Buying an MG

The Wellington MG Car Club is indebted to the Auckland club for allowing us to replicate this very excellent treatise on buying an MG.

There is a lot of good information on these pages if you are in the market for an MG.

It is worthwhile checking out TradeMe for MGs of all descriptions. Watch out for T-cars, they are not 'real' MGs.

After you have purchase your MG please come back here and join the MG Car Club (Wellington) if you are based in the southern half of the North Island of New Zealand. If you aren't in our area see our pages on New Zealand Clubs for links to a club in your area.

A Guide from the MG Car Club Auckland

MGB & MGBGT

This guide provides a background to the MGB and covers the key areas you should look for when buying an MGB. The matters covered in this guide are not intended as an overall vehicle buying guide; instead they cover some of the issues specific to MGB’s that you should check when considering a purchase.

The youngest MGB’s are now over 25 years old and accordingly every car has a different history, with differing levels of maintenance, quality of repairs, and usage. We strongly recommend that if you are unfamiliar with these cars that you take an expert along or at the least ensure the car is professionally inspected.

This guide must not be relied upon exclusively.


History

The MGB Roadster was released in 1962 as a replacement for the MGA. In 1965, the coupe MGB GT was released. A six cylinder version known as the MGC (& MGC GT) was launched in 1967, but ceased production after only two years. A V8 engined version, available in GT coupe form only, was produced from 1973-76. The MGB and MGB GT ceased production in late 1980.

The MGB remained substantially the same throughout its eighteen year production run. Whilst there were some changes to trim both inside and out, the drivetrain, suspension, steering and braking were not significantly changed during this period.

Refer to the timeline in Appendix 1 to see the changes in the MGB during its production run.


Which MGB to buy?

Roadster or GT?

Although the MGB did not change significantly during its life, different versions of the MGB may be more suitable to each persons needs. The initial choice is whether to buy a Roadster or a GT. Many owners now use their MGB’s as hobby cars, and accordingly the roadster is the more popular and commands higher prices. However, the GT is a more practical car, and to some people a better looking car. The Roadster is more limited in storage space and the soft top takes longer to erect than modern sports cars, however it has the obvious appeal of a convertible during the summer months. The hoods should be reasonably weather proof, assuming that the car has a good quality hood in good shape. There is relatively little performance difference between Roadster and GT; however the enclosed roof of the GT does give it more of a “grand tourer” feel than the wind in the hair Roadster. This decision really comes down to personal choice.

Chrome bumper or Rubber bumper?

The rubber bumpers were installed for the 1975 model year to meet US safety regulations, and to avoid making two different versions of the car, the rubber bumpers were used on all MGB’s. The rubber bumpers do have the advantage of providing protection against minor dings, however they are extremely heavy and do have an effect on weight and hence performance. The rubber bumper cars were also raised slightly to meet US bumper height regulations, which has a detrimental effect on handling. This can be corrected through handling kits, but is important to be aware of. The later rubber bumper cars (1977-80) are better equipped inside, and feature dual circuit brakes and slightly lighter steering thanks to changes in the gearing, which makes them a little easier to drive.

The chrome bumper cars have a more “classic” look about them and this is reflected in prices. The earliest cars with the chrome grille (1962-68) are perceived as the most desirable, however they are more basic inside with non reclining seats, “packaway” hood, non synchro 1st gears, and lack of a brake servo. As the years progressed, these items were gradually updated, and accordingly the “late chrome bumper” cars of 1973-74 are generally perceived as second in the desirability stakes to the earlier cars.

The interior and exterior trim levels changed during the period 1962-74, with changes in seats, hood, wheels, grille and dashboard. However, condition of a car is generally more important than these minor differences. Virtually any part can be interchanged between models and improvements can easily be retro-fitted.

We would strongly recommend that you seek a model with an overdrive gearbox, as these make a difference to motorway cruising. An overdrive gearbox can be retro-fitted to a non overdrive car, however it is not a particularly cheap operation.

It would be beneficial to drive several MGB’s when you are looking so you can gain a feel for the different versions.


What to look for when buying

MECHANICAL

The MGB is a very conventionally engineered car, with tough and well proven mechanical components. Accordingly, most problems with the cars tend to arise through normal wear and tear rather than any major weaknesses in the design.

a) Engine

The engine in all MGB’s is the BMC “B Series” 4 cylinder engine. The engine is cast iron in construction and is overhead valve with a capacity of 1798cc and a stated power output of 95bhp. This engine had already been in production in 1500 and 1600cc versions prior to being enlarged to 1800cc for the MGB. A number of minor changes were made to the engine during its period of production, however the list of items to look for is relatively similar for all versions of the motor.

