Blank Canvas: The MGA, in V8 and Rotary Flavors

With proper fabrication skills, a car is a blank canvas for any angle-grinder wielding auteur. Today, we consider thought provoking variations on that hallowed tradition of stuffing a British roadster’s bonnet full of some lairy motor. However, instead of the more traditional and famous Tiger or AC Ace, today’s MGA twins bring a touch of reserve and class.

First up is Lyle Jacobsen’s pretty MGA, which an all-aluminum Buick 215 under the hood. The 215 or later Rover variants are (as you’re probably aware) the SBCs of the British Isles, being small and readily available. They’re also quite light, which helps when you’re considering that the MGA is made out of the ferrous equivalent to overcooked spaghetti. As compact as the Buick lump is, it’s way bigger than the B-series four, so the fenders, firewall, front crossmembers, and transmission tunnel all needed some pretty intense fabrication. Luckily, Mr. Jacobsen built this Anglo-American hybrid out of a rusted out heap, rather than cutting up a clean car. For this, we give him great credit. Backed with a Tremac T-5 5-speed, a solid and reliable transmission, we assume this little MGA hauls ass when called upon. And the finished install is gorgeous, with the Buick motor looking nearly stock. Put on a deerstalker and embarrass some Mustangs, old boy! Read more about it HERE.

But America isn’t the only place to go when looking for a new way to motivate your MG. You could look East! Why not? Triumph ended up selling rebadged Hondas in the ‘80s, and to tell the truth those might have been the best-built cars to ever wear a British badge, so it’s not that terrible of an idea. Jonathan Lamson went with a Mazda 12A rotary, kitted out with Racing Beat bits, in his MGA. (Imagine the reaction at stoplights by British JDM fans if Lamson’s MGA were sporting Racing Beat stickers!) Sure, the 12A has a little less torque than your average electric toothbrush, but we believe the guy when he says that she screams in the power band. And since the 12A’s already situated, it seems like a 12A turbo or a 13B-DEI and its associated 185 HP wouldn’t be that difficult of an upgrade. Recalling how yours truly grinned like a besotted lobotomized idiot for about 3 days after driving my last rotary-powered car, I imagine that no matter how slow this one is, it’s probably a pleasure to drive. More details HERE.
Which would you pick?

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12 responses to “Blank Canvas: The MGA, in V8 and Rotary Flavors”

  1. Tim Avatar

    This is my personal favorite-
    S2000 power, with everything else suitably modified to cope- is there any better ride for a SF to LA cruise on the PCH?

    1. Alff Avatar

      That is something else. Builds like this are why I can't call myself a car guy.

  2. dustin_driver Avatar

    One of these days I'll do a totally unwise engine swap. I'm thinking an Opel GT with an Ecotec out of a Saturn Sky or Solstice GXP. Yep, that ought to do it.

    1. franchitti27 Avatar

      Need help? That sounds like some fun!

      1. dustin_driver Avatar

        Help? Yeah, I need a 1968-73 Opel GT and a wrecked Saturn Sky or Solstice GXP. And a welder. 😉

        1. franchitti27 Avatar

          Hmmm…. I can weld, and I have a few big hammers (to massage the firewall). That's my part done.

    2. engineerd Avatar

      That's a fantastic combination. The Opel GT is much better looking than the Skystice, too.

  3. dragon951 Avatar

    This (12A) is my rifle, this (215) is my gun.
    This (12A) is for fighting, this (215) is for fun.

  4. Froggmann Avatar

    Dammit just when I had resolved to selling mine!

  5. engineerd Avatar

    Mr. Solex, fantastic article. Clean engine installs seems to be quite the Hooniversal theme as of late. I'm not complaining. I'm encouraging! Keep them coming! This is the sort of thing you don't see on most other places. Nice little niche, if you ask me.
    Now, my love for small, British roadsters is a raging inferno and I need to spend some quality time with Ebay motors.

  6. joshuman Avatar

    Years ago, I printed out a stack of paper an inch and a half tall detailing how to source and stuff a Rover V8 into an MGB. I still want to do this project but clearly I need to expand my thinking with a more crazy motor or a body shell that commands more interest than the B.