To some it's two halves of a Metro stuck together, to others it's the last true mass-produced home grown British sports car. I'll be honest, for a long time I've been more the former than the latter. But the addition of two MGFs to hire on our Yorkshire and Cotswolds fleets has changed my mind. The MGF is great.
The F was launched in 1995 after years of discussions and design proposals around the idea of a MGB replacement. In stark contrast to, well everything else BL had done over the last 30 years, the result was not only innovative but good. For a start it was mid-engined, the format favoured by Ferrari. It looked good too, modern with a healthy nod to its heritage. It was quite well made. Rover had also cleverly used a lot of proprietary parts - including those Metro front ends - so the selling price was reasonable. All of which made the MGF the best selling car in its category for most of its lifetime.
So why is it languishing in the motoring doldrums with bargain-basement used prices? To some extent it is a victim of its success - there are more MGFs than interested buyers. This is, of course, a common problem for cars on their journey to classic status. But it also has an Achilles Heel and its name is Head Gasket. Rover's K-Series engine was designed with an in-built water flow problem that puts the head gasket at risk. This seriously affects every Rover, MG and Land Rover fitted with this engine but is a particular problem with the MGF because the mid-engine layout means the motor suffers poorer cooling. During its lifetime the F also suffered from Not Being A MX5. The Mazda so brilliantly fulfilled the requirement for a cheap sports car that it made the MGF look a bit second rate, particularly since it should have been the true heir to the MGB. The MGF probably also suffers by association - MG Rover products are hardly a by-word for risk-free purchase. And perhaps there is an image issue here - when new small convertible cars tend to have a slightly effeminate image. But as emerging classics, that isn't the case.
I therefore approached the idea of buying a MGF with some trepidation. But the sheer logic of it for a classic car hire company means it has been on our wish list for a while. We want to add cars that are cheaper to hire so that we can make what we do more accessible. This means we need cars that are cheap to buy, reliable and with excellent spares supply. The MGF ticks all those boxes. Any new addition to our fleet needs to be desirable too, the sort of car that will bring a smile to our customers on their weekend getaway. Again, advantage MGF. Sure, the MGF isn't as focused a drivers car as the MX5 but it is more comfortable and luxurious, plus points that arguably appeal more to classic car and second car enthusiasts than ultimate cornering power.
It was very easy to find two good MGFs as there are absolutely loads for sale. We have added an early Mk1 in Nightfire Red metallic - based at our Cotswolds site - and an early mk2 in dark metallic blue based in Yorkshire. We paid a lot less than £2,000 for the pair in immediately hireable condition. Being up close to a MGF has impressed me. It looks good, it's well appointed and comfortable and it is really nice to drive with alert steering and decent chassis balance. It isn't as sharp as a MX5 but the Mazda has always underwhelmed me - it flatters the driver as it can be driven well and quickly with little effort.
VAT, insurance and our maintenance regime mean there is a limit to how cheap we can go with our daily hire rates but we are offering both cars at £95 for 24 hrs or £160 for the weekend. Those prices are fully inclusive - unlimited mileage, insurance and full UK breakdown cover.
If you're now heading to eBay looking for MGFs you can do no better than buying a good one for the summer. But a word of warning - they aren't the last word in reliability and their low prices mean there are a lot of poorly maintained cars out there. We can afford to take this risk because we maintain our own cars. If you buy one make sure you put the money you save on the purchase price aside for maintenance. Anyone who does decide to jump into MGF motoring will discover a true successor to the B that is easy to live with and will never be cheaper.
To sample the joy of F or try before you buy visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733. Mention this article and we'll lop 10% off the MGF hire price.