The MG F was the first production car since the MG RV8 to be produced as an MG only badged car and was well on the way to full production when BMW bought the Rover Group. On seeing it, BMW were pleased with both the progress and the overall design, but they did insist that he structural strength fo the windscreen surround be improved to match the rigidity of their own BMW Z3 convertible in the unlikely event of the car rolling over.
Based on a modified set of Metro sub-frames and hydrogas suspension units, the MG F instantly won praise from all those who drove it, with lively characteristics that set it aside from the crowd and drawing many comparisons with Mazda's MX 5, While the MG F was rear wheel drive, the engine is mid mounted, almost directly behind the cabin area, separated by a strong bulkhead and fuel tank, yet still leaving enough room at the rear for a substantial boot (For the size of the car), making it a practical sports car.
During BMW's tenure at Rover, the MG F became the best selling convertible in the UK and retained that position for most of it's production life. It was available with two engine options, the 1.8 120BHp K-series engine and the 1.8 145BHP VVC engine, which used a motor to vary the valve clearance to give more power and torque, distributed more evenly across the rev range of the engine (Which was also increased over the standard 1,8 K-Series).
After nearly 5 years in production, the range had a small face-lift and upgrade. The interior was given a bit of a makeover, the windscreen surround changed from standard black to the main body colour along with a few other subtle changes, this helped give a more overall complete look to the car, as did the later inclusion of a 1.6 engine to the range. This was around the time of BMW selling Rover to the Phoenix consortium which also meant saving money wherever possible and as the MG F was now the only car in production using Hydrogas suspension, that was the first thing that had to go.
But not before one last Hurrah for the MG F
The MG F Trophy added a rear spoiler and a splitter to the front bumper to improve down-force at the front at speed. It also increased the standard engine power to 135 for the MPI engine and 160 for the VVC, a special set of headlight units and a unique set of hydrogas spheres for the suspension. This made the car keener in acceleration and handling and these are regarded by many as the ultimate car in the MG F series.
In 2002 the MG TF was revealed. It revived a respected MG model name from years before and evolved the design of the MG F.
Featuring a re-designed nose, headlights, air intakes and boot panel, the redesign also improved the strength of the already impressive MG F by a further 20%, but replaced the hydrogas suspension with a more conventional McPherson strut layout. Many found this too harsh, even compared to the MG F Trophy and towards the end of 2003, this was replaced with a more subtle system which improved the ride quality of the car.Compared to the later MG F, the interior was unchanged, but the improved engines of the Trophy were kept for the new cars. This also introduced the Stepspeed automatic gearbox, though the engine for this was the same 120BHP engine used previously in the MG F
The range continued to be a top seller right up to the demise of the MG Rover group in 2005, but its popularity was not going to be enough to save the company and the cars production line fell silent along with the rest of Longbridge that year.
Under new Chinese ownership, the MG brand and the MG TF returned to the showrooms. The TF was almost unchanged, except for a redesigned dashpod and nose, but other than some subtle rewiring to accommodate the new dash, little else had changed.
The suspension was made a little softer and finer tuned, but considering the range had been off the road for a number of years, re-launching the car at the same price as it had been at the time of MG Rover's closure was in hindsight, a mistake. While the 85th anniversary cars sold, the general range and the later LE500 (Limited to a production run of 500 cars) did not sell that well. The cars were manufactured in China and shipped to Longbridge for final assembly, however out of the 500 units made for the LE500, only around 400 were eventually sold before the range was finally put to rest. An undignified end for the car that was once the best selling soft top by a long margin.
The saddest part of the MG F & TF's story is that before the demise of MG Rover, there was a new concept MG TF GT in the works. This 2 door 2 seat hard top car had a number of innovations, including touch sensors in the mirrors to open the doors rather than door handles, all leather refined interior and if the rumors were true, a V6 engine instead of the traditional straight 4 K-Series.
Sadly, other than one running prototype and possibly another couple of complete body shells, no other complete cars exist.