LAST-MINUTE RE­PRIEVE?

An un­ex­pected MGF drive brings back happy mem­o­ries – and cre­ates an in­trigu­ing propo­si­tion

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Living With Classics - MIKE LE CAPLAIN PRO­DUC­TION ED­I­TOR

My daily mod­ern was due a ser­vice, and since Hall’s Garage in Mor­ton, Lin­colnshire, has been look­ing after the Le Caplain fleet for the bet­ter part of 16 years, now, that’s where I took it. I hap­pened to men­tion to owner, Steve Hall, that I was prob­a­bly go­ing to have to take the day off work, only for him to say that he had a car that I could smoke about in while the mod­ern was be­ing fet­tled.

The car in ques­tion turned out to be a 1997 MGF VVC with an un­usu­ally high spec, in­clud­ing a hard­top, front fog­lights, air con­di­tion­ing and a leather in­te­rior. The hard­top rooflining was droop­ing and there was a bit of bub­bling in the front wings, but I fig­ured that any car was bet­ter than a bus, and cer­tainly prefer­able to wast­ing an en­tire day’s hol­i­day. Hall’s re­moved the hard­top, raised the con­vert­ible roof – a lit­tle care­worn, but per­fectly ser­vice­able – and off I went.

Mem­o­ries of my old MGF came flooding back al­most im­me­di­ately. Mine was no slouch, but this vari­able valve con­trol car felt like a lit­tle rocket, its sewing ma­chine tick­over swelling to a throaty roar as the revs rose – po­ten­tially all the way to the 7000rpm red­line. Then there was the gear­box. I’ve al­ways felt that the early MGF gear­stick looks a bit long and gan­gly com­pared to the stub­bier shifter on later cars, but this one was at­tached to a five-speeder that was si­mul­ta­ne­ously silken, yet some­how beau­ti­fully snick-snick. I was soon zap­ping up and down the gears just for the sheer hell of it.

Join­ing the sin­u­ous A6121 to­wards Stam­ford, I re­ceived an­other pleas­ant sur­prise – the Hy­dra­gas sus­pen­sion, which had hith­erto been cos­set­ting me nicely, came alive at the first whiff of a cor­ner and al­lowed me to sling­shot through fast and flat with no hint of slip or rear end break­away. The steer­ing was stream­ing end­less in­for­ma­tion to my fin­ger­tips and the wheel it­self was a plea­sure to hold. I was hav­ing an ab­so­lute riot – on my drive into work, for heaven’s sake.

Ap­proach­ing the A1, I ac­cel­er­ated off the on-ramp, slot­ted the gear­lever into fifth and set­tled down, my speed more than a match for the usual ma­raud­ing Audis and BMWs prowl­ing the out­side lane. By the time I got into work, I was har­bour­ing silly thoughts of hand­ing it over to the lo­cal hand car wash dur­ing my lunch hour, and even sil­lier thoughts of mak­ing Steve an of­fer for it later that even­ing – even though it wasn’t ac­tu­ally for sale. The thing is, though – I still have my

old MGF. Yes, it’s been off the road for 18 months, and yes, the to-do list on it is con­sid­er­able. But the mem­o­ries I have of it – bomb­ing down to the Le Mans Clas­sic and the Clas­sic Bri­tish Wel­come in St Saturnin it, scrab­bling up Oliver’s Mount hill­climb in Scar­bor­ough, ex­hibit­ing it on the

Clas­sic Car Weekly stand at Event City in Manch­ester, then cut­ting across the top of the Peak Dis­trict, hood down, on the win­try blast home on the Sun­day night – are price­less.

Driv­ing Hall’s lit­tle crack­er­jack has suf­fi­ciently rekin­dled my love for it for me to aban­don my orig­i­nal plan of just get­ting shot of it.

I won­der if the old boy would get through an MoT?

‘Driv­ing Hall’s lit­tle crack­er­jack has suf­fi­ciently rekin­dled my love for the MGF to aban­don my orig­i­nal plan of get­ting shot of it’

Could OHR look as good as this once again? It’s time to find out…

The car that might have saved Le Caplain’s MGF from a grisly fate.

Buffed and gleam­ing at the Manch­ester clas­sic car show, Event City, in 2013.

Cur­rently offthe road and slum­ber­ing at the Hall’s Garage Home For Tired MGs.

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