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MG TF

MG TF Published: 27th Mar 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MG TF
MG TF
MG TF
MG TF
MG TF
MG TF
MG TF
MG TF
MG TF
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STEVE HOLE tells us about his project MG TF and its clever transformation into the RPS RPX. What’s one of them? Read on and see if you want to do the same…

Until recently my MG TF, a grey coloured 2002 X Power 160, was in need of TLC as this eBay, auction car wasn’t what it appeared in the pictures (ain’t that the way-ed). The images showed it to be very shiny, seemingly in good condition with fairly low mileage. Once we got the car home, though… Oh boy. It was effectively a shed under the skin.

I’m still not sure whether the vendor was a total weasel or genuinely unaware. I’m inclined to believe the former although the car had clearly been well looked after at some stage in its earlier life.

Trouble is the later custodians had clearly neglected even basics of servicing although I’d gone into the deal with the knowledge that the head gasket would need doing. I’ve bought several of these cars now and shopping at the bottom of the sea bed you really can’t expect to find an MGF or TF with a solid engine that won’t require a degree of remedial work.

So, instead of renovation, it was decided to give it a make over with an RPS RPX, which is basically a set of body panels that transform the look of the car and in my opinion, gives it a freshen up. The maker of the glassfibre panels, RPS who is based in Lowestoft, cleverly sells the various elements such as the new bumpers, the wings and boot and bonnet lids separately, so if you just want one or two parts of the kit (say, to repair body damage with a difference) you can have them.

Now before purists throw their hands up in horror, remember that when MGs and TRs weren’t classics, fibreglass parts were also popular, chiefly as a way to replace rusty panels and give cars an individual look. I opted for everything apart from their removable hardtop, although may go for that at a later date. I took the view though that the TF was a soft top, so I’d like to keep it that way.

Skin deep

Removing the parts that wouldn’t be required for the new suit of clothes, I began discovering just how far gone my new TF actually was. I’d expected that some work would need doing but the dampers were shot, as were the brakes, while stuff like sub frame bushes had also gone west.

Bizarrely though, under the car I found evidence of a lot of work done just months before I bought it, such as a new aluminium radiator and best of all a stainless steel exhaust. No wonder the seller looked a bit niggled when I won the auction as I think he expected double what I paid for it.

Rather than hang about doing the mechanical work first of all, I decided to crack on with getting the body panels fitted. There are no real dramas – normally – with removing bumpers and boot and bonnet lids from an MG TF and all went well this time with one exception. I duly sold the front bumper and lids on eBay gaining myself a useful rebate of £114.

I had intended to sell the rear bumper too, as they fetch good money, but after struggling for a couple of hours and losing my temper, which saw most of toolkit launched into next door’s front garden, I took to the mini angle grinder and it departed from the TF in three pieces, I’m afraid.

I had noted a couple of rot spots on the panels that were remaining in situ and also a couple of dings. The latter wouldn’t matter as the paint shop would take care of them. However, I decided to help them out by sorting out the tin worm in advance so I used a Rust buster product to stop the rot.

The RPS body panels are of good quality and all fitted well, utilising the original bolt-holes aided by a couple of tubes of bonding agent. After a weekend of work I was left with a two-tone, half TF; half RPX. I then trailered the car to MG K-Series experts Mike and Martin at MJS Auto and Marine, based in Little hampton who was tasked with sorting some of the MG’s engine issues.

A couple of days later my office phone rang. Whenever a garage asks if you are sitting down it’s never good news, I find. My suspicions about how bad things actually were had been confirmed.

I thought the engine sounded a bit ‘endy’ when I loaded it onto the trailer and Mike’s verdict confirmed my suspicions. The little ends were completely kaput. Luckily, he had a decent secondhand block in his stores and we agreed a price and he got cracking.

Another couple of days passed and another phone call from Mike. Having built the bottom end up he was about to turn his attention to the cylinder head repairs using all the related parts I’d sourced from MG Rover ‘black box’ gurus, XPart (excellent service) but he’d noticed that the head had been skimmed far too many times in the past to be of any use moving forward. Bugger.

VVC heads – particularly Trophy 160 ones – fetch silly money, even on eBay and Gumtree, as it’s a bit of a seller’s market for such components. I noticed that people were selling oily nails, with no guarantee of condition, for £250, with others offering rebuilt cylinder heads for upwards of £600. Wow… This wasn’t good at all.

