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MG TF1500

MG TF1500 Published: 27th Jul 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MG TF1500
MG TF1500
MG TF1500
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The MG TF1500 was the last in a long line of traditional MG sports cars. Outclassed by its contemporaries, it was as anachronistic as the Morgan became. But six decades on, how does it shape up?

While the MG TF was only in production for two years, it ended a line which had not only begun before the Second World War but had roots mired back in the distant 1920s. Just shy of 10000 were built – small fry compared to the previous TD and TC models. But enough to ensure that for a time the last of the Ts was the archetypal small British sports car.

It might have seemed outdated when compared to the likes of the Austin-Healey 100 and the Triumph TR2, but for MG the T-type formula was still working. Export sales were as strong as the UK market, and while MG knew it needed to replace the T-type eventually, the TF proved an ideal stop-gap until the new MGA was ready. More power and more concessions to styling meant this was a more civilised T than those which had come before. Classic British sports cars have never really fallen out of fashion – the MG TF has not fallen prey to any other model from a parts perspective; the only donors have been to keep other TFs going. Which means a healthy proportion remain to be used and enjoyed to this day.

On the move

The TF might have been the last of the T-type line, but its less traditional looks showed that MG was looking to the future. And while next to the Big Healey and the Triumph TR it looks antediluvian, traditional MG fans welcomed its conservative take on the MG theme. The separate wings and elaborate hood, both beloved of the traditional MG types, remained. The traditional colour palate, too – many were red, while black, BRG and white also featured prominently among TF production. It looked, in short, like everyone believed a sports car ought to look.

It was much the same inside, too. A huge banjo-strung steering wheel. Leather seats. And, just in case you had forgotten you were in an MG, even the dials housed in the centre of the dashboard are octagonal. The panel into which they are set is Bakelite – because that is the material chosen, and form in a car like this always has to follow function. You won’t find walnut as standard in a car like this, though many will have fitted it from the myriad of MG parts catalogues through the years. Slip behind the big wheel and you’ll be struck by the lack of space – sports cars from the 1930s and 1940s were small, and as their successor so was the TF. Rear hinged doors aid access, and once you’re in it doesn’t feel as cramped as you first think. We’d talk about equipment here, but there isn’t much – wipers, a choke, and that’s about it.

Torque rather than not outright grunt from the long-stroke 1500cc engine in the car we drove was quite remarkable – it’s possible to be in top gear by 30mph without any complaint and while the XPEG unit is no fireball, it’s certainly an improvement on the XPAG 1250; 15mph faster (88mph) and two seconds to the good to 60 (16.3) according to test figures at the time and there’s more to come by way of a wide range of tuning parts still available, such as supercharging; was popular when the TF was showroom fresh.

 

Round the corners

The firm springs make it somewhat bouncy, and given the condition many roads are in here in 2018 you’d feel uncomfortable driving it as assertively as we expect of sports cars today.

That’s not to say that it not good to drive. It may feel aged but the TF is pleasingly direct, with good turn-in, with a predictable rear end. The skinny tyres mean it’s never going to be the grippiest car in the world, but its light weight means that there’s rarely the inertia to cause grip to be lost unless you’re going too hard. The torque from the engine means there’s little need to change gear – but that’s almost a shame because the short positive shift means that it’s a joy to use. The TF has the hallmarks of a proper sports car.

Unfortunately, the MG is let down by a chassis which allows considerable body flex. American magazine Consumer Reports identified this as an issue in 1953, when driving one of the last examples of the TD – the car upon which the TF is based saying, “If the driver of an MG were permitted to enjoy the top-notch handling and maneuverability that goes with it everything would be fine. But he isn’t.” There can be lateral shake on anything but the smoothest of roads which affects the scuttle and the steering. The wings vibrate, and there’s a lot of wind interference around the largely pointless windscreen. It feels a world apart from its contemporaries – fine as a TD replacement, not as a TR2 rival, far sturdier car.

But to want to drive it like that misses the point entirely, because this is the kind of sportster that’s better suited to pottering about down quiet country lanes, perhaps with a picnic basket in the back. With a car like the TF, it’s about the overall experience rather than the outright performance.

 

Go or no go

Introduced 65 years ago, back in 1955, nobody noticed the end of the TF. After all, the shiny new MGA was the long overdue head turning replacement, with a new engine, new chassis, the lot. Who wanted something which looked like a relic? As the last MG of a breed now best typified by Morgan, it’s one to buy, enjoy, and tinker with rather than purchase as an investment – but to a degree that’s what we want most from our old cars as well. Buy this and it might not make you loads of money – but it will make you smile every time you see it. And you can’t ask for more than that let alone put a price on it.

 

Quick spin

PERFORMANCE Leisurely at best but so what?

CRUISING Better to take the B roads

HANDLING Old school but predictable and fun

BRAKES Adequate, easily improved

EASE OF USE Not on a regular basis, but as a weekend fun thing it’s great



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