The B Series is not a particularly quiet engine, and there will always be an element of tappet noise even on a good engine. If you hear an engine that is totally silent, it may have had the tappets adjusted up to hide wear. The oil pressure should read 50psi at 50mph in top gear as a minimum – most rebuilt engines will normally run at 60psi or above. Check for any obvious leaks, and ensure the engine runs at correct temperature – MGB’s are not known for overheating and the gauge should read below the centre in normal running. All of the normal checks should be made for blown head gaskets, which usually go between No 3 and 4 cylinders. The engine should not use any significant quantity of oil nor should there be any blue smoke. Wear in the twin SU carburettors can cause rough running, as can incorrect adjustment.

Parts for the B Series are all available, and rebuilding these engines is not difficult. If you find an otherwise sound car with minor engine problems, do not let this put you off.

b) Gearbox & Rear Axle

The MGB was originally equipped with a four speed gearbox with non synchro first gear. Overdrive became an option in 1963. The gearbox was replaced with a new all synchro four speed box in 1968. The first gear ratio was changed in 1974, and the following year overdrive became standard.

The gearboxes are relatively tough and with regular oil changes can do large mileages. The early gearboxes can often have weak synchro on second and may be slightly noisy. The later box does not generally suffer any major problems and should be tight and quiet in operation. Ensure that the clutch takes up correctly and is smooth.

The rear axle originally installed was the “banjo” type, which was changed for the Salisbury “tube” type in 1965 on introduction of the BGT. Regular oil changes will ensure a long life for this unit and there are no particular problems with it. A slight clunking can indicate wear in the thrust washers, which is relatively simple to fix.

c) Suspension, steering, brakes

The suspension on the MGB was derived from that of the MGA. The key difference is that the B has a one piece front crossmember to which all suspension and braking components bolt, allowing it to be removed as one unit. The front suspension is a coil sprung layout, with unequal length wishbones. The upper part of the wishbone is formed by the lever arm shock absorber. The rear suspension has a live axle with leaf springs, and lever arm shock absorbers.

The suspension system does not have any major vices, being strong and reliable. However, any wear in the bushes, springs or shock absorbers will result in poor handling and ride. There is a higher degree of body roll in the rubber bumper cars, but the suspension on all B’s should feel tight and precise with no rattles or knocks. It is important to ensure that there is not too much movement in the kingpins, and that the lever arm shocks are not leaking. Beyond that, a drive of the car and check of components for wear should suffice. All suspension components are available new, and many companies offer uprating kits that allow the fitment of telescopic shock absorbers, better suspension bushes and uprated springs. The suspension on an MGB is not particularly difficult to work on, and an overhaul is well within DIY abilities.

The braking system is a conventional setup, with 10.7in discs at the front and 10in drums at the rear. Originally there was no brake servo, however this was introduced as an option and was then standardised in 1974. Retro-fitting a servo is relatively simple. The brake master cylinder was changed to a dual circuit layout in 1976. The braking system does not have any major faults, though the handbrake can take careful adjustment to ensure it is operating effectively and often the grease nipple on the handbrake cable can be forgotten. Other than this, the normal checks that apply to vehicle brakes should be applied.

The MGB uses a Cam Gears rack and pinion steering system. The gearing of the system changed from 2.9 to 3.5 turns in 1975, at which time a collapsible steering column was also introduced. The steering is generally trouble free, but ensure it is nice and tight with less than an inch of free play in the universal joint and gaiters in good order. Note that some people install larger wheels and/or larger tyres onto a B, which can result in very heavy steering – so check the wheel/tyre combination before you drive a car.

BODYWORK

The bodywork is the most important factor to look for when buying an MGB. As these cars now range from 27-45 years old, virtually all will have had some panel work done and some rust removal or paintwork. The standard of care of the car and the standard of repairs performed will have a significant impact on how the car has lasted. The body is the most expensive area of the car to put right and accordingly is the critical area to view when considering a purchase.

The MGB was the first MG sports car to have a monocoque construction, i.e. a single bodyshell with no separate chassis. The bodyshell was somewhat over engineered, and is exceptionally strong and well constructed. However, rust prevention was not as advanced as it is today, and accordingly it is important to ensure the car you are viewing is structurally sound.

The key area to check for corrosion on an MGB is the sills. The sills run from the back of the front wheelarch to the start of the rear wheelarch and form the main structural strength of the car, and accordingly are very important. The outer section of the sill that is visible from the exterior has within it a central membrane, with an inner box section inside that. You should ensure there is no corrosion visible inside, outside or underneath the car in the area of the sills. Note that sometimes minor rust bubbles visible at the front or back of the sill may simply be corrosion in the outer panels, which is not critical but should be attended to before it spreads. However, this often cannot be determined without expert scrutiny, so treat any visible sill rust with suspicion. If complete sill replacement is needed, the work should be carried out by someone experienced in this job, as correct alignment is vital.

