MGF Model Evolution
The first all-new MG for 32 years, the MGF was launched to critical acclaim at the 1995 Geneva Motor Show. Initial attention naturally focused upon the mouth-watering technical specifications of this land mark car for MG: the Hydragas suspension, exotic electric assisted power steering, mid-engine configuration and the award winning K-series engine that had been extended to 1.8 litres for this application (which on the VVC version had also acquired an ingenious variable valve timing mechanism). The styling of the car was judged a successful blend of old and new- with design cues harking back to the last of the MGBs, but with a stance that was uncompromisingly modern and forward looking. As we look back now, we see what a superb piece of design the MGF represents: the essential stylistic elements endured with relatively few minor interior changes for six years and 77,212 vehicles (excluding pre-production vehicles) - before the F's first truly comprehensive face lift in 2002 to become the hugely successful TF, racking up sales of 41,635 units prior to MG Rover's demise in April, 2005. However, whilst the MGF had been left essentially cosmetically unchanged over the first six-year period, and the TF unchanged for its 3-year production run, there have been a number of special editions, new model variants and detail alterations- and these are summarised below:
1995
The Original MGF: 1.8i and VVC
Launched in 1995 as two models- the 1.8i and VVC, which possessed power outputs of 118 bhp and 143 bhp respectively.
Standard equipment levels were good for the class of car: remote central & dead locking; passive arming immobiliser and remote activated perimetric and volumetric alarm (earning, in 1997, Thatcham Category 2 security status); electric windows and heated door mirrors. The VVC added further to this standard spec to include electrically assisted power steering (EPAS- which was to become standard on the 1.8i in 1998), ABS and half leather interior trim.
1998
The Abingdon LE
The first MGF special, limited-run edition, based upon both the 1.8i and VVC
The car's more luxurious specification included full ('Walnut' beige) leather upholstery, beige soft top and unique paint colour, Brooklands Green (a kind of dark, non-metallic British Racing Green). Other cosmetic extras include an interior and exterior chrome pack- chrome ashtray and lighter, chrome exterior door handles and stainless steel grilles. Also standard, and first seen on this car, were the 6 spoke 'Abingdon style' 16" wheels, fitted with Goodyear F1 (215/40 R16) tyres. The 16" wheels were soon to be found on the options list for all MGFs and have proven an extremely popular design!
1999
The 75 LE
Was launched as a celebration model to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the MG car company (1924-1999)
The specification of this model mirrored in many ways the earlier Abingdon LE with unique colours (Mulberry red and solid black) with leather and the fabric hood in a contrasting colour (black on red cars, red on black cars). Chrome interior and exterior highlights were as per Abingdon LE. Interestingly silver was a colour option offered in some markets (but not the UK). The 75 LE came with Multispoke design 16" wheels, and with either 1.8i or VVC engine options.
1999
Mk2 / MY2000 MGF
Autumn of 1999 saw the launch of the improved 'Model Year (MY) 2000' MGF models, that are also known amongst MG enthusiasts as the 'Mk2'.
The cars incorporated a number of detail improvements aimed at eliminating some of the earlier car's weaknesses, including re-specified EPAS, double skinned petrol tank and detail changes to the cylinder head location and gasket design. Cosmetic and specification changes were few- what there were was aimed at improving the ambience of the cabin- with the only external changes being the painting of the windscreen surround in body colour where previously it was painted black, and the change of colour of the front indicator units from orange to smoked-clear lenses. Thus the cars received new seats designed to improve comfort and lateral support; the door trims now included an alloy insert (or wood as an option), the centre console was redesigned with an alloy theme incorporated (such as the gear lever surround) and improved switch gear. The heater controls were now silver painted. Controversially, the instrument dials lost their 'MG' logos, and the cream faces changed for silver items with a new italic type face. Compensation arrived in the form of an improved six-speaker stereo, with a pair of speakers behind the occupants' heads. VVC models retained their improved specification over 1.8i models. Where the 1.8i received new 8-spoke 'Minilite-style' wheels, the VVC received a new 16" 6-square spoke design. The interior is half leather, and the VVC, unlike the MPi, has ABS fitted as standard.
