Special-bodied SA Cars

Customers were always able to purchase a chassis from the MG Factory and have their own coachwork fitted by bespoke coachbuilders. However, only fourteen of these are thought to have been supplied in this way.

The chassis price for the new Two Litre MG, known as the SA, was quoted originally in 1935-36 as £250 and later as £260. However, presumably due to the excellent design, build quality and pricing of the factory saloons and the two open cars contracted by MG from coachbuilding firms, the Tickford drophead coupe built by Salmons and Sons of Newport Pagnell and the four door tourer built by Charlesworth Motor Bodies (1931) Ltd of Coventry, demand for chassis was low.

Twelve of these chassis were exported with ten going to the Swiss MG importer Sportcar AG of Zurich, managed by J H Keller, a great enthusiast for the MG marque. It is known that Keller imported seven chassis in 1937 and one in 1938. It is also believed that the firm imported two in 1936. Over the same period, Sportcar AG also imported ten saloons but Swiss import duties at the time favoured the importation of chassis. The company chosen by Keller to build bodies on the SA chassis was Reinbolt and Christe of Basel who built some magnificent bodies in a style described as a cross between contemporary French and German design. Unfortunately only one is known to survive, SA 1961, currently in the US.

In 1983, John Thornley spent a weekend with Keller at his home in Luzern and wrote soon afterwards to the then secretary of the SVW Register, Frances Adam, with some information about the Keller cars. In particular, he stated that a total of 12 SVW chassis were bodied in Switzerland, nine SAs, one VA and two WAs. The full list of cars imported by Keller, their body styles and their sales destinations are shown on the Keller List.

The other two chassis were exported to Australia, one going to MG agent Lanes Motors in Melbourne, Victoria, to have two-door coupe coachwork fitted by the firm Martin and King of East Malvern, a suburb of the city of Melbourne, the other going to MG agent P & R Williams in Sydney. The Martin and King car (SA1787), known as The Airy Coupe after its first owner, Dr William Airy, remains a remarkably original car in the hands of its fourth owner, Malcolm Robertson, in Canberra (see "Distinctly Different - Some Notes on The Airy Coupe" published in Safety Fast in September 2003).

Both cars are known to exist. Details of the coachbuilder and history of the Sydney car (SA 2387) are hazy and the car is in the hands of an MG enthusiast awaiting a full restoration.

On the assumption that ten exported SA chassis did go to Switzerland, and taking account of the two in Australia, only two chassis must have been sold on the UK market. The better-known of the two cars is SA 1493, fitted with a two-door drophead coupe body by Coachcraft. It was registered MG 5132 and sold by University Motors to a Mr Slade in Berkshire in March 1937. The other car remains elusive. Some commentators think that it may have been SA 1384 bodied as a Sedanca coupe by Salmons.

Malcolm Robertson

References:

The MG Saloon Cars from the 1920s to the 1970s by Anders Ditlev Clausager -
Bay View Books 1998, p67-69.
John Thornley - correspondence with Frances Adam, 7 November 1983

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