Whilst you are inside the car checking sills, lift the carpets and ensure the floors are sound. Also lift the carpets at the back of the cabin to check for any corrosion. If possible, remove the battery covers (the batteries are located in metal cages below the rear floor) to ensure that the battery boxes have not corroded. Note that until 1975 MGB’s had twin six volt batteries, and after that moved to a single twelve volt battery which resulted in the nearside battery box being removed.

The front wings should be checked next. Look for corrosion at the base of the wing, in the seam where the wing joins the scuttle, and around the headlights. Minor corrosion can also occur where the side trim strips are held on to the wing. A useful check is to reach inside the inner wing near the back, where you will find a small ledge; the top of this ledge can gather road dirt and hence can corrode, so a check with your hand is worthwhile.

Remaining at the front of the car, check the bonnet. Earlier MGB’s had an alloy bonnet, which can be susceptible to dents. Also check the front valance, which can suffer from dings and minor corrosion.

Moving back, check the base of the doors and underneath the doors for corrosion and ensure the drain holes in the door bottoms are clear and free of rust. Ensure the door fit is good and that the doors open and close easily. Looking at the rear wings, check the wheelarches carefully and run your hand inside the rear wheelarch rim to check for filler or rust. The seam at the top of the rear wing should also be checked.

At the rear of the car, check the boot floor for corrosion and also ensure there is no evidence of fuel leaks from the top of the fuel tank, which can corrode (look for fuel leaks or smells). On GT’s there can be rust in the tailgate and roadster bootlids should be checked. As with the bonnet, the bootlid on Roadsters was originally aluminium and was then changed to steel.

All of the exterior trim should also be checked for damage, though replacement of these items is relatively simple and not particularly expensive.

These are the main visual checks that should be completed on the body. It is not unknown for less scrupulous owners to hide rust damage through the use of body filler, and in some cases the rust can be hidden from all but very experienced eyes. Fortunately, most of these cars have now either been restored or have deteriorated to a stage where the rust is visible. However, if you are in doubt we strongly suggest you consult with an expert.


INTERIOR

The interior of MGB’s is fairly simple, and the good news is that virtually anything is now available. Most cars will by now have had some form of retrim, so what you may see on a car may not be indicative of standard equipment. It is however worthwhile noting that some MGB’s have had their dashboards significantly modified for extra instruments or switches – so check that you are seeing the original (refer to our pictures section).

Make all the usual checks for worn seats, carpets etc but be aware that kits are available for retrimming and rebuilding seats, new carpets, door and side trim panels – in fact virtually everything. So a tired interior may be used as a bargaining point in price for a car but should not put you off an otherwise sound car.


MGC/MGC GT and MGB GT V8

The MGC was in production for two years, 1967-69, and was essentially an MGB modified to take the Austin 3 litre “C Series” engine. Whilst the car was a fine tourer, it was not such an out and out sports car as the MGB and accordingly was not widely accepted. It is now a rare car, and commands significantly higher prices than the MGB. Its main visual features are a bulged bonnet and 15 inch wheels.

In addition to the engine, the MGC also featured different front suspension and rear axle, but other than that is similar to the MGB. Many of the checks noted in the MGB buying guide apply to this car. However, the rarity of the car is such that if you are looking to buy one you will not have a significant degree of choice. We recommend that you consult with one of the experts in our TECHNICAL section for further information.

The MGB GT V8 was in production from 1973-76 and featured the alloy Rover 3.5 litre V8 engine. Other than the engine and minor gearbox and suspension changes, it was virtually identical to the MGB. Visually, it has Dunlop composite steel/alloy wheels and V8 badging. The checks on this car are identical to the MGB issues noted above, other than the engine. The engine is not a significant concern in these cars as the Rover V8 is a well proven and reliable engine, though does require regular oil changes and the use of correct antifreeze to prevent corrosion of the engine.

Note that a number of MGB’s and MGB GT’s have been converted to take the Rover V8 engine, and this continues to be a popular conversion. If you are viewing a car that has been converted, ensure you sight the vehicles LTSA Compliance Certificate and possibly consider an engineers inspection to ascertain the quality of the conversion work.


LEFT HAND DRIVE WARNING!

The MGB was an extremely popular car in America, and accordingly the majority of production was sent to the USA. A number of these cars have since found their way to New Zealand, some of which have been converted to right hand drive. HOWEVER! It is important to be aware that from the late sixties, MGB’s for the US market had a number of ongoing changes to meet US emission and safety regulations. This resulted in different interior and exterior trim, and most importantly emission control systems that gradually reduced power. The later rubber bumper versions had a single Stromberg carburettor to replace the twin SU’s, and was so emasculated as to make a significant performance difference. All of these items can be removed, but if you are looking at an ex-US market car it is worthwhile finding out which of these emission features are still fitted.


