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MGF Published: 22nd Apr 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: MGTF 160
  • Worst model: MGF 1.6 or automatics
  • Budget buy: MGTF 115
  • OK for unleaded?: Unleaded only
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 3920x1630mm
  • Spares situation: Key parts available new or used
  • DIY ease?: Generally good apart from engine
  • Club support: Excellent
  • Appreciating asset?: Not any time soon
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Fun rarely comes cheaper
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Long awaited modern MG sports car that looks enticing on paper and on the road, yet remains very much a 'banger buy'. Plenty to choose from so take your time because the MGF won't become a classic for many years yet…

The summer may seem to be a world away right now, but so what? Few things are as invigorating as a winter blast in a classic rag-top, but old cars and salty roads aren’t usually a winning combination. Buy a newer, more usable classic though and you should be onto a winner. Something such as the MGF and the later TF, with their great sporting heritage, low purchase prices, great parts availability and excellent dynamics, for example?

Launched in 1995 to massive critical acclaim and anticipation, the MGF and TF are now among the most affordable modern classics around – if fact roadworthy ones sell for banger money. They’re plentiful too and utterly usable, if you don’t need to carry more than two people, or any large loads. Built to modern standards yet just as much fun as any 1960’s sportster, the F is the perfect all year round classic that’s the bargain buy of 2014.


1995 The MGF is unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March, but it won’t be until December that the fi rst UK cars are delivered, all with an up gunned 1.8-litre version of the new K-series petrol engine yielding 120bhp. After soldiering on with ancient designs, the MGF was one of the most radical MGs ever. Mid-engined and using a development of the Metro’s effi cient Hydragas suspension system ( also using Metro sub-frames) plus electrically-operated power steering, the MGF was all Abingdon’s work too.

1996 The first VVC-equipped cars are delivered in March; the engine’s variable valve timing system boosts power from the standard car’s 120bhp to a noticeably more enticing rev-happy 145bhp.

1997 The first of a long series of special editions is announced: the Abingdon but, the fi rst batches won’t be delivered until May ’98. There’s Brooklands Green paint, beige leather trim and hood, 16-inch alloys and some extra chrome.

1999 The next limited edition appears in May, the 75 LE, commemorating 75 years of MG production. With black and red paint, leather trim and extra chrome, there are also multi-spoke 16-inch alloys. Just four months later, in September, a revised MGF is announced for the 2000 model year, with detail changes and a body-coloured windscreen surround.

Also, the CVT Steptronic joins the range, with paddle-shifts and six fi xed ratios. 2000 In July it’s time for yet another limited edition; the Wedgwood SE, complete with blue paint, CD player, leather trim, extra chrome, boot spoiler and multi-spoke 16-inch alloys.

2001 In March MG announces new entry-level and range-topping editions of the MGF. Those on a budget can now buy a 1.6-litre model, while those with more cash to spend can indulge in the new 159bhp Trophy 160. By August it’s already time for the next special edition, the Freestyle – which would prove to be the last of the F specials.

2002 The aging F gets more than just a facelift when it evolves into the TF in January. Multi-link rear suspension and revised steering give a signifi cantly sharper, if harder riding drive thanks to the ditching of the Hydragas set up in place of conventional coil spring/damper units. A restyled nose is the biggest change visually, but there are also bigger air scoops for the engine, new sill and wing pressings plus an integral lip spoiler for the tweaked bootlid.

With the TF comes a choice of 1.6-litre (115), 1.8-litre (135) and 1.8 VVC (160) models, the latter still featuring variable valve timing. There’s also a CVT available with the 1.8-litre engine, named Stepspeed. It doesn’t take long for the fi rst TF special edition to arrive though; by July the TF Sprint is on sale.

2003 There are two limited editions for this year; the Cool Blue arrives in February then by October it’s the turn of the Sunstorm (a bit late for the summer).

2004 The end of MG-Rover is nigh, but nobody knows it yet and MG TFs are still being churned out. In January the 80th Anniversary special edition appears, to celebrate eight decades of MG, then in July the Spark limited edition is introduced. MG-Rover goes belly up a year later amd all looks doomed…

2008 Thanks to MG’s new Chinese owners, the improved TF goes back into production in August as the LE500 Limited Edition. Just over a year later, in September 2009, the TF135 is introduced alongside an 85th Anniversary special edition run of just 50 cars. But it’s all just tinkering around the edges because by March 2011 the TF has been killed off. This time, presumably for good. But never say never…


In the fifties and sixties it was the British who dominated the sports car scene globally; even in the 1970s we had the MGB and Triumph Spitfi re/TR6/TR7, but already the Japanese were making inroads with the Datsun 240Z/260Z/280Z, while Mazda had the RX-7. By 1981 the Spitfi re and MGB were dead, so when the MGF was revealed in 1995 the press were hugely excited; the Brits had been out of contention for far too long.

When the F débuted at the Geneva Motor Show, Autocar proclaimed it was “Britain’s most important car since the E-type”. It introduced the car – without even having driven it – with the line “Feast your eyes, car enthusiasts, on the sleek lines and rich specifi cation of the new MGF roadster”. It was clear this smartly styled affordable sportster was long overdue.

