Roadster Romance

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Story by Tim Suddard • Photography by Walter Pietrowicz

Sometimes it seems as if our hold on the here and now is tenuous, at best. The most random and seemingly insignificant occurrences can send our brains spinning back through time and space, so that what begins as, say, a quick look through a box of old magazines ends up transporting us to memories and longings we thought were long behind us.

That’s how it was for us not long ago, when we ran across an old copy of Look magazine from 1959. The issue contained an article discussing the emerging sports car scene, complete with fantastic photos of all our favorite classics. Sports cars were fast and fun, the article informed us, and perfect for weekend jaunts and rallies.

Nearly half a century later, those words still ring true. Only now, there’s almost 50 years’ worth of memories to add to the excitement. Who among us doesn’t have a tale that involves a classic sports car and the good times it inspired?

Many of us had one as a first car. Or we lusted after the ones our friends drove while we had to make do with something a little more mundane. Either way, we all knew what those roadsters stood for: romance, fun, and that wind-in-the-face kind of exciting life that only a sporting convertible could provide.

These days, as we get our houses paid off and the kids through college, once again our thoughts turn to our youth. And generally sooner, rather than later, we start thinking about roadsters again.

Sure, the modern ones like the Miata, the BMW Z4 and the Porsche Boxster are more capable cars in terms of performance and absolute numbers, but it’s just not the same. A classic roadster is an almost living thing unto itself, an icon of our youth. And we like them.

But which one to buy now? Would the Triumph TR3 that seemed so perfect half a century ago be too slow, uncomfortable and archaic by today’s standards? Is the more expensive Austin-Healey a better car? And if more money does make a superior car, is the Mercedes 300 SL really that much better than the rest?

That cover shot from Look magazine inspired a mission for us: Round up the iconic roadsters of the late 1950s and early 1960s and see how they compare. So we sent out the invitations and all involved made plans to converge at Virginia International Raceway the day before this year’s Gold Cup races. Thanks to its southern Virginia location, VIR is surrounded by some of the best driving roads in the country, making it the perfect place to see how well each car delivers the sports car experience. The track also has a paved area that works well for an autocross course, which is the best place to push a car to the limit in a safe, controlled environment.

Our group of test cars included a 1960 Triumph TR3, 1960 MGA, 1959 AC Ace, 1961 Chevrolet Corvette, 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta, 1962 Austin-Healey 3000 and a 1960 Porsche 356. (We would have liked to include a Jaguar XK120 in our test, but our arrangements to have one present fell through.)

So grab your favorite driving cap and a map; it’s time to check out some classics.

1960 Triumph TR3


Owner: Reeve Samson, Durham, N.C.

Reeve Samson learned to drive in his dad's TR3, so naturally, when it came time to find a classic of his own, the model already had a soft spot in Reeve's heart.

Although his '60 TR3 was a well-used daily driver and therefore not the best looking candidate in our group, Reeve's car more than made up for its aesthetic shortcomings with spot-on mechanicals thanks to the crew at Flying Circus, a British car restoration shop located in Durham, N.C.

Inside, this car was Spartan almost to a fault, even when compared to the others in this group, but the seats felt good and the ergonomics (if you can use that word when discussing roadsters from this era) were decent. Everything fell pretty much to hand and made sense.

The TR3 is a real sports car, and for this reason many found their way into competition. While the design is not sophisticated by any means—there are A-arms and coil springs up front and a live axle with leaf springs and lever shocks at the rear—the TR's suspension works at the most basic of levels. This was quickly apparent on our autocross course, where Reeve's car turned in well and was easy to fling around the cones.

Despite its smallish engine—only a 1991cc inline four—the TR3 had loads of torque and power coming out of the hole. The steering was direct and communicative, putting it among the best in this group.

Out on the road, the TR3 continued to surprise us. Although the model is known for its rock-hard ride and rattle-prone body (thanks to its frame construction), the TR was actually tight and road worthy. We'd even dare to say that subsequent Triumph TR models we've sampled from the late '60s and into the '70s didn't seem as tight as the early car we had at VIR.