Conclusion

The MGB was in production for 18 years, during which time over 500,000 examples were produced. They remain a popular car and are the most numerous model in the MG Car Club. They are a relatively simple car, with excellent parts availability. They are DIY friendly and are not difficult for a home mechanic to work on. However, it is important to ensure that you purchase the right car to start with. If you are looking for an MGB, we would encourage you to talk to existing owners and come to an MGCC event to look at a variety of MGB’s. This will give you an idea of the differences between the variants, and perhaps allow you to decide which would suit you best. We would also encourage you to talk to some of the experts (refer to our TECHNICAL page for details) who can assist you further in looking for an MGB. Whilst there are good cars out there, they can take a bit of finding!

We wish you good luck in your search for an MGB and look forward to seeing you and your car at an MGCC event.


Please refer below for Timeline of MGB History

The MG Car Club has provided this information as a general guide to purchasing an MGB. It should not be relied upon to detect all problems in an MGB and should be read in conjunction with an expert review of a car and/or a professional inspection.

TIMELINE OF CHANGES

Year

Event

1962 MGB Roadster commences production.
1964 Engine changed from three to five main bearing crankshaft.
1965 “Banjo” type rear axle replaced by stronger Salisbury “tube” type axle.
1968 Mark 2 models introduced, with new all synchromesh gearbox, optional automatic gearbox, negative earth electrical system, optional brake servo.
1969 “Recessed” type front grille introduced, along with “Rostyle” wheels, new reclining seats (now with vinyl rather than leather), new steering wheel and switchgear, new badges. Boot lid changed from aluminium to steel.
1971 Further changes to switchgear and minor controls, new “Michelotti” folding hood introduced, tinted glass standard on GT’s.
1972 Dashboard revised with face level vents, new switchgear, centre console with new astray and armrest.
1973 New “honeycomb” style of front grille, new steering wheel, further changes to switchgear, vinyl seats replaced with velour, heated rear window standard on GT’s.
1974 Automatic gearbox discontinued, brake servo standard, further switchgear changes.
1975 Rubber bumpers introduced, collapsible steering column, suspension height raised and minor changes to springs and antiroll bars, new instrument binnacle.
Limited edition of 750 “Jubilee” BGT’s introduced.
1977 New dashboard, instruments, switchgear and steering wheel, electric engine fans introduced, rear anti roll bars in, dual;
1980 Production of MGB and MGB GT ceases.

 

 

MG.F & MGTF

This guide provides a background to the MGF and MGTF and covers the key areas you should look for when buying an MGF.The matters covered in this guide are not intended as an overall vehicle buying guide; instead they cover some of the issues specific to MGF/TF’s that you should check when considering a purchase.

The oldest MGF’s are now 16 years old and accordingly every car has a different history, with differing levels of maintenance, quality of repairs, and usage. We strongly recommend that if you are unfamiliar with these cars that you take an expert along or at the least ensure the car is professionally inspected.

This guide must not be relied upon exclusively.


History

The MGF was originally released in the UK in 1995. It was the first all new MG sports car since the MGB of 1962 and as such there were high expectations of it. Development of the car commenced when the Rover Group was owned by British Aerospace, however when the MGF finally went into production the Rover Group had been bought by BMW.

At the time of the launch, only one version was available, being the 1.8i. In 1996, the VVC version was introduced, which features a Variable Valve Control version of the 1.8 litre engine and some minor trim changes.

The car remained relatively unchanged until 2000, when the Mk2 models were introduced. Interior and exterior trim was all changed at this time. Two new versions were introduced, being a base model 1.6 litre and a 1.8i Stepspeed model, which featured a steptronic CVT (Constantly Variable Transmission) automatic gearbox.

In 2001, a high performance model called the Trophy 160SE was introduced, with uprated engine, steering, suspension and a spoiler kit. This car was only in production for a year.

The MGF ceased production in 2002 and was replaced by the TF. The bodyshell was significantly facelifted, and the suspension completely changed from the Hydragas system to a more conventional coil over telescopic layout. The engines were also modified slightly, along with some trim changes. There were four models in the TF range – refer to the Appendix for details.

Refer to the timeline in Appendix 1 to see the changes in the MGF during its production run.


Which MGF to buy?

1.8i or VVC?

The majority of MGF’s in New Zealand are the Mk1 versions, being 1996-98 models and most are Japanese imports. The key decision to make in this market is whether you want a 1.8i or a VVC. The key distinguishing factors between the models are as follows:
1.8i VVC
Engine Power 118bhp 143bhp
0-100km/h 8.5 secs 7.0 secs
Top Speed 193 km/h 210 km/h
Wheels Six spoke Five spoke
Seats Cloth Leather/Cloth
Power steering standard No Yes
ABS standard No Yes
Passenger airbag standard No Yes
Red line 6,750 rpm 7,250 rpm

Note that although the power steering, ABS and passenger airbag were initially options on the 1.8i, most cars do in fact have these fitted. Power steering and ABS will be relatively obvious, however to check for a passenger airbag look at the panel on the dashboard directly in front of the passenger – if it has “Airbag” written on it then the vehicle has a passenger airbag. If ABS brakes are fitted then the ABS unit is fitted under the bonnet on the left hand side facing the car from the front. It has a number of tubes fitted to it.