I was about to have a cry and a beer when Mike called. Again. Maybe there is someone up there after all. At the back of his shelf, under a cover, he found a VVC cylinder head. It was a good one too as only a few months earlier he’d not only fixed it but had sent it off for a spot of porting and polishing. Sorted.

While at MJS the car had new underfloor stainless steel coolant pipes – the steel ones were rusty and if you are changing to an aluminium radiator it’s a good idea to replace the pipes, too.

On went EBC discs and Yellowstuff pads all-round along with Automec brake pipes and brake fluid. I also upgraded to ProTech dampers, specially adapted for the TF by a company called Hot Mods. Being a fan of Nitron, I went for their sexy looking turquoise springs (350lb fronts with 850lb rears). I was worried about overly stiffening the springs over standard as MGF bulkheads and suspension turrets are known for cracking, but I have to say they have transformed the TF’s often fluffy, jarring ride and it now does a rather decent impression of a Lotus Elise, during cornering, which is renowned for its fine handling.

I did forget though that the dampers and springs lowered the ride height by 1½in although I soon remembered the day I was re-loading the car onto the trailer and fractured the front splitter! Another job for the paintshop…

Testing times

Once home, I arranged an MoT, which it passed with ease and then took the vehicle off SORN. However, another glitch had to be overcome. On the morning of the test I noticed that the water level had dropped from the expansion bottle. There was no visible coolant in it! As I started the car the buzzer from the marvellous Brown & Gammons low coolant level kit was emitting an audible warning. This is a great and recommended piece of mind product, which is a bargain at £119. It definitely saved my freshly repaired cylinder head and would recommend one to any fellow MG or Lotus Elise S1 owner… I suspected an airlock and went through the quite precise MG K-Series process of eliminating the trapped air from the system. This seemed to sort it so I drove the car to and from the MoT centre, which was a 14-mile round trip. An MGF or TF (don’t forget the Elise-ed) driver always drives with one eye on the temperature gauge, as a matter of course, but on this occasion my left eye was almost glued to it. Luckily there were no issues and I returned home with a fresh MoT certificate in my sweaty palms.

However, next time I went to drive the car the pesky buzzer went off again. If I suspected that the B&G unit was overly pessimistic, the freely-flowing water under the vehicle confirmed otherwise.

This problem then proceeded to stump MJS and it was quite by chance while there that Mike noticed that one of the internal coolant pipes – that runs inside the car beneath the transmission tunnel – had the most miniscule pinprick in it causing all the problems when the cooling system was pressurised.

Another call to XPart and the new pipes were despatched. It’s quite an involved job and requires half of the car’s interior to be removed but it solved the problem instantly. While at MJS, Mike also adjusted the handbrake to solve the irritating dash-light illuminating all the time. Another known TF issue.

He also fitted a neat little sump plug replacement called EZ Oil Drain valve, which is a clever little ‘tap’ meaning you don’t need to remove a sump plug ever again. I’ve used these before and think they are brilliant. They’ve sold a load of them in America.

Purple patch after shades of grey…

Finally, the MGF could move along the south coast to Kingswell Coachworks in Battle, East Sussex. Colour is an emotive thing, of course. However, with this project we agonised. What looked good on one car may not translate to a TF with a body conversion kit fitted. Therefore, we went through a lot of colour chips and took photos of cars in supermarket car parks.

In the end we went for a Citroën colour called Karma Purple with a couple of handfuls of an enhancer. Glitter, basically. The result is a beautiful job, albeit in a Marmite colour but one thing is for sure, it sparkles in sunlight.

Another touch I decided to go for at the last minute was yellow accents. I like a yellow door mirror, as in a small sports car it gives other motorists a chance of spotting you. I also noticed that mainstream manufacturers are adding colour flashes on areas such as front splitters to sportier cars in their ranges. Have a look at the Mercedes-AMG A45, for example.

Therefore, I decided to have a thin yellow pinstripe added to our front splitter. A lot of extra work for Andy the painter but he’s done it beautifully and even he now says he likes it! I can’t recommend Kingswell highly enough, especially for their patience. Talking of which, costs? The kit is available in bite-size chunks, handy as you can take the parts you want and leave those that you don’t – the full monte is a little over £1000 plus the repainting of course which cost me £3000. But you don’t have to go the whole hog and I reckon you can have a good converted car for under than four grand – or even less.



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