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MG MGA - engine type

I just purchased a 59 mga that the owner says is a 59, but titles as a 1960. The chassis number confirms this with serial # GHNL71931 as a 1960 car. The body is definitely a 1959. My concern is the engine serial # 15rb4u2635, which is a riley 1.5 saloon mark II engine number.
The seller says this was a common practice as BMC did a lot of consolidating of parts and insists the engine is original, although it does have an inverted oil filter, which he says is the way the car came. Anyone have any insights?
rjb babylon

That chassis number would put that car around July 1959. The engine number would seem to be for a 1500 engine. It is not a serial I immediately recognise.

Steve Gyles

Incidentally, your car is a 1600 so it would not have come out of the factory with a 1500 engine.

Steve Gyles

BMC did not designate cars by model year, only by model, 1500, 1600 or Mk2. U.S. registration required a year to be stated and dealers generally registered it as the year it was sold or imported, but that is not an official BMC model year.

The engine does seem to be a Riley 1.5 unit.

What makes you say the body is a 1959?
John DeWolf

The chassis number indicates 1959 and it's probably a Riley motor. I'll bet the company never "did a lot of consolidating of parts" to that extent! DPO??


BM Gannon

The factory would never have put in a Riley engine as it's power output was significantly less (around 20%) than the 1600. Output is even less than the 1500 engine. The big factory selling feature of the 1600 was the extra power. 'You can accelerate the MGA 1600 to 100 mph. You can cruise all day at 80mph'................Not with a Riley engine you couldn't!.................................Mike
m.j. moore

Thanks for the input. The body lights are definitely 1959 style both front and rear. That is the only evidence I have right now. Now I am getting nervous about this purchase. My last MG was a 1953 TD and it had matching numbers confirmed by the Heritage Trust.
I've already paid for the car and think I am stuck. Bummer.

rjb babylon

Can't go by 1959 body style anyway. Mine is approx 1900 cars older than yours built in June of 59.It's titled as a 59, a 1600 with 1600 engine and disc brakes and approximately 1100 cars after the start of 1600 production. Can you get your money back due to misrepresentation?
gary starr

RJB, It might be worth checking if the chassis number on the right hand frame cross member in the foot well is still legible to see if it agrees with the GHNL number..............Mike
m.j. moore


I am probably being dumb by querying your "..1959 body style..." but 1500s and 1600s were both made in that year, the changeover occurring in May. Your rear lights are certainly of the 1500 style. I assume you are saying the front lights are the domed white style, rather than the combined orange and white flat lens? You presumably also have the 1500 wiring loom and the brake/flasher relay box mounted on the firewall next to the flasher unit? If so, it is looking like you may have a 1500 body on perhaps a 1600 chassis. Mike's check will confirm this, if the numbers are still legible. A car that in the UK we would call a Bitza - bits of this and bits of that.

There is also a rough relationship between the Body number and the Chassis number, although it can get quite complicated. However, if you can tell us the body number we may be able to provide you with some more information. For example for your 1600 chassis number the body number should be in the range 2000 to 7999. The body number can be found on the vertical plaque on the firewall as shown in my photo.


Steve Gyles

Definitely check the chassis number on the cross member as this will be correct if you can read it. Having just read about this number in 'Call it MGA' I uncovered mine OK earlier this week. Even if you can only read some of the digits that could be useful. Do you know where this is?

Paul Dean

Thanks again for the info. This is a wonderful site and everyone's input is appreciated. I don't have the car in my yard yet, the interior is being redone now. I have decided to live with it and just enjoy the MG experience again.
rjb babylon

This thread was discussed between 10/08/2015 and 12/08/2015

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