Note also that VVC engines have “VVC” engraved on top of the plenum chamber (this was deleted on Mk2 & TF versions). It is important to ensure that the car you are looking at is in fact a VVC as some 1.8i cars may have had VVC wheels or seats installed. Note that there are no badges to distinguish the models, except for the MGTF 160, which has a TF160 badge on the rear of the car. Also the 8th character of the VIN code will be a 'T' in the VVC and a 'G' in the 1.8i or TF135 version. The VIN plate is found at the bottom of the windscreen on the left hand side.

The VVC was intended as the higher performance version of the range. However, the nature of the variable valve control system is such that in city driving there is no noticeable difference between the versions. Below 4000 rpm the power difference is not significant, as is evidenced by acceleration figures. Above that, the additional power of the VVC is readily apparent, as the engine will willingly rev right up to the redline with a continuous surge of power, which is quite addictive and excellent for overtaking. The 1.8i runs out of breath as the revs get higher, but is still a willing and capable engine. There is no real difference in handling or braking between the two versions.

The VVC does have a few extras such as the half leather seats and slightly beefier looking wheels. It really comes down to personal choice. If you are a particularly enthusiastic driver, the VVC is certainly the one to go for. However, if you are mainly driving around town and are less concerned with ultimate performance, the 1.8i should suit you fine.

It is interesting to note that the pricing is currently not significantly different for secondhand versions between 1.8i and VVC. When the cars were newer there was a notable difference in used values, but this seems to have lessened as the cars have got older.

Mk1 or Mk2?

At present there are very few Mk2 models in New Zealand, as these cars were not sold new in New Zealand in any quantity and used examples from Japan have not come to New Zealand in the same numbers as the Mk1.

The key differences in the Mk2 were a change in the design of wheels, the installation of clear front indicator lenses instead of amber ones, the painting of the windscreen frame in body colour rather than black, and a redesign of the centre console and door trims. The instruments also received a new font, and a height adjustable steering column was introduced. The stereo was changed from two to four speakers, and new seats were installed. The colours both inside and out were also changed. The mechanical changes were fairly minor, with a double skinned fuel tank and some changes to the power steering. The head gasket was also changed around this time and the gearbox linkages were changed to improve the shift quality.

The Mk2 is very clearly a better car than the Mk1, though the driving differences are relatively insignificant. The exterior does look a little more up to date (though this will depend on your preferences) and the inside is brighter. The seats are a little higher which results in a less sporty driving position, however this is more than compensated by the adjustable steering column, which significantly improves legroom for taller drivers.

The Mk2’s are obviously newer and command higher prices, which will also affect your buying decision.

MGF or MGTF?

The TF represented a significant change in focus for the MGF. The F was designed as a very useable everyday sports car that would be at home in city driving, the supermarket car park and on country roads. However, the TF was introduced following MG Rover’s sale by BMW to Phoenix and accordingly its design was a result of a new MG philosophy, aimed at improving the driving focus of the car. Accordingly, the TF is a sportier and more focused drive, which has its positive and negatives.

The exterior of the car received a significant facelift, with new front and rear bumpers, sill panels and bootlid. The new front bumper and spoiler were designed to improve the motorway stability in crosswinds, which had been a criticism of the F. This changed the soft, rounded look of the MGF into a harder and more aggressive look, the success of which depends on personal preference. Under the skin, the facelift hid significant additional bracing installed throughout the shell, which improved torsional rigidity by around 20%.

The engines remained the same K series units with the capacity unchanged, however there were changes to the intake system, throttle bodies and porting profiles. This increased power and improved throttle response. The result was a rise in power for the VVC (now called the TF160) from 143bhp to 158bhp, and the 1.8i (now called the TF135) from 118bhp to 134bhp.

The biggest change from the F to the TF was the suspension. The MGF featured a Hydragas suspension system, however this was replaced in the TF with completely new suspension featuring coil spring units. The modifications were quite extensive, and involved changes to the bodyshell to accommodate the new system. The intention was to produce a car with tighter and more responsive handling. The steering rack was changed and the power assistance adjusted to offer more progressive changes in assistance with speed changes. The brakes on the TF160 were enhanced to 304mm with four piston callipers at the front, and changes in brake bias for all versions.

