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MG MGA - VIN number HELP!!!


I just bought a 59 MGA Coupe in Monterey. It has turned into quite the mystery...

Vin: HDR43/57801
but body number is B19986
engine is 16GA-U 19201

So was this a 1500 converted? But the body number is a 1600 body number!

Can anyone shed some light on what I just bought?

Eric Breslow

G = Roadster
R = Old English White
4 = LHD, North American Export
3 = Cellulose (laquer) paint

57801 = chassis number for MGA 1500 model, production ~Oct/Nov 1958

Since your car is a Coupe, first guess is someone did a "creative restoration" by swapping the Car No. tag. Second guess might be a body swap. There were some errors on tag stamping fairly early in production, but less likely by 1958.

With your Car No. You could order up a Heritage certificate showing original configuration of the car and production date. It would most likely reveal the original bearer of that car number to be a roadster.

The other clue, if you are lucky enough to find it, is the chassis number which would be stamped on top of the frame cross member near the hand brake lever. If this number happens to match the number on your Car No. plate, then the frame goes with the Car No. tag and you may have a body transplant.

If the chassis number does not match the Car No. tag, then you likely have a tag transplant. In that case you could order up a Heritage certificate for the chassis number, which would likely reveal the car to be originally a Coupe, more or less verifying that you have the wrong Car No. tag attached to your car.

A body transplant would be a legitimate repair procedure. Even a frame transplant could be a legitimate repair procedure. A tag transplant is never legitimate, but a creative restoration might get around that issue, doing both frame and body transplant at the same time. Read about titles and tags and "creative restoration" here:
Barney Gaylord

But still I wouldn't mention it during the registration inspection.
DJ Lake

Eric, what Barney says is logical, but there is another possiblity that I have run across in the past. Some MGAs where titled with their date of sale rather than the date they left the factory. Since your number speaks of a late '58 build date. A '59 sales date is very possible. You say that the body number is a '60. I have never found any relation between the body number and the chassis number but maybe you have a source that I don't. As Barney says your best bet is to try and match the number plate to the chassis. So many of the parts of these cars have been mixed and matched over the years any combination is possible.
Keith Lowman

If you can't find the frame number, check the position of the brackets that hold the front brake lines. These brackets are in a different location on 1500 chassis (drum brakes) vs 1600 chassis (disc brakes). I have a "1600" with a 1500 frame. The body number does cross to a 1600. None of the numbers match whats on the ID plate. The previous owner had the car for 20 years and said it was like that when he got it.
G T Foster

Thanks everyone for the help...

So the cross member in front of the e-brake does NOT have any markings. It's so strange. The front and rear lights are 1600. It's got disc brakes. It is a 1600. But that VIN is obviously NOT original to the car.

Does the body number "B19986" really mean nothing?

Im trying to order my heritage certificate but dont want to waste the money on a 1500 certificate if its not the correct one!

Thanks again
Eric Breslow

Body number does not usually have a letter at the front. Are you sure it is a "B"? Could be an "8" or a "3". These are notoriously difficult to read.
NAMGAR has an article that tries to relate body and chassis numbers and engine numbers to date of manufacture, and they may be able to assist you ( They would also know if this car has been registered with them in the past.
In your chassis number, the second letter is "D", and this points to a two seater (Roadster or Coupe), not G and roadster as accidently stated by Barney above. Do you have evidence that it was originally Old English White in colour as the 3rd letter "R" indicates this? (under the dash, or under the rear light plinths?)
The engine number is for an MG 1600cc, and this should be cast into the engine block.
Good luck, Peter.
P. Tilbury

Your VIN indicates a 1500. H= MG; D= 2 seater (my roadster is a "D" and is listed as such by BMHT. Don't know about a 1500 coupe); R=White; 4= North America 3=Cellulose paint.

If the VIN was for a 1600, the number style had changed and would start with something like GHDL (G = MG; H= 1400-1999cc engine; D= Coupe; L= left hand drive). My old 1600 coupe was GHDL******.

I pretty sure that the body number for the 1600 coupe I had, started with a "B". In fact, Clausager says that the 1600's had body numbers that started with the letter "B".

As GT has said, the easy way to find out if the frame e is a 1500 or 1600. The following photo is of my 1500 roadster. Note the location of the brakeline tab.

Chuck Schaefer

Here is a photo of the 1600 frame. note the subtle difference in the location of the brakeline tab. This car had drum front brakes so don't let that confuse you.

Chuck Schaefer

Sorry Eric and Peter, -- My "G" should have indeed been a "D" (fat fingered the keyboard). In the 1500 Car No. "D does mean Roadster where "M" would be for Coupe. On a 1600 "N" would be Roadster and "D would be Coupe (go figure).

The Car No. is a 1500 model, and the Engine No. is a 1600 type, so that is an obvious mismatch. Is there an engine number stamped on the Car No. plate? If so, this has obviously been re-stamped incorrectly. The factory stopped stamping the engine number on the Car No. plate in late 1500 production, so no 1600 type engine number was ever stamped on that plate.

