1967 MG Magnette MkIV Farina
For some, one is never enough… even when you already own a stunning example of your favourite classic. When John Langford had the chance tos become the custodian of his second finned Magnette, he just couldn’t resist.
WORDS AND PHOTOS: JIM JUPP
MAGGIE THE MAGNETTE WHY READER’S MK IV IS SOME FIN SPECIAL
John Langford’s Mk IV Magnette is a head-turning sports saloon in wonderful condition, as we discovered
Regular readers may remember we bought you John Langford’s ‘other’ Magnette in MGE January 2021 issue; a pristine and much-buffed white MkIV Magnette, with its distinctive Battista 'Pinin' Farina styling. Amongst classic car owners there are those, including myself, who get the urge to own more. Why do we do it to ourselves, I often ask myself, incurring an ever-increasing list of maintenance jobs to do?
John admits that, in part, it was the chase but also a chance to own another ADO38 which is closer to original than his white Magnette, which had been completely restored.
THERE SEEMS TO BE MORE OXFORDS THAN CAMBRIDGES BUT, OUT OF ALL OF THEM, THE MAGNETTES ARE THE RARER ONES.
He knew the previous owner, John Horton, for around six years, through the Cambridge-Oxford Owners’ Club, as he explains: “I had my other Magnette, ‘Ava’, and had put an advert in our club magazine, looking for some spare parts. John contacted me so I went down to his house is Sussex. When he took me into the garage I saw Maggie, as he and his wife named their Magnette.” John was so impressed with the Connaught Green MG, he asked for the first refusal should it ever come up for sale.
The first owner of this 1967 MkIV had been a Mr Elliot, who had purchased the Magnette from Seaside Garage, Eastbourne. After it had been put away and neglected for a while, his widow sold the car to Mr John Horton in 1975. Mr Horton had the ‘usual problem’ with outriggers and pan needing replacement. Once the work had been carried out. Maggie was taken back to show Mrs Elliot its now near-showroom condition. It had been taken to numerous shows, winning silverware along the way, until 1981. After several years, the hydraulics needed refurbishing and the lower half of the car needed re-painting.
JOHN WAS SO IMPRESSED WITH THE CONNAUGHT GREEN MG, HE ASKED FOR THE FIRST REFUSAL SHOULD IT EVER COME UP FOR SALE.
Over the years Mr Horton had amassed a lot of spare parts, some of which were sold to John for his white Magnette. “When I first met John, he was in his mid-seventies and admitted he had too much. He would drip feed me spares every now and then, like lenses for £5. They were the sort of money he’d bought them for, back in the seventies and eighties. He said he didn’t want to make money; he just wanted to pass them on. He used to go round the auto jumbles in the early days, when they were worth going to, before the money people started to get involved, asking stupid prices.”
AS HE FOUND ON HIS WHITE MAGNETTE, HAVING THE WOOD RE-VENEERED CAN BE A COSTLY PROCESS
Mr Horton was also happy to help with technical issues. “When the head cracked on my white Magnette, I called him about some details and he had a spare engine if I wanted it. I didn’t but I never want to say no, in case people never offer things again. He only wanted £60! I’ve still got that engine and I’ve not used anything off it.”
A visit in August 2021, to purchase a spare bonnet and door, sparked a conversation about the green MkIV. “John [Horton] said he hadn’t used it for the last two years and it was getting near the time to sell. He also knew it needed a new water pump. He’d owned it for 48 years and realised he wouldn’t be driving it again. He just needed to make that decision.” John agreed to call back in a month but, when he did, the decision still hadn’t been made. “John said he’d not discussed it with his wife. I thought that was nice, as some spouses don’t want to know.”
This went on for a few months until, one day, Mrs Horton answered. John had had a fall and was in hospital. Sadly, when John spoke to Mrs Horton a few months later John had passed away. She kept in touch and, when they spoke a few months later, she’d had the water pump sorted, their mechanic coming to the house. “She knew it had been playing on his mind.” By April 2022 she decided the Magnette needed to go but it had to be collected as soon as possible. John then became its third owner from new.
Having been off the road for so long, the Magnette was collected with a low-loader, for safety. It also wouldn’t start, as the battery was flat. “When we got it back, we had a go with a spare battery. Wallop… it started.”
