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