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MG MGA - Fitting a Roll Bar/Cockpit Extension

Fitting a Rollbar -- MGA

As previously mentioned this car was involved in a horrific accident and written off by the insurers as a total wreck. So, after I bought it from the PO, 38 years ago, I set about restoring it with a licence to severely modify - or not.

As I worked to restore the body I decided to remove the tonneau panel and provide a parcel space behind the two front seats. I simply cut the panel with a hacksaw and tin snips, turned a return-edge into the cockpit with a hammer and dolly and finished it off to be painted. This later facilitated the fitting of the rollbar. As you can see from the photos I followed the line of the long tonneau and the hood mounting studs.

Some years later, when a 40ft. container nearly crashed off a truck onto me in the car, I decided a rollbar was the best safety option.

I had the bar rolled from heavy steampipe, cut and shaped the straight angle struts so they could be welded to the bar upright sections and welded flat bars to the bottom ends. I fabricated angle cleats, made from stock angle bar, and welded these to the chassis (in the fashion of the Mk11 seatbelt mountings). (I was a welding instructor in a former life). The two are bolted together with high tensile bolts so the complete rollbar can be removed if necessary. The cross bar is fully welded both ends.

The top mounting for lap sash belts are attached to lugs welded to the rollbar (see photo).

I fitted an LED stoplight by cutting a slot into the bar, glued the light in place with silicone, pushed a wire up through the pipe via a small hole drilled into the pipe at its bottom edge, and connected into the rear stoplight circuit. This high level light is better seen by following vehicles – and therefore safer.

The soft hood fits over the rollbar so the rollbar most probably will not comply with ‘competition’ height safety rules but I figure it is safer than nothing!
In order to get the maximum height, I fitted the fibreglass hood in place, pushed the rollbar up until it just lightly touched, then cut and welded. It is a tight fit under each of the two hoods.

I have modified the hood mounting to allow the soft hood to be fitted quickly and with minimum fuss. It cannot be carried in the car in the folded position as this space is now taken by the rollbar.
I store the soft hood in my garage and fit it as necessary. This requires a degree of planning as, if you think it may rain, then you fit the hood before leaving on a trip, or get wet. I usually find it is the latter!

The mounting brackets are from MGB and screwed to the body, the MGA hood frame brackets have been detached from the body and simply cut with a hacksaw so they slide easily into the bracket (see photo). The hood is a quick and easy fit.

More details -- just ask.


BM Gannon

I have had a few interesting discussions about the problems involved in extending the cockpit area something like you have done to your car Barry but
not for the same reasons.
If I was brave enough I would do the same to my MGA but I would also cut out the chassis tube behind the rear cockpit plywood panel and move it backwards a few inches so that I could move back the seat by the same distance.
I dont know if anyone has ever done this but I can almost feel the sheer pleasure of driving with my legs stretched out instead of bent double and cramped after a couple of hours.
One of my dreams was to drive from Yorkshire and take a few days to drive down to the Costa Blanca in Spain. But after a couple of 200 mile drives I began to wonder if it may be more enjoyable to take the car ferry down to Santander in N Spain and then take a few days to meander down south on the Nationale roads instead of the motorways.
Can you post a picture of the car that lets us see how the car looks with the cockpit extension Barry, I would be really interested to see it.
PS It may be easier just to have my legs shortened!

Colyn Firth


I am 6' 3" tall and have looked into revising the back board I believe Bob West has done a bit of a job where he cut the board and inserted a curved metal back to the cross rail it gains about 1 1/2". Me not wanting to put in non standarded bucket seats I have inproved the driving position buy making what is effectively a metal tray that drops in between the chassis rails and lowers the seat a couple of inches I realy makes me feel that I am in the car rather than purched on top and get the head out of the wind a bit more. It also gave me room to make hight adjusting seat rails so my wife could drive it if she whishes

David swaine

Colyn, Photo as you requested. I would not advocate cutting up a perfectly good MGA, but this one was so badly damaged, and designated "never to be repaired", I figured just getting it back on the road in any form was worthwhile.

BM Gannon

And another.

BM Gannon

Sorry, I don't have a photo. Back in 1967, I cut the tonneau panel out of my MGA and covered the cut edge by some heavy duty channel rubber. I was able to carry two small children back there for six months, the 'A' being the only car I had at the time.
In the first restoration in 1980, I made a new tonneau panel and ritted/soldered it in. Its edge is finished by a piece of Electo-Mechanical Tubing (EMT) and a vinyl strip. I made the cockpit about 60 mm longer than stock, which allows the seat back to be tipped back a bit farther.
The seat is tipped by tapered wood strips under the tracks.
My roll-over bar was bent up from steel high pressure steam pipe, but the supports were bolted to the chassis, using one of the damper bolts, supplemented by others.
Unfortunately, it won't fit under the hardtop I now use exclusively and so has had to be removed.
Now that the car is essentially used as a fixed head coupe, I wish I'd left the new tonneau panel off. The 'back seat' is a great storage area--no folded hood, no sidescreen pockets (they're carried in the boot), etc.
Fraser Cooper

Colin, I've also looked at that possibility as I'm 6'4" and feel a bit tight in the A cockpit. As my car is one that was much like Barry's and beyond restoration I don't feel any constraints about modifying the body or chassis, but I can't figure out how to get the seat back and still keep the chassis strong enough. Cutting the tonneau area back really alters the profile of the car as well and in my opinion makes it look a bit sleeker with less mass at the rear.

