Tuesday February 26, 2019
Picture the scene; a gentleman who resembles a younger version of the Major in Fawlty Towers is about to pen a stiff letter to his local newspaper recommending exile to the Falklands for The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits and everyone associated with Ready Steady Go. Plus cinema patrons who do not pay due respect to Edgar Lustgarten in Scales of Justice; this is quite a long missive. And outside in the lean-to garage is an immaculate MG Magnette Mk. IV.
Jon Langford, the owner of this splendid 1964 example, remarks that ‘Some do not know the Farina was made as an MG’. The Magnette Mk. III debuted in February 1959 and in terms of the BMC 1 ½ litre hierarchy it ranked above the Wolseley 15/60 and below the flagship Riley 4/68, sharing the latter’s twin SU carburettors.
There was some controversy that the new MG succeeded the Magnette ZB, one of the finest British sports saloons of its generation, but in reality the Mk. III was not so much a replacement as a different form of motoring – a solid and reliable touring car with a certain Italian flair in its lines.
In 1961 the range was updated with a longer wheelbase and a 1,622cc engine. Autocar regarded the Mk. IV as ‘Not perhaps in the mainstream of MG tradition, the Magnette nevertheless gives the family man the chance to own a car with one of the most exciting names in British motoring history’.
In the 1960s, the Octagon-badged Farina stood apart from the likes of the Humber Sceptre and the Vauxhall FC VX 4/90 and you can envisage the MG owner regarding such cars as the province of ‘Flash Harries’. After all, £997 17s 9d was a small sum for such respectability.
Mk. IV production ended in May 1968 and Jon came by his MG some 18 months ago. ‘A lady in Cambridgeshire originally owned it and when she passed away in the mid-1970s the Magnette was bequeathed to her 12-year-old grandson; the chap I bought it from was friends with him’.
The Farina was put into storage, but in 2016 it underwent a nut and bolt restoration, from new body panels and a respray to the engine being completely re-stripped, a new brake master cylinder and a reworked interior.
The MG is not Jon’s first Farina – ‘I once owned a 1968 Austin A60 Cambridge’ – and today he enjoys taking the Magnette on B roads. ‘On motorways, everyone always seems to be in a rush, and you have the feeling of always being “pushed”’.
The Mk. IV’s top speed was around the 87 mph mark, and Jon notes ‘overdrive would have been a nice option. You could have bought a Magnette with automatic transmission, but they are incredibly slow!’.
Naturally the Old English White Mk. IV with the Terracotta leather-trimmed cabin causes a stir when Jon takes it for a spin, not least because it is one of the rarest post-war MGs. The standard opening line from various members of the public ‘my dad or my granddad had one of those’, together with amazement at seeing a Farina with the Octagon logo. And the finest detail about the Langford Magnette - ‘that is my Dad’s old AA badge on the front!’