Morning Qualifying – Workin' For MGA edition

The BMC Works Rally Team and their faithful MGA's

I caught the foreign car bug at an early age, when a young married couple moved into the house next door.  With them, came a red MGA.  It was, at that time, the prettiest car I’d ever seen.   The thing is, like most British cars of it’s era, it spent most of it’s time on jacks; it’s owner constantly in search of the MGA’s latest malady.  In fact, as I think about it, I only recall the MGA moving under it’s own power twice….the day the couple moved in, and the day they moved away.

The MGA of Bruce Susan and Bill Chapman. Photo by Jean Sejnost

So, it is hard for me to imagine using a car as frail as a MGA on an event as tough as the International Alpine Cup (aka Coupe des Alpes).  And yet, that’s exactly what Stuart Turner and the British Motor Company works rally team did.  Here’s a film, produced by BMC, detailing the BMC rallying efforts at the 1956 Coupe des Alpes.  It’s just one of many amazing films you can find on the British Pathe website.


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  1. tonyola Avatar

    The MGA wasn't the most reliable thing around by a long shot but it wasn't exactly frail either. The chassis and driveline were pretty tough and hard to kill. The problems were mostly with the electrics (of course) and carburetors, plus the car could be prone to overheating. It also doesn't hurt that the drivers here had a BMC works team backing them up.

  2. muthalovin Avatar

    I approve the title of this post.

    1. Alff Avatar

      Totally appropriate. Once you've experienced fried Lucas electrics, you'll never forget That Smell.

      1. muthalovin Avatar

        You Got That Right.

        1. ZomBee Racer Avatar

          SU carbs are Double Trouble.

          1. muthalovin Avatar

            Having one, you will need to befriend Mr. Banker.

          2. Alff Avatar

            And they're slow. Gimme Three Steps and I could beat an MGA in a drag race, on foot.

          3. muthalovin Avatar

            Now, Was I Right Or Wrong when I said that You Got That Right?

          4. texlenin Avatar

            Oh! Oh! Oh! I wanna play!!!
            They'll never Call You the Breeze when you're driving one?

          5. muthalovin Avatar

            I Never Dreamed this would catch on.

          6. Alff Avatar

            I wouldn't know. I'm just a Simple Man.

          7. muthalovin Avatar

            Alff, Gimme Back My Bullets before we draw this out any further.

          8. Alff Avatar

            Just one more point. I'll bet you didn't know that our president used to have an MGA. I read about it in his autobiography – Dreams of My Father. I recommend that book – it's a Sweet Tome, All Obama.

          9. muthalovin Avatar

            Ain't that Saturday Night Special!

          10. texlenin Avatar

            Nah. Just one of them Things Going On……

  3. Armand4 Avatar

    1956… Wasn't that the year the MGAs got beaten by the Sunbeam Rapier in the Coupe des Alpes? I was going to say '62, but no, that was the year the Sunbeam Alpine beat them at Sebring. And '61 was the year an Alpine won the Scottish Rally, so it wouldn't have been then, either… Well, you see where I'm going here.
    It's funny that we all look at sports cars of this era as being frail, delicate machines, when back in the day people were wailing on them on dirt roads in rally stages. Nowadays, anyone with an old sports car (including me) slows to walking speed for every speed bump, so as not to overwork the leaf springs and lever shocks; in the '50s and '60s, meanwhile, MGs, Alpines and Big Healeys were flying around rally stages. Of course, one would be a little less worried about breaking the car when the works team is following behind with a station wagon (sorry, shooting brake) full of spare parts.

    1. Froggmann_ Avatar

      There is a big difference between driving someone else's car to it's limits and having them replace the parts (or car) you break v.s. driving around your own 60 year old classic with 60 years (Oh who am I kidding 15 years) of use on the components and having to pay out the nose for anything you break.
      There is a reason my 59 MGA still sits in the garage, once they stop working, get stripped down for a restoration, sit for 30+ years it costs a pretty penny just to get the parts you need.

      1. Armand4 Avatar

        Yeah, for all my bluster about how tough my little sports car is, every pothole sends a chill down my spine. I don't know what frightens me more, the thought of walking home or the thought of paying for any parts I happen to break.

    2. ZomBee Racer Avatar

      And HA!
      (Sets out to remove spare Alpine-ass-kicking MG engine from passenger seat)
      <img src="; width="500" />

      1. Armand4 Avatar

        What was that? I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you over my eight-port aluminum cylinder head and tubular front shock absorbers.

        1. Alff Avatar


      2. CptSevere Avatar

        ZomBee, you just won the thread trophy, for what it's worth. Look in the mail for your chromed Zener diode.

    3. Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr. Avatar
      Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr.

      Your memory is correct. The Rootes Works Team came up big in '56, a fact that a BMC produced film would just as soon ignore.
      As for the fraility of half century old sports cars, even with the support of a works team, the cars were anything but bullet proof in period. But then, that's the appeal of it.

  4. Bret Avatar

    I promise to drive my Big Healey, once it moves in (and I get the rough running condition sorted), as it was intended. These are stout cars that don't need to be babied. Further, there are enough of them that we don't need to be concerned with preserving them for historical reasons.
    Donald Healey would want me to install a Panhard bar and MegaJolt. I owe it to him to do these things and autocross it from time to time.

  5. CptSevere Avatar

    An old buddy of mine thrashed his MGB up and down Utah's Big Cottonwood Canyon for years, being a ski bum at Alta. That poor little car never got a break. He welded in replacement panels all over the floor, from junk washing machines, and rebuilt the engine like three times, the last time ending up with Weber sidedraft carbs and a Mallory dual point distributor. The red little bastard screamed. MG's are not all that delicate, Steve's car proved that, big time. Poor little car would take a beating, time after time. Oh, and the door handles and window cranks were Vice Grips.

  6. ZomBee Racer Avatar

    Yeah I did, but in the other direction. I've run 20/50 for nearly 20 years in my Mopars and MGs and had nary a problem.
    Then I read a gear-head-scientist paper on oil that was popular a few years ago (can't find it now) which explained the physics of oil lubrication and viscosities. I did not understand it well enough to paraphrase the main points but it made perfect sense at the time and I dropped to 10/40 10/30 depending on the season.
    (Something about thicker oil not having any actual effect on lubrication-film, and causing more parasitic heat and drag)
    I immediately noticed a 3-4mpg improvement, lower temperatures and a significant kick in pep from the motor, so I switched the Datsun over as well for over a year.
    Then I eventually had an issue with both motors developing rod knocks within hours of each other and it spooked me. Granted, one had just done 3 flips, the other was a high mileage junkyard motor that I had neglected (and may have had an existing knock I mistakenly attributed to a new Rebello Racing head with stiffer springs), and BOTH had gotten Fram filters just a week earlier (which it turned out there was some major issue with their filters to the point all my local parts stores said they were dropping Fram over it) and even the oil was rumored to have had a recipe change.
    Any one of these variables could have cause (or contributed to) the problem, or it could have just been an amazing self induced coincidence (as my life is prone to be full of) so I can't point at any of them and say "THIS is what caused it", but I went back to 20/50 and Bosch filters just to feel safe again for now.
    I've been dissecting my filters to try and gauge wear, and eventually I will try the lighter oil again but first I gotta keep an engine free of external catastrophes long enough to get a good baseline.

    1. Alff Avatar

      I made the switch because the "recently rebuilt" engine I pulled out of a wreck drank a quart of 10/30 every 500 miles. Going to the thicker stuff has slowed oil consumption but at a cost to fuel economy and power. I'm tempted to try something lighter.