ADS ON TEST: 1958 MG MAGNETTE ZB VARITONE

A heavily patinated Magnette may divide opinion, but what great value for something so evocative, notes Charlie Calderwood

1985 MG Magnette

by Classic Car |

Price £9995

This is a car for those who like their classics as a piece of living history, rather than as immaculate machines. It’s an oily-rag MG in the best tradition, complete with a stack of history including handwritten maintenance notes. Though far from the best, it wants for no major jobs, and unlike immaculately restored examples, is truly unique. This is about becoming part of a story, not just buying a car.

Steering wheel

Initial trouble starting this MG was traced to a dodgy ignition wire reachable just behind the dash. Once underway, the B-Series engine runs well throughout the rev range, though did get lumpy when idling for prolonged periods, requiring a prod on the throttle to settle things down again. The car rides, steers, stops and changes gear exactly as it should, – just don’t change through the ’box too quickly or the synchromesh won’t keep up. There’s a rattle from under the front of the car, but the vendor says this is a loose exhaust bracket that will be rectified prior to sale.

Magnette aficionados will note the sills from a Wolseley 15/50, which are identical except for a larger side skirt. Still, this supports what the history states, that the lower half of the body was restored ten years ago, with all of the dark green paintwork being resprayed at that time. The light-green upper section of the paint is original therefore, and hosts a few very minor blemishes. Most of the brightwork is very good too, but unfortunately the number plate lamp housing has corroded considerably and requires replacement. The tyres are 12 years old so need replacing.

This is an honest and thoroughly patinated interior – but not one for those who like their car perfect. Both doorcards have a number of tears while the front seats – a special order in black – have few rips but are thoroughly worn, with much discolouration, creasing and obvious repair sections on the front lip of both. They are fairly well-padded however, especially the driver’s seat, making them perfectly useable. The dash is similarly worn but not damaged, though the water temperature gauge doesn’t work, so an aftermarket one has been added under the dashboard. The carpets are decent, far better than the seats, though the boot liner is missing. However, charmingly, the original toolkit remains.

The fact this car has never been restored, at least entirely, shows in the engine bay, where there’s a characterful glass washer bottle, and less appealingly, some wiring that looks like it may be as old as the car. The engine wears reasonably fresh paint however, tribute to the mountain of maintenance records that accompany this car – though we were unable to find a receipt for a full engine rebuild. There’s a smattering of oil on the carburettor side of the cylinder block, but not worrying amounts, while the vendor informs us the SU carbs are slightly larger than original, to provide extra performance. There’s no visible corrosion on the surrounding bodywork, though part of the bulkhead appears to have been recently repainted. This is one of four cars for sale tested in the latest issue, part of 16 pages of buying tips and advice, including Quentin Willson’s Hot Tips, Ads on Test and Buying Guide in the latest issue of Classic Cars.

Price £9995 Engine 1489cc four-cylinder, OHV, two SU H4 carburettors Power 68bhp @ 5400rpm Torque 83lb ft @ 3000rpm Top speed 85mph 0-60mph 18.5sec Fuel Consumption 20-35mpg Length 4290mm Width 1600mm

MG engine
Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us