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MG MGA - Back safe and sound from Le Mans classic

Hi guys, special thanks to Colyn and Steve, who gave me so much info and advice before I set of, first time, my new to me 1956 MGA 1500 had been on a long trip.

I tried to do as much prep as possible, new thermostat, new coolant hoses all round, new fan belt and a few other bits and pieces, also carried a few spates and tools, nothing like Colyn of course !
Anyway the old girl ran like a dream never missed a beat other than topping up the coolant each day, it was very Hot 29+

She was reading 160-170 on normal driving, going up to 195-200 on very steep hills and in slow traffic but as I say it was hot, are these normal type temps for that sort of driving ? Would the fan you fitted Steve help with this problem ?

And topping up the oil, as some of you may know I've been burning oil, before I went I put in an additive someone suggested, and it worked no smoke BUT I'm still using oil but my winter project is to remove the engine strip clean and refit any worn part, plus fit a five speed T9 box.

The old girl struggled a bit power wise, on some steep climbs she did not like it very slow just not enough power, then came the final embarrassment, last night on the Ferry Brittany ferries were two hours late leaving Le Havre, which meant we arrived in Portsmouth 23.30 not 21.30, but the worse thing was that they made a load of us in classic go on the outside deck on top of the ship, to get there we had to climb what can only be described as a 1 in 4 ramp I couldn't get a run at it and only got two thirds up and ran out of power, handbrake on quick, they put chocks behind the rear wheels I wacked her into first and did a Brooklands hill start just made it. But horror of horrors when I got up this morning my car is cover in sea spray covered in salt, I've given her a really good wash so hope it will be ok,
If anyone reading was on the ship or knows someone who had to go on top I'm thinking of drafting a really strong email to the CEO.
But on a happier note, the car was great, so glad I bought her a dream to drive, but need more power and five speed box.
And lots of lovely compliments from joe public.
Thanks once again guys for all your help, I'll contact my mate Peter Morgan he said I can have a drive of his with the T9 box fitted.
Sorry for the monologue haha !
Gives you something to read in bed lol !

Cheers Jack
Jack New Forest

Glad you enjoyed the trip Jack,
the MGA is just a brilliant car to go on an adventure with isn't it.

Your car runs at about the same temperature range as mine Jack so it sounds good to me.
The important thing is that, if the temp goes backdown when the car gets moving again, then you can just forget about your cooling system, it is working fine.

The best step up from the 1500 for me would be an MGB Engine just lightly tuned (around 105 bhp) with a 5 speed gearbox. I really loved that set up and I think you would too.


Colyn Firth

I fitted a standard early 3 bearing 1800 MGB in my 1500 and it made an enormous difference. Not only the power increase but even more the even greater torque increase which means you can be lazy on gear changes in you wish.

Paul Dean


Another point. A standard 1500 shouldn't have any problem with a 1 in 4 gradient in first gear. I know this very well as I live on a 1 in 4 hill with 2 hairpin bends and my 1500 was never anywhere near running out of ability to do a hill start. You must have some issue I would say before you start changing engines.

Paul Dean

I found that if you keep topping up the coolant it will keep pumping it out when you stop as it finds ints own expansion level. Providing you keep an eye on the temperature gauge it shouldn't really need the top up once its done its first deposit.

As Paul suggests, the very low first gear means that a 1:4 hill shouldn't be a problem unless you have a close ratio gearbox and a 3:9 diff or a wild cam.
John Bray

Picking up John's point, I find if I top up the coolant to the overflow, it chucks an awful lot out once it starts running!
Graeme Williams

I know this has been discussed at length before but this thread brings it up again.
The MGA radiator is often overfilled because of the design of the filler neck. The correct level of the coolant cannot be seen.
This causes water overflows because the expansion is constantly replaced.
The correct solution is to fit a recovery system.
There are two types, pressurised and non-pressurised.
The non-pressurised type is the most simple as it only requires the correct radiator cap and a plastic, transparent, container.
You can watch the expansion of the water when hot and the contraction when cold.
You never have to remove the radiator cap again and you always know that the radiator is full.
The money you save on anti-freeze additive makes this a must have.
See Barney's website.

M F Anderson

Thanks for all the useful comments guys, yes as you may know from my last post about burning oil, my engine was smoking a bit before I went to Le Mans, I put some additive in and the smoking stopped, but I do plan to takeout the engine over the winter, so the big decision is what do I do !

Keep the original engine and take it to my local engineering works very good guy, and get him to rebore to higher spec, clean the head unleaded valves etc.replace any worn parts, And fit T9 box.

Take the engine out and replace with MGB 1800 and five speed box, but I was told the MGB engine is not a straightforward swap !

As for coolant and temp. I just think I need to stop worrying about it, and don't top up too often.

Cheers Jack.

Jack New Forest

The 1800 swap is a pretty straightforward Jack.
The 3 bearing motor is the simplest swap needing no real changes to fit it.
The 5 bearing needs a change of backplate to make it fit your gearbox.
Check out Barneys website for complete info.

Fitting a 5 speed gearbox is a bit more involved, you have to do some careful measurements before you drill the holes in the frame to take the new gearbox mount. Would be good to have some help to do this I think.

I wouldnt blame you though if you decide to keep with your 1500. My friend Richard came with us on our traverse the Pyrenees in his 1500.
His car coped really well with the big climbs, maybe not so quick as the 1600s and 1800s but he certainly wasn't so far behind.
But on the level and downhill sections and also around the corners, his car was as quick as anyone's and he had a ball.

Colyn Firth

Jack, I had your dilemma a couple of years ago. I found a spare stripped 1500 engine and - fortuitously - a NOS 1500/1600 crankshaft. Dominic had suggested boring out to 1600 (or 1588) and I had it done down your way - Cadnam. The engineering firm found me new 1600 pistons and Mike Rolls MGs put it all together for me.
A good result. 2 years on I need a retune but otherwise very happy.

Thanks Colyn and Shane, I think I'll keep the 1500 engine. Get the work done that Shane had done, I know the guy at Cadnam really well he is a drummer friend of mine, so I'll do that and fit the 5 speed T9 Sierra box, that should make a big difference.
Better start hunting for a T9 box.

Cheers Jack.
Jack New Forest

Fuel Injecting an MG--
Is there anyone out there who is also running with EFI?
We might swap some stories.
Ian Cowen.
Gold Coast.
I.W. Cowen.

Just to add to Colyn's summary for completeness.
There is one relatively minor complication to going for the early 3 brg 1800 and that is the water pump is different. Rather than repeat here if anyone wants to find my input it will be in the archive between Dec 2013 and April 2014, some of it may also be on Barney's site.

Paul Dean

This thread was discussed between 12/07/2016 and 15/07/2016

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This thread is from the archive. The Live MG MGA BBS is active now.