The MG Magnette Z Series

The MG Magnette ZA was produced from 1953 to 1956 with a total of 18,076 made. The ZB was in production from 1956 to 1958 with their total reaching 18,524.

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When series production began, the Magnette was quite unlike other MG’s of the time, cars that looked as though the clock had been turned back to the 1930’s. By contrast, it was thoroughly modern in appearance, artfully combining Italian design themes with hints of classic British styling.

The new sedan came at a time of shifting sands in the British car industry, when two corporations, Nuffield and Austin, had merged into the British Motor Corporation with the intention of cutting costs through sharing of components. Thus the Magnette was actually an offshoot of another Nuffield sedan, the Wolseley 4/4, which was launched two years earlier.

MG Magnette ZA

Both cars were designed by one man, Gerald Palmer, and developed by a team of just ten engineers. Explaining the Italian influences to Collectible Automobile magazine Palmer described British styling of the period as “pathetic” and having visited several auto shows on the Continent concluded that some Italian styles were “really wonderful.”

In order to distinguish the MG from the less-sporting Wolseley the latter was made to sit 2″ higher through minor styling changes and suspension pickup points. It was launched first because BMC head Leonard Lord insisted the Magnette be fitted with the corporation’s new B-series engine and transmission, which was not yet ready.

MG Magnette ZA

When the Magnette finally appeared it was praised by the motoring press for its elegant appearance and superb roadholding. Though the upholstery was genuine leather, the “wood” dashboard and trim in those early models was a mixture of painted metal, Bakelite plastic, and a small amount of wood. Cars exported to North America in following years featured a real wood dash.

MG Magnette ZB

Though the B-series engine was not notably powerful (60 hp in the beginning, 64 hp in 57-58) it was enough to propel the Magnette to a top speed of 86 mph. Coupled to a slick 4-speed manual shifter, this sturdy combination helped make the car fun to drive.

MG Magnette ZB

In recent years, we have noticed a sharp rise in Magnette prices, likely due to their healthy mix of practicality and sporty aesthetics. According to our research, road ready ZA and ZB saloons are often priced around $12,000 and up. If you’re not afraid of a fixer upper, you can find some rough condition Magnettes in the $4,000 range. Expect to pay upwards of $30,000 if you are lucky enough to find one in excellent shape.

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