The Prototype Saloon
It was during a summer holiday in England in May 1981 that my attention was caught by an advert in "Exchange & Mart": "for sale MG VA saloon pre production prototype, twin spare wheels, sound condition etc." As I was looking for a new challenge I decided to go and have a look at the car.
It was standing in a barn at a sort of scrapyard like place where it had been for the last 20 years and had not moved during that time. The seller reported that when he bought the VA in the early sixties he paid 25 pound for the car and also gave the man a box of chocolates as he recognised the special chassisnumber 0251.
The VA was a non runner and in between the rusty patches the paintwork was dark green. Importantly the car seemed complete and unmolested with a nice original interior.
Once home a new set of plugs and points and a fresh fuel pump made the VA into a runner again in no time and even getting it MOT’ed was not a big problem. Lots of blue smoke were escaping from the exhaust and from a specially created extra exhaust for the sump fumes. A rebuild was unavoidable though. Restoration did not start untill 1983 and took a full 6 years as time to work on the car was not always available. The woodwork of the body was still good and I did not even take the body off the chassis. The VA still had its original engine with engine number 6303/1.
With the VA came a continuation logbook for DJO 804 and I wrote letters to all owners in that. After some weeks I got a letter back from a Mr pearce from Sidcup who told me he was very surprised the car still existed. His father bought the VA in 1959 from a garage at Wimbledon Hill Road in 1959. The colour then was metallic maroon with non metallic wings/running boards and Ace wheeldiscs were fitted to all wheels.
Indeed did I find the metallic maroon paint on the body during the restoration. Although the bonnet and the wings also had cream paint underneath. Behind the wooden capping under the windscreen was written "maroon" upside down. You will see this colour indication on all VA saloons and always upside down.
Checking up with the Oxford County Council archives revealed that DJO 804 was registered on the 4th of January 1937 by Morris Motors Ltd with a cream coloured MG One and a half litre.
Looking at the catalogue for the 1936 Motorshow, where the VA was launched you can see that there were 2 VA’s on show: a red tourer and a cream coloured saloon. There is also a large serie of photographs made by MG in December 1936 showing the red tourer and the cream saloon travelling together. These pictures were widely used for publicity purposes. On these pictures the cream saloon has got the fake number ABL 999, the red tourer was already as registered as ABL 72 on 3rd of November 1936 by the MG Car Comp.
What happened with the cream saloon after January 1936 until 1959 remains a mystery untill now. It is known that the factory was frequently experimenting with metallic colours around that time. A metallic blue VA saloon also with Ace wheeldiscs has existed.
Anyway, when the VA turned up in the showroom of Wimbledon Motorworks at the top of Hillroad in Wimbledon (picture on the left) in 1959 its colour has changed from cream to maroon and an extra spare wheel had been added in the offside wing. The previous owner is reported to be a lady doctor, but was never traced.
Not unlikely the modifications on the VA were al carried out by the Abingdon works using a different body then the cream one. Had the car been involved in an accident?
The replacementbody is an early one anyway with the doorhinges concealed inside.
All chassis-castings, springhangers, steeringbox support, are made out of manganese bronze. This was revealed to me by Jack Daniels who actually worked on the SVW range in the experimental department in Cowley. The steeringbox support has a D.O. number cast in it which means: "Drawing Office". The pedal shaft has been moved around a lot and the chassis is also prepared for left hand drive! On the back of the dashboard as well as on the back of several other interiorpanels is written: "special".
The inner chassisrails had been lightened by oblong holes which have later been filled in again. The scuttle as well as the headlights come from a MG TA, the gearlever is obvious SA, handbrake is of the fly off type, the dasboard centre panel has been made out of an SA panel. The headlight supports are made out of a high nickel content metal. The garuantee plate is mounted on top off the scuttle instead of the side of it.
Unavoidedly personal influences creep into a car when you rebuild it. At the time of rebuild I was not fully aware of the funny enginenumber 6303/1 so I replaced it with a younger dry clutch unit. Ofcourse the original engine is still around and will surely get a place under the bonnet again in the future. At the moment a B series engine with a Borg Warner automatic is fitted.
On its first outing in England we visited Alan Pearce from Sidcup who’s father bought the VA in 1959. Allen even managed to find a picture of a family outing with the VA made in 1960 . He also revealed that his father actually bought the VA saloon as a present for him but that he never liked the car and actually refused to drive in it!! To try to overcome his sons dislike for the VA he painted it British Racing Green and took those oldfashioned Ace wheeldiscs off to show off the wire wheels!!
Alan was very moved that after 30 years I gave him a new opportunity to drive the VA he never wanted to drive when his father gave it to him some 31 years earlier.
Although this prototype was never intended to last so long it is still performing very well.
Back to Homepage.