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MG MGA - MGA Vs Triumph TR3

The June edition of Classic & Sports Car carries a 9 page comparison of the MGA with the Triumph TR3.

The article puts the cars just about level - both have their niceties and drawbacks. The author just edges the TR3 ahead of the "smoother, more genteel MGA". He did note, however, that the MGA on test did have the 5-speed box, without which it would have faired less favourably. On the plus side the MGA's rack and pinion steering beat the TR's worm and peg hands down. He was also critical of the MGA's seat limited rearward travel.

Steve Gyles

Having spent a lot of time driving both the Triumph TR3 and the MGA it is not a matter of which is "best". They both have their advantages and disadvantages.
The plus for the MGA is the steering, roadholding and free revving engine. The minus is the limited torque and low speed (changing the Diff ratio really does not help because of the limited torque).
The plus for the TR3 is the very good torque and high speed (with overdrive). The minus is the is the poor steering, poor roadholding and the engine that revs like a tractor.
You should always compare the drum brake MGA 1500 with the drum brake TR2 and early TR3. The disc brake MGA 1600 should be compared with the disc brake late TR3 or TR3A. You cannot compare the MGA 1600 MK11 as it was a later car.
Now the mga twin cam, that is a different story. I soon sold my MGA 1500 and bought a Twin Cam. Then I could stay with the TR3A.

M F Anderson


I should have stated that he compared the 1600 with the TR3 that also has front discs.

The TR3 was always my boyhood dream. I actually looked at a barn find TR3B before going for my barn find MGA.

Steve Gyles

I liked the article as it compared the 2 cars I had in mind when I bought my MGA 20 years ago. At the time I was looking for something cheap but solid to run as a rolling restoration. The MGA's I saw where all much more "together" than the TR3's. The body seems a bit better constructed and less prone to de-construct over time!!
If I had bought any of the TR3's I saw it would have been a full restoration job. The MGA has lived now for 20 years as a rolling restoration, recieving new sills, wing repairs etc, and still handles like it should with very few squeeks or rattles.
I would however agree with the review where they mention it is a close run thing?

Neil Purves

Now if it were just down to looks, the MGA has got to be the one. To my eye, the TR3 is an ugly little sod, TRs didn't get anthing like pretty until the TR4A.
Lindsay Sampford

A friend of mine completed, what is arguably, the finest TR3 restoration ever. He won the AACA Nationals on his first attempt. He then immediately sold the car. Said he "hated it". He bought an MGA TC. I was working on an MGA resto while he was doing the TR3. We often compared notes. For cars that were built around the same time,they are remarkably different. The TR3 was way more complicated. The front suspension of the TR has many more parts than the MGA. The steering box is awful. True, the tractor motor has more grunt, but give me, and him, an A every time.

G T Foster

Back in 1969, as newlyweds, my wife and I traveled everywhere with her sister and husband. We had our '62 MGA and they a '59 TR3. In terms of performance the two cars were very closely matched. At higher speeds they could pull away somewhat, but we would do the same on the curvy bits. We once did a side by side race on a street in Brooklyn (where the TR3 lived) and given it was a short street, we were neck and neck the whole way, changing positions only based on shift points.
Ken Doris

Since I worked on lots of both when they were daily drivers, in Pittsburgh which still had cobblestone streets, I can assure you that the MGA was very much the better car. TR was faster, stopped a bit better, but shook, rattled, and fell apart constantly; stopping and backtracking to pick up loose bits really slows down your travel. All TR through TR6 and Spitfire continued the tradition too, while all the MGs post T series were far better for solidity and precision. Any MG even with severe rust was much stiffer than even a brand new TR; for that matter, a well used TD is still stiffer than a late TR6. It's all in the basic construction, and floppy breaks stuff. A handling comparison really illustrates the basic principle that a car structure must be stiff to handle correctly.
We always said the TR was a great racecar kit, but for a road car you want an MG. I had a routine of collecting all the loose bits off the floor of customer TRs and putting them back in place every time one came in; the things really WANTED to be a pile of parts. I always thought that TR was why they invented Loctite! I once had a customer complain of worse than usual rattles on his TR3 and it turned out the entire rear half of the body was no longer attached to the frame.
Oddly, TR3s were always a favourite of some girls - you could tell which girls by the development of their shoulder muscles.

Fletcher R Millmore

I saw a T-shirt once that I rather liked: "I'd rather push an MG than drive a Triumph"...
Mark Lambert

I was discussing the TR3 ( + TRs and Spifires in general) with a car restorer in my area and his opinion was similar to that of FRM's.
He agreed that the engines were generally more powerful {if a little agricultural) but all the Triumphs were built around much more flexible chassis than the MGA and it led to a constant battle with things falling off and coming loose.

I tend to agree with Lindsay in that the TR range started to look much better at the introduction of the TR4.