We came away from our time with the TR3 with a newfound respect. There is a reason Triumph sold so many of these cars and a great legend was born. Since getting his own TR3, Reeve has been enjoying bombing down back roads and enjoying some wind in his face. If only the chassis wasn't so flexible, he says, it would be perfect.

Triumph TR3: British Bulldog That Doesn’t Bite


Value today: $16,000-$30,000

When Triumph introduced the TR2 in 1952, it rocked the sports car world. Here was a rugged, simple, inexpensive and attractive car that could run an honest 100 mph and hold its own in the corners with anything being built at the time. With its 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and independent front suspension, Triumph did for the average sports car enthusiast what Jaguar did for the high-end crowd: produce a machine that one would be proud to own. When disc brakes were added for the TR3 model, the performance got even better.

The Triumph TR3 was one of the most basic and least expensive sports cars available in its day, and it remains so today. Surprisingly, however, the Triumph still holds its own pretty well in a crowd of contemporaries.

From a styling standpoint, The TR3 lacks the swoopy lines of the Ace or Mercedes, but it has a rugged, yet friendly, face. Love it or hate it, you just can’t deny the classic stance and attitude of a side curtain-equipped Triumph.

1960 MGA


Owner: Daniel Bradford, Durham, N.C.

Fellow publisher Daniel Bradford--he produces All About Beer magazine--was kind enough to bring out his 1960 MGA, a beautiful example of what made the MG marque so famous.

Daniel says the car's appeal is purely visual for him. At 7 years old, he says, he just fell in love with the classic Austin-Healey's shape and desired one of those cars for many years. When he got on his feet, he sought one out and soon noticed that Healeys were a bit pricey. Once he realized that MGAs had similar looks, he turned his attention to them and started looking. He discovered this car on eBay and was stunned to realize it was located just 20 miles away.

The minute we sat in this MGA's buckets, it was obvious that this is a well-crafted sports car in the English tradition. While not upscale by any means, nothing on the MGA came across as cheap. The large, classic spoked steering wheel felt just right.

The car started quietly and instantly, and with a quick light snick we were off. The first gear was not synchronized, but the clutch and brakes were light and effective. There was some gear whine present throughout the gears, but in the MGA this just sounded right.

At low revs, the 1588cc engine offered leisurely performance. Although there was no feeling of great power, the performance was not inadequate, especially when the engine was pushed past 4000 rpm. The MGA performs well when throttled a bit.

When pushed around a corner, the MGA oversteered somewhat, but in a controllable fashion. Nothing dramatic, just a classic British sports car doing what it does best. Adding throttle brought the car around nicely.

Another pleasant surprise was the ride comfort. It was not the bone-jarring ride that one would expect; it was taut and firm, but still relaxed.

All in all, the MGA belied both its current value and humble origins. Nice examples may fetch $18,000 to $35,000 these days, but this is such a usable car that it's money well spent.

The guys at Flying Circus do a great job maintaining Daniel's beautiful MGA, which he says he has no intention of ever selling.

MGA: Sleek Styling for the Masses



Value today: $18,000-$35,000

Introduced for 1955 as a replacement for the long-in-the-tooth T-series, the MGA was originally equipped with a 1489cc engine and drum brakes. Later models were uprated to 1588cc power and disc brakes up front. A radical departure from the earlier T-series cars, the MGA knocked MG enthusiasts--and the rest of the sports car world--for a real loop with beautiful styling and modern performance.

Like the TR3, the MGA was also a fairly low-dollar car compared to other sports cars of the day. While the MGA and TR3 shared many styling cues and were showroom rivals, the two models were as different as night and day.

The TR3 was a bit of a brute thanks to its 2.0- or 2.2-liter engine and rugged mechanicals, while the MGA was lighter in just about every aspect: lighter in the power department, lighter in touch and just plain lighter on its feet. We’re not ones for stereotypes, but if your idea of a classic English sports car is loading a picnic basket, grabbing your favorite someone and heading off for a leisurely drive into the countryside, you could do a whole heck of a lot worse than an MGA.

1959 AC Ace


Owner: David Allison, Dunn, N.C.

