Amid today's great surfeit of automotive choice is a cruel irony: Cars are more alike than they've ever been, and our parking lots are melting pots of badge-engineered, generically styled sedan-SUV-sports car-crossover minivans. What happened to the characterful if unpredictable sports cars our dads were always swearing at in the garage? A lot of things, but mostly safety and reliability, features that certainly made cars better but also far, far less interesting.
Safety meant bigger, dumpier bodies. Reliability severed the bonds that tied men to their mechanics – those countless hours of Sisyphean wrench work. But buying investment-grade sports cars from the past can solve all that. They're appreciating assets that recapture the visceral motoring experience. If you're sick of driving roadsters that feel and sound like video games, sick of cars you can turn off and walk away from unaffected by the experience, read on.
The MGA served as the bridge from the cycle-fendered, old-time T-series MGs to the cute, bobtailed MGB owned and operated by everyone's stoner uncle. The MGA, however, was no mere placeholder – it was a streamlined and serious sports racer, versions of which competed in the Le Mans 24-hour race, thereby establishing MG as a maker of lightweight, inexpensive and yet credible and fun sports cars. Talk to any dedicated MG-head, and when they're not regaling you with talk of thrown pistons, grenaded carburetors, and fine mustache waxes, they'll tell you that the real and meaningful MG bloodline stopped with this car.
MG sold more than 100,000 A's, but only a small fraction of them stayed in Britain. Huge numbers of these cars made it to the United States, so spares and support are plentiful here, meaning there will always be someone to fix or buy yours when you're ready to move up. The MGA got progressively bigger engines as it aged, including a twin-cam four-cylinder that was notoriously cranky, but now attracts stupid money at auctions. Our advice: Find a 1,600cc car, park the little woman in the passenger's seat, and let the low-slung nose sniff out a winding road.
What to watch out for: These are relatively simple affairs, and their suspensions and engines are strong. Engine accessories, like the fuel pump, go south with monotonous regularity, but all they usually need to get right again is a rap from a rubber mallet. As always, check vigilantly for rust.
Resources: MG Sports Cars, by John Heilig; North American MGA Register
Credit: National Motor Museum / Getty Images