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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There are always new forum members wanting to know what to look for when buying an MGF - especially at this time of year when we are coming in to the start of Spring.

I was browsing around the net and found THIS website, which gives an excellent buyers guide. I hope it comes in useful for potential owners. The prices quoted must be historical, but otherwise sound advice.

There are also some good tips for owners in amongst the text, as well as what the writer considers to be the most, and least, popular colours.



MGF Buyers' guide
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Tony Harrison has put together this comprehensive buyers' guide to MG's popular mid-engined sports car...
Availability

Years produced:1995-2002Body style:2-door, open two seaterEngine options:
1589cc K Series, 112bhp
1796cc K Series, 118bhp
1796cc K Series VVC 143bhp/158bhpTransmission options:5-speed manual, Steptronic, rear wheel drive
Brief overview

The MGF was launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 1995 and was an immediate hit. Initially the only model was the 118bhp Mpi but within a few months the 143bhp VVC version was available. The specification of this model includes anti lock brakes and electric power steering as standard. Both models featured driver’s airbag, electric windows and central locking with volumetric alarm and perimeter protection.

A mid engined sports car with “Hydragas” suspension, five speed close ratio gearbox and all round disc braking was the first all new MG for 33 years. Air conditioning became a very expensive but desirable option in early 1997 and other options offered from launch included CD multiplay, fog lamps and passenger airbag as well as a factory produced hardtop with glass rear window and heating element. The following should help the buyer get the correct specification car. All models are fitted with alloy wheels.

VVC’s differ from the 1.8Mpi as follows:
° Five spoke alloy wheels (1995 – 2000)
° Electric Power steering (EPAS) optional on 1.8Mpi
° Boot mounted additional brake lamp, standard on both from 1998
° Half leather seats
° VVC stamped on plenum chamber visible through boot grille
° Eighth digit of VIN should read T for VVC and G for Mpi version
° Rev counter red lined at 7250rpm, and 6750rpm on 1.8Mpi

Face lifted for the 2000MY in late 1999, the exterior has body coloured windscreen surround in place of black and the side and front indicators are clear smoked with orange bulbs instead of orange lenses.

The interior has revised switchgear, optional lighter interior trim colours and the speedometer and rev counter are silvered with italicised numerals. The mileometer and odometer are digital.

In 2000 a Belgian built CVT transmission was offered, mated to the 118bhp engine. It offered fully automatic mode or steering wheel mounted F1 paddle shift that makes the gearbox operate as a six speed sequential gearbox.

In 2001, two further models were launched to compliment the 1.8Mpi, Steptronic and VVC. These being the Trophy160 SE and the 1.6 Mpi base model.

The Trophy has a reworked VVC engine producing 158bhp and is distinguishable by 16” alloy wheels, front bib splitter and boot spoiler. The suspension has been lowered and is stiffer: AP racing ‘MG’ branded red coloured 4 pot brake callipers working with much larger front brake discs. Body colours include solar red, anthracite and trophy yellow and trophy blue. The interior is colour coded to match the chosen exterior colour. Steel spare wheel optional on this model.

The 1.6 was launched as an entry level base model which is fitted with a short stroke version of the 1.8 engine, and equipped with more basic interior trim, It is nevertheless an affordable entry into sports car motoring and will be enough to satisfy many.

Additionally, there were several special editions available throughout the production life of car including the Abingdon, 75th Anniversary and Freestyle.

Some 67000 MGF’s found owners and the model was replaced by the MG TF in early 2002. The principle mechanical differences in the two models being the introduction of coil spring suspension and different power outputs.
VVC - What is it?

VVC stands for Variable Valve Control and is a very clever way of extracting more power from an engine. The system used by Rover differs from that used by Honda and BMW. On the MGF there is a mechanical link which controls the cam lobes that open and close the eight inlet valves. An eccentric-rotating disc controlled by the engine management system determines the length of time that each inlet valve is open or closed, keeping the valves open longer for maximum power and keeping them closed longer for maximum torque. On the road, the 1.8 Mpi delivers smooth power to about 5800rpm at which point the engine becomes breathless. The VVC revs happily all the way to 7250 rpm delivering a noticeable surge of power from 4000rpm to the red line. Because of the design, the fuel consumption is barely affected and the car can be used in city traffic conditions without any vices often displayed in some performance versions.
What to look for

