1959 MG MAGNETTE ZB VARITONE
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
This ZB’s twin carburettors have clearly been set up well – it responds instantly and cleanly when you put your foot down. The steering is light but confidence-inspiring and free of any wander or excess play, and there are no jolts or bangs from the suspension during cornering or on uneven road surfaces. The gearchange is smooth and unobstructive, although the rather sudden clutch – it’s either in or out, with nothing in between – does take a little getting used to. The brakes don’t judder or pull under load but feel a little weaker than on other ZBs we’ve tested.
The cream-over-maroon paintwork has a deep, even shine throughout, but there are a couple of paint chips on the bonnet edge, a small dent on the nearside front wing and a patch of discoloured paint on the roof near the offside rear door. There’s also some pitting on the front and rear bumpers, and the window rubbers are cracked. The hubcaps have some minor scuffs, but the matching Michelin tyres look like they have plenty of life left in them. Overall, the structure’s in good condition but the cosmetics would benefit from some further attention.
HOW’S THE INTERIOR?
The wood veneer dashboard and door cappings are in very good condition, as are the instruments – including the Jaeger clock mounted in the headlining. All the controls are present and correct and operate as they should. The carpets are dry and undamaged, the door cards and difficult-to-find rope pulls are intact and while the seats have a lovely patina to them, they look like they would respond well to a specialist overhaul. The sunvisors are past their best, however.
UNDER THE BONNET
The next owner may want to treat the engine bay to some detailing and cleaning before propping up the bonnet at a show. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the B-series engine but there’s a quite a bit of dirt and surface rust on some of the components. There’s no evidence of fluid leaks, the oil is a healthy colour and the radiator and auxiliary components appear to be in good condition. The bulkhead and inner wings are rot-free but would benefit from a repaint. There’s little recent service history, but it does come with three period service books and the peace of mind of a current MoT, even though it doesn’t legally need one.
THE CCW VIEW
There are a few cosmetic imperfections on this Varitone to iron out, but the bodywork and the way it drives reflect a car that’s fundamentally sorted. It would be a great classic to improve over the winter then show during the summer months. Well worth a look.
Engine bay would benefit from a repaint and detailing. Smart and original interior. Seats have lovely patina.