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MG Magnette
MG Magnette ZB of 1958 - WLJ 203 at Kettering 08 - IMG 1741.jpg
1958 MG Magnette ZB
Manufacturer MG Cars
Parent company British Motor Corporation
Production 1953-1968
Predecessor MG YB
Successor MG Montego
Class Mid-size
Body style(s) 4-door saloon
Layout FR layout

The automobile manufacturer MG used the Magnette name on the K-type and N-type cars in the 1930s, but the Magnette models of the 1950s and 1960s are probably best-remembered. Although loved today, the use of the Magnette name on an MG saloon car with a lowered Wolseley body and an Austin engine brought protest from motor magazine letter writers.

There were two distinct series of these Magnettes: The ZA and ZB of 1953 through to 1958 and the Mark III and Mark IV of 1959 through to 1968.

Magnette ZA

MG Magnette ZA
MG ZA Magnette
Production 1953-1956
Engine(s) 1.5 L B-Series I4
Transmission(s) 4-speed manual
Wheelbase 2,591 mm (102.0 in)[2]
Length 4,267 mm (168.0 in)[1]
Width 1,600 mm (63.0 in)[2]
Height 58 in (1473 mm)[3]
Fuel capacity 9 Gallon (imp)[4]

The Magnette ZA was launched in 1953 at the London Motor Show and deliveries started in March 1954. Production continued until 1956. It was the first monocoque car to bear the MG badge.[5]

The Magnette was designed by Gerald Palmer who made his name with the Jowett Javelin, and featured modern Italian inspired styling. Power came from the then new four cylinder 1.5 L (1489 cc) B-Series I4 engine with twin 1¼ inch SU carburettors delivering 60 bhp,[3] driving the rear wheels through a four speed manual gearbox with synchromesh on the top three ratios.

Suspension was independent at the front using coil springs and had a live axle with half elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The steering was by rack and pinion. Hydraulically operated Lockheed 10 inch drum brakes were fitted to front and rear wheels.

The car had individual front seats and a rear bench trimmed in leather and the dashboard and door cappings were in polished wood. The heater was standard but the radio still an optional extra. Standard colours were black, maroon, green, and grey.

The similar Wolseley 4/44, first sold one year earlier, used the 1250 cc engine from the MG TF. Although visually similar, the MG has lower suspension and only the front doors, boot lid and roof panels are shared. [5]The 4/44 was replaced in 1956 by the 15/50.

In 1955 The Motor magazine tested a Magnette and recorded a top speed of 79.7 mph (128.3 km/h) acceleration from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 23.1 seconds and a fuel consumption of 24.9 miles per imperial gallon (11.3 L/100 km/20.7 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £914 including taxes. [3]

Magnette ZB

MG Magnette ZB
MG Magnette Saloon 1958.jpg
MG ZB Magnette Varitone 1958
Production 1956-1958
Engine(s) 1.5 L BMC B-Series I4

The ZA was replaced by the Magnette ZB in 1956. Power was increased to 64 hp (48 kW) by fitting 1½ inch carburettors, increasing the compression ratio from 7.5 to 8.3[2] and modifying the manifolding[5], and a semi-automatic transmission was an option.

The interior was improved by fitting a wood dashboard and there was also a Varitone model with larger rear window and optional two tone paintwork.

The extra power meant the top speed was now 86 mph (138 km/h) and the 0-60 mph time came down to 18.5 seconds.[1]

The similar Wolseley 15/50 now shared the ZB's B-Series engine.

Magnette Mark III

Further information: BMC Farina models
MG Magnette Mark III
MG Magnette MkIII 1960.jpg
Production 1959-1961
Engine(s) 1.5 L B-Series I4
Wheelbase 2,521 mm (99.3 in)[2]
Length 4,521 mm (178.0 in)[1]
Width 1,613 mm (63.5 in)[2]
Related Morris Oxford V
Riley 4/68
Austin A55 Cambridge
Wolseley 15/60
Siam di Tella

The Mark III of 1959 drew mixed reviews. US based publications heralded the Magnette's arrival, while the UK publications tended towards "damning with faint praise". It was nearly identical to the Riley version (the 4/68) of the new Pinin Farina-designed midsize BMC saloon line.

All versions (including the Austin A55 Cambridge Mark II, Morris Oxford series V and Wolseley 15/60) were produced by the British Motor Corporation (BMC).

The car featured BMC's 1489 cc B type engine, but in the MG Magnette III (and it's Riley sibling) performance was enhanced by fitting twin S.U. H.D.4 carburetters.[6]

The experience from the driver's seat was enhanced by the walnut veneer facia panel and door cappings as well as by the leather upholstery, and presumably by the safety glass windows.[6]

A Mark III was tested by The Motor magazine in 1959. They recorded a top speed of 85.5 mph (137.6 km/h), acceleration from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 19.7 seconds and a fuel consumption of 31.4 miles per imperial gallon (9.00 L/100 km/26.1 mpg-US). The test car cost £1012 including taxes. [7]

Magnette Mark IV

MG Magnette Mark IV
MG Magnette Mk IV ca 1966.jpg
Production 1961-1969
Engine(s) 1.6 L B-Series I4
Wheelbase 2,546 mm (100.2 in)[2]
Related Morris Oxford VI
Riley 4/72
Austin A60 Cambridge
Wolseley 16/60

The Mark III was updated in 1961 as the Mark IV. A larger 1.6 L (1622 cc) B-Series engine, with capacity increased by increasing the bore to 76.2 mm, was fitted, and the car had a longer wheelbase and wider track. To improve handling anti-roll bars were fitted front and rear. Outside, the Mark IV was almost identical to the Mark III.

Automatic transmission was offered as an option.

The model continued to be listed through till May 1968 when the manufacturers announced that production had ceased with "no immediate replacement ... contemplated".[8]


A few of these cars appear at Classic vehicle shows and vintage events in the UK.

Please list any known examples below and create a linked page for details by Registration Numbers

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Robson, Graham (2006). A-Z British Cars 1945-1980. Devon, UK: Herridge & Sons. ISBN 0-9541063-9-3. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Culshaw; Horrobin (1974). Complete Catalogue of British Cars. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-16689-2. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "The M.G. Magnette", The Motor. January 5 1955. 
  4. "Second Hand car guide supplement", Practical Motorist vol 6 Nbr 68: between pages 768 & 769. date April 1960. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Safety Fast" MG Car Club. September 2007
  6. 6.0 6.1 "News summary", Practical Motorist and Motor Cyclist vol 5 (nbr 58): page 943. date April 1959. 
  7. "The M.G. Magnette Mark III", The Motor. June 3 1959. 
  8. "News and views: Out of production", Autocar vol 128 nbr 3770: page 61. 16 May 1968. 

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