Despite its pre-war appearance, the MG TD of 1950 was a fairly advanced sports car featuring independent front suspension with coil springs, rack-and-pinion steering and a 1250cc OHV engine good for 57 horses at 5500rpm. It was the ideal base with which to do some brand building and extend the pedigree built by the pre-war MG competition cars. The 1951 Le Mans 24 Hour became the focus and a more contemporary and streamlined body found its way onto a TD. This car was given project designation ‘EX176’ and proved so inspiring that a new chassis design was formulated for a future production car to replace the rapidly dating MG TF (essentially a facelifted TD).
The new chassis saw the cockpit floor attached to the bottom of the chassis rails instead of on top as in the TF, which meant a lower seating position for better centre of gravity and streamlining. Pundits said the new prototype was as good looking as the Austin-Healey 100/4. With MG TF sales bombing in 1953, something had to be done and a push was made for a new MG. Enter the MG A, with not only some Austin-like aesthetics but also the 1498cc Austin B series inline four-cylinder engine, which with SU H4 carburettors delivered 68hp. It proved a hit both on the domestic market and in the ever-important American market.
South Africa wasn’t left behind either, with the pretty sports car assembled from CKD (Complete Knock Down) kit at Motor Assemblies in Durban. Early in 1959 the MG A underwent a bit of an upgrade with a 1588cc (1600) hitting the roads with 79.5hp. Stopping was also given some attention with disc brakes now fitted at the front. The 1600 looked similar to the 1500 with the only real clues to its extra oomph being front turn indicators lenses shared with white parking lights, separate stop/tail and indicators in the rear, and ‘1600’ badging on the boot and the cowl. A 1600 roadster was tested by The Motor in 1959. It reached a top speed of 96.1mph (154.7km/h) and did the 0-60mph (97km/h) sprint in 13.3 seconds.
Worldwide production of the 1600 topped out at 31 501 units in just under three years.