David Allison fell in love with the AC Ace after seeing a friend's car. Soon after, he found this one and has been enjoying it ever since. David says he likes the car's light weight and responsiveness the best; he likes its drum brakes the least. Maintained by Sports Leicht Restorations, David's Ace is beautifully turned out in its deep black paint. It also features a rare overdrive, which makes up for the original engine's slight lack of power.

The Ace is a beautiful car, and so different from its contemporaries. These differences are both good and bad; overall, when compared to the other cars in our test, the AC felt strangely upscale in some areas, yet still cheap.

While the styling just blew away the other cars, and the restoration on this particular car was stunning, the Ace felt fragile. The gear lever, steering wheel and everything else felt like it required a delicate touch. And the interior components were constructed of expensive, even luxurious materials, but there were obvious clues that this was a car that was hand-built in limited numbers. In fact, the Ace was so simple in terms of construction and design that it felt almost like a kit car, but in an elegant, hand-built way.

The AC also proved to have a dual nature when going down the road. On the one hand, it handled well and had adequate power--as we mentioned, our test car's six-cylinder engine was fitted with overdrive, a nice option to have. The handling was surefooted, yet the body rolled quite extensively. The four-wheel drum brakes could not match the performance of the disc brake-equipped cars we sampled, however, and the Ace's steering had a dead spot, though it wasn't nearly as bad as the Corvette's. Nevertheless, after driving an Ace, it was very easy to understand why Shelby quickly went to rack-and-pinion steering when turning the humble AC into his mighty Cobra.

Despite these criticisms, the Ace's styling and appeal cannot be denied. This is a beautiful car that is only appreciating in value. Unfortunately, the Cobra factor may be driving up prices, but the Ace lacks the Cobra's bite.

AC Ace: Something Different




Value today: $60,000-$85,000

The AC Ace made its public debut at the 1953 London Motor Show. Production started the following year and continued through 1962.

Although the AC Ace is an extremely rare car today--fewer than a thousand were built during the model's 1953-'63 production cycle, and not many of those were brought to the States--it's a very familiar shape today thanks to the Shelby Cobra.

Even before Carroll Shelby used the Ace as the basis for his all-conquering Cobra, the alloy-bodied roadster was already quite different from its contemporaries. Designer John Tojeiro's lightweight tubular chassis supported a somewhat unconventional suspension, one that featured transverse leaf springs and lower wishbones both front and back. Although the design was different, it worked well, and the Ace quickly gained a reputation for excellent handling. The car was powered by a variety of straight-six engines before Carroll Shelby realized that a Ford V8 would fit in the same spot.

1961 Chevrolet Corvette


Owner: Dick Lawrence, Greensboro, N.C.

Dick Lawrence is a diehard Corvette aficionado, and his 1961 model is one of only a handful built that year in this exact color combination. He is a member of Clubvette and shows the car on a regular basis, even taking it on Corvette Caravans and drives to the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky. He says this car makes him feel like he is 16 again.

Although Dick's Corvette is not a sports car in the same sense of the word as the others we sampled, it is definitely "America's sports car" and as such needs to be included in a test of this sort. The whole look and feel of the Corvette are miles ahead--or miles behind--the others in this group, depending on which area of the car you study. From a styling standpoint, both inside and out, the Corvette is the definite leader; it just looks cool from every angle. Thanks to its sculpted sides, massive grille and in-your-face dual headlights, this model is not only an American icon, but a world icon for classic styling. Inside, the dual cowl's wraparound styling is like no other car. It's hard to look inside a late-'50s Corvette and not exclaim, "How cool is this?"

Once we climbed behind the wheel of the Corvette, things began to change. It was clearly bigger than all of the other cars except for the 300 SL, and it felt it. That's probably one reason why we found the early Corvette, at least in stock form, nearly impossible to push through an autocross course. Thanks to its big 283-cubic-inch V8 engine and front weight bias, it also understeered severely. The car had no power steering, but narrow tires did help keep the steering effort manageable.

The Corvette's biggest fault was the dead spot in the steering. We were able to hold the wheel at about 10 o'clock and then move it to nearly 2 o'clock with nothing happening. Perhaps some of this can be adjusted out, but American cars of the '50s are notorious for poor steering feel.

