Overall condition: Very Good
Number of owners: 3
The MG SA was originally conceived as a premium sporting saloon to rival and compete with the likes of SS Cars (later to become Jaguar) and even offerings from sporting saloon royalty, Bentley. Development of the concept coincided with MG’s amalgamation with Morris Cars, however, and the project stalled as a result.
Following the merger, however, the project was revived in 1935, albeit in a more conservative and less highly specified guise. Despite that, the SA remained an interesting departure for MG being considerably bigger and more capacious than its usual fare.
The car was launched in 1936, initially in a closed-head, saloon body variant only produced in-house by Morris. By the end of 1936, however, the range was extended by the addition of a Tickford drophead coupe by Salmons and by the Charlesworth four door tourer offered here. Bodywork for this car was built by Charlesworth Bodies coachbuilders of Coventry. A mere 2,739 SAs were built with a fraction of those being in this Charlesworth guise. Today, the Charlesworths remaining can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
That history alone makes an SA Charlesworth a very rare car, but this example adds some fascinating provenance to that innate rarity to make it a very special proposition indeed. As the brass dash plaque attests, this car was MG’s Olympia Motor Show car in 1937. The first owner was an adventurous individual called Gerald Gordon. Gordon was reputed to have done stunt work for Jonny Weissmuller, Hollywood Tarzan star and former Olympic swimmer.
Almost immediately, upon purchase in 1936, Gordon shipped the car to America on the Queen Mary. Over the next 19,000 miles, Gordon and the car enjoyed many adventures together across numerous states. At one point he reported getting the car close to its speedometer’s last increment of 100 mph. He eventually returned with the car to the Lake District where he lived for the rest of his life and was often seen using and enjoying the car. His account of his eventful North American odyssey is included in our photographic package.
The current owner is the car’s third keeper with both his and the previous owner’s histories with the car are fascinating and fateful in equal measure. More about this amazing provenance can be found in the photographic package provided.
This Charlesworth iteration of the SA is a surprisingly large car on first acquaintance. Its origin as a competitor to Jaguars and Bentleys is clear with the car exuding a sophisticated and imposing presence not normally associated with MGs of this period.
Almost everything about the exterior of this amazing car is of an impressive scale. The nose is dominated by the tall, chromed grill topped by a charming Pegasus emblem. The chrome bodied external headlights are large and have enamelled MG octagons at their centres. There are no less than three large driving lamps affixed to the chrome bumper together with period MG Club and RAC badges.
The long bonnet is double hinged both sides to provide excellent access to the 2.2 litre engine. Each flank of the bonnet panels is punctuated by four hinged vents, each with its own chromed and MG monogrammed handle. The sweeping front wings terminate in wide running boards fitted with chrome protective bars topped with rubber.
The doors open widely with the front pair being of the “suicide” variety. Canvas and plexiglass side screens are fitted and easily removed when required. The large canvas hood is in excellent condition and has clearly been replaced in its previous ownership. The hood is surprisingly quick and easy to open and stow given its size.
The sloping rear of the Charlesworth body provides a home for the spare wire wheel and the glass fronted registration plate plaque. A large rear lamp is fitted, and the rear plexiglass screen is in an excellent and unmarked condition. The large wire wheels are pristine and are fitted with the period-correct tyre configuration all of which retain a generous depth of tread.
The overall exterior condition of the car is hard to fault and a tribute to the care and attention clearly lavished on this remarkable car in its current ownership. Please take time to review the exterior photographs in detail to fully appreciate the time-warp condition of this historic MG.
The SA used an enlarged and tuned version of the six-cylinder 2062 cc Morris QPHG engine which featured in the Wolseley Super Six at a capacity 2288 cc. Due to the height of this engine and to allow the bonnet line to be as low as possible the twin SU carburettors had their dashpots unusually mounted horizontally.
Drive was to the live rear axle via a four-speed manual gearbox with synchromesh on the top two ratios). The drum brakes were hydraulically operated using a proprietary Lockheed system. An innovative and unusual built in “Jackall” jacking system was fitted to the chassis.
During our visit the car started without unexpected smoke, ticked over smoothly and cleanly and ran and stopped very well. The current owners have undertaken some long and challenging trips in the SA, during their tenure, without drama or issue.
The paperwork file documents the history of the car back to the very start of its life. The original registration document is even present, representing a fascinating piece of motoring ephemera in its own right. The current V5 is also present together with numerous period parts catalogues and numerous invoices detailing work undertaken to the car. Whilst these are not aways explicitly detailed, the following represent some history milestones:
Other highlights of the paperwork archive are various letters and communiques detailing work undertaken to the car as well as interesting insights into its history and back story. There is even an original and pristine fuel ration book included. Another piece of fascinating and rare ephemera.
The paperwork record hints at some sort of long-running interior restoration and retrim in around 1990. Whatever this consisted of today’s interior is in fine fettle and represents a charming window into the motoring world of the mid 1930’s.
The leather upholstery is predominantly finished in a sky-blue hue. Seats, both front and back, are box pleated into padded panels for additional support and comfort. The front seats backs are heavily bolstered, and the seat backs are finished in dark carpet and contain storage bins for the use of rear passengers.
The rear bench seat is similarly trimmed and in equally fine condition. The door cards are finished in matching blue leather, fitted with chromed door furniture and each feature storage apertures with fabric covers. The deep, woollen carpets are in a royal blue hue and present in fine condition throughout.
The wooden dash provides a home for the brass dressed British Jaeger gauges and instruments. These consist of a speedometer, tachometer and two dual purpose gauges monitoring water temperature, amps, oil pressure and fuel level. The large steering wheel rim and centre as well as the original gear knob, are made of Bakelite.
This MG SA Charlesworth is car of almost unrivalled rarity today. Always a relatively low volume car but now reduced to virtual extinction by the passing of the years. As such this car represents a remarkable survivor in a condition which needs to be seen to be believed.
Add to that the fascinating provenance and back-story of this car and you have something literally unique which will stop passers by in their tracks and initiate conversations wherever it goes. This is a car that has clearly brought a great deal of joy and pleasure to its three owners and is now ready to do the same for its next. A genuinely rare opportunity to own a remarkable, fascinating and charming slice of pre-war motoring history.
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