The MGF – Part One

Project MGF is born. Well, being honest, I’ve had it now for a few months but have just left it outside whilst I complete a million other things, including planning a wedding, which, as you can image, has not only depleted any spare time I thought I had, but any funds, too. But lets put this aside and check out the story so far.

It’s a 1999 ‘T plate’ MGF 1.8 – non-VVC. It was purchased after a mammoth haggle session for the poultry sum of £140. Bargain? We’ll see..

It was a non-runner for starters. The day I had agreed to tow it away I had hastily dashed to Halfords to purchase a towing kit, in order to move the car from one location to another just 3 miles away, and then after a minor fettling, would obviously have it driving and would be able to drive it the next 15 miles home. That was the plan, anyway.

When we arrived to tow the car, it was hammering down with rain. Real miserable. The worst conditions for doing anything outside of a warm house, bearing in mind it was November and bloody cold. The car was on a private driveway facing the wrong way. No problem we thought, lets push it into the road and hook it up with the shiny new towing bar.

Both cars aligned, we hit our first problem – and it was kind of a big one. An MGF has no front towing eye. It has two lashing points quite far underneath, but no solid, pertrouding, eye. Bollocks. Worse was to come. Underneath the MGF it seemed that the offside lashing point has already been messed with and subsequently destroyed. This car had been towed (badly) before, it seemed  – a worrying discovery. The nearside eyelet was badly bent already but with the help of some pliers, I managed to straighten it. Problem solved? Well no. The towing eye on my tow vehicle was on the offside, and the MGF now needed hooking up on the nearside. The bar instructions made it very clear that you were not supposed to do this as you can imagine. We had to. Problem solved? Well no again. The MGF was about an inch off the ground due to some hydrogas suspension issues. The weakened eyelet was 30cm back from the bumper and the towing eye of the towing vehicle – a Ford C-Max – was much, much higher up. For fuck sake. The bar wouldn’t bend, so the MGF front bumper had to. It bent, it flexed, and it cracked. A lot.

But hell we were moving at least. We solved the ‘in line’ issues by driving the C Max close to the kerb and allowing the MGF to be dragged along close to the middle of the road – thus straightening the bar. The MGF looked like it was water-skiing. This helped. The only route however, involved a steep-bridge over a train track and three roads with speed bumps. This did not help the poorly bumper, and by the half-way point the front bumper looked ready to depart. Then my ‘tow-ee’ behind the wheel of the MGF phoned (We used mobiles like walkie-talkies) and said things were getting very steamy back there, and the windows wouldn’t open due to the flat battery. Bugger. The only solution was to open the hood slightly to let some air circulate. This helped slightly, but now there was a deluge of rain pounding the interior and the driver. Bugger again. But I was warm and snug in the C Max, so I allowed it.

Thankfully it was a familiar route for us and was relatively short. We arrived at the driveway where it would be stored for a day at most until I got the engine running, and found that it was a steep incline. So we pushed. And steered. And pushed. And chocked. And pushed again. It was brutal. There was no traction to be had on the wet ground, and although the MGF is a small car, it felt like an immovable object in the rain.

Somehow we managed it, and got back into a warm car and drove away. God bless heated seats.

I didn’t sleep much that night, wondering about that little MGF. Would it start? Would I ever get it home? Clearly, I wouldn’t know much until I had been to see it the following day. And it was to be sunny. Yay!

Accessing the engine bay isn’t as easy as popping the hood, but I got there. I had purchased a cheap battery to assist starting and checked the belts to make sure the car wasn’t fighting dirty. The belts looked ok so I cranked the engine. It did crank, but wouldn’t catch. A trip to Euro Car Parts and a new set of HT leads, spark plugs, dizzy cap and rotor arm later, things still hadn’t improved. It must be the coils. Back to Euro Car Parts for the most expensive purchase so far – a new ignition coil at £60.

Still nothing. I went home dejected. Had it all been a waste of money? Probably. I felt down and ignored it for a whole week in spite. Our relationship was off to a bad start. There would be no honeymoon period.

I got a call from the driveway owner asking when the car was going to be gone and I forced myself to drive there and attempt some more diagnostics. Would you believe that when I checked my previous weeks’ work, that I had somehow plugged one end of the old HT ignition wire into the new coil, and its replacement wire into the distributor. As the old lead was zipped in place in some pretty inaccessible places, I had just run the new one alongside. Christ, rookie error. Fired right up after that. I did of course feel silly, but it was only me that knew, and I wasn’t going to tell anyone. Well, in person, anyway.

She drove home absolutely fine, not skipping a beat. It was dark and the headlights were comparable to a ant wearing a head torch, but we made it back home. I was elated, my now £280 project was alive and well and home. But how would it survive the winter?

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