The four-wheel drum brakes were also not confidence-inspiring. While they did haul the car down to a halt, they certainly did not want to make us start running hot laps.

One might think that the small-block V8 would give the Corvette a clear power advantage over the rest, but in stock 1961 tune this engine only produced 230 horsepower--barely enough to vigorously haul around approximately 3000 pounds. The power-to-weight ratio was not that far superior to the other cars in this group.

Don't get us wrong, we would still make room in our garage for an early Corvette. The car's styling and panache make up for all the chassis' shortcomings. But if spirited driving on back country roads is what you desire, better cross this one off your list or get out the parts catalogs and find some hop-up goodies, because you will not like the way a standard model drives.

Chevrolet Corvette: America’s Sports Car



Value today: $40,000-$80,000

Like the AC Ace, the Corvette was introduced in 1953, but that’s where the similarities end. Where the Ace had its origins in one-off sports racing cars, the Corvette debuted from a mass manufacturer with an anemic six-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. That didn’t stop the Vette from being labeled "America's sports car" when it was introduced, however, and there's no doubt today that it was anything but a sports car.

The Corvette started earning respect not long after that much-anticipated but somewhat disappointing debut, thanks to its simple formula of striking looks combined with ample horsepower. By 1961, when our test car was built, performance was starting to come on strong: The 283-inch V8 engine was standard and pumped out 230 horsepower, while fuel-injected versions had more output than that.

1963 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL


Owner: Bjorn Nordemo, West End, N.C.

The Mercedes-Benz SL is in a league of one. Nothing else from the era even comes close. This car drives like it was carved out of a solid block of titanium, which makes it easy to see why the 300 SL helped establish the brand's unparalleled reputation for quality.

At more than $10,000 when new, the 300 SL convertible was a pricey car when introduced for 1957. The cars are still expensive today, as they now trade hands for well over a quarter of a million dollars.

Famed Mercedes-Benz restorer Bjorn Nordemo of Sports Leicht Restorations owns this excellent example of the marque. Bjorn found the car in a barn after it had sat for some 29 years. After some mechanical refurbishment and a new interior, the car was good as new. This example sports the correct late all-alloy engine and four-wheel disc brakes.

Although the Mercedes' original price was triple that of the Corvette, we found that it was justified. While both cars are similar in terms of size and layout, the Mercedes-Benz is both technically superior--much credit goes to the overhead-cam alloy engine and four-wheel disc brakes--and just built much better. Unlike the Corvette, there are no rattles, shakes or handling vices in the 300 SL.

That said, this Mercedes is not a willing autocross car. It is big and hefty at roughly 3000 pounds. On our tight course, the steering was heavy and the car felt cumbersome. However, the power delivery offered by this model--one of the first to offer fuel injection--was impressive.

After spending time with this car, we came away suitably impressed. Still, is it really worth 10 times as much as some of the others we drove? That's debatable, but any money spent on a 300 SL could be easily reclaimed, meaning you couldn't get hurt too badly, no matter what the premium.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL: Tank-Like Construction




Value today: $235,000-$450,000

Introduced at the 1954 New York Auto Show, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing coupe created quite a sensation. A still war-ravaged Germany had something to prove, and the stunning, fuel-injected 300 SL made quite the statement: German car manufacturers were here to stay. A convertible version was introduced for the 1957 model year.

1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta


Owner: Peter Krause, Raleigh, N.C.

Peter Krause has owned Krause & England, a shop that specializes in sports car maintenance and vintage race prep, for about 16 years. This particular car came to his shop in 1998 to be prepped for the New England 1000 rally. Peter fell in love with the car then and there; he bought it two years later, once the previous owner went on to other projects.

The Giulietta was very well restored and is equipped with the original 1290cc twin-cam engine. Updates include a later five-speed transmission and a later-model rear end (early cars like this 1959 model were equipped with four-speed transmissions).

