Thursday, October 23, 2014

MGA: Cautious Step, Uncertain Direction

By the early 1950s, management at MG must have felt that it was high time that styling of its sports car line should be modernized from what was basically a design appropriate to the early 1930s.  The result was the MGA, produced 1955-1962.  Some details regarding the MGA are here.

The styling theme chosen was entirely conventional in terms of sports cars of the 1950s.  The typical 50s sports car had a long hood, front fenders that passed over the doors in a downwards trajectory, separate or sometimes blended rear fenders that, in both cases, were higher than the intersection point of the front fenders, and the driver/passenger compartment in the form a cockpit.

I never liked MGA styling because I thought it wasn't balanced correctly, as I'll explain below.

Gallery

Designer Syd Enever voluntarily or otherwise made use of styling cues from previous MGs.  Shown here is a poster featuring the TD series.  (After it and before the A there was the MG TF, a very slightly streamlined TD that I hope to discuss in a future post.)  The main MGA carry-over features are the grille theme and the relationship of the cockpit to the rear fenders.

This MGA sports British license plates, but it's intended for export, having left-hand drive.  The MG grille design is blended into the curved nose.  As with the TD, the seat is only slightly forward of the rear wheels.

A coupé version was also available.  The top is wedged ahead of the trunk lid, probably to avoid the expense and bother of a separate set of stampings for the rear.  As a result, we see an ill-proportioned cabin that seems totally unrelated to the rest of the car.

The dark color of this MGA gives a better sense of its shape.

Here is a more recent photo of a restored MGA up for sale.  I include it because it's a good side view and helps to illustrate why I don't care much for the design.  The problem is this: The front fender seems a little too long and bland, virtually featureless.  But in the area around the rear of the cockpit, we find a busy set of details -- the rear cockpit curve, the door cut-line, the transition to the rear fender, the rear fender itself, and the wheelhouse and rear wheel.  All this attracts the eye, making the front part of the car seem too long.  It also gives the rear a sort of tacked-on look.

Here are some ways to improve the design.  Have the front fenderline blend into the rear of the cockpit.  Fill out the front part of the rear fender an inch (2 mm) or so in order to make it less tail-heavy.  Adding some kind of character line or thin chrome trim along the sides at about bumper level from wheelhouse to wheelhouse (and perhaps extending behind the rear wheelhouse) would help tie the front and rear together. The front could be improved by lowering the headlights slightly.

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