Darian's 1962 MGA MkII

My father was given this car in 1964 when his employer couldn't pay him. It was his main car for a while, and my father drove my mother home in it when they first met. I remember riding in this car when I was four years old, but it sat in the garage for 20+ years until I brought it here in December, 2006.

Well, earlier this year (2008), the engine threw out a rod bearing. I always told myself that I would never rebuild my original engine, so once I couldn't drive the old engine anymore, I went for this swap. Todd Budde of Custom Rod Works did the conversion.

You can read about the earlier restoration here.

What follows is based on the writeup I submitted to British V8. Enjoy.

The engine is an intercooled Nissan CA18DET (16 valve, DOHC). This is a Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) engine that came out of a Nissan Silvia (S13). It weighs about the same as the B-series engine.

Although this engine was not sold in the US, a non-turbo version of it was. Consequently, if you go to Autozone and ask for parts for a 1990 Nissan Pulsar, 98% of the time you'll be correct.

There is also a large tuner scene for these engines where you can find upgrades. These engines can produce 600 hp with modification.

The engine produces 173 hp (124 kW) and 166 lb·ft (228 Nm) @ a stock 6 lbs of boost and red lines at 7,200, though you can safely push it much further if you remove the rev limiter. I run 10 lbs of boost. ( You can run 12 lbs safely without having to modify the internals.)  Nissan stopped making it because it was too expensive to produce. It has a reputation for being bulletproof, which is why I chose it.

Here is a more recent picture that I took after I painted the valve covers.

I estimate that I have about 165-175 hp at the rear wheels.

The engine is fuel injected (stock for this engine.) It's cooled by an aluminum 1965 Mustang radiator. Believe it or not, but this was a perfect fit.

The exhaust system was designed by Todd Budd, who did the conversion.

The exhaust system is 2.5" wide and has a Magnaflow muffler.

Todd also installed one of his custom aluminum gas tanks. Although it's about the same size as the old one, it holds more because it's square.

The car has a 5-speed Nissan transmission. The clutch is a stage 2 Nissan clutch. I got this clutch because it was almost the same price as the stock one, but is more reliable. It's a little touchy. (It's on or off), and I would personally recommend the stock one, but that's just a personal preference.  I use the stock MG master cylinder.

I use a stock MGA stock MGA 4.1:1 differential.  The Silvia had a 3.9:1 differential, so this works well. The front and rear suspension is stock as well, except for the V8-style bushings in the front.
I have plans in the future to reinforce the rear suspension to handle the torque better.

I use stock MG disks in the front and drums in the rear. I've found that these have been adequate so far as long as they're in good condition.

I use stock 72-spoke MGC wire wheels with 195/60 15R tires. These wheels are 1 inch wider than stock MGA wire wheels. They've been handling the stress fine so far.

Todd installed a new wiring harness that uses modern fuses was installed. (This is not only practical, but safer as well. ) I use TPI Instruments gauges except for the boost gauge. I kept the Jaeger oil pressure and temperature gauges.

The CA18DET is a front-sump engine. Consequently, the front crossmember had to be notched to clear the sump. The MG transmission mounts were cut off to allow the new transmission to be mounted.

I cut the bottom valance to allow more air into the radiator. The passenger side transmission tunnel had to be cut to fit the transmission. A couple of inches of sheet metal were cut in front of the radiator to move it forward of the steering rack. Todd made a custom oil pan from two old ones. The engine mounts were by modifying MG motor mounts. He also had to do a lot of custom fabricating manifolds, etc. to get the engine ancillaries to fit.

If you're still reading this, you probably want to know how it performs. All I can say is that it's very fast.Below 3,800 RPM the engine has 8 valves open and it drives like a stock MGA. At 3,800 RPM the turbo kicks in and 8 more valves open up. At this point you feel like you’re getting hit in the back with a board and the next thing you know you’re at 7,500 RPM.

The first time I drove with my 6-year-old son after the swap I accelerated hard and the back of his his head hit the back of the car. (Sorry Nick.) He loved it though...

I don't race my car, but I love to accelerate. I especially enjoy popping the clutch into second gear from first when the turbo is spooled up. This car is the most fun between 20-75 MPH. Any more than that and you start feeling the limits of the stock MG suspension and steering. 

Here is a YouTube video of me driving the car:

My goal was to build a sleeper and I wanted it to look as stock as possible. If I want to do a relaxing Sunday drive and enjoy the countryside, I can do that. Just keep the RPM below 3,800 and you won't know the difference.  The second I punch the gas, though, I can leave 95% of traffic behind. It's a great feeling.

I wouldn’t recommend a front-sump conversion because of the issues with getting the sump to clear the front crossmember. Having said that, I’m very happy with this conversion. On top of it all, it gets decent gas mileage. I got 26.6 mpg on the highway going about 75 mph the whole time. Not bad for a 4.1:1 differential.

One thing I plan on doing is getting some good heat shielding installed before next summer. My engine usually runs at about 220 degrees. This isn't bad for the engine, but it makes the cockpit too hot in the summer. (I don't have a heater; it's not really necessary in south Texas.)

Although this is a high-tech engine with turbo and fuel injection, I think that a 4-cylinder engine is in the spirit of the original car. 


The ecu is mounted under the dash.

It's not an original MGA twin-cam, but it is an MGA twin-cam.