality of the exterior chrome, stainless and other bits. Finding an MG Magnette in complete condition is a challenge but to find one with virtually all of the correct components that have been lovingly restored is almost impossible. The chrome is beautiful, especially what appears to be triple plated chrome bumpers and trim.
The underside is California clean and supports that the car has not seen rain since restoration. The fender wells remain extremely clean and show bright, shiny blue paint. The engine bay is highly detailed and the engine block is painted the proper MG red.
MECHANICAL CONDITION / RESTORATION
The car runs and drives very well. It starts immediately when cold with the use of the manual choke and a push of the “S” (Starter) button. It runs equally as well once it is fully warmed up. The engine does not hesitate and it runs smoothly as it is shifted up through the gears.
Over the course of 21~ years, we have had a number of early MG’s that have significant noise in the transmission (particularly in 1st & reverse, but any gear). This is not the case with this “ZA.” Not only is the transmission quiet for this vintage British automobile, the car shifts well (both upshifts & down shifts) and does not pop out of gear or slip. There is no noise in the rear end and the drivability of this MG is very good, indeed.
The MG steers straight, does not pull to the left or right, or exhibit any drivability issues. MG enthusiasts will notice that the instrumentation is MG authentic and totally restored at considerable expense to the car’s owner. The clock has been converted to electric and remains in the stock location (in the center of the headliner forward).
The MG runs at normal operating temperature with no indication of overheating. The other gauges are fully functional (speedometer, tachometer, oil pressure, ammeter) as are the lights, horn and the turn signals (note turn signal switches on the steering column). Engine oil pressure is strong and well within specification. The MG runs cool even partly as a result of the updated and completely restored cooling system. The “ZA” is totally sorted, and was used regularly prior the owner’s illness and unfortunate passing.
The MG is very good mechanically showing no signs of unusual engine noises, smoking, or other issues. Uncharacteristically, the car sits for prolonged periods of time with little or no signs of minor oil drips outside of the characteristic and accepted (at least by British aficionados) “seeping” Actually, as the photos reflect, the car has a generally dry undercarriage in addition to showing no signs of rust through or frame damage!
- Clear California title with current California registration until 11/2019 (for California buyers)
- California smog test not required for vehicles 1975 and older
- Passed the California required safety inspection for working wipers, turn signals, lights, brakes, etc.
SPECIFICATIONS OF THE 1955 MG MAGNETTE ZA
- Wheelbase 102”
- Length 168”
- Width 63”
- Height 58”
- Years produced 1953-1956; 18,076 total (Fewer than an estimated 1,000 cars (worldwide) remain (in any condition) as of 1999)
- Originally fitted with 1.5L B-Series Inline 4 cylinder engine (now a more powerful but MG 1800cc engine from an MGB)
- 4 speed manual transmission; synchromesh in 2 through 4th gears
HISTORY OF THE MG MAGNETTE
The Magnette ZA was announced on 15 October 1953 and debuted at the 1953 London Motor Show. Deliveries started in March 1954. Production continued until 1956. It was the first monocoque car to bear the MG badge. The Magnette was the first appearance of the new four cylinder 1.5 L B-Series I4 engine with twin 1¼ inch SU carburetors delivering 60 hp, driving the rear wheels through BMC’s new four speed manual gearbox with synchromesh on the top three ratios.
Suspension was independent at the front using coil springs and a live axle with half elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The steering was rack and pinion. Hydraulically operated Lockheed 10 in drum brakes were fitted to the front and rear wheels. The Magnette ZA was originally fitted with Pirelli 165HR14 tires.
The car had individual front seats and a rear bench seat. The dashboard and door caps were beautifully finished in highly polished wood. Although a heater was standard, a radio was still an optional extra. Standard body colors were black, maroon, green, and grey.
In 1955 “The Motor” magazine tested a Magnette and recorded a top speed of just over 80 mph. Acceleration from 0-60 mph took sometime but in return the car achieved very good fuel mileage (21.0~) for a 5 place sedan. The test car cost approximately $1,500.00 converted to U.S. dollars.
Classic Cars Ltd.