My grandma Caryl Hunter from Mill Valley had an MGA 1600 Mark II Coupe. She died in
1970 from cancer when I was 10. I remember it being a fairly new car which is why I
originally thought that must have been the Mark II (this was later confirmed, as only the
Mark II had the leather covered dash). Unfortunately, I can’t find any pictures of it, but I
remember it very vividly. It was Dove Gray with a red leather dash & seats, with wire
wheels. When asking about all the pullout knobs on the dash, she told me that they all
had a special purpose, with the wipers being for the ejector seats! To me, the car was
magical, the coolest car ever. She told me that the car would be my brother’s and mine
one day, but my step granddad sold it after her death.
I just turned 60 and I have been thinking about this way too long. We just had a close
friend die and my cousin was diagnosed with cancer. So, I was talking about it with my
wife (once again) and she said something along the lines of “you should get one, it’s
your turn to do something”. Now I’m not typically into older cars but this to me was more
than just getting an old car. So, after confirming that I heard her correctly, I posted my
story on the Facebook group “MGA Fan Club”. A guy my age wrote me back saying that
he had a dear friend who was 85 and selling his Iris Blue 1960 MGA 1600 Roadster in
San Diego. He said that the car was one of the fastest and best maintained cars in
Southern California and to PM him if I was interested. So even though Iris wasn’t the
color I was looking for, I was very intrigued with the shape she was in. So, this was on a
Thursday, I PM’d him, contacted the owner on Friday and drove down and purchased
her on Saturday (I am not the least bit impulsive!).
He named her after her color, Iris. She is done, complete engine/drivetrain overhaul,
very freeway ready. A true joy to drive. This was his love and joy. He had Parkinson’s so
it was time for them to part. I am not the owner of Iris, only one of her many caretakers.
I have big boots to fill as he took loving care of her. We had a great time meeting him,
there were so many connections on so many levels. While the transaction was
bittersweet, you could tell that he knew that it was time to let someone else enjoy his
girl. He was my age when he purchased her and one day I will be in his shoes, handing
her off to her new love.
“Iris” – Vehicle Description
1960 MG MGA 1600 Roadster
Iris—original factory color—has been mostly restored and modified to handle modern freeway traffic.
Though engine displacement is close to stock, here are the changes:
● Pertronix Ignitor II & Flamethrower Coil-S.
● Replaced generator regulator system with alternator, converted to negative earth system.
● Rebuilt radiator – two rows 5/8” MX core, 3/8” @ center – 16 fins per inch.
● New fan shroud and oil cooler.
● Engineered stainless steel header and exhaust, Cap’s ceramic coated.
● Replaced intake header and carbs with MGB HS-4 complete kit – rebuilt by SU CARBS.
● Speed Specialties, San Diego, milled 0.04 off and flowed the head.
● All ports matched, MGB valves, springs, guides and hardened seats.
● Bench test: Intake – 36% improvement, exhaust – 39%.
● Compression 150 lbs. each cylinder.
● New 19 lb. flywheel & ring gear.
● Moss Motors cold air intake in front of radiator w/ K&N filter.
● Re-curved distributor by Advanced Distributors.
● New rocker arm assembly.
● New APT B performance camshaft.
● Complete engine overhaul and balance.
● Ottoco steel head gasket.
● APT head-studs.
● Spin-on oil filter.
● Replaced original transmission with five speed fully syncro Ford Sierra with a MGB clutch.
● Front springs 1” shorter than stock.
● ¾” front sway bar.
● Rear ‘tube type’ shocks.
● Silicone fluid brake system.
● LED tail lights.
● 60 spoke wire wheels
Iris has two windscreen options:
A stock windscreen unit (and for inclement weather an optional Stayfast fabric top and Plexiglas
sliding windows); or
A chopped 6” high ¼” Lexan windscreen.
Both options have custom side Lexan wings.
History (previous owner)
Iris drove to NAMGAR-GT-28 in Welches, Oregon. A 2,800-mile round trip.
Iris drove to NAMGAR at the Glen, Watkins Glen, New York. A 6,800-mile round trip.
Iris won four trophies in San Diego car shows. That’s every show she entered.