MG TF | Shed of the Week

Because race car…

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, December 17, 2021 / Loading comments

Most of us have had embarrassing cars at one time or another. Usually when we were young and foolish and thought we looked cool, when in fact we looked the exact opposite, ie hot. But not. How about knowingly going around in something that you absolutely know is cringeworthy, though? Surely that’s a weird kind of cool?

No? Oh. Well, it doesn’t matter what you think because we’re still going to go on about this Halfordised MG TF for a bit. Admittedly it was a late replacement for something utterly mad that was annoyingly sold, or sold annoyingly, just as we were going to press. Maybe we’ll throw that in as ‘one that got away’ in the end of season hilarity that is Shed of The Year.

By comparison with that, the MG is about as radical as a sticking plaster, but now, looking at it with his sensible hat on, Shed is strangely warming to the idea. If you don’t have the front to brazen it out on the High Street with all the faux-racy bits in place – the external bonnet catches, the fire extinguisher, the tattifilarious boot wing or the ‘TOW’ badges on the front, which might well be the only add-ons with any practical use – ripping it all off would be less than half an hour’s work.

Then what would you be left with (insert rude suggestions here)? Even in 134hp 1.8-litre format the TF was a better drive than you might think. Unlike the preceding MGF, it wasn’t saddled by the comfy but troubletastic Hydragas suspension. OK, the driving position could be too high for some, the roofs weren’t leakproof and it was still burdened by an engine that for maintenance purposes could only be accessed by trained spiders, but it did have a stiffer body to go with its steel suspension and as a result it handled rather nicely. Any K-series engines that are still running must surely have had steel head gaskets fitted by now, along with (you hope) uprated oil rails and coolant level sensor kits.

This particular TF is a 2004 model which is better than pre-2003 from an electrical reliability point of view but not so good in another way as 2004 was smack in the middle of the 2003-05 period when TFs were fitted with Pektron SCUs (Security Control Units). These were known for fouling up the alarm, immobiliser and central locking systems. You also had to watch out for the (it turned out) fragile bolts that were supposed to secure the dampers to the upper suspension arms. There was a recall for that.

Body wise, those air intakes behind the doors always got a good going over from any passing pebbles, and wings at both ends would corrode, not helped by their proximity to subframes made from compressed Laughing Cow cheese segment wrappers. At least the TF didn’t have the F’s two-part sills which could more than hold their own against any MX-5 in a ‘fastest rusting component’ competition. It’s no worries though because you can get most if not all the parts you might ever need for it from an outfit like Rimmers, who hoovered up everything in sight when Rover went pop in 2005.

This is only the second TF to be featured here in the last seven years. Even that might seem too frequent for some of you, but judge ye not, don’t let the blind man throw the first stone etc. The history of this 67,000-miler shows all the signs of good stewardship up to if not necessarily including the daft steward who glued all the silly stuff onto it. At this September’s MOT the tester found nothing wrong with it. Hardly surprising really as it had only done 270 miles since the previous test in July 2020, at which point works were carried out to rectify some slight play in the front suspension ball joints and, by the looks of it, to replace three tyres and one brake disc.

Buying a convertible in the run-up to Christmas might seem bonkers on one level, and especially so if you’re a Britcar hater. Mechanics generally hate them too, but the engine (HGs and cylinder liners permitting) is actually a sweet, lightweight unit that even now will give very good service if you treat it gently when it’s cold and keep an eye on the coolant.

And here’s something. In the forum on the last TF we did in 2014, an Aussie came on to say that you couldn’t get them over there for under 10,000 Oz dollars. That’s over five grand in real money. Do they know something we don’t? Apart from how to play cricket.

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