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MGF - Part 1

The F Word Published: 5th Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MGF - Part 1
MGF - Part 1
MGF - Part 1
MGF - Part 1
MGF - Part 1 Hood sticks unless aided
MGF - Part 1 Car looks pretty fair both inside and out
MGF - Part 1 keeping our cool – the engine does even if the air con doesn't yet
MGF - Part 1
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Is the MGF the modern successor to the MGB for today’s classic car enthusiast and a car you can swear by – or at? Well, we intend to find out…

Why an MGF you may well ask? Well, to be honest, we’re not quite sure either. The intention for our next project car was to buy a sensible practical classic car but after viewing a fair number of candidates like P6 Rovers , Hillman Avengers, Ford Cortinas (and coming away disappointed) we couldn’t help noticing that there’s an awful lot of MGFs around right now, a car we’ve secretly been contemplating for a while.

In a way,this mid-engined 1990s MG is an ideal and entirely logical trade up from our last project car, a ‘70s Triumph TR7. Both have an element of underdog about them; the TR7 because it’s been considered a limp-wrested replacementfor the macho TR6 ever since it was launched 34 years ago, and the MGF due to its soft Austin Allegro gas-suspended chassis and girly image. And of c o u rse it’s always played second fiddle to the MX- 5, even though the MG has comprehensively outsold the Mazda in the UK.

Like the MX-5, the MGF appeals to a new younger buying base – something the classic car movement sorely needs to latch on to for future prosperity.

Whether a typical MGB fan would see the MGF as a natural progression is debatable ... But it’s certainly the car MG should have launched way before 1996.

What also intrigued us at Classic Cars For Sale was the gamble of buying one from normal used car channels.

With their dodgy head gaskets and wonky chassis,MGFs are notoriously fickle and it’s interesting to note that several of them have been put to the crusher as part of Gordon Brown’s oldie scrappage scheme (we‘ve seen some!)!

Let’s hope our car doesn’t follow suit…

F-in heck?

We bought a pretty typical car; it’s a 1997 1.8i, four owners from new, 87,000 miles with an incomplete service history.

It was purchased from a high street dealer who had it knocking around for some months.

Looking smart enough, perhaps the credit crunch was putting people off; certainly the £2495 price was representative for the model and year. As you can read in our summary, it has its faults but generally T921RPH seemed sound enough and encouragingly had proof of a fairly recent head gasket change (we’re not daft, wouldn’t have gone near it otherwise!). Perhaps the dealer didn’t fancy the prospect of any comeback or warranty hassle because after some haggling we bought the car for £1500 as a trade sale (ie no warranty, no aftersales, no tea and sympathy). That’s not a bad deal as we’ve seen similar looking T-reg examples advertised for double this!

Just to add some further interest to the project, we acted like typical lightweight car enthusiasts when buying the car. This meant not buying one from a reputable MG specialist (always the best policy) and going simply on screen prices. What’s more (ignoring the comprehensive buying advice found in our Classic To Consider pages!) we gave it only a fairly casual tyre kicking examination before a quick blast around the block with the hood down, more interested in soaking up the May sunshine!

The F plan

The chief reason for running an MGF is to see how a typical used one shapes up both as a daily driver and a modern classic. We’re not expecting MX-5 reliability but we also hope that a properly maintained MG can be trustworthy and economical to run. Any mods carried out will be sympathetic rather than sybaritic.

Our first task is to book it in to a MGF specialist to confirm our car’s health, the second job is to have the chassis and geometry settings checked and adjusted; most are all over the place.

That’s for the future, right now we’re tooling around soaking up the rays and generally pretty smug with ourselves for bagging what on the face of it looks like a decent bargain. We’re glad it’s a plain 1.8i and not the vivacious VVC model as the engine’s variable valve timing system can play up – and the K Series is fickle enough as it is! A stock MGF will see any old MG off any way, even with its strangely tall gearing that’s more suited to frugal touring than sports car sprinting.

But overall so far, so good!

More Info


Four owners from new, stamped service history up to 64,000 miles (87,000 now showing).

Head gasket replaced – soon after last owner purchased the car back in 2007! MoT runs out in November. HPI clear.


Very clean and straight and doesn’t look to have been resprayed either. Panel fit as should be save for a bonnet that’s slightly proud. Hood is in fine shape but doesn’t retract fully; it needs moving one of the frame guides - is this normal?


Apart from wear on the carpets (hidden by overmats) some deterioration of red cloth on driver’s seat, and a fraying gear lever gaiter the cabin is in remarkably good shape for a ten year old soft top. Air conditioning fitted but doesn’t work but may just require recharging. Rear screen fairly clear and simply needs professional cleaner. Car came with Sony face 0ff ICE with boot-mounted CD changer.


Stock MGF rims in good shape with only usual moderate kerb scuffing. Nearly new Falken tyres up front with mix of Continental and Goodyear on rear.


Seems okay, pulls well but slight exhaust rasp (failing back boxes). Fairly fresh engine oil and coolant header tank is very clean with no sign of oil contamination. No sign of antifreeze either… But temp gauge remains rock steady.


Clutch in good order, gearbox fine apart from very sloppy gear lever even when in gear.

Running gear

Car pulls slightly to the left yet steering wheel slightly crooked to the right. Typically vague electric power steering. Brakes seem surprisingly dead feeling and lacking in retardation (new pads/discs needed?).

On the move

A typical 87,000 mile MGF albeit one that feels nicely tight with no rattles and good for a lot more fun-filled miles we hope.

Our car seems to sit low and be more oversteer prone than we can remember MGFs; perhaps the mish-mash of tyres not helping but overall drives well.

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