“De­sign is about ev­ery­thing” — Alex Moul­ton

New Zealand Classic Car - - Report -

with 185/55 VR15 tyres up front and 205/50 VR15 size rub­ber at the rear.

Body rigid­ity on the MKI is good, but the TF is 20 per cent bet­ter, and the speed­sen­si­tive elec­tric power steer­ing was given a 10-per-cent-faster-geared rack for more pro­gres­sive steer­ing feel. A rear anti-roll bar was de­vel­oped, and more pow­er­ful mod­els of­ten have stiff­ened al­loy four-pis­ton calipers fin­ished in red. Lit­tle devel­op­ment of the MGF was sanc­tioned dur­ing the BMW era, apart from in­tro­duc­tion of the con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion (CVT) six-speed auto de­riv­a­tive in 1999. With the for­ma­tion of the in­de­pen­dent MG Rover Group, in 2000, came an in­ten­sive devel­op­ment pro­gramme, and cars built af­ter this time are re­garded as bet­ter built and more re­li­able. Pro­duc­tion only halted in 2005, when the MG Rover Group col­lapsed.

De­spite the prox­im­ity of the multi-point fuel-in­jected mo­tor, me­chan­i­cal noise is sub­dued. While the VVC mo­tor is 20 per cent more pow­er­ful than the stan­dard 1.8, it has only five per cent more torque, achieved at 4500rpm rather than 3000rpm. Car­ry­ing a lower fi­nal drive, the VVC still needs high revving to give its best, and the less-pow­er­ful en­gine is more flex­i­ble and tractable. The me­chan­i­cals are largely hidden from view, and the lined boot be­hind the en­gine is big enough to ac­com­mo­date two sets of golf clubs. A small com­part­ment up front houses the tem­po­rary space-saver spare wheel, bat­tery, and screen-washer bot­tle.

In ad­di­tion to the high-strength con­struc­tion, which in­cludes side door beams, re­in­forced waist­line rails, and three­mil­lime­tre-thick high-ten­sile steel tub­ing in the wind­screen frame, dura­bil­ity is im­proved with sin­gle-side zinc coat­ing for outer skin pan­els and dou­ble coat­ing for all oth­ers. The car was en­gi­neered for the 55kph off­set bar­rier crash tests.

New Zealand–spec cars all came with power steer­ing, along with twin air bags, four-wheel discs, ABS, elec­tric win­dows, lum­bar sup­port for the seats, and 15-inch al­loy wheels, while the $3K op­tional air con­di­tion­ing was fit­ted to most. Early UK mar­ket ex­am­ples did not have power steer­ing or ABS as stan­dard. The awk­wardly placed air-con­di­tion­ing box lo­cated in the pas­sen­ger-side footwell gets in the way of the right foot. Along with cheap-look­ing Honda-style col­umn stalks, the steer­ing wheel is dis­ap­point­ingly bland, and there is no ad­justable steer­ing col­umn.

Gen­eral in­te­rior qual­ity is pla­s­ticky and drab, and the driv­ing po­si­tion is less than per­fect, with a seat­ing po­si­tion too high and lack­ing height ad­just­ment. Pedal po­si­tion­ing could be bet­ter, and a slightly shorter gear lever would be a pos­i­tive. The in­te­rior of later cars was im­proved. Black and white back­ground in­stru­men­ta­tion is ex­cel­lent, and an oil-tem­per­a­ture gauge was deemed bet­ter value than an oil-pres­sure gauge. Red or black wo­ven fab­rics dom­i­nate in­te­rior trim, while VVCS boast leather seat fac­ings with fab­ric cen­tre pan­els. Ex­ter­nally, the VVC is dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish from its more mod­est brother.

Drop­ping the soft-top is quick, and the soft rear win­dow can be un­zipped like it can on the MX-5. Leak­ing hoods are not un­com­mon, and body-cor­ro­sion weak points in­clude sills, side-body air in­takes, guards, and sub­frames. But the MGF is prob­a­bly no worse than most other cars of the era.

Dis­miss the MGF as an odd­ity at your peril, for it is a fas­ci­nat­ing piece of kit, with the mid-en­gined lay­out and the best in­ter­pre­ta­tion of in­ter­con­nected sus­pen­sion. As Moul­ton once said, “de­sign is about ev­ery­thing”, and, for this alone, the MGF is worth watch­ing and, per­haps, even own­ing.

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