2000
MGF Steptronic
Introduced a little after the MY2000 models, the Steptronic cars received a technically advanced continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
This autobox includes a 'F1 paddle-shift' gear selection mode, that makes the gearbox operate as a six-speed sequential gear box. The gears can be selected either by the gear lever (push or pull) or the selector buttons on the steering wheel (pictured opposite). Unfortunately, this gearbox is only available with the 1.8i engine, as the gearbox has an input speed limit that is inadequate for the engine speeds that the VVC engine is capable of. Performance figures are broadly lower than the standard manual 1.8i (although it is argued that this car is at least as fast in the real world), whilst trim specs are close to VVC levels.
2000
The Wedgwood SE
Is the first limited edition based upon the MY2000 MGF
Following the successful formula struck by earlier limited editions, the car comes in a unique-for-MG colour, Wedgwood blue, and its improved standard specification includes leather seats, CD player, chrome interior and exterior accessories and 16" Multispoke wheels. This particular SE also possesses a rear deck spoiler- the first MGF to come so-equipped with it as standard.
2001
The Trophy 160
So named because the re-tuning of the engine resulted in its VVC engine producing 160 PS (158 bhp)
Possibly the most exciting and most comprehensively re-worked MGF special edition so far. The mouth watering spec includes lowered and stiffer suspension, AP racing 'MG' branded red coloured 4 pot brake callipers acting on significantly larger front brake discs, a new aerodynamic package consisting of front splitter and rear deck spoiler and that aforementioned engine. Other features include bold new colours- Trophy Yellow and Trophy Blue, a new style of 16" wheels and re-styled front head lamps. The interior has body coloured centre console and door trim inserts, plus coloured high-lights on the seats. Sure to be a classic.
2001
The MGF 1.6i
Was launched somewhat quietly at the same time as its bigger, louder brother, the Trophy 160
Designed to compete at the other, cheaper end of the roadster market, the 1.6i competes head on with the similarly sized Mazda MX-5 (Miata). Compared to the 1.8i, the car is de-spec'ed: no central locking, no volumetric alarm, no radio, no power adjustable mirrors, no fancy trim inlays for the doors. The car is meant to be cheap fun. Despite the capacity deficit, the 1.6 K-series is a ballsy rev- happy engine. Such is its effervescent character, one doesn't notice the performance deficit! In other words it succeeds in its aim- it's fun!
2001
The MGF Freestyle
Was the last swan-song of the 'original' MGF before its radically face lifted replacement arrived in February 2002
Equipped with the cosmetic up grades already found on the MGF Trophy 160, the Freestyle thus came fitted with a Trophy-style front bib splitter and rear deck spoiler. The car also rides on 16" wheels, although this time using the familiar 'Multispoke' wheels featured on previous special edition MGFs. The Freestyle does without tuning upgrades found on the Trophy 160 or that car's superlative breaks, and as such is essentially based upon the standard model 1.8i and VVC.
2002
The MG TF
This car represents a dramatic stylistic departure for the MGF and includes a huge number of engineering changes
These include a new suspension system (the car is now sprung by coil-over damper units with a brand new multi-link rear) extensive body strengthening, and a new faster 2.8 turn lock to lock steering rack to name but three. The interior style is practically identical to the earlier MY2000 model, but now offers more colour choice and material options. In many ways, the new TF deserves a new name, although the 'T' prefix has caused some raised eyebrows in MG enthusiast circles.
2002
Sprint SE
Based upon the TF 135 and 160 variants.
The sprint SE had a high specification trim from the outset, consisting of Gunsmoke Alcantara and black leather seats, Smokestone fascia and door panels, a coloured hood, chrome pack and front fog lights. On TF 135 models, Sports Pack 2 (ABS, uprated 304mm front disc brakes and callipers and 16" eleven-spoke alloy wheels – already standard on the TF 160) was specified as standard equipment. Only 600 MG TF Sprint models were said to have been produced in the five colour available combinations: Solar Red, XPower Grey, Starlight Silver, Le Mans Green and Trophy Blue.
2003
Cool Blue SE
Based upon the TF 135 and 160 variants.
The Cool Blue SE is distinguished by its distinctive blue hood and unique Alcantara blue seats. All models feature a Momo leather/alloy gear knob, leather steering wheel, wind stop and ash grey fascia. The 'Cool Blue' SE features those staple [and very attractive] six-spoke "Abingdon" 16" alloy wheels, found on so many previous MGF special editions, along with standard fit chrome grille pack and front fog lamps. This SE is available in a choice of three exterior colours: Trophy Blue pearlescent, Starlight Silver or Anthracite metallic.
2003
SunStorm LE
Based upon the TF 135 and 160 variants.