As can be seen from the information above, the changes from F to TF were quite extensive. In most ways, this resulted in a more focused sports car that is more responsive and more fun to drive. However, this focus on providing a more intensive driving experience resulted in the TF being slightly harder to live with. Compared to the F it has a much harder ride, stiffer gearbox and harder clutch. It is by no means difficult to drive and on a winding road it is a lot of fun, but day to day an F is a slightly easier car to live with.

Your decision to buy an F or TF may be more based on budget, but we would recommend you drive both to determine which you like the most.


What to look for when buying

MECHANICAL

a) Engine

All MGF’s and MGTF’s have the Rover K-Series engine. This engine commenced production in 1992 in 1.4 litre form and has been used in many Rover and Land Rover products, including the Rover 100, 200, 400, 600 and 800 series, the Rover 25, 45 and 75, and the Land Rover Freelander. In the MGF, it was enlarged to 1800cc. It is an all aluminium engine, with double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. All MGF’s have fuel injection.

The engine was an advanced design when first released, and has shown itself to be capable of clocking up high mileage's. It is a particularly economical engine, and in the MGF (assuming a reasonable style of driving) a full tank of fuel should allow anything from 400-600km of motoring.

Despite its inherent soundness, there are a few areas where the K series engine in MGF form has shown weaknesses that need to be checked when purchasing a car. The first and most critical area is the cooling system. Being mid engined, the MGF has a front mounted radiator with long coolant pipes running under the car and carrying the coolant to the engine. It is extremely important that the coolant has been changed at the recommended intervals, and that the system has been correctly bled when the coolant has been changed, to avoid air locks. The coolant level should be half way up the expansion tank in the engine bay – if the coolant level is lower or the coolant looks in poor condition, view the car with suspicion! It is also important that the radiator is in good order, the metal coolant lines under the car (and the hoses) are in good shape and the electric fans are working.

Any problem in these areas can cause overheating, which frequently leads to failure of the head gasket. There have been many suggestions for ways to avoid head gasket failure and just as many suggestions for why it happens, however when viewing a potential purchase it is critical that the car has been correctly serviced, that the coolant level is correct, the coolant in good condition, and that the temperature gauge does not go above halfway. Normally, the gauge will sit just below the centre and does not generally move. The engine has quite a low volume of coolant and therefore it warms to operating temperature quickly; however the low volume means that keeping the level right is very important. Rover introduced a revised head gasket in 2000, and any car that has suffered head gasket failure should have had the revised gasket installed. More recently, Land Rover introduced another revised gasket which some owners are using.

The K Series engine has belt driven camshafts, and the belts should be changed either 5 yearly or at 100,000km. If the belts break, the pistons and valves will contact which results in expensive repair work. It is therefore important to ensure that the cam belts have been changed at the correct intervals. This is a relatively time consuming job given the restricted access in the MGF’s engine bay.

During 1998, MG issued a service recall to ensure that the bolts holding the camshaft belt pulley bolt assembly were correctly torqued. At worst, failure of the bolts will cause major engine damage. However, a check can be performed quite easily by a knowledgeable garage to ensure that the bolts are correctly torqued and located. This is a relatively simple check that should be performed on any MGF.

Beyond this, there are no specific weaknesses in the MGF’s engine. However, as when buying any secondhand car it is important that all the regular checks are performed. Getting a compression test and cooling system pressure test are important, as is checking for oil or coolant leaks and reviewing the service history.

b) Gearbox

The MGF and TF have a five speed manual gearbox. The Steptronic version has a steptronic automatic gearbox, though these cars are relatively rare.

The manual gearbox has not suffered from any specific problems, however ensure that the gear change operates easily with no graunching or sticking. The linkage between the centrally mounted gearbox and the gear lever can stick or even break, so if the gearchange does not operate smoothly the linkage could be the cause of the problem.

For the steptronic gearbox the gearbox oil is used to lubricate and to drive the pulley system that governs the gear ratio that is being used. This oil must be changed every two years and it MUST be the oil specified in the owners handbook, which is 'Esso EZL 799'. Normal auto transmission gearbox oil will result in transmission failure at some stage.

c) Suspension, steering, brakes

The MGF has fully independent suspension with double wishbones front and rear and anti roll bars front and rear. This is damped by a Hydragas suspension system instead of more conventional springs and dampers.

The suspension is strong and reliable, and delivers excellent handling with a very good ride compromise. The key matter to check is that the ride height has been correctly set. The suspension height generally needs resetting about every two years, and is done by a garage using a Hydragas pump. Most MG Rover dealers have these, as do some specialist garages (refer to our TECHNICAL page for further information). Some cars have had gas let out in order to lower them, which does little for the handling and results in the car scraping on every driveway and speed bump. With the suspension correctly set, the car will handle significantly better than with it set too low. A simple way of checking this is to measure the distance between the centre of the front wheel and the top of the wheelarch. This should be 368mm (+/- 10mm). Note that this check should be performed on a flat surface, at least two hours after the car was last driven. A very few cars have been correctly lowered using lowering knuckles, however the effects on handling are debatable.

