1 Mar 1997
MG could have looked back with its first dedicated sports car in 30 years but instead chose to go forward.
Yet the MGF, unveiled in the UK during 1995 and launched in Australia in early ’97, was a complete break from tradition.
For starters it featured a mid-mounted chassis driving the rear wheels, instead of the old front-engine, rear-drive set-up last seen on Australian roads in 1972 in ancient MGB guise.
In fact the canny Brits devised the MGF from the old Austin Metro platform, a front-wheel drive successor to the original Mini/ADO16 1100. In essence all they did was turn it back to front.
And, sure enough, like these old British Motor Corporation cars, there is a far-more successful development of the Hydragas damping system, interconnected to all four wheels in this application and using conventional McPherson struts as well.
Star attraction was the 1.8 VVC model.
Its 107kW 1.8-litre four-cylinder K-Series engine revs smoothly to 7000rpm and delivers, thanks no doubt to the variable valve system, a decent torque (173Nm at 4500rpm) across a broad rev band.
There is also a basic 90kW/166Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder base model known simply as the 1.8i. Both were tied to a five-speed manual gearbox.
Four limited editions were fielded – 1998’s 1.8i Volcano and 1.8i Abingdon, the 1.8i Targa Trophy from ’99 and the 75th Anniversary 1.8i and VVC models, also from ’99.
In late 2000 a slightly torquier 1.8i VVC engine (now 174Nm) was introduced, although the base 1.8i’s power and torque outputs dropped 2kW and 1Nm to 88kW and 165Nm respectively.
The latter engine also gained a CVT constant velocity transmission option, an automatic gearbox without a torque converter or stepped gears for smooth and efficient changes.
There were also minor trim changes, more standard features and a much-needed adjustable steering column in all models, to see the MGF through to its facelifted MG TF replacement in 2002.
The MGF Trophy 160 from September ’01 added a 117kW/174Nm version of the 1.8i VVC engine.