The Alfa is a straightforward little roadster, with a dash of Italian charm thrown in for good measure. The little 1290cc twin-cam, alloy-head engine has nothing to offer but sweet music until it hits about 4500 rpm. At that point, all hell breaks loose and this engine proves that it is more than capable of keeping up with its larger counterparts. While not truly fast, this little Alfa will surprise and impress most drivers once it is on the boil.

Another big surprise is the chassis. While it initially seems to have too much body roll, the Alfa handled well on our autocross course. It's still a well-mannered machine out on the street, too. Ride quality is excellent and this car makes a very desirable tourer.

What adds to the desirability of this car is the way it looks and was made. The shape is classic, even beautiful. The fit and finish, interior details and materials are nearly Mercedes-like in quality. The egress and ingress are among the best of the group.

Perhaps the only letdowns are a dead spot in the center of the steering and the absolute lack of power below 3000 rpm. If only the car's bite always matched its bark.

Peter drives his Giulietta on a fairly regular basis to and from the many vintage race events he attends. He has even taped up the headlights a few times and run it at tracks like VIR.

Alfa Giulietta: Italian Charm




Value today: $17,000-$45,000

Alfa Romeo's history is packed with unusual stories, and the birth of the 750- and 101-series Giulietta is a fine example. In the early 1950s, Alfa, then owned by the Italian government, wanted to build a smaller car. They lacked the resources to develop it, so to raise capital they decided to sell securities. To entice potential investors they promised to raffle off a few of the new Giuliettas to shareholders.

The money was raised, but it was taking Alfa way too long to actually bring the car to market. The press locked on to the story of the frustrated investors, and in an attempt to put some PR spin on things Alfa announced the raffle winners. Since there were no cars available, it only served to annoy people more, particularly those who had won the promise of a car that did not yet exist.

In the end, Alfa contracted with Bertone to produce a small run of coupes; these debuted at Turin in 1954. They started with a few hundred to appease the winners, and despite the more than rocky start the Giulietta was a hit with the public. Soon orders numbered in the thousands. A year later, Pininfarina designed the body for the sporty Spider variant.

Today, Giulietta prices have escalated, and examples trade for more than $30,000. These cars are strong and well made, but they are also notorious rusters that are more complicated than the British roadsters. You want a specialist working on your Alfa, not your local garage.

1962 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk II


Owners: Audrey Schipprack and Mark Englehardt, Raleigh, N.C.

Avid vintage racers with their Formula Vees, Audrey Schipprack and Mark Englehardt acquired their 1962 Austin-Healey at a 2002 Barrett-Jackson auction. They were after a neat street car to complement their racing exploits.

Big Healeys are legendary for both their looks and the performance offered by their big straight-six engines. They're also among the most popular British roadsters from this era, so going in we wondered how the Healey would compare against its contemporaries.

Thanks to the size and weight of that legendary powerplant, we expected a boulevard cruiser, not an autocross car. So we were pleasantly surprised when the Austin-Healey offered more on the autocross course and less in the straight line department than we anticipated.

The handling was much like our Triumph TR3, which was light and nimble. The power was also reminiscent of the TR3, which was surprising, since the Healey boasted two more cylinders and another liter of displacement. The Healey wasn't slow, just not as fast as the specification would suggest.

On rough roads, the Big Healey was let down by its antiquated chassis and design. The car was a bit rattle-prone and significant bumpsteer was evident. It was a sweetheart on smooth roads, however, purring along with that distinctive Healey exhaust note.

Audrey says she likes her 3000 because she enjoys driving something unique, although she dislikes the rattles and how hot her right foot gets on long rides.

Austin-Healey 3000: Big Torque, Nice Balance




Value today: $25,000-$65,000

Developed in the early 1950s, the Austin-Healey 100 was just the car the newly formed British Motor Company (BMC) needed to court the growing market for sports cars in the United States. The car would be motivated by a succession of ever-more-powerful engines during its 15-year lifespan, culminating in the 3000 model introduced in 1959.

Austin-Healey built more than 40,000 copies of the 3000 from 1959 through 1967. Features include front disc brakes and a 2912cc six-cylinder engine. Maintenance is pretty straightforward, as these cars are relatively simple, and the beautiful, smooth and flowing lines give the Big Healeys an "at speed" look even when parked.