The weekly continued: “On paper, the MGF is exactly the mid-engined, affordably priced, all-independent, all-disc roadster we have hoped for and speculated upon for years”. With such a build up, expectations were certainly high, and by the time the same magazine got behind the wheel six months later the cover line “Testing the brilliant MGF” showed that the car happily lived up to all the hype.

It helped that MG-Rover had enlisted ex F1 and Le Mans racer Mark Blundell to help develop the F; knowing a thing or two about setting up a chassis for dynamic ability, he suggested numerous tweaks which led to the fi nished product. As Blundell himself put it, that fi nished product “is a good, solid sports car. We did comparison tests with other manufacturers’ vehicles and they just weren’t in the same league”.

Blundell’s words weren’t just hot air either; Autocar’s verdict was that “the MGF is going to sell like lottery tickets on a rollover week. Rover has created what is, in all probability, the world’s most complete and affordable open two-seater”.

While the F wasn’t the sharpest drive around (the MX-5 beat it for pure thrills), it stood out in numerous ways. The key one was the ride, the Hydragas suspension providing a suppleness that simply wasn’t available with conventional springing. The steering also came in for particular praise, yet when the F morphed into the TF it was the steering which was singled out as representing one of the big leaps forward. While the F’s key failing – according to Autocar – was that it appealed little to the hard-core driver because of its populist chassis set-up, the TF addressed this issue completely. The new suspension and revised steering ensured the TF was now the affordable sports car of choice, even if the cabin design was getting a bit dated. Now, more than a decade after the TF fi rst broke cover, we’d say it’s looking nicely mature rather than old.

Monthly Car was similarly impressed hailing it as one of the best new British cars of its era as well as one of the top 20 handling cars around. “Unerringly stable” and “much more manageable in the wet than an Elise”, it hailed before concluding that; “It’s a great car… it puts MG back on the map with a flourish”.

Car thought even higher of the conventionally-sprung TF which was more alert and raw, reckoning that not even the MX-5 or the Porsche Boxster-looking Toyota MR2 matched it for all-round prowess. “The TF has the ability to amuse that the MGF lacked,” it commented in 2002. Given the car’s fi ne road manners and excellent practicality care of two roomy luggage compartments one has to wonder why they remain so cheap.


As MGF Cars’ Steven Stinders comments, the key thing to focus on when buying an F is that whether several key pieces of work have been done on it. He says: “If it’s on the original head gasket, it’s just a matter of time before an expensive failure takes place; one of the much stronger triple-layer gaskets needs to be fitted, and this should be fi ted before the original goes, not after – or the bill will be that much higher. “The timing belt should also have been replaced within the last four years or 60,000 miles; if this breaks, the engine will be destroyed, so it’s worth fitting a new one as a matter of course. We also fi t new stretch bolts; using the old ones is guaranteed to cause expensive problems, but it’s not unusual for the original items to be reused”. If you’re planning to use your MG whatever the weather, it’s worth buying one with the optional hard top; such cars fetch a £300-500 premium. Offering better refinement, safety and security, the hard tops fit really well, and any extra you pay at purchase time will be recouped when you come to sell. If you’re planning to motor with the roof down as often as possible, track down a car with the optional wind deflector, which is worth £100 or so. However, it’s possible to buy the hard tops and wind deflectors separately (on a used basis), so if your perfect F or TF doesn’t come with either of them, it needn’t be a deal breaker.

In terms of upgrades there’s a huge choice of performance and custom gear. Up to 200bhp is on the cards but the fi rst job has to be bringing a standard car up to spec, starting with a full suspension re-gas and geometry re-alignment from an MGF expert – it works wonders to the car’s handling, as do good quality tyres; many makes are deemed unsuitable for the chassis so speak to an expert like B&G or Stinders first. Even if you want to keep the car stock, invest in a low water warning kit from MG experts Brown & Gammons; costing just under £100 it buys you valuable time before the engine wilts. Another useful mod is a ducting kit to force more air to the cooling system.


Steven Stinders set up Peterboroughbased MGF Cars in 2009, focusing exclusively on selling Fs and TFs. If you’re thinking that sounds like a rather niche business, bear in mind that the company now sells around 150 cars every year, and it’s clear there’s still a lot of interest in these pint-sized sportsters. Says Stinders: “The demand is from all over Europe; we’ve shipped cars to France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Russia and many other countries. The F and TF are so usable, it’s no surprise that people want them; more than half of our customers buy them to use on an everyday basis”.

People are putting money into them, but part of the appeal is that you don’t need to spend a fortune as it’s possible to secure a very tidy MGF from just £1500 or so, with even the best examples typically worth just another £1000; average cars can sell for well under a grand. Because of the age of these cars, you’re buying on condition rather than spec, so there’s no real difference in values between standard and VVC models.

What does make a difference to an F’s worth is the mileage, and while the colour won’t affect the value, it will make a difference in terms of how readily a buyer will snap it up. TFs are also worth a little more than equivalent Fs, not least because they’re a bit newer.