Limited production run of 500. Offered in three body colour options - Raven Black, Nightfire Red and Starlight Silver. The standard-fit body-coloured hardtop is complemented by a Smokestone coloured interior and Gunsmoke Alcantara/ black leather seats, leather steering wheel, 'Momo' leather and alloy gear knob and a single slot CD tuner. The specification includes a black hood, bright pack, 16" 11-spoke alloy wheels and MG/AP Racing disc brakes as part of standard specification sportspack 2, front fog lamps and body coloured electric door mirrors. The Sunstorm SE is available with a choice of engines with three power outputs 115, 135 or 160Ps.
2004
80th Anniversary LE
Was launched in celebration of the MG marque's 80th anniversary
There were three exterior colour options: Pearl Black, Starlight Silver and Goodwood Green. All engine and transmission options were available. Interestingly, the silver and black anniversary models were trimmed differently from the green cars, with burgundy red hood, ash grey interior with grenadine Alcantara and black leather seats and bright-finish console, door casings, gear knob and handbrake grip. In contrast, the Goodwood Green Anniversary TF is more traditional in style, combining tan hood with matching tan interior and black Alcantara and tan leather seats. Wood effect inserts are fitted to the console, doors, gear knob and leather steering wheel. All models feature a folding windstop and CD tuner. 16" 11-spoke alloy ‘shadow chrome finish’ wheels are fitted, along with front fog lamps and bright door handles. Anniversary ‘1924 MG 2004’ logos are found on the boot lid and embroidered on the seats, which distinguishes the 80th Anniversary LE from other LE models.
2004
Spark SE
Based upon the 115, 135 and 160 variants
1000 produced for the UK market. The Spark SE falls into the now familiar TF SE pattern of offering the SP2 chassis option as standard on all models (AP brakes, 11-spoke shadow-chrome 16" wheels), along with Gunsmoke and Black Alcantara MG-logo embroidered seats in an Ash Grey interior and a Charcoal Grey hood. Uniquely, this SE offered an extensive 'alloy' effect interior trim finish on the door inserts and steering wheel, along with the usual 'Bright Pack' items: chrome ashtray and handbrake button, Momo leather/alloy gear knob, bright side and front grilles and chrome exterior door handles. Additional spec items include a windstop, front fog lights and a Sony CDX-2000 CD player. The Spark SE premiered Firefrost Red as a body colour and featured a unique Sonic Blue (pictured right) along with old exterior colour stalwarts, Xpower Grey and Starlight Silver.
2004
Vintage Racing SE
was launched at the October Paris motor show, 2004. Based on the TF160, this car was painted in a unique colour scheme of Dover White with French racing blue 'Cobra' style stripes - this special edition is perhaps the most visually arresting of all the TF special editions released.
Clearly designed to evoke the spirit of 1960s motor racing, the car also came fitted with X-Power roll-hoops (the slanting variety), along with 'Vintage Racing' decals below the air intakes and on a numbered plaque below the seats. The specification also included all the usual SE refinements of chrome pack, shadow-chrome 11-spoke alloys and a decent MP3/radio head unit. The seats were black leather, incorporating blue Alcantara inserts, while the centre console was painted in contrasting silver (which was matched to the steering wheel and the door trim inserts). This is a very desirable car - what a shame that an equivalent special edition was not launched in the UK!
2005
2005 Model Year Update
The MY2005 version of the TF has brought with it a range of modest, yet useful updates on the now classic theme
Those expecting a dramatic facelift in line with the concurrent MG saloon range were disappointed, but the upgrades meant: a new hood design, incorporating a heated glass rear screen (a first on a soft top MG), a new range of colours both outside and in, a new badge denoting model specification (on the 160), a new wheel design for the entry models (115 and 135) - an attractive "V"-spoke pattern and a new range of in-car entertainment systems. The suspension too was re-rated with the aim to answer criticisms of the earlier cars that incorporated softer springs, re-rated dampers, thicker anti-roll bars and re-specified bushes. The net result was a significant smoothing of the occasionally bumpy ride that some owners with 16" wheel options (particularly SP1 and SP2 option pack-equipped cars) complained of - without compromising the much-admired handling sharpness. One curiosity of the MY2005 specification sheet was the down-grading of the AP-racing calipers from 4 pots of the Trophy 160/ TF160 to 2 pots. However, I have not yet come across a single MY2005 with the 2-pot AP caliper; perhaps this is due to MG Rover using up existing stocks of the AP-racing 4-pot calipers. MY2005 Production details: It is understood that 1878* 2005 model year MG TFs were built prior to the collapse of MG Rover Group on April 7th, 2005 (excluding 29 pre-production cars) over the last quarter of 2004 and first quarter of 2005 - with a further 253 vehicles being completed following in the 2nd quarter of 2005, presumably under the supervision of Pricewaterhouse Coopers*, the administrators. The precise model composition of these vehicles (presumably a mix of 115, 135 and 160) is at this time, unknown. The VIN range of these vehicles ranges from 637929 (lowest) to 641764 (highest).