Engine & transmission:
K series engines are strong and love to rev and as far as Co2 emissions go they are very green. First seen in the Metro in 1.4 guise, the engine has been progressively enlarged and improved. The Dohc K series is the mainstay of current MG Rover products and has been developed into the KV6 fitted to the Rover 75 and MG ZT ranges. The K1.8 engine has "damp liners" (where which half of the liner is dropped into the block, and half is cooled by coolant) to give extra capacity and is fitted with a stronger crankshaft and lighter pistons. It is very smooth and flexible. The entire engine is completely aluminium with the head bolts reaching down to secure the sump. Oil leaks are very rare and if present, should be viewed with some concern. Cambelts need to be changed at 60,000 miles or five years whichever is the earlier, usually the latter as most MGF’s are used as second cars. There are two belts on a VVC engine and although difficult to change, documented evidence of this repair, which is part of a five hundred pound annual service, should be available to the buyer if the car is over five years old.

Check the dipstick under the flap in the boot to determine the state of the oil. If it is coffee coloured, then the head gasket has failed
All engines should fire easily and idle at 850rpm when warm. They should be eager to accelerate without any flat spots and should not misfire or cut out.

The water temperature should be just below half way on the gauge and no warning lights should be illuminated when driving. The engine should quickly attain normal working temperature.

The manual PG1 gearbox is strong and has a close set of ratios, but is notchy until the oil is warmed. It is advisable to change the gearbox oil on a biannual basis to maintain a slick shift. The control cables for the gear linkage can break and although awkward to replace, necessitating the removal of the centre console assembly, are again achievable by the enthusiastic owner with the aid of proper tools and a workshop manual.
The clutch replacement is a major job on most modern cars and the MGF is no exception, however many owners cover high mileage’s without trouble to this item. It is a hydraulically actuated self-adjusting unit.
Selecting reverse is best achieved by selecting a forward gear first to slow down the input shaft, which will prevent a graunching gear. This is quite normal. All gears should select easily and not ‘jump out’ The clutch is robust and checking for wear is just like any other car. Steptronic versions should shift up and down in a seamless fashion.

Suspension, steering & brakes:
The MGF suspension is “hydragas” connected to all four wheels and damped by shock absorbers. It is indeed derived from the highly successful Metro as at the time development money was tight. The system allows for good predictable handling and roadholding without compromising passenger comfort. Indeed the car offers a very supple ride. Problems occur when owners fail to deal with a leaking unit or have the gas released to effect a lower ride height. This is not good practice.
There are three ways of lowering the MGF and as can be seen, none of these methods should be undertaken by anyone other than a Hydragas specialist - and one that should never be undertaken at all:

Release fluid pressure: The same happens to a car sitting lower due to neglect. This will lead to probably lower ride with difficult to define stiffness, but can give very dangerous handling on rebound movements of the wheels, when the gas-membrane covers and closes the damper openings in the Hydragas-units. The stiffness of the setup can vary with the amount of fluid released and one may even end up with a softer suspension!

Shorten the knuckles, which actuate the Hydragas-units: A popular and safe conversion, which leaves one thing usually desired: The car will only get lower, but the suspension will not get any harder! So the soft setup with shorter wheel travels will lead to a car hitting the bump stops more often, being uncomfortable in the extreme. But not dangerous as the stiffness overall is not affected and clearly defined.

A combination of reworked Hydragas units: Different fluid pressure and probably (not necessary) shortened knuckle-joints... there have been Hydragas units on offer with lower gas-pressure, leading to a stiffer setup where the fluid pressure can be dropped slightly to gain a lower ride height. But this is really something for experts...

There are specialists who can pump up the suspension but mostly the work is carried out by the Rover franchised dealer network.
Check the suspension ride height (tape measure required for a crude on the spot check it should be about 368 ± 10 mm at 17C measured from the centre of the wheel to the wheel arch lip vertically above it). Too high or too low may upset the suspension balance, and lead to premature tyre wear. Also, whilst performing this check, does the car sit level? There is nothing more irritating than a lop-sided car.

The steering is rack and pinion like most other cars today, a system, which offers low maintenance and very precise feel to it. The VVC and cars that have optional power steering fitted are protected by an underbonnet 70amp fuse fitted on the right hand side of the inner wing. Some owners disconnect it to improve the steering feel. The power assistance uses an electric motor mounted to the steering column, (the EPAS ECU derives the assistance required from the vehicle speed, and turning torque on the steering wheel, in order to give the correct assistance - or what it thinks is correct) which greatly reduces the use of engine power over the traditional hydraulic power steering pump. The steering firms up at speed to and gives greatest driving assistance at low and parking speeds.

