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MGF SUSPENSE

Modifying a car takes courage, skill, talent and perhaps, some madness. From my feeble attempts to ‘improve’ my 1960’s MG Midget and Morris Minor, I soon learnt to respect how cars are a system of components designed to fit and work together. Modify one component and it could be an endless domino of problems. I found it challenging enough to fit new, after-market components that look the same but are ‘just slightly’ altered to evade copyrights and patents. I do admire the work completed in hot rods and custom cars, many are a one-off works of art. Mind you, many are hideous looking and a mechanical scrambled egg with components from various marques. Modifying a car is a highly skilled process. My cars will remain as their maker intended, until I had no choice.
My 20-year-old MGF, the only new car I indulged myself with; had suspension problems. Like all MGFs, the hydragas suspension needed replacing. The suspension used four displacers containing nitrogen in an upper sphere and a hydragas fluid in the lower sphere. The nitrogen being compressible provides the springing/damping and the fluid controls the ride height. When the car was new, it was brilliant, providing a comfortable ride and good handling but as it aged, the nitrogen escaped and the suspension dropped. Pumping more fluid raised the suspension but it didn’t overcome the loss of compression, (the springing), leaving the suspension hard. New displacers were no longer available. I had 3 options, sell the car, reconditioned displacers or replace the suspension with a coil kit that had just arrived on the market. Selling my immaculate car with 50,000ks in return for the loose change dictated by market value, wasn’t an option. Reconditioned displacers were of unknown quality and very expensive. I was about to move from traffic congested Melbourne to a small, coastal town in Tasmania, an island state, so not having to find where to pump up the hydragas was an advantage of the coil replacement kits. I had the choice of two kits. An Australian kit that had mixed reviews and soon became no longer available. The other kit, known as Xpart/Suplex, was sold by retailer Rimmers UK whom I had purchased all factory spares from. The Suplex kit was described as commissioned by Caterpillar logistics, the official distributor of genuine MG Rover parts and used engineers who were involved in the development of the MGTF. The advertisement description continued: “detailed and involved calculations were performed along with physical testing to determine the effective spring rates, ride frequency and damping forces of the original hydro pneumatic system. The resultant designs were put through two years of evaluation and proving before sign off and release.” The perfect, professionally engineered replacement. No back-shed production.
When the kit was first fitted to my car the suspension was comfortable but the comfortable ride gradually became harder and noisy; 3 months after the installation there was no doubt it wasn’t right. I contacted xpart, their response: ‘nothing to do with us, see the retailer.’ Rimmers said it wasn’t a product they had issues with and suggested I return to the garage. The garage checked and reset the suspension twice, declaring the problem was the suspension design. The suspension got harder and the noise got louder. I continued informing Rimmers, sending descriptions and a recording of the noise. Rimmer’s spoke person politely acknowledged each email and thanked me for my patience. The emails exchange continued for months with no result. Eight months on, Rimmers sent me a warranty application form to fill and I took the car to two garages for diagnosis, both identified the problem as failed rear suspension. Rimmers agreed to replace the rear coil canisters but said I had to wait for the two canisters to be manufactured. Four months had passed when Rimmers told me the manufacture refused my claim because one garage said ‘the rear coil canisters appeared to have leaked a fluid’ when the canisters contained no fluid.
The car was unroadworthy; it skipped/hopped and juddered on turns and slammed over the slightest ridge. Forty kilometres an hour over reflectors on the road surface felt like a mallet striking my spine. I feared chipping my teeth. The suspension loudly clanged, grinded and metal moaned like a rusty gate, loud enough to stop pedestrians; many of whom would comment. Driving so slowly, I frustrated other drivers. The rear wheels developed an extreme negative camber and there was about 10mm between the top off the tyre and wheel arch. On the internet I read horror reports about the Xpart/Suplex kit. Owners displayed photos of their cars’ bodies fractured from the impacts. Forum after forum, owners expressing their frustration. I parked my car and decided not to drive it until it was fixed. Months passed, still no progress. I was paying registration and insurance for a car I couldn’t use. I continued to chase my warranty claim, asking Rimmers to give me 2 coil canisters from the complete kits they have in stock. They promised they were doing their best to resolve the problem as soon as possible and thanked me for my patience. From the internet I learnt about a Mike Satur kit that owners had nothing but praise for. I contacted Mike and he helped arrange test drive of a local car with a Satur suspension. The impressive ride was sure footed yet comfortable. The year ended and still no progress with Rimmers so I loaded up the credit card and purchased a Mike Satur kit. A few days later, Rimmers contact me, agreeing to replace the two coils from their stock, only to withdraw the offer a day later because the manufacture decided to supply me with a complete suplex kit and contribute to the cost of fitting the kit! In a personal letter of apology, the manufacturer explains that they manufactured thousands of these kits world-wide and have very few problems and pride themselves on their customer service. They admitted to failing me and wanted to win back my confidence. After over a year of emails, promises, hoops to jump thru, knock backs, excuses and delays, not to mention the cost; I asked them if it’s an on-going joke.
The Satur kit arrived. I could see from the extensive parts this was a far more serious modification than the Suplex kit. The Suplex kit replaced each displacer with a coil in a canister and a telescopic shock; the Satur kit was a totally new suspension, replacing most of the factory suspension. The hunt for a garage to fit the Satur kit wasn’t easy in country Tasmania, most would respond ‘too big a job’, ‘not my kind of work’, ‘we’re too busy’. Months later, the MS kit was fitted, and driving the car is wonderful. The noise, banging, skipping, jarring and slamming are gone. The car rides very much like it did when new. The garage owner, not keen on modifying cars; said the kit was a clever design but he found the instructions frustrating. I studied the old Suplex components, one of the Suplex rear canisters was scored and the shocks were jelly soft. I noted the central fixing point of each canister had moved off centre, the rear driver’s side being the worst.
Mike Satur’s interest and support was impressive. Throughout the process, he emailed me for progress reports and was always on hand to assist. When the garage couldn’t get the sway bar on, Mike knew the problem and quickly emailed photos and an explanation of the missing spacer. He’s definitely stands by his product and doesn’t disappear once the sale is made. At the time of writing, Rimmers said they will refund the cost of the Suplex kit upon its return.
Car modification is riddled with risks and unforeseeable problems, even for professional engineers. I can only admire those few who succeed, like Mike Satur. His skill re-engineered the suspension and saved my car for me to enjoy once more.
Cost summary:
Suplex kit $A1464 Postage to Australia $A240, import duty $A358, fitting cost $A1300, Towing to and from garage because of covid lock down 5k limit: $A400, garage inspections $380 total: $A4,142
Mike Satur kit inc postage: $A2917.58, import duty: $486.65, fitting: $1700. Total: $A5103
 