2008
MGTF LE500
After a long wait, here it is - the new Longbridge-built MG TF - the LE500
the '500' signifying the number of cars in this series rather than any boast over engine power output! The Nanjing-built TFs had already broken cover, being shown to the Chinese and world media in March, but there remained much anticipation as to what the UK cars would look like and how the specification would change in comparison to that seen on the old MG Rover built cars. On May 29th we found out - the new car's most striking feature being a very nicely re-designed front bumper, with styling reminiscent of Gerry McGovern's original, the MGF, with its twin 'nostril' intakes on either side of the octagonal MG badge and single large intake below the number plate. At the time of writing, many of the technical details of the new car had still to be confirmed, but the following is known: 1.8 litre 135ps 'N-series' engine - this power plant is directly descended from the K-series 135ps engine found in earlier TF and F derivatives (there are no immediate plans to bring back the VVC 160ps engine at this stage). 5-speed PG1 gearbox (no CVT automatic gearbox planned at present) MY2005 specification suspension New black-on-silver MG badge, along with LE500 badge work inside and out (including the door sill tread plates) Piano-black centre console and instrument binnacle New instrument cluster, incorporating a digital temperature display (see opposite, left) and new fonts on the instrument faces themselves Hardtop will be supplied as standard, in body colour (colour palette pictured right) Softtop will come with a heated rear window - as per the MY2005 TFs Unique and numbered LE500 badge work - expect to see a 75 LE style numbered badge over the centre cubby box on the production cars.
2009
TF135
With the credit crunch threatening the collapse of many iconic international names in motoring (Chrysler at the time of writing having just filed for chapter 1 bankruptcy),
these have not been the best of times to re-launch the famous octagon brand into a fragile market. Perhaps this is part of the reason why MG UK have now launched the 'standard' model TF. Devoid of such fripperies such as leather seats and reversing sensors, the new model in the revised MG sports car range come in under the £14,000 price threshold, making this car one of the cheapest roadsters currently available on the market. For those making use of the current scrapage scheme, it could mean that you could be driving home from the showroom having spent under £12,000 - incredible value!
2009
The MG TF 85th Anniversary LE
Perhaps the most evolved and developed of all the MGF derivatives, this was truly a special special edition
Perhaps the most evolved and developed of all the MGF derivatives, this was truly a special special edition. Unlike the SE/LEs that preceded it, this one was more than a hit and run into the MG accessories brochure, for it offers a number of engineering refinements not found on any other MG. Part of that package was a more honed suspension package, offering, for the first time, Bilstein monotube gas dampers and Eibach anti-roll bar sets. Geometry was hand checked by Ian Pogson's team as the cars moved along the production line for optimal bumpsteer characteristics. And the wheels by RimStock, in the attractive "Twist of Pepper" style offered different widths from front to rear (7J versus 7.5J respectively). Bespoke colours (Intense Cassis (Metallic), Ice White (Metallic) and Engimatic Silver (Metallic) - click here for colours) and contrasting graphics set this car off - and is, perhaps, the driver's choice of the whole range. It's a shame that the engine choice was so limited to just the 135ps N-series engine. Imagine it's potential with a 160ps VVC...
2010
2010 Model Year TF135
These are the end of the line TFs before production was finally wound up at Longbridge in May of 2010
Essentially the same as the MY2009 version, these came with one important revision - the wing mirrors. This investment was made to ensure vehicle homologation compliance for sale in the EU, and are larger than the Rover 200-derived mirrors previously employed on TFs and MY2000 MGFs. These remain on sale in 2011 as I write this article, so there is still time to bag yourself one of the very last MG roadsters ever manufactured. It will be a small bit of automotive history, but the MGF and TF were the salvation of the brand. Without the MGF, it is perhaps difficult to imagine that there would still be an MG today.