All MGF’s have four wheel power assisted disc brakes with vented discs at the front wheel and solid discs at the rear wheels. Maximum brake size on MGF’s using standard 15” wheels is 280mm. But the AP racing set up used on the Trophy 160SE variant use a 304mm brake discs - this needs to be used in conjunction with suitable 16” wheels. As with all cars, a close look at the disc condition through the alloy wheel will tell you a lot about how it has been driven.

Today’s brake pads have no asbestos content and are generally much harder; therefore the disc itself wears and has to be replaced. Often this will manifest itself as a judder when braking from speed. Apart from that, braking should be progressive without any pulling to one side. Handbrake warning lights can sometimes stick on and the cable would need adjustment in this case.

Tyres & wheels:
Check the condition of the tyres. In addition to the tread depth there should be no excess wear on outer or inner edges of the tyre tread. This would indicate incorrect tracking or suspension height setting and would highlight a car that has had a hard life with sporadic servicing. Check also condition of tyre walls and wheel rims to see if the car has been kerbed frequently indicating a careless previous owner.

Cooling system:
MGF’s get an undeserved bad press because of Head gasket failure.
Many owners are ignorant of how the cooling system works and run the system low or have poor quality maintenance, which results in incorrect cooling system bleeding to eradicate air. Air within the cooling system would create localised hot spots in the engine and would almost certainly blow the gasket, which is of course a safety valve to prevent major engine damage.

Firstly when looking at a used MGF, you should check the radiator expansion tank to look for a correctly filled tank with a good green colour anti freeze. Other than this would indicate a problem. Have a look underneath the car to check the condition of underfloor cooling pipes. These travel the length of the car from the radiator to the engine.

When driving the car, be sure to reach working engine temperature and park leaving the engine running. After a few minutes at ambient temperatures, the fans should cut in to cool the engine. There is a fan inside the engine bay and this can be heard on the driver’s side of the car. It is designed to cool the ancillary components within the engine bay. The other fan is mounted next to the radiator; this should cut in dependant on temperature and heating system usage. Rare A/c equipped cars have two fans that work together or singly dependent upon conditions.

Body & chassis:
This is a sportscar and many owners will have driven them hard and fast. Some cars will have visited hedges or contacted other cars during the course of their lives. Rust or paint bubbles indicate poor repair as generally the car, even the 1995 models are rust free. Look for good panel fits, which should be parallel, all round. Check for signs of overspray on the hood, wheel arch liners or exhaust indicating accident damage repairs.

Exhaust:
Check for the sound of rattling or blowing exhausts. They generally last a long time, as there is a very short run from the engine to the silencer box. Complete replacement systems are around £200 with long life stainless steel ones costing c£300.

Interior and hood:
If the car is fitted with a hard top, see if you can have it removed to assess the hood fit and condition. The hood is simple to fold and erect, so any difficulties suggest a bent frame indicating very careless use or even an accident. Plastic rear windows should be checked to ensure that they are not cracked and the hood fabric should free from rips or tears. All are available as replacements and budget for a hood around £400 and a rear window around £100. Many owners will have replaced the cloth seats with leather on the 1.8Mpi, and this is a desirable specification to have.

The interior should be dry and in good condition. Damp musty smells are a sign of a leaky hood or window where it meets the hood. Left untreated the resultant moisture could create rust in the footwells. If there is a smell of petrol, walk away! This problem is very difficult to diagnose and rectify.

Electrical system:
Check that electric window motors work smoothly without jarring and also the central locking system. Pressing the lock plip on the handset twice will actuate the deadlocks. Check that all instruments work whilst on a roadtest. SRS warning light on all the time could be something a simple as a poorly connected wire under the drivers seats, (or passenger seat if two airbags fitted).
Summary

With many cars available on the used market, the one to buy will be influenced by many factors. MGF’s are available from a wide range of sources from as little as £5000 to just under £12500 for a Trophy version. The rules are simple, Buy the best one you can afford and ONLY buy with service history. Obviously main dealer prices and those of specialists will be higher, but they will know the car and will have probably serviced it from new and likely have supplied a new car against the one you will be planning to buy. All the usual rules apply when buying privately, so be careful and take someone with you who is technically minded.
The car is generally reliable but will benefit from an enthusiastic owner who will foresee any problems by preventative planned maintenance. MGF’s are either bought by people who use them sparingly or are bought and modified and thrashed on a daily basis. There are plenty of cars to choose from so avoid the latter and look around carefully. Whether you buy a 1.6 or a Trophy will depend wholly upon your needs and finances. They will all deliver motoring pleasure and are inexpensive to maintain and have especially low depreciation.

