Something For The Weekend – MGF

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With bargain-priced MGBs getting thin on the ground, the younger MGF has picked up the mantle of the sub-£1000 British sports car.

While the MGF may not give quite the same honed driving experience of its Mazda MX-5 rival, it is reckoned by many to be more comfortable to live with day-to-day.

Not that it lacks sophistication, because the F boasts the handling advantages and grip of a mid-engined set-up, plus clever Hydrogas suspension that also provides an impressive ride.

They are extremely abundant in the UK and their popularity means that there’s a great club following, not to mention a wide range of upgrades available.

Even the MGF’s biggest failing – its propensity for head-gasket failure – should have been sorted in most of the cars now on the market.

When buying any MGF, a full service history is an absolute must. It is also sensible to check the suspension’s wishbones for rust, the wheels for uneven tyre wear and the exhaust, which can be expensive to replace – especially on later models with bigger catalytic converters.

You can’t see much of the engine through its access panel, but check for leaks, low coolant and oil in the coolant (a telltale for head-gasket trouble). Also, make sure the temperature gauge works – a potential engine-saver in the event of overheating.

Inspect the front bay – which is opened via a handle in the boot – for crash damage, that it holds a spare wheel and that there are no leaks from the brake master cylinder.

Cosmetic issues include plastic headlight covers and plastic rear windows that go cloudy, plus red fabric seats that stain easily. The latter is difficult to put right.

Rust spots include the subframes at both ends, the water pipes under the car to the front-mounted radiator, the floor behind the seats, the sills at the seams with the rear wings, the area above the rear shock-absorber mounts (which can split) and the bootlid seam between the upper and lowerskins.

Clubs such as www.mgfregister.org, www.mgcc.co.uk, www.mgownersclub.co.uk and www.mgf.ultimatemg.com are well worth getting in touch with.

For just £695, you could have this perfect starter classic. A new head gasket means that there should be no overheating issues and the car has covered 62,000 miles, plus it has a leather interior and a glass rear window. A discoloured front bumper and what look like uneven shutlines could indicate accident damage, though, so be careful.

For a little more – £995 – you could have this VVC (Variable Valve Control) model, which has 143bhp compared to the standard 1.8’s 118bhp. It had the head gasket replaced in 2011 and comes with a year’s MoT, a fresh set of tyres, plus new discs and pads at the front.

At the other end of the market is this £4000 example with fewer than 18,000 miles on the clock. It has a full service history, including a new head gasket, and comes with re-gassed suspension, plus an MoT until May next year.

The MGF’s well-documented reliability problems have no doubt hit values, but that shouldn’t put you off. Tread carefully, buy a car that’s been looked after and you should end up with the perfect summer transport at a highly affordable price.

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