Sedans & Coupes

Bring a Trailer Bargain of the Week: 1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone

Whether you’re seriously shopping or just browsing, Bring a Trailer is a great auction site for enthusiasts. On it, you’ll find everything from a modern Porsche Cayman to a WWII amphibious Volkswagen. And while some cars sold on Bring a Trailer can command high prices, there are still some decent bargains out there. For example, the 1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone that’s this week’s BaT bargain buy.

What is the MG Magnette?

1967 MG MGB GT Special
1967 MG MGB GT Special | Bring a Trailer

Usually, the name of British automaker MG is associated with sports cars like the Midget and MGB GT. However, it also built sedans, Hemmings reports, even before it built roadsters.

A blue-and-silver 1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone by the sea
1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone | Bring a Trailer

The MG Magnette in particular is a fairly significant sedan for the marque, Hemmings reports. It’s the first MG sedan built with unibody construction, and its engine would later go on to power the MGA and MGB. Plus, it has independent front suspension, modern-style rack-and-pinion steering, and sporty front bucket seats. As a result, it’s still a decently sporty sedan, Auto Express reports.

Initially, the MG Magnette launched in 1954 in ZA form, Hagerty reports. After 1956, it became the ZB model. Both models have a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, Autoweek reports, though the ZB’s makes slightly more power. 68 hp isn’t much, but it still makes the MG Magnette ZB into a usable tow vehicle, Automobile reports. And at the time, it was the fastest 1.5-liter sedan available.

However, the 1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone currently listed on Bring a Trailer is likely even faster.

The 1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone listed on Bring a Trailer

The side view of a blue-and-silver 1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone by the sea
1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone side | Bring a Trailer

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The owner of the 1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone available on Bring a Trailer made a few modifications to it over the years.

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The most dramatic is swapping in the 4-speed transmission and 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine from the MGB. It’s an easy and common swap, Classics World reports. In-period, that engine made about 95 hp, giving this British sedan about 40% more power.

It also has MGB front disc brakes, electronic ignition, a re-cored radiator, a new battery, and a rebuilt starter and generator. The exhaust is also new, and wider than the original. Plus, the shocks have been replaced, as have the rear drums. The wheels’ hubcaps have extra clear-coating, and the two-tone blue-and-silver paint (the ‘Varitone’ in the name) is refurbished.

The real-wood dashboard and blue leather upholstery of a 1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone
1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone interior | Bring a Trailer

The Bring a Trailer 1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone’s interior is reupholstered in blue leather and features custom MG floor mats. The real-wood trim, though, appears to be original. And the sedan retains its Jaegar dash-mounted clock, which has been rebuilt.

What makes it a bargain?

The rear view of a blue-and-silver 1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone by a beach
1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone rear | Bring a Trailer

As of this writing, the 1.8-liter 1958 MG Magnette ZB Varitone listed on Bring a Trailer has a going price of $13,000. For an example in this condition, that’s actually slightly low, Hagerty reports. An excellent-condition MG Magnette can easily go for $20,000. And past Bring a Trailer sells hover around the $15,000-$20,000 range.

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But it’s not just the condition that makes it a bargain. The MG Magnette is a fairly rare car, especially in Varitone form. And US customers never received the later Mk III and Mk IV models.

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Plus, with a few careful mods and some extra rust protection, Classics World reports that they’re relatively easy to care for and fun to drive. Veteran British racing driver Pat Moss drove one in rally races, Petrolicious reports. And one placed 3rd in the 1956 Monte Carlo Rally Ladies Competition, Hemmings reports.

So what you have here is an inexpensive, well-cared-for, rare classic British sports sedan.

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