I was very tempted to buy a TR3 many many years ago and I went as far as taking one for a test run, but fortunately, I had driven a 1600 mkI a few days earlier and it felt much more of a drivers car. It turned in much better and was overall a nicer to drive.

Im so pleased that I changed my mind.

Colyn Firth

I have posed this question to people who currently own both. Yes there are some who like Briticsh in general and not one Marque. I ask because I own the MGA but was introduced to British crs with the TR3 down the street. Always I get the same response. The TR3 is much more powerfull. It will easily pull away from the MGA in the flats. The MGA is much more predictable in the corners, more comfortable on the flats and more fun to drive in general.
Chuck Schaefer

All the MGA needs to pull ahead of the TR3 is the 1800 MGB engine. Of course, then you get into the horsepower wars. My TR8 will easily outrun my 1800 MGA, and is more comfortable too! These kind of comparisons are part of the fun of old sports cars.

k v morton

Ken, the MGB motor won't make an MGA pull ahead of a TR-3 any more than it will accomplish that job on an MGB.

The TR engine is very torquey and is faster than any but the MGA Twin Cam or the MGC and MGB GT V8.

But they are a handful to drive fast. I have owned many of them and more MGAs, often at the same time, and if I could only have one it would be an MGA.

The TR is not as well made and has shortcomings compared to the MG in many areas, but it is a gutsy fun car on a sunny day.
Bill Spohn

I test drove a TR4 before buying my first MGA, even that seemed pretty agricultural in comparison! Having worked on both, I would say the MGs are better "finished" than the Triumphs, very true right up to Spitfire and GT6 compared to MGB. It's almost as if the Triumph was introduced into production before the designers had really finished. Panel gaps are the most obvious example to me. I think the Triumphs were definitely more of a "lads" car though.
Neil McGurk

Back in the '60s, I found my 1600 almost an even match for a couple of TR3s in impromptu drag races. I'd be surprised if the 1800 wouldn't make a difference, but I haven't been challenged to race in recent decades. 44 years on, I don't have any regrets about buying an A, though I wouldn't mind having a TR3 as well. Or an MGBV8 - it's hard to beat that little Buick/Rover V8 for torque.


k v morton

The other Ken and I had the same experience in impromptu drag races - very close between the 1600 MkII and the TR3. Just did a bit of research on (a great car site) and found the 0-60 times of the two were almost identical, with the TR3 having a slight edge. More good info and full specs of the cars can be found here:


- Ken
Ken Doris

I just had a 1588 in my first A. Looking strictly at the power and weight of the MGA and the TR3, it seems the TR should had a huge advantage. Maybe we were just better drivers!

k v morton

Driving to the Highland Games with our trusty Mk II Roadster with standard 1622 motor and original 4- speed gearbox we had no problems to follow our friends in theit TR 2, esp. on the twisty roads in the Taunus mountains (up to 880 m altitude) thanks to the excellent handling still with the original lever dampers! We had no chance on the Autobahn esp. when overtaking other cars, ther you can feel the absence of 400 cc capacity. 17 years ago, before buying the A in London, I had the chance to test-drive a TR 4 (my favourite car those days), afterward I asked the car dealer if there were problems with the doors and front wings as they "moved" during accelerating and braking. He said that this is normal for a (26.000 Deutsche Mark) Triumph?! The decision for the MG was now very easy!
D. Krahn

An MGA should never have any problem keeping up with a Triumph over a road with a lot of corners!

The MGA 1600 Mk 2 gets you a 0-60 of 12.5 - 130 seconds and a 1/4 of up around 20 seconds.

A 1991 cc TR-3 will show a 0-60 of about 1 second better and a 1/4 of about 2 seconds faster.

If you could come anywhere near a good TR in a drag race, he was sick or not trying.

Many MGAs have MGB engines today. Many/most TR-3 have the 2138 cc engine (or larger) in them. That makes much more difference than the MGB swap does for the MGA (inless the MGA started from a 1500).

Believe me, the differences in performance is not small, despite any long ago memories you might have of tromping TRs with an MGA.

I've had a dozen or two of each model and am well acquainted with the strengths and shortcomings of each.

Having said all that, there is a reason I own 3 MGAs and no TR-3s today!
Bill Spohn

Well this is an MG web site so the comparison is as expected. I've restored many Triumphs years past and there is an affinity for these cars to resort to a more basic dissembled form. I love the low slung doors! My vote goes to the A. For me its a more precise drive.

mark lanctot

0-60 and quarter mile times from contemporary road tests

TR3 coupe (1956)
10.8, 18.1

MGA 1500 (1955)
15.6, 20.2

MGA 1600 (1959)
14.2, 19.3

9.1, 18.1
Geoff Everitt

This thread was discussed between 27/05/2010 and 12/06/2010

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