Rare Rides: South of the Border Waits an MG TF From 2003

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

MG marked a return to its roadster roots after a long slumber with its 1990s F model. Wanting more, they developed it into today’s Rare Ride, a TF from 2003.



The MG brand had been on a long hiatus ever since it stopped production of the (now) classic MGB convertible after the 1980 model year. After that year, MG was reduced to what was basically a trim level, used to denote the performance variants of models on offer from the Austin Rover Group.

MG’s status changed for the better in 1993, with the reintroduction of the RV8 model; a limited edition and V8-powered version of the old MGB. Austin Rover dusted off the MG production line and built some new old convertibles from 1993 to 1995.

The MGB’s short-lived reincarnation was in preparation for something new — the F. The model was developed during a trying time for Rover Group, as its owner, British Aerospace, was in the process of finding an interested buyer to take over its automotive assets. Said interested buyer was BMW. By the time the F went on sale, Rover was under the control of the Roundel. The year was 1995, and customers outside North America could head to their local Rover/MG dealer and buy a brand new MG.

Mid-engine and rear-drive, the F was a departure from past MG models. The company hoped to participate in the early ’90s Roadster Revival, competing with cars like the Mazda Miata and Lotus Elan.

The F remained in production through 1999, at which point it was lightly revised into a Mark II version. Sales continued through even more troubles at Rover Group, as BMW went about breaking up its entities. In 2000 Land Rover went to Ford, and MG and Rover went to Phoenix. Production continued on the original F through 2001, bringing us to the revised TF for 2002.

Redesigned and reworked to a considerable extent, the TF ditched the complicated hydragas suspension of the F, replacing it with a more conventional coil spring suspension. The engines received changes as well, and, with new air induction and camshafts, produced more power than previous versions.

Power was provided via 1.6- and 1.8-liter engines, all of inline-four variety. Base 1.6 models generated 114 horsepower, while three different versions of the 1.8-liter engine managed between 118 and 158 horsepower. While most versions came equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, the most basic version of the 1.8 could be had with a Stepspeed CVT.

By most metrics, the MG TF was competitive and successful for a roadster offering from a small manufacturer. But changes in ownership for Rover were again on the horizon. After just over three years in production, Phoenix found itself in bankruptcy. MG Rover stopped production, and the company again changed hands.

Nanjing Automobile Group purchased MG Rover’s assets during the bankruptcy action, and started building the TF once more in 2007. The company moved manufacture from Longbridge in the UK to its own factory in Nanjing.

Longbridge was not left out for long, as in 2008 Nanjing started producing the TF in the UK once more. Workers at the Longbridge factory assembled roadsters from CKD kits built in China. The UK production venture was ultimately unsuccessful, and just 906 TFs were built there. The TF would remain in production in China through 2011.

Today’s Rare Ride is a 2003 TF, located in Mexico. With a very low 6,200 miles on the clock, it asks $10,452.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Rporter Rporter on Jan 28, 2019

    Used to live in the UK as a little boy and when went back with my 10 year old son we rented an MGF for two weeks. Great fun quite fast and got many smiles. Plenty of room for the two of us and our stuff and under the right circumstances should have done quite well in US. Never drove its competitor Miata but have driven an MR2 and the MG was better car by quite a bit.

  • Rporter Rporter on Jan 28, 2019

    Used to live in the UK as a little boy and when went back with my 10 year old son we rented an MGF for two weeks. Great fun quite fast and got many smiles. Plenty of room for the two of us and our stuff and under the right circumstances should have done quite well in US. Never drove its competitor Miata but have driven an MR2 and the MG was better car by quite a bit. Re Royal it was Charles in a Range Rover

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