Body numbers starting with "B" (101 to 40600) were used on the 1600 model cars. B19986 would be about 19886 cars into 1600 model production, placing it near chassis 88736 (plus of minus a couple hundred), making it around March 1960 production.

Heritage certificates are indexed by Car No. or chassis number. Body numbers were not recorded in original factory records, so that won't do anything for the search. Your only hope for ordering a Heritage certificate is if you can find the chassis number on the frame. Go look again, and good luck, as it is often long since eradicated. If you get lucky it should look about like this:

Barney Gaylord

Wasn't there also a subtle difference in the engine bay for 1500s and 1600s in the inner body wing area where the SUs were sited? Something about the shape of the panel pressings...
Mark Mathiesen

Clausager (Original MGA) says the dimple shapes were changed on the LH inner fender and added to the RH inner fender to accommodate the Twincam installation. RH side for the TC air filters and LH for the TC heater fresh air hose. So I would presume that this took place around Apr of '58. If so, that would still be in the 1500 production run.

Chuck Schaefer

Thank you Chuck for the photos.

My brakeline tabs are higher on the control arm as in the photo you say is a 1500 frame.

So if were taking an educated guess someone restored this MGA using a 1500 frame but a 1600 body and built the car to full 1600 spec? My tail lights and front lights are for sure a 1600.

So I guess having a Heritage Cert for a frame that was a 1500 but a car that was converted does me no good? It's such a nice restoration. Makes no sense why someone would go to all this trouble and expense for a not correct car... I dont get it!

Thank you all for your help
Eric Breslow

Many years ago, actually the mid 1970s, I watched a neighbour slowly convert three decidedly un-roadworthy MGAs into a driveable vehicle. I have no idea which identity he chose to go on the completed vehicle. If that car still exists it will be causing someone some interesting head scratchings.

Something similar may have happened to your car with a collection of the best bits coming together.

Remember, the current fixation with originality is quite a recent phenomenon and in a few years time owners could well be cursing people who removed evidence of a car's possibly colourful early life.
Malcolm Asquith

OK, it sounds as if your VIN may be valid. don't sweat the serial number vs the year registered. Truth be told, my car was built in '56 and is titled as a '59.

In the case of cars with a separate chassis (not unibody) It is usual that the chassis is the "proper" holder of a VIN. Replace everything around it and it is still legally and logically the same "car". There are many MGA's out there that stretch this quite a bit. Even some that have no factory number at all. A state can assign a VIN to it even if the ID tag was "lost".

In your case, it may be that the chassis is correct for the VIN and the body, engine and front brakes swapped out. Many 1500 cars change to the 1600 or MGB disk brakes. Also they "upgrade" to the larger engines including the MGB 1800. Not too many feel these modifications hurt the value of the car at all.

Barney, I have a question: As you pointed out, the 1500 roadster has a "D" in the second position. This is confirmed by my car. But you state that the 1500 Coupe would have an "M". My factory service manual shows no assignement for the letter "M". May I ask where you read this?
Chuck Schaefer

Both my first and current 58 coupes are HMT43******. The info sheet in Moss catalog is a source for VIN # translation also.
It sounds like someone slapped a 1500 roadster VIN# and accompanying Title to a 1600 coupe. Slightly more "creative" than usual.
Try to find the number where pictured by Barney on the frame rail in front of the right seat. If you can determine the original # you can "correct" the title.
I own a 58 roadster that came completely disassembled and without a title. After replacing the bent frame I applied for and received a title showing the numbers on the original VIN plate.
Here in Colorado you can get a title through a bonding procedure.
R J Brown

Format of the Car No. for various models of MGA is here:

There is another exception to the body numbering scheme. A few thousand MGA 1500 from early 1958 started over numbering at (presumably) 101. A few months later when the 1600 model began production the body numbers started over again with B101.

Difference in bodies between 1500 and 1600 is essentially the mountings for the corner lights on the fenders, and a few small holes for installing the "1600" tags on front cowling and boot lid. Difference in the frame is perhaps only the location of the front brake hose mounting tab.

Speculation is that some 1600 type parts were not available in time for the planned production start date, so they continued to make the 1500 model for a few more months. This is around January to April 1959, coinciding closely with time of introduction of the later style wheels and the high starter gearbox (and bump on the tunnel). Perhaps the main body shells were already being numbered with the new sequence starting with 101 in January 1959. Then when the 1600 model was introduced for real a few months later body numbering was started again at 101 with the "B" prefix for all 1600 cars.
Barney Gaylord

RJ and Barney, Thanks.

Funny that the Workshop Manual I have doesn't mention the "M". I have now written it in in pencil.


Chuck Schaefer

Like Chuck, my original workshop manual AKD600C issue 5, on page General Information 9, makes no reference to the second letter being an M for a coupe. However, my '58 coupe (1500) has chassis number HMT43/53731 so the M is there. The body number is 54885, so about 1,150 ahead of the chassis number.
For 1600 models, this same workshop manual shows on pages GI 12 and 13 that a 1600 MGA Coupe would have chassis number GHD, with an L added to indicate left hand drive.
P. Tilbury

This thread was discussed between 20/08/2009 and 25/08/2009

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