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201211 Sep


Sarika Misra (right) with her niece Shruti Sanskriti and the 1956 MG Magnette ZA.


Cars have always held her under their spell. Her love affair with cars started when she was a kid and over the decades this passion has only grown deeper. In a candid conversation with autojunction.in, academician and connoisseur Sarika Misra talks about the golden days of Barrackpore race meets and her 1956 MG Magnette ZA.


The MG Magnette ZA was unveiled in 1953 at the London Motor Show.  Gerald Palmer, a young engineer recruited by the Nuffield Group in the late 1930s, carried out some of the development work on the MG Y-type saloon as one of his first projects. Palmer left Nuffield in 1942 to take up a position with the Jowett Company, where he designed the Jowett Javelin, one of the most innovative cars produced in the UK in the immediate post war years. He rejoined the Nuffield Group in 1949, and one of his first briefs on his return was to develop new four-passenger cars to be sold under the MG and Wolseley brands.



Rear view of the 1956 MG Magnette ZA.


It quickly became clear to Palmer that for economic reasons, he would have to use a common platform and mechanicals for these two models. By intelligent design, he was able to make the MG Magnette and Wolseley 4/44 appear significantly different from each other. The Wolseley was aimed at a different market to the Magnette, and its interior trim and fittings were given a more upmarket touch, in contrast to the more sporting aspects of the MG.


The suspension in the MG was independent at the front using coil springs and had a live axle with half elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The steering was by rack and pinion. Hydraulically operated drum brakes were fitted to front and rear wheels.



The wooden dashboard of the 1956 MG Magnette ZA.


The car had leather trimmed individual front seats and rear bench seat. The dashboard and door capping were in polished wood. Although the heater was standard, the radio was still an optional extra. Standard body colours were black, maroon, grey and BRG.


By the time that the Magnette, given the type name ZA, was released in 1953, BMC's B series 1500cc motor was available and the Magnette became the first car to use it. Press response on its release was very positive, although there were grumblings from die-hard MG enthusiasts about the use of the name 'Magnette', which had first appeared on revered models in the 1930s, namely the K-type and N-type. The 'new' Magnette quickly gained a reputation as a sporting saloon and sold very well. The deliveries started in March 1954 and production continued until 1956.




The following are excepts from a candid conversation with Sarika Misra.


How did the MG come into your family?

My father, late Sitaram Tiwari went to England to pursue his higher studies and later worked there for a short while. He bought the MG in England in 1956 and had it shipped to India when he returned home.


Tell us about your early memories of the car.

The MG Magnette ZA was the first car I saw in our house. In fact this was the only car my family owned for 46 years since the time the MG was acquired. I have practically grown up with this car. It was in this very car that I learnt to drive at the age of 14. I remember accompanying my father to the Behala airstrip when he used to teach me to do hairpin bends and various other subtle nuances of driving. My father was extremely passionate about this MG and always maintained it with great care and love. I think it is fair to say that I inherited my father’s passion for automobile. I still remember how every Sunday my father would slide under the car and I would assist him in passing the tools he required for carrying out the inspection or repair. Under his supervision and guidance, I learnt a great deal about cars and motoring. 


So would it be a fair assumption that your father was a car enthusiast?

Absolutely! Not only did he love cars, but also nurtured an active interest in motor racing. In the 60s and 70s, my family was regular at the Calcutta race meets and dad used to often participate in the races in this MG.



Frontal view of the 1956 MG Magnette ZA.


Share with us some of your memories of those race meets.

The 60s and 70s were a different time altogether; Calcutta back in those days was a different world. Motor races used to be a regular affair in the city with races being held at the Behala airstrip and Alipore Mint track. But it was CMSC’s Barrackpore race track which was the centre of all attractions. The likes of Kinny Lall, Mike Satow, Dicky Richards, Peter Adams, C C Rossi and Ferozeshah would race in their ‘specials’.


I still vividly remember watching Mike Satow in his ‘Cheetah’ and Dicky Richards in his ‘Bijou’ - two outstanding drivers who never failed to enthrall the audience. Their duels were legendary and the crowd would often cry out for more. I also remember C C Rossi in his Ferrari 275 GTB C, Peter Adams in his Fiat and the legendary Kinny Lall in the Q’marri. Kinny won far too often and exuded an infectious charm both on and off the track. And then there was dad in our MG Magnette ZA racing among them. We were always excited to see him race.


Sir Sterling Moss had once come to Barrackpore to give away the prizes to the winner. Sharmila Tagore, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and many other known names were regular at these race meets. Those were the golden days of racing in Calcutta.



A view of the rear seat of the 1956 MG Magnette ZA.


How difficult is it to maintain this car?

It is fairly simple to maintain this car. We clean the car at home everyday. I send it for servicing once in every two months and get the oil and spares changed as per requirement. The car is driven everyday and even after 56 years since the time it was bought, it runs like a bomb. It also delivers a mileage of over 10 kmpl which is pretty decent considering its age.


What kind of reaction to you receives from onlookers on the road?

This car is a show stopper and never ceases to turn heads wherever we go. People often come up to me and enquire about the make, model and year of manufacture. Till today, I often get requests from my students and friends to give them a ride in this car. Personally, I'm deeply attached with the car and can never think of parting with it.






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