MG produced the MGA Twin Cam for only two years between 1958 and 1960. In that period 2,111 cars were made. 1,788 remained roadsters and 323 of them were turned into coupes, and of that only 95 coupes were sent to North America. MG started to develop the twin cam with a clean sheet of paper in 1953. A 1588cc cast steel block was made with an aluminum twin cam head. The engine developed 108 horsepower and 7000RPM when fitted with high compression pistons.
This was pretty amazing in 1958, when most cars including MGs were rated at about 75 horsepower. The twin cams were also fitted with Dunlop disc brakes and steel wheels with knock off lugs. It’s not hard to understand why the twin cam was so popular when it was first produced. The little car was fast, agile and it stopped when commanded to. However with all its positives, it was not a proper car for the ‘all-rounder’ driver. Twin cams required much more care in daily operation, service and maintenance over its push rod counterpart, which led to serious problems early on and contributed to the marks short production life.
Today the twin cam has a good following. Through the years aftermarket improvements have contributed to a more reliable and enjoyable twin cam engine/car and I believe most twin cam owners drive theirs.
I happen to be one of a small group of aficionados who has acquired a shine for the twin cam. I own a 1959 Roadster (YD3/2249) and a 1959 Coupe (YM3/2057). Both cars have been restored to their ‘near’ original condition. I say near because I did take liberties with the exterior color choice and interior trim color.
I bought my roadster in Milton, Massachusetts in June of 1978. It did not run and it did not have its twin cam engine. I knew very little about British cars at that time and after researching the MGA I realized what I had acquired. Aside from the engine the car was pretty original with 42,692 miles, and luckily the close ratio transmission, 4.55:1 rear axle and competition seats remained. I wasn’t able to do much with the car for the first 10 years but I did have the good sense to keep it while moving around the country from job to job as a young engineer. In 1988 we finally settled down in Morro Bay, California and I started the body-off ground-up restoration. The chassis and all the black pieces were powder coated satin black. I painted the body the original OEW but chose to fit the interior with burgundy leather/vinyl instead of the black interior. I wasn’t able to find an ‘affordable’ twin cam engine at the time so I put the roadster on the road with a very nice 3 main MGB 1800cc engine. However, soon after completing the restoration I found and bought a 1958 pushrod coupe that had a twin cam engine in it. I had the twin cam engine rebuilt, swapped engines and in October of 1997 I was driving a twin cam roadster…’love that twin cam’.
The push rod coupe also became a fun daily driver. I liked the feel of the coupe but loved the performance of the twin cam so in 2000 I started a search for a twin cam coupe. In 2004 I brought home a 1959 twin cam coupe with the original engine and a spare engine. The car was in need of a full restoration, which I started in 2006. I finished the chassis of the coupe the same way I did the roadster, i.e. powder coated everything satin black. The engine is rebuilt to low compression specifications and is fitted it to the original standard transmission and 4.30:1 real axle. The body required extensive metal work to bring it back to original fit and finish. The production information for the coupe indicated that it left the factory painted OEW with red interior coupe. I didn’t want a second OEW car with red interior so I decided to finish the coupe with an Iris Blue exterior and Navy Blue interior.
I truly enjoy driving my twin cams. Both cars are unique in the way they perform and handle. Please feel free to post comments or questions!