A sporty pre-war MG PA isn’t for everyone – but this example proves that even a car built in 1935 can be huge fun some 87 years later

Words and images: Jack Grover  With thanks to: Sherwood Restorations

The P-type was the third incarnation of the Midget. It incorporated many detail changes from the M- and J-types such as a much stronger chassis, a longer wheelbase, a much sturdier engine with a three-bearing crank and improved steering. Otherwise, it was all very familiar, including the use of the very smooth and high-revving OHC engine. The P-type also catered more for the casual road user, with wider-spaced gears and a higher final drive and a wider cockpit.

Most vintage MGs of today lead much more sedate lives than originally intended, but this PA Midget (for sale at Sherwood Restorations in Nottinghamshire at time of writing) is a definite exception. BXW 869 is well known thanks to its second owner, the late Jimmy Adams, who ran it from 1948 up to his death in 2004. It spent much of that time undergoing a slow but meticulous restoration, from the late 1950s until 1996. Engineer Jimmy and his wife Brenda became well-known in the MG Triple-M and T-type Registers, not only for their race-trim Midget in Bugatti Blue but their dedication to dressing in period-appropriate attire. Jimmy and Brenda toured around Europe extensively in their PA, and Jimmy received several pride of ownership awards at MG Car Club events.

Even now, BXW 869 could still be a winner. When with Jimmy, the PA was usually seen in road trim, but it’s presented here in racing trim with open wheels, no lamps, painted on registration markings, a side-mounted exhaust and a large-diameter steering wheel. But all the parts needed to make the Midget road legal remain with the car. And it’s all in excellent condition, with the blue paint showing no sign of the many miles travelled. It’s also set off brilliantly by the chrome radiator shell, stainless steel exhaust, screen fittings, the quick-release filler cap and the silver-painted wire wheels.

It’s hard to tell where the bodywork ends and the interior starts on a car like this. As part of the restoration the original wooden dashboard was replaced by a custom-made one of machine-turned metal, sat under an asymmetric scuttle. There is a suite of period instruments, and in true vintage MG style the tachometer is in front of the driver while the speedometer is relegated to a smaller dial on the other side. The gearbox protrudes into the cockpit, the linkage is exposed and the toe boards don’t even fully separate the accommodation from the engine bay, but it all looks glorious. Seating is a pair of thin-back slightly bucketed seats which appear barely used.

The view is dominated by the bright stainless exhaust on one side and the smart carburettors on the other. At 947cc, the capacity is 100cc larger than standard, with performance also aided by a racing exhaust, free-flow air intake, a high-capacity crankcase vent system and an electric fan. Other than the tiniest weep from the gearbox there are no oil leaks, which is remarkable for a vintage car – even the infamously troublesome dynamo drive seems clean and dry.

Without wings or lamps we could not drive the PA on the road, but we were able to at least get an impression. Despite being tuned the engine ran well once warmed up, with a lovely percussive bark. The tiny short-throw gear lever needs a good shove to engage first and the clutch is very sharp, but shifts easily once on the move. The steering is very heavy at low speeds, but is extremely quick acting. Even a quick sprint across the parking apron showed that the PA had a good turn of speed, and sitting almost flat on the floor of such a small, sparse and loud car makes it feel even faster.

MG PA Special: our verdict

This is not a classic for everyone – a sports-prepared pre-war MG needs dedication and specialist knowledge to keep on song and isn’t the sort of car you can swap with your modern daily on a whim. But by the standards of vintage cars they are extremely well catered for and, as this one’s history proves, they can be used to the full if the desire is there. And as a mechanical marvel, a historic car and a personal story, this MG has everything else to recommend it.