Curbside Outtake: MGA and RX-7 – Two Red Sports Cars

I couldn’t resist these two sitting behind the Sports Car shop, awaiting further ministrations in their service department. The MGA seems to be in greater need than the RX-7, and it brings home some vivid memories.

Especially this empty engine compartment. My brother bought a very tired and rotting ’57 MGA for his first car, and it was a painful trail by fire. Seems like just about everything failed, including the engine. The solution: he found an engine in the junkyard from a Metropolitan, which used the same basic thing, minus the two SU carbs. Watching him and a friend carry out the swap was a preview of several swaps I would undertake myself in years to come. That doesn’t look all that hard.

The Metropolitan engine lasted a few more months before a head gasket blew, by which time my father decreed it needed to leave the driveway. It got replaced by a 3-year old ’66 VW, which was the antithesis of the MGA in many way, most of all in its durability and reliability.

It sure was a blast riding with him on hot summer evenings;  with those low-cut doors and my long arms, I probably could have touched the pavement. And as the sills rotted away, the gap below the door soon made it possible to watch the pavement go by.

I was only 15 and unlicensed, but one night when he (and my parents) was gone I took it out myself. I can still feel the throb of the engine in my hand from that stub of a stick shift, missing here. The redline says 6,000 rpm; no way that tired old lump would have done that; 4,000 was about as far as I dared push it. But then these long-stroke fours were anything but revvers. And the steering lived up to its reputation: very direct and lots of feel. In other words, the polar opposite of the power steering in the ’65 Coronet wagon.

I had a blast taking out to the Gunpowder River and back. I did worry about it breaking down; that would have been a problem, in more ways than one. And I finally confessed to him some years back.

This is a 1600 MKII, the final version of the A. The engine was a bit bigger and had a couple more horsepower, but it was getting long in tooth by the early ’60s. The MGB couldn’t come fast enough.


I drove my friend’s RX-7 a few times, and in certain ways it reminded me of the A, in terms of its steering and stick shift, but the engines couldn’t have been more different. The rotary needed to rev, and had very little down in the cellar.

This is the desirable GSL-SE version, with the larger and more powerful 13B engine. Faster, and a bit more torque, but still a revver, like all of them.

Lots of fun, both of them.