John found that the brakes were binding. “I ran it up my drive a few times, took the wheels off and gave the brakes a clean and freed them off and sorted few little bits. It just needed a good run. I bought it in April and I had it MOT’d a few weeks later and it went straight through. We took it to Brooklands, with my son-in-law driving it, and I drove my other.”
John now has a choice when it comes to showing his much-loved Magnettes. “Now I juggle between the two. At the time, the thrill of trying to buy it overtook me but now, owning two is quite difficult, and I’d like to keep both. I called in on John’s wife the other day and took her some flowers as a thank you. I said about showing her the car but she declined. She said they had all their happy memories and she’d get sad if she saw it. She has subsequently called for a chat and asked how Maggie was doing. She said John had it MOT’d every year, even though it didn’t need to be. I agree and for me it’s peace of mind.”
John brings up an interesting subject: do you opt for an MOT or have an MOT-style check, as you just want to know if it’s OK. “I ask for a pre-MOT check as I don’t want it to fail it, as that’s then registered with DVLA.”
What’s the difference between the two Magnettes? “Very little… the white one is a ’64 where this one is a ’67.” John [Horton] had modernised the screen wash to an electric pump. “My other one is on the original vacuum, with a thin pipe connecting the inlet manifold to a switch, which controls a set of bellows. Once you press the button the bellows squirt a jet but it isn’t very good. They might go for 20-30 seconds but you then have to wait for it all to re-pressurise. MOT people can’t get their head round them as you have to have the engine running,” explains John.
John’s plans for his green Magnette are focused simply on maintenance. “Unlike my other Magnette, I don’t want to completely rebuild it. When John saw mine, he commented that his was original. My white one, I think, is better than when it came out the factory but the green one is un-touched, other than the body repairs. The lower half of the nearside wing had some rust, which he had sorted out. That is a slightly different colour, so I need to take it to a paint shop, but I could leave it and just enjoy it.”
As a precaution, John has changed the windscreen rubbers to avoid any leaks. “If water got in it would ruin the original wood and you wouldn’t know until it’s too late. I just want to do running repairs and maintenance. I’m not touching the chrome or headlining.” As he found on his white Magnette, having the wood re-veneered can be a costly process. It is great listening to John referring to the white one as ‘his’, as he clearly feels the green Magnette is still Mr Horton’s car.
With just a few years separating the two MGs, how do they compare on the road? “The green one is nicer to drive. It also starts easier than the white one. Everything’s new on the white one, so why? The white one takes a few turns to fire but, even after a few weeks, the green one is on the button. The green one drives smoother as the white one is poly-bushed. If I were to convert it back I’d have to hunt down a good manufacturer of the original rubber bushes. The green one is more responsive, and they have both done similar millage, and the white one has been on the dyno to be set up.”
Eagle-eyed readers may notice this car should be an ‘E’ reg., which its number plate clear does not carry. “This is the only registration it’s ever had. It was taken from the first owner’s other car, Mr Elliot, who was a carpet salesman.”
With the MkIII (ADO09) and MkIV (ADO38) MG Magnettes seeing Leonard Lord’s resurrection of badge engineering, where does the MG-badged version sit these days within the finned community? “There seems to be more Oxfords than Cambridges but, out of all of them, the Magnettes are the rarer ones. You see quite a few Riley 4/Seventy Twos, which were top of the range as they had the rev counter and horizontal padding on the seats.”
It does seem quite at odds that the Riley version did have separate Smiths tacho and speedo, as well as auxiliary gauges, such as amps and oil pressure, more akin to an MGB dash, whilst the traditionally sporty MG had the more modern (for its time) ‘sweeping’ speedo and small, individual, ancillary gauges. “When the cars were new, the Cambridge was the entry level, then the Oxford, Wolseley 16/60, then MG Magnette and finally the Riley.”
Maggie has clearly found a good home where she’ll be cherished and enjoyed. Maybe her OE charms will influence John’s white Magnette.
Cavernous boot was quite a contrast to the MGA’s proportions in the same era.
Smooth running 1622cc B-series, which was also fitted to the MkII MGA at the time. The Magnette’s chromework has needed no work and is in excellent condition still.
I BOUGHT IT IN APRIL AND I HAD IT MOT’D A FEW WEEKS LATER — IT WENT STRAIGHT THROUGH