1960 Porsche 356


Owner: Jim Kymer, Bedminster, N.J.

Jim Kymer brought his beautiful Porsche 356 Cabriolet all the way down from New Jersey to be part of our story. During the eight years that Jim has owned this car, he has thought nothing of taking his well-loved 356 on long road trips, often heading to Porsche events or vintage races.

This 356 Super features a counterweighted crankshaft, sodium-filled valves and Solex P40-II carburetors. Horsepower was rated at about 90, whereas garden-variety 356 Porsches were rated closer to 75.

At rest, we found the steering very heavy, but once in motion the worm-and-peg steering was light and accurate. The chassis worked well, too, as its autocross performance was among the best in our group. The handling was predictable, and this car felt light and easy to move through the pylons. The only thing that let down a spirited driving session was the very unsupportive seats.

Out on the road, the gears were well spaced, and the nearly 90 horsepower offered by the optional Super engine in our car was quite enjoyable. Spending a few hours in the 356 really did prove what all the Porsche fuss is about. This is a very competent, comfortable, well-made sports car. The fit, finish and attention to detail are really nice, too.

Jim says he likes his car's tightness and handling, although he admits that he's not too fond of the marginal heating system. Still, he must like the model, as he also races a 356.

Porsche 356: The Beloved Bathtub




Value today: $45,000-$80,000

Although Porsche had designed a forerunner of the 356 to run the 1939 Berlin to Rome rally, the cars were never raced thanks to the eruption of World War II. After the war's end, the idea of a sporting version of Ferdinand Porsche's revolutionary Volkswagen, project Type 356, again came into consideration. Ferry Porsche, son of Dr. Porsche, attacked the project with a handful of workers and scrounged parts; his first cars were shown at the Geneva Salon in 1949. A race version of the 356 went on to take a class win at Le Mans in 1951, the first of many victories for the model there. The Speedster variant came to the States three years later.

As usual, Porsche produced a roadster their own way. The earliest models were built by hand in Gmund, Austria, and had 1131cc air-cooled, flat-four engines mounted in the rear. With four-wheel drum brakes and a total weight of less than 1900 pounds, the Type 356 had a lot in common with its ancestor, the VW Beetle. Through the years a number of different engine sizes were used in the 356, and body variations included the open-top Cabriolet and stripped-down Speedster. Still, proof of the design's overall excellence is the fact that it remained in production with relatively few visual changes from 1949 to 1965.

What We Learned


Once we looked back on the experiences of our day, something surprised us: We expected the "low-end" cars like the MG and Triumph to be shown up by the more exotic machines, but that simply wasn't the case. We're not going to tell you that an MG or Triumph is better than a Benz, but the little British cars we had on hand were handsome, willing, solid, simple cars, especially once you figure in today's asking prices.

Still, they were up against some stiff competition. The Mercedes is in a different league from the rest of these cars in terms of build quality, price and desirability. Kudos to Mercedes for being at least 20 years ahead of everyone else in their fit, finish, material quality and every aspect of performance.

The Alfa is also a great car, but since this is no longer a secret, prices have risen accordingly. If Ferrari had decided to build an MGA, the result would have been the Giulietta. It's just so Italian, from the sexy styling to the engine that loves to rev.

The Austin-Healey was one of the bigger surprises in the group, especially once we put a few hard miles on the car. The 3000 quickly grows on the sports car lover. Although it's not really much faster than the TR3, the Big Healey is more nimble than one would expect. It may be hard to justify the price premium the model now commands, but the Healey is screwed together well; it's a pleasurable motor car for spirited driving or leisurely cruising.

The AC Ace is beautiful, but is let down by two things. The first problem is the steering, which was bad enough that Carroll Shelby replaced it with a rack-and-pinion design; the other issue is the almost scary braking performance (or lack thereof), another shortcoming Shelby was quick to address.

The Corvette was an interesting variable in this comparison. First and foremost, despite what Chevy's contemporary advertising stated, the Vette is not a sports car in the traditional sense. While our test model had adequate power, the cornering and brakes left something to be desired. The over-the-top looks do make up for some of that, however.