Bill Young

Thanks for the pictures Barry, I think your car looks fantastic with the tonneau panel cut back. It just looks kind of "right"

I agree with Bill that it makes the rear bodywork look a lot sleeker.

If there had been a "Mid-Life Update on the body design of the MGA, I'm sure this is what MG would have done. I think it makes the cars design look quite a few years younger.

Barry, where did you say you went to get a container to fall on your car?!!

(Only joking)

I am going to add a new section to the "To Do List" on my garage wall. As well as the "Urgent" section and the "Eventually" section there now is also going to be an " Would love to but just don't Dare" section!

Thanks again


Colyn Firth

It could also be a mod for my car at the next rebuild. My car was rolled while racing in California back in the 60s (driver killed so I was told - should have had a roll bar!?). I had a lot of damage to that area and also the scuttle. I should have put in repair panels during the rebuild but I did not have the skill and confidence at the time, so it was a filler job which I now regret. Next time I will do my rebuild when Barry is over here - he is good, or should I say brilliant with the welder! He mended my Mig for me when he fitted seat belt anchors. Seems I had wrong bits fitted which caused the wire to jam.

Steve Gyles

Thanks Barry, for this info - certainly food for thought!

Could you post some more photos of the hood in situ?

Also I really like your idea of high level brake light and would like to do the same with turn signal indicators. But can I pluck the courage to cut the tonneau?

Do you think it is possible to create a roll bar which allows the hood to remain in place? I have one currently (purchased of of ebay) which almost does (about 1/2" too tight - see pic), but only bolts to wheel arch and tonneau - which does not fill me with confidence and also means holing the tonneau.


Chris Bond

Steve, For a small consideration, air fares and accommodation, it could be arranged! Maybe you should migrate! With the car!

Chris, Photos will take a few days - we are away this weekend. I also considered the high level turn indicators but decided against the car looking like a truck! The stop light is very effective.

Dont cut the tonneau panel just yet as I recollect we have a rollbar in our local club which is fitted without cutting. I think it also fits under the hood. I will track it down and report.

I would not use the bar you show in your post. In a serious roll over it would just crush the wheel arch and the tonneau panel and your head! The bar I made is from 50mm. (2") steam pipe and is attached to the top side of the chassis. I figured that any load applied to the bar would be transmitted directly to the frame.

BM Gannon

Barry, interesting conversion. This is exactly what was done to mine and 2 other MGAs up here in Brisbane by the Tulip Racing team back in the mid 60s. Unfortunately only mine now exists as one of the others was restored and the other written off at Lakeside and sent to the tip!! Can send you a photo of my car's old body with this mod if you like
Mark Mathiesen

Barry, great looking conversion. I am currently restoring a MGA coupe (for race use) and have lowered the drivers aft floor approximiatly 25mm and will use aluminium floors gaining another 10mm. I am 6'3" and to fit in the coupe with full cage this was the only option. reasonably easy but a lot of work and thought.
Best regards
B Jackson

Mark, Please email the photo and post it here - others will be interested as well. Thanks.

Bruce, I reckon getting your backside lower will help - but watch out for rough ground, these cars are built low!!

BM Gannon

Barry, here is my old body with its modified rear cockpit (and yes those are electric windows). Just remember when this was done you found MGAs with all sorts of mods. This one had too many to mention (or restore to original)

Mark Mathiesen

Mark, Thanks for the photo - is it from the '60s? Love the air vents and the tractor wheels! Great fun.
Is the car still rolling?
BM Gannon

Hi Barry, well it is actually undergoing a full rebuild right now. As I mentioned it is an old racing car I have had for over 35 years now. The mods were all approved pre current transport regulations in early 1980 so I had no issue registering it back then and as the laws are not retrospective it is allowed to stay registered. Those "tractor wheels" are in fact 15x7 inch hotwires worth about $500 each (at least that is what I have a guy from the Datsun Z car club trying to buy them off me for). The engine is a fully worked 4 litre Rover V8 with dual plane manifold and 4 barrel (hence the air vents for the V8 extractors) mated to a 5 speed and the car runs mga twin cam disc brakes and a full 1967 MGB front end. Due to the deterioration of the fiberglass body athat you see in the picture (image from early 1970s) I am in the process of making all new panels from the original fiberglass ones but will alter the nose slightly as I get sick of beiing asked if its a Cobra. Fortunately I have most of the body molds in storage. By the way, the floor rails are level with the bottom of the chassis making seating a lot lower and further back than standard.
Mark Mathiesen

This thread was discussed between 04/02/2010 and 11/02/2010

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