“Of all the cars MG have ever built, the MGA is for me, the best. Now don’t get me wrong – I can see the appeal in a Triple M, I know the MGB tends to be people’s go-to MG and I’ve enjoyed a ZR 160 or two in my time, but for me, the MGA is the one” says Mike. “With the MGA it’s got such a great story with it – from the legendary EX cars that entered into Le Mans, the twin-cam, even Elvis owned one – there’s something really special about the A.”
“Those gorgeous lines that Syd Enever sketched all those years ago just seem to get better and better every year – from the moment we sold the MGA on Wheeler Dealers I’ve wanted to do another one.”
The story so far…
Mike joined the MG Car Club in 2015, after hosting at MGLive! “I had a great time at MGLive! and people loved seeing the MGA we’d done on TV at the show, so this time I wanted to do it for myself and share the project with other members of the Club and in the kind of depth that an hour on the telly just won’t allow.”
While the idea of doing an MG project was something Mike was interested in, he didn’t go out looking for something to restore. “I found the car in California – it was rough but solid thanks to the climate – and at some point, had been resprayed in yellow. I was so pleased to have another A and was quite happy to keep it just the way it was and so shipped it back to England. It was whilst reading Safety Fast! I saw some of the MGAs in there and started to think about getting members of the Club to give me their opinion on it – restore it, or leave it as it is.”
The A featured on the Club’s stand at the Classic Motor Show that November, with Mike asking show-goers to vote whether to restore the car, or keep it ‘as found’ “I knew there’d be people out there that wanted it kept as it was” says Mike “I met plenty of them at the show, but once they saw that the car wasn’t original, that changed a lot of people’s minds.”
After the show, Mike brought the car to Kimber House, putting it on display in the John Thornley Suite. “Bringing it back to Abingdon was pretty special” he says. “Even more so when you think that the Club’s HQ is so close to the old factory site – it really was like bringing her home!”
Once the votes were totted up, over 60% of people had gone with restoring the car and so Mike began to look for the right partners to work on the project. “The A is a bit special because unlike say the MGB or Midget, not everything is available off the shelf and there has to be a budget for the project. I spoke with the guys at Kimber House and some other friends who’ve restored their MGs and the name that people kept coming back with was Moss Europe, so they seemed to be the people to speak to and were interested in getting involved with the project so it tied up nicely.”
With a parts supplier sorted, Mike turned his attention to someone to help him rebuild the car. “With my commitments to filming, there’s no way I can do this one in my lock-up at home and we didn’t want to do one on the show as we’d already done an A” recalls Mike.
So how did RPS get involved?
An entry on the 2016 Peking to Paris rally had brought Mike in touch with Rally Preparation Services and although work commitments meant he hadn’t been able to enter the rally, he’d struck up a friendship with the guys – in particular MD Simon Ayris and classic car technician Ben Harris. “Ben’s a big MG man – he’s been around MGs for years, he’s built more than a dozen different MGs, and plenty of them have been MGAs.”
Mike got in touch and as he expected, Ben and the rest of the guys at RPS were up for the challenge and Ben went to assess the car at the Club’s Kimber House headquarters.
Ben was happy that Mike had bought a decent basis and it would be ideal to kick things off by starting the project officially at MGLive! 2017.
“We got the car to MGLive! and the guys just went for it” says Mike. “As more and more of the car came apart, we started to realise just how solid it was. That’s obviously the biggest benefit to a Californian car!”
Once MGLive! was over with, the A travelled back to the RPS workshop, leaving Mike to get to London, and Moss’ HQ to secure everything on Ben’s shopping list.
“We had a great day at Moss – I didn’t realise how massive the operation is – they’ve got everything there from a gear knob to a full bodyshell, it’s incredible.”
At long last Mike had everything in place for the MGA project and the restoration began.
“I’m keen to make sure the car’s in keeping with what MG intended for it back in 1959, but I also want to see what can be done take in some of the improvements that have been made to the B-Series engine over the past 60 years” he adds.
“We’re going to go through every step of the resto – bodywork, engine, running gear, interior, everything. It’s a great opportunity to see what goes into a restoration” says Mike. “Not only that, the mechanicals, the oily bits we all love – so much of that will apply to other cars, so there’s loads that I hope will be of interest to fellow enthusiasts.”