Most of us will go through a battle with parents, family and friends, when we are of that age to get our first motor. Family will always side on something safe with a low cost and the smallest engine possible. For some reason the ‘done thing’ is to start off with a small car and over the years gradually build up to a faster and more powerful car. Following this path you will no doubt be middle age before you get the car you want…(if it’s still made) and made fun of for having a mid-life crisis. Why go through these years of pain?
When I was younger and buying my first car, I wasn’t like most other young males of the time. I didn’t want a GTI or a Scooby. I didn’t sit wrongly parked in supermarket carparks at the weekend, playing loud music no one likes, trying to pretend I can do donuts or whatever they call it. I hated cars which had been lowered with large sound systems in the boot. Lights under the car and loud exhausts which made the car sound awful.
I was after something different, unique…something which to me would be a starter car in the sports car world. I dreamed of driving to new places, coastal roads, the freedom and feeling the cars vibrations. I dreamed of touring Scotland, Ireland and Europe, stopping at whatever hotel I fancied. Meeting lovers in remote locations over an exotic drink or local ale. Didn’t other young Petrol heads think of this?
Contenders in my budget consisted of a Porsche 944, a Fiat coupe turbo and an MGF. Against my family’s advice, I ran for the MGF. Technically my second car, (my first car I owned for one month) but I consider this my first car.
My 1998 MGF 1.8 mk1
This is a car that received a lot of bad reviews which in my view was not deserved.
The base model was a naturally aspirated 1.8 that produced around 118hp, which was in a mid-engine layout. People who have owned this car or read about it might of came across horror stories of build quality, reliability, a metro subframe and the famous head gasket failure of the K-series engine. Having owned a Ford Focus 1.6 mk2 after the MGF, I can only come to the conclusion that a lot of the reviewers must have been high when driving the MGF. That focus I owned was constant trouble for five years with poor reliability and build quality. My MGF didn’t have that trouble.
So in this blog I’m going to mostly concentrate on features I found good on the MGF.
Some things reviewers don’t say and only owners will know is the space inside and storage space. The driver’s side has more elbow room than the passengers, however putting this seat back to its most extreme position, I can remember not being able to touch the end of the footwell with my feet ( I’m around 6 feet tall ). That’s room that its competitors failed to have, having being in others like a MX5 and Porsche Boxster.
For the size of car I thought storage space was excellent. The rear boot was deep enough for small –medium size suitcases and because of the mid-engine layout, I could store a lot under the bonnet at the front. More space could be found on the rear shelf and behind the seats. Finally you had the standard glove box and cubby’s.
Over the next three years of ownership, my MG would take me all over the country. I did indeed take drives along the coastal roads, exploring mountain roads and new towns.
The MG warhorse would take me over the Sperrin, Antrim and Mourne mountains. Through 12+ County’s, seeing the Atlantic ocean, Irish sea and North Channel. I did stay in hotels, B&B’s and had romances…which brings me back to the car.
How we look at our car and how we form a relationship with it.
Most of us own a ‘normal car’. Using it to commute to work, do the shopping and maybe dropping kids off at school. I use the terms ‘normal car’ as its all I use to hear from family.
I have owned a ‘normal car’ regretting it every time I got inside it. The relationship formed here however, is completely different to the relationship formed with a sports car owned by a petrol head who appreciates it.
I’ve learned so much more about driving in the MG than I would learn in a lifetime of driving a ‘normal car’. I took every chance I could to take a drive. To drive as far as I could and in any condition. I remember we had a bad winter around that time. Temperatures reached as low as -19 celsius in some places with heavy snow fall. When most others where avoiding travel and hating it, I was out in the MG (sometimes with the roof down) driving in the snow, even up in mountainous areas. Surprisingly I never got stuck once. I done the same in all conditions.
All that driving, in all those conditions and being a RWD car… A petrol head gets to know the car. The weight of the car as it moves around on surfaces. The sound and vibrations of the engine as it revs up through the numbers, everything here you feel through your senses to the point where it becomes more than 2nd nature. It evolves to being an extension of us, an extension of our hands and legs, it becomes part of us. The engine tone and rumble becomes part of our feet, the steering wheel our eyes, the cars weight moving our bum and back. Completing it all to become part of us and part of our heart.
This leads us to feel it can take us anywhere and do anything. It was a constant learning experience, as there is always more to learn about the car. I could never sit back and say I know how to drive. I knew the car had more to give, if I could improve and learn.
This relationship had its ups and downs. I loved how it could be very quiet for arriving home at night or going through a nice country village, but when I wanted, I could hear the exhaust and engine.
It was very easy to use every day and live with.
I no longer have the MGF. Circumstances changed and I needed a car with rear seats for elderly relatives. The only thing I have from this era is a small model car and the memories. It’s a driving era I miss and hope to return to. This car made me have a special place for MG Rover and it’s very sad they closed and over 6000 people lost their jobs. If and when I do make a return to MG Rover it will have to be an old used car with a bit of mileage on it.
One more item I still have from my MG years is my current and life Partner. I remember the first date. I had the Top down when I arrived at his flat. We went for a drive, a walk along a river and talked till late. It must of made a good impression as that was nine years ago and we are still together.
So I thank you MG for the years, memories and experience you gave me.