The most popular colours are British racing green, solar red, silver and Tahiti blue. The least popular colours are white, alumina green and gold. But don’t let me put you off one of these if the car is the right one for you. Care of the soft-top is advisable and a thorough clean at the start of the year followed up with a coating of waterproof lacquer will pay dividends. Look out for a good used hardtop, as it will make a world of difference to the motoring you do in the cold winter months.
Whether you buy a Steptronic version is your personal choice, but CVTs offer an unusual driving sensation that many find at odds with the MGF's sporting brief. So, as the automatic MGB was not popular, it follows that the automatic MGF will also not be popular. Small sportscars should be manual to gain the most driver involvement.

The MGF represents great value for money and is a technically competent package. They are already featured in classic car monthly magazines are sure to acquire classic car status one day in the not too distant future. Do join a club and learn from other owners. It may enhance your social life as well. Buy a good one and maintain and cherish it, and you will have a car which will reward you every time you drive it.


With thanks to Tony Harrison for compiling this article; and Alexander Boucke and Brian Gunn for their additions.
Copyright © 2002-2010 Keith Adams
This page was last modified on Saturday, 20 September 2008 at 02:56
 

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Keith's AOR site is always worth a look, but have a look at Pete's site which has links to many buyers guides (including the Keith's) and useful info.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Keith's AOR site is always worth a look, but have a look at Pete's site which has links to many buyers guides (including the Keith's) and useful info.
Totally agree with you about Pete's site - have used it many times.

I had not seen the Austin-Rover site before.
 

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All great reference points for buying, along with the guide on Rob Bells site which again, is link from Petes site if memory serves.

Anyone every come accross such guides for other models/makes?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
So does everyone change gearbox oil twice a year lol. Is this not abit over the top?
It is advisable to change the gearbox oil on a biannual basis to maintain a slick shift

bi-annual is once every 2 years, but yes, I agree with you that this will rarely be done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
All great reference points for buying, along with the guide on Rob Bells site which again, is link from Petes site if memory serves.

Anyone every come accross such guides for other models/makes?
Sorry Chris, missed your post..!! I thought that a buyers guide would be helpful as there always seems to be plenty of first time posters asking what to look for.

I am sure that there must be such guides for other makes/models - we just don't look for them..!!

I found THIS on the MX5 which is seen as the MG's closest competitor.
 

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VVC’s differ from the 1.8Mpi as follows:
° Boot mounted additional brake lamp, standard on both from 1998
° Half leather seats
Now this makes sense to my being told 'There is no such thing as a garden variety VVC'

As I can see, my 98 has not had a boot mounted lamp (which I will buy)

But, mine does have a full leathers seats..

Interesting read though
 

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would anyone object if i updated this for the tf- i think comments such as "there should be no rust- this is an example of poor repair" or along those lines should be updated to included the 99% of tf wheel arch paint surface rust and the common sill rust issues from older fs etc...
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I found this old buyers guide whilst browsing around and though it would be helpful information for people coming on here looking for advice before purchasing their F.

I have no objection to you updating it a little, although the original author might. Go for it, I say.
 

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I've been amalgamating a number of buyer's guides together, and anyone who might be able to apply some expertise would be more than welcome to have a tinker, if they so wished. It's a word doc, at the mo, so PM me an e-address.
 

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Really good find Paul :broon: Thank you. I tried giving you some rep for it but have been told to spread the love :lol:

Like you say, good for people looking and folks still learning about their car (every day's a school day isn't it?) :D Lush!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Really good find Paul :broon: Thank you. I tried giving you some rep for it but have been told to spread the love :lol:

Like you say, good for people looking and folks still learning about their car (every day's a school day isn't it?) :D Lush!
Thanks Rose.

Bump for anyone looking for an F
 
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