Buy a TF135 and you should expect to pay at least £1800 for anything worth having; the best examples will go for up to £3000. The rarer and more desirable TF160 carries a premium over the TF135; Stinders reckons that if you spend much less than £2500 on one, you’re probably inviting trouble. Again, there’s just £1000 or so between an average example and something really nice – although there will always be the odd example that falls outside these figures.

One such car is the 2003 TF135 in Cool Blue that MGF Cars currently has in stock at the moment; it’s causing much head scratching. Featuring leather trim and with just 249 miles on the clock the car is exactly as it left the showroom; it’s for sale, but at what price?

There won’t be another one like it, but what would a collector pay for such a machine? That’s going to test the waters when it finds a buyer…

Because the F and TF are so usable, low-mileage cars are getting ever harder to find. However, Stinders makes the interesting point that at any one time four years ago, there were around 500 Fs and TFs for sale – and that figure is exactly the same now.

“The typical buyer is middle-aged and wants something usable that they might keep for weekends or it could be used all the time. There’s no bias one way or the other when it comes to choosing between the F and the TF; some people like the earlier nose of the F, but just as many people are put off by its Hydrolastic suspension, which they assume is unreliable – but it isn’t. I’ve never had to replace a Hydragas component, but if I needed to it wouldn’t be costly or difficult. Indeed, parts availability is very good for both the F and the TF; we don’t get involved in panelwork, but we have had to source most other bits – and if it’s not available new, you’ll almost certainly find it on a used basis”, he told us. It’s also worth mentioning the Steptronic, which has a loyal following even if it’s in the minority. This CVT auto is easy to drive if expensive to fi x; if you fancy the idea of a two-pedal F or TF, Stinders usually has a choice of Steptronic-equipped cars in stock at any one time, and they don’t carry a premium.

The last-of-the-line LE500 is in an odd place at the moment, as far as the market is concerned. They do the same job and weren’t updated significantly, yet they fetch up to £10,000; you’ll be doing well to secure one for less than £7000. “We’ve never had anybody ask for one specifically. Most F and TF buyers are attracted by the terrific value, although in the long term it may prove to be the most collectible of all, simply because it was the final edition”. Here at Classic Motoring we feel that the build quality isn’t particularly good; dashboards have been an issue for example. Some prefer the old MGF.

What To Look For

  • The K-Series engine’s head gasket is a weak spot. The key is to ensure the coolant level is maintained; the powerplant’s small coolant capacity doesn’t help. Fixing a blown head gasket costs around £500 and can write off many average examples.
  • The cam belt needs changing every four years or 60,000 miles with the tensioner and water pump replaced at the same time.
  • If the engine is covered in oil or coolant, suspect the worst. Check that they haven’t mixed by looking for white emulsion on the underside of the oil fi ller cap, although this could be caused by condensation if the car hasn’t been used much, so also check for emulsion in the coolant tank.
  • Check wheelarches, fl oorpans and sills where they meet rear wing, the latter on the F only as the TF doesn’t have this seam. Check where the front wings meet the sills, the front of the wheelarches and the back of the side air intakes.
  • Rear damper mounting points split, while the front and rear subframes suffer from corrosion and accident damage. New front subframes are £350, while the rears are £765; fitting a lengthy process.
  • The F’s radiator is in the nose, with two steel coolant pipes running the length of the car. They corrode with potentially catastrophic coolant loss. Many owners fit stainless steel pipes instead. Radiators last around six years.
  • Finish by looking for rot in trailing arms, wishbones, bootlid seam that runs across the top of the central brake light and the front wings around the side repeaters. Plastic front nose splits if shunted.

Three Of A Kind

In period there were some who felt the Z3 wasn’t as dynamically accomplished as a BMW should be, but unless you drive the car on its door handles you’re not likely to notice any shortcomings. Choose from effi cient four-cylinder engines and glorious straightsixes, including the rare and ultra-quick M Roadster. All are well screwed together but the four-pot cars are the most reliable of the lot.
This year marks a quarter of a century since the MX-5 turned the affordable sports car market on its head, with its intoxicating blend of great looks, a brilliant driving experience, fabulous usability and all at an affordable price. As a classic it’s even better because decent MX-5s now start at just £1000 – and there’s no shortage of cars to choose from, many of them sympathetically upgraded.
With three generations to choose between – all eminently affordable – you’re spoiled for choice. All are mid-engined but it’s only the third-generation car which is a true convertible – and it’s also the most compromised of the lot in terms of practicality as there’s no boot space at all. But if you want a sports car that’ll just keep working and which is a blast to drive, then look no further


There’s no reason to avoid the MGF – it really is an ideal modern classic although you need to be careful when buying. There are many out there however, which have been modifi ed by owners. Some 5_1998_1280x960_wallpaper_03.jpg of those mods are in dubious taste and work isn’t always carried out by people who know what they’re doing. But buy a good F or TF – especially from a reputable MGF specialist who has set the car up to how it should be – and you can’t fail to have huge fun, despite the pocket money prices.

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