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Rover Lifestyle
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Thank you for your full description and explanation of your journey. I am sorry for your hard time, but this post will help others in their pursuit for keeping MG F on the road and enjoy the ride in them.
 

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2002 MG TF VE51FTF
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I own a TF but still found this thread very interesting, I'm sure I've read on old posts that at the time the Australian kit was the one to go for? perhaps like VHS/Betamax the best man does not always win.
I often wonder that surely in cases like this a licence to remanufacture to original specs would be cheaper than developing an alternative. The patent/licence at present is valueless as nothing is being made so a small return on a previous (now dead) investment should be welcome.
The argument that the new one is always better does not seem to hold much water in this case, I've read countless posts praising the F's suspension and the only negatives seem to be that now they knackered due to the passage of time and or use.
Bean counters rule the world and are soulless like accountants (closely related) roll on the revolution.
 

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'06 MG ZR +120 (HQM) '04 MG ZR 105 (IAB)
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That is quite a saga! However, you are far from being the first person to be dissatisfied with the Suplex kit - there are quite a number of threads on the various MGF/TF related forums and groups where other owners have had similarly (and unacceptably) poor experiences with the kit.

I have a suspicion that the reason it is still available may well be because they initially made a substantial batch of the parts, and because it quickly gained a bad reputation, not many were subsequently sold.

I often wonder that surely in cases like this a licence to remanufacture to original specs would be cheaper than developing an alternative. The patent/licence at present is valueless as nothing is being made so a small return on a previous (now dead) investment should be welcome.
The reason that the spheres in particular are no longer being manufactured is because Dunlop decided to stop making them in 2002 - they were very expensive to manufacture and MG Rover weren't using enough for continued manufacture to be economically viable (and MGR refused to pay the increased price that Dunlop wanted). The ceasing of manufacture was why MG Rover had to design a coil spring suspension set-up for the TF. If manufacture wasn't viable when the F was still in production, it is highly unlikely that it would be viable to produce them in small numbers at a price that owners would accept, even if Dunlop were to agree to licence someone else to manufacture them and provide the necessary tooling and engineering details.

There are several small companies who have started refurbishing old spheres, but I don't know how good these are?
 
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