MG Magnette MkIII (1959 - 1961)

Unlike its predecessor, the ZB Magnette (which was at least assembled at Abingdon), the Mk III had almost no MG connections at all. The Magnette Mk III, in fact, was merely a jazzed-up and tuned-up version of the Austin/Morris/Wolseley B-Series Farina range, which was launched by BMC in 1958-59.

There was no Nuffield and no MG involvement in the Mk III's design, which had been conceived at Longbridge. In addition, although the well-known B-Series engine, gearbox and back axle were used, there was no other chassis connection with the nice-handling ZA/ZB family. Nor was there any sense of occasion when the Mk III was launched, as it was merely the third (after the Wolseley and the Austin derivatives) of five different versions to appear.

Like all the other B-Series 'Farinas', the Mk III had a be-finned four-door saloon bodyshell in which the tracks looked (and were) rather narrow and on which a squat MG-type grille was grafted. There was more space inside than in the displaced ZB, but the surroundings were not as elegant. The 1.5-litre engine had slightly less peak power, but more peak torque, than the ZB.

The big let-down was the suspension, and the car's general stance. The ZA/ZB had always looked squat and handled well, whereas the Mk III looked a bit high and boxy and did not behave in the same sort of way. Not only was the springing softer than that of the old ZB, but the steering was by cam and lever and not at all precise. The final insult was that it was not even assembled at Abingdon by MG workmen, but at Cowley on the same production lines as the Morris Oxford, Wolseley 15/60 and Riley 4/Sixty Eight types, which all shared the same body.

Predictably, it was not at all successful, and it needed a major rethink, prior to the Mk IV which followed in late 1961, before the Magnette could approach the standard of being a proper sports saloon again.

MG Magnette Mk III specification

Produced: Cowley, 1959-61. 16,676 cars built.

General layout: Unit-construction, pressed-steel body-chassis structure in 4-seater, 4-door saloon car style. Front-mounted engine driving rear wheels.

Engine and transmission: BMC B-Series engine, 4-cylinder, ohv, in-line. 1,489cc, 73.02 x 88.9mm, 64bhp at 4,800rpm; 85lb ft at 3,300rpm; 4-speed gearbox, no synchromesh on 1st gear; centre-floor gear-change; live (beam) rear axle with hypoid-bevel final drive.

Chassis: Independent front suspension, coil springs and wishbones. Cam-and-lever steering. Rear suspension by half-elliptic leaf springs. Front and rear drum brakes; 5.90-14in tyres.

Dimensions: Wheelbase 8ft 3.25in; front track 4ft 0.87in; rear track 4ft 1.87in; length 14ft 10in; width 5ft 3.5in; height 4ft 11.75in. Unladen weight (approx) 2,507lb.

Distinguishing features from previous model: Entirely different car from earlier Magnette ZA/ZB model, bearing family resemblance to other related Farina models.

Typical performance: Maximum speed 84mph; 0-60mph 20.6sec; standing 1/4-mile 21.9sec; overall fuel consumption 27mpg.

Launch Price: £1,013

Derivatives: The Magnette Mk IV of 1961 was a further developed version of the Mk III. All other B-Series 'Farinas' were closely related, the Riley 4/Sixty Eight being mechanically identical.

Fate: Discontinued in 1961 in favour of the updated Magnette Mk IV model.

Trivia fact: MG Magnette MK3: Anthony Newley, actor and former husband of Joan Collins, had a two-tone green 1961 Mk3 Magnette registered 1961 MG.

Source: "The Cars of BMC" - Graham Robson (Motor Racing Publications, 1987)