If the suspension height or wheel alignment is out, the front tyres will often show premature wear on their inner edge.

The suspension suffers from wear and tear as any other car does, so a drive will reveal any clocks, knocks or rattles that may indicate wear in bushes and other components.

The TF reverted to a more conventional coil spring over shock absorber layout, which gave the car more responsive handling at the detriment of the ride. As most TF’s are still relatively young, no major issues have arisen, however once again all the usual checks should be performed for wear.

The steering on MGF’s and TF’s is quite unique. It is an electric power steering system, i.e. the power assistance is provided by an electric motor rather than the usual hydraulic system. The motor offers a variable degree of assistance depending on road speed, providing more assistance at low speeds and less at higher speeds. The system is generally reliable, however a road test should determine if the assistance is working correctly.

The brakes on both the MGF and TF are strong and reliable, with no major vices. The usual checks for juddering, vibration and squeaking should be made.

d) Electrical

The electrical system on the MGF and TF is generally very reliable, however as with any open car it is important to check that everything works.

MGF’s do have a problem with the brake light switch, which can often stick on. Resetting is a simple job, however it pays to check that the brake lights are coming on and off correctly.

Whilst inside the car, check that the SRS light on the dashboard illuminates when the ignition is turned on and goes out when the engine is started. If it does not, it could indicate a problem with the airbag system, or more commonly a wire under one of the seats has come adrift.


BODYWORK

The bodywork of the MGF is very strong and well constructed. The panel fit of the car is extremely good and the original paint finish was to a high standard. There are no major areas of structural weakness or corrosion, however there are still a number of areas to check.

Firstly, ensure that the paint finish is good and that the panel fit is good. Doors should all fit very well and should open and close easily. In particular, check the fit of the front and rear bumpers. The fit around the guards and bonnet should be tight and uniform; if not, the car has likely had either panel changes or accident damage.

There have been some instances of cars suffering from corrosion in the sill area. These have mainly occurred in the UK and have been superficial only, however check the sills for any signs of visual corrosion.

It is also important to open the front boot, remove the spare wheel, and check that no water has gathered in the base of the spare wheel well. If it has, check for leaks and ensure no rust has started.

As with any convertible, it is critical to check the condition of the soft top. The top on MGF’s was very high quality and has shown itself to be durable, however check it for wear and any binding spots and also ensure that the mechanism rises and lowers freely – sometime the frame can stick half way down. Also check that the zip for the plastic rear window operates correctly, and ensure that the window itself is clear and free from fold marks. Folding the roof without either unzipping the rear window or folding it correctly can lead to marks, or at worst case tears, in the window. Replacement windows are relatively economical to install.


INTERIOR

The interior of the MGF Mk1 is relatively plain, though well designed. The materials have not proved to be particularly durable, and high mileage or neglected cars often have interior trim that appears very well worn. In particular, the piping on the edge of the seats can wear, carpet in the footwells can become threadbare, and the door trims can show scratching. Most of these items can be easily checked visually, however a car with a well worn interior may indicate that it has not been particularly well looked after.

A further important matter to check on the inside of the car is to ensure there are no leaks. The key spots to check are the seals between windows and soft top, the bottom of the door mirror mountings, and the footwells. The hood seals (being the seals between the windows and the hood) are particularly important, as leaks can indicate a number of things. The windows are susceptible to being out of adjustment, which can lead to leaks. Furthermore, the plastic stops that govern the window travel can become worn, which results in the windows travelling up too far and compressing the hood seals. If the window stops are replaced after a period of pressuring the hood seals, leaks result. The cost of replacement seals is relatively significant so it is important to ensure that the seals are in good order and adjustment of the windows is correct.

If you are looking at a Mk1, you may also spot that the handles that adjust the door mirrors are either missing or broken. These are simple to fix and the parts are readily available.


JAPANESE IMPORTED MGF’S AND TF’S

The majority of MGF’s in New Zealand are imported from Japan. There are no significant differences in specification between Japanese market and NZ new MGF’s, however there are some issues to be aware of.

Many MGF’s were purchased as second cars in Japan, and accordingly many have very low mileage's. However, it is important to ensure that the car has been correctly maintained, particularly in regards to the cooling system. If the car has service documents, ensure they are up to date (this may require a Japanese translator!) and if it does not, consider having the car looked at by an expert – or allow a budget for subsequent checking and rectification work. There have been some cases of written off and repaired MGF’s being bought into New Zealand, so take care that you are buying a genuine and well looked after vehicle.