Like most Porsches, the 356 is an exercise in going at something in a completely different way. As usual, the exercise succeeds, as the Porsche is a really nice car to look at and drive. Too bad the rest of the world realizes this fact; Porsche roadsters are now closer to $100,000 than we wish they were.

If we had to name a true winner, we'd have to pick the MGA or the Triumph TR3, our tried-and-true British roadsters. Go with the MGA if you like drop-dead sexy looks in a light-on-its-feet cruiser, where the Triumph TR3 is more suited toward all-out performance and delivers that rorty character.

At any price, these two cars hold their own against some pretty stacked competition. Factor in their affordability, and they're the clear-cut winners for those topdown, wind-in-the-hair summertime drives.


All About Beer
(800) 977-2337

Flying Circus English Cars Ltd.
(919) 596-4250

Sports Leicht Restorations
(910) 235-0500

Virginia International Raceway
(434) 822-7700

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View comments on the CMS forums
alfadriver MegaDork
11/1/18 11:52 a.m.

FWIW, the Alfa you drove was  a Veloce- so the full name was Guilietta Spider Veloce.  Well, I'm assuming that by not looking at the VIN, but the engine and tach are indicators of it being the far more valuable Veloce.  And some of the prices of those have gotten crazy.

As an aside, it would be interesting to know what the VIN on that Alfa was- as I know what my dad's '59 Spider Veloce was- and it could be that car.

rdstr New Reader
11/1/18 5:33 p.m.

Porsche looks like a roadster (roll up windows) & not a speedster (side curtains) and both bring more then the $80k mentioned. Datsun 2000 would fit nice in this article & affordable price range.

MondoMike New Reader
11/5/18 8:08 p.m.

Thanks for an interesting article, albeit too short to get into much detail. I agree the MGA and Triumph are the real bargains of the bunch, at least right now. Almost every component of these cars is readily available from several suppliers via internet, making restoration and repairs easier now than ever before. I'm fixing up an MGA and I'm amazed how much support there is for these cars. While the old BMC pushrod motor is down on power compared to the Triumph, swapping to a larger MGB 1800cc engine is very acceptable upgrade and can be done without hacking up of the original car. A 3-main is a direct bolt in, and if one opts for the stronger 5-main version it's still a pretty simple conversion. There are 5-speed kits, superchargers, big valve MGB and cross-flow heads, and all sorts of stuff available to increase the power and speed. The BMC engines are known for durability, the mechanical components of the car are well laid out and simple, and the chassis is  robust. The MGA s a great car for a novice restorer.   

dougie Reader
11/5/18 9:25 p.m.

I loved this article when it came out a few years back. Interesting to see what prices have climbed the most. Would like to seen more of this type writing.

wspohn Dork
11/7/18 11:34 a.m.

As the owner of may TR-3s and MGAs over the years, I found the finish quality of th TR to be lower than the MG - gaps and unwelded spots on the frames etc.  But the gutsy engine almost made up for the inferior handling - when the rear end bottomed on the frame, that was all she wrote. Even the big Healey took that cheaper route until the very last cars, when they finally built a frame that ran up over the rear end.

I always figured that it was easier to give an MGA, with the inherently better chassis, more power (as Mike pointed out) than it was to give the TR better handling.  But I sure did enjoy the TR engine, especially in tuned form.

Mr. New Reader
1/4/19 6:28 p.m.

There are still reasonably priced, great looking ragtops out there for first timers on a budget.  I would suggest that the Jaguar X100 XK8 and the XKR can be had in decent condition for less than $10,000.  I recently inspected one for a forum member that ran very nicely, needed a little bit of cosmetic work and had a fully functional convertible, and it was $4000!  I have a 2002 XKR version that was my daily driver for about 10 years and 170,000 miles and only replaced by an X150 XKR.  But I still have it and drive it often.  Its obvious ties to the heritage of the XKE are apparent as soon as you see it, and its senuous body is classic and still gorgeous 23 years after its introduction.  There are certainly things to look for when purchasing but they are well documented and readily available to those that are interested.  

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