1953-1958 MG Magnette

1953 MG Magnette ZB

By 1950s standards, the MG Magnette was a beautiful little car, and Italian influences were everywhere to be seen. (Look at contemporary Lancias if you want proof.) So what if the trunk was small and there wasn't much space in the rear?

It was a lot roomier than the old Y-Series, and a traditional MG radiator proudly fronted one of the most-modern saloon shapes to come out of Britain for some time (the latest Jaguars excepted).

But the ZA Magnette looks small -- and it was, being only 167.5 inches long on a 102-inch wheelbase, and slim across the hips. It didn't have much power, either.

Though the 1489-cc version of the new B-Series four-cylinder eventually reached 72 horsepower (in 1956-model MGA two-seaters), it produced only 60 horsepower in initial Magnette tune.

But that was a lot more than the old YB's 46 horses, and the Magnette had a slick new four-on-the-floor gearbox to help exploit it. The latter would also show up in the MGA, and no one ever complained about that.

Though the ZB was made for just two years,

its production totals exceeded those of the ZA.

The Magnette's B-Series ohv four-cylinder engine was a much-modified version of the powerplant introduced with Austin's new 1947 A40 Devon, a small car that sold moderately well in the U.S. Though never very refined, the sturdy B-Series would power numerous BMC models for nearly two decades.

There were two initial displacements, 1200 and 1489cc, but size gradually crept up, first to 1588cc (MGA 1600), then 1622 (MGA 1600 Mk II), and finally the 1798cc version that powered MGBs through the last of their kind in 1980.

The B-Series was also used in various BMC/British Leyland light trucks into the 1980s, and lasted until 1997 in India's Hindustan Ambassador sedan based on the mid-1950s Morris Oxford Mark II.

Check out the next section for details on MG Magnette performance and styling.

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