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MOD & MEND Published: 15th Nov 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Do you drive this great classic or are thinking of buying one? Here’s how to ensure that you get the best out of your car for years to come

It was the ‘new MGB’ we’d waited 15 years after that sports car’s demise for… but it was worth the delay. Mid-engined, the MGF was the most modern MG ever made and it didn’t disappoint on the roads Yet for some strange reason the car remains little more than a banger. You can pick one up for hundreds (virtually given away if the head gasket has blown) and it’s believed that around 100 a month are scrapped! But if you are after some cheap sports car fun, the MGF takes some beating although engine access is nothing like an MGB…


You can see the thick end of 200bhp from this engine, reliably, and in the Lotus Elise it yields up to 187bhp. Power Train Products (PTP: 01455 622229) is an expert on K-Series tuning; its upgrade kit for £531 takes the standard 1.8i power from 120bhp to 140bhp, with improved torque giving better low-end grunt. If you’re after a car that can be used on the road as well as the track, you can aim for 170bhp. Start with an induction kit, a 52mm throttle body and sports exhaust.

The K-Series is not as bad as you’ve been led to believe. Ensuring the cooling system is tip top is vital. A special ducting kit has been devised by Mike Satur (01709 890555 but it can’t be fitted to models with air con. A special low water level sensor kit from Brown & Gammons is £90 well spent, too. It’s good preventative maintenance to replace the head gasket. The latest Chinese multi-layer type is said to be the best and a complete overhaul kit costs around £250.


It’s possible to bore the K-Series engine out to 1900cc but this isn’t a cheap option. Other routes include the Lotus VHPD 190 1.8-litre K-Series strip engine, which is a direct replacement. This produces just under 190bhp and features a special crankshaft, with forged pistons, rods plus other upgrades (check the website of PTP for full spec: You can buy one of these units from PTP for £5589.

The cooling system needs to be almost over serviced as the engine runs some 30 Degrees hotter than a MG ZR thanks to engine location; replace any suspect pipes. The variable valve timing system on the hotter VVC unit has been known to call time due to a tensioner fault causing the belt to pop out. There was a recall on this – but was it ever done? Belt replacement is critical on all K-Series engines along with worn pulleys, including the water pump one.


First step is to ditch the weedy Metro dampers for adjustables. Trophy model sat 20mm lower with competition-style spring and dampers were fitted in tandem with the gas suspension. On ordinary gas MGFs you can’t alter the springing but larger lower knuckle joints at the front is a good mod for all models. You can fit conventional springing like the TF but the £1100 or so conversion means it’s worth more than many cars.

MGF doesn’t handle badly and just a simple chassis re-alignment and re-gas of the Hydragas will see a massive improvement on most, costing typically around £150. Howeve,r have it set to the lowest permissible height otherwise the car will look like a 4x4! Suspension spheres now hard to obtain and leak so may become an MoT worry.


MGFs are too high geared so Lotus played around with ratios. It’s generally agreed that the closer ratio box fitted to the 11S Elise is best but the 135 Sport ‘box used the best set of ratios although the ‘shorter’ fifth gear makes high speed cruising more frantic. There’s a six-speed conversion from Komo-tec who crams in an extra cog in your existing modified gearbox but it costs some £5000.

Gear linkages break and were unobtainable for a while - you have to use modified TF items. Clutch hydraulics fail and a swine to bleed properly; some leave the reservoir cap off overnight with car jacked up at a kilter to assist. Few people like automatic MGFs. The F1-style semiauto can prove to be fussy and jerky in action. If you are in doubt have the car checked by an expert. A new auto box costs the thick end of £3000 fitted, by the way.


Firmer adjustable damping is an ideal first step mod but careful how you go here as too firm a setting (especially with Spax which have some 20 settings) can cause stress fractures at the turrets, although this is more likely on a track car. Renewing all suspension bushes with harder poly items is a given and ensure that the wheel bearings are okay (now becoming hard to obtain).

Many early Fs suffered from poor handling and pulling; because the subframes were mal-aligned or damaged. See that the ride heights are correct (368mm +/- 10mm). According to leading MGF specialist Brown & Gammons (01462 490049), one of the car’s problems was caused by incorrect filling of the system at the factory


Stock brakes are from the Rover 800 up front with Metro discs on the rear and this set up is perfectly adequate for many, although you can go a lot further. The Trophy set up is as good as any although it may mean new wheels to accommodate the larger discs used, which you were going to fit anyway, weren’t you?

Handbrakes are usually rubbish! Virtually every MGF will succumb to this, due to rear brake callipers seizing. According to specialists stripping them and freeing up the mechanisms, is only a short term fix and a new unit is the only solution.


There’s a huge amount you can do to mod and customise your MGF from a wide spread of specialists. The stylish optional hard top (which cost £1400 new) turn up for around £500-£600 second-hand, or you can buy good alternatives from Brown & Gammons costing from £899-£1275, depending on colour and spec desired.

Rust has become a major worry. Chief areas are the subframes, rear trailing arms and their pick-up points, front suspension attachment areas, fl oors and the sills – although these items are now being made by BMH. Front wings, headlamps scarce and dear


Like the exterior, there’s a lot you can do to improve the rather unimpressive standard MGF cockpit. Special editions frequently featured leather and it’s an easy swap or you can use aftermarket alternatives – the MGF Centre can turn an MGF into a baby Bentley in terms of looks and luxury for example! It’s worthwhile having a glass rear window fitted with heated elements if it needs replacing due to ageing.

General standard of trim is pretty nasty and the cabins don’t hold their shine. Metro switchgear is used – electric windows regularly play up. The rear boot release cable is known to break. Hoods that stick half way is due to failing pull straps on the frame; new ‘helper’ straps cost about a tenner but are fiddly to fit. Noisy wipers are usually a sign that they are about to fail; it’s a Metro system and around £45 second-hand.

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