MODIFICATIONS

All MG’s through the ages have been modified by their owners, and the MGF is no exception. There are a variety of companies in the UK offering performance enhancements, handling kits, exterior changes, and interior improvements. We do not express a view on these as many come down to individual taste, however if you wish to personalise your MGF there are a number of different options available. However, be aware that performance and handling modifications often offer little change for a high dollar outlay. The standard setup of the MGF is extremely good and is more than sufficient for road use.


Conclusion

The MGF and TF were the best selling convertible sports cars in the UK right through their period of production. They are a well designed car that is very suitable for everyday use as well as enthusiastic weekend driving. They are well built and practical, and can handle city driving as well as long distance touring.

The price range for MGF/TF is now significant, with 1996 cars starting from as little as $6,000. This offers exceptional value for money, however it is important to ensure that a potential purchase has been well looked after. Get yourself a good example and you will be assured of many years of very enjoyable motoring.

Please refer below for Timeline of MGF History

The MG Car Club has provided this information as a general guide to purchasing an MGF. It should not be relied upon to detect all problems in an MGF and should be read in conjunction with an expert review of a car and/or a professional inspection.


APPENDIX 1

TIMELINE OF CHANGES

Year Event
1995 MGF 1.8i launched at the Geneva Motor Show
MGF VVC version launched later in 1995, though most VVC’s were not on the road until 1996.
1997 Design of hard top and soft top changed, along with window seals (late 1997)
1998 MGF “Abingdon” Limited Edition version launched, with special green paint, chrome detailing, and tan leather interior. Note that all Abingdon models have VVC wheels.
Power steering now standard on all models
1999 MGF “75” Limited Edition model launched, in Mulberry Red or Black, with different wheels and interior detailing. UK market only.
“Steptronic” model introduced with semi-automatic gearbox
2000 MGF Mk2 model introduced. External changes comprise new colour range, new wheels, clear front indicator lenses, body colour windscreen surround. Interior redesigned with new centre console, new seats, 4 speaker stereo, electric mirrors, new switchgear, new door trims and revised colour scheme. The heads gasket was changed for a revised design at this time with a number of other minor mechanical changes.
2001 MGF Trophy 160SE introduced, with a VVC engine uprated from 143 to 158bhp, lowered and stiffened suspension, body kit, revised interior, and 4 pot front brakes.
A new base model MGF 1.6 was introduced, with a 1.6 litre K series engine and slightly despecified interior and exterior trim.
2002 MGF replaced by the MGTF. Body stiffened and facelifted with new bumpers, sills and bootlid. Interior remains substantially the same. Engines uprated with new induction and exhaust systems to increase the power output, gear linkages changed, suspension changed from Hydragas to coil over telescopic layout, electric power steering revised.
2002-2005 Numerous limited edition models are released, being the Sprint SE, Cool Blue SE, Sunstorm LE, 80th Anniversary LE, Spark SE and Vintage Racing SE. Of these, only the 80th Anniversary LE was sold new in New Zealand, and is distinguished by its special upholstery and badging. A number of zero mileage examples (all in silver) have been imported from Japan.
2003 Pressure relief thermostat (PRT) introduced to assist in preventing overheating.
2005 The 2005 model year TF’s feature revised suspension to improve the ride, revised interior switchgear, different badging, new wheels, and a glass rear window in the soft top. Note that relatively few of these cars were built before MG Rover went into receivership (approx 600-700 cars).
April 2005 MG Rover goes into receivership and volume production ceases
July 2005 The final cars, built from components on site, leave the production line.
August 2008 Production at Longbridge resumes using parts manufactured in China by SIAC. A limited edition run of 500 of the MG TF LE 500 initially, with the cars being available for sale from 1st September 2008
Please note this is intended as a general guide only and does not list every minor production change during the cars life.

APPENDIX 2 – COLOURS

The body colour code is found on a rectangular plate riveted to the body behind the ABS unit under the bonnet on the left, facing the car, or where the ABS unit would be if your car does not have ABS brakes.

MGF

CAQ Nightfire Red (2)
CDM Mulberry (LE75)
CDX Copperleaf Red
CMV Morello Purple
COF Flame Red
EAC Volcano
GUF Alumina Green
HAM BRG Metallic (2)
HFF BRG Pearlescent (3)
HYF Brooklands Green
JBH Wedgewood blue (MGF SE)
JRJ Tahiti Blue
KMN Amaranth
LVD Charcoal Black
MNX Platinum Silver
NAL White Diamond (2)
NNX Old English White
PAK Black (LE 75)

MGTF

CBT Nightfire Red
CMU Solar Red
FAR Trophy Yellow
GDH Calypso Gold
GUF Sienna Gold
HFF British Racing Green Pearlescent
HFN Le Mans Green
IAC Sunspot yellow
IAT Chagall
JFM Royal Blue
JFV Trophy Blue
LEF X-Power Grey
LQW Anthracite
MBB Starlight Silver
NDJ Dover white
PAK Black

MoST Content Management V3.0.6374