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Elise v F v MX5 v 7

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  • Elise v F v MX5 v 7

    I came across an old car mag from 1997 that I had a the back of wardrobe, and it's main story "Catherham and MG fight Lotus for the Real Roadster crown" (Catherham 7 v's MG F v's Lotus Elise).
    The mag reviewer picked the Lotus Elise as the best of that review. But noted of the MG F: "I could live with the MG F..... impressive high-speed ride and handling. Close to being the optimum sportscar for the masses".


    And it reminded me of when the Elise was not a mystical holy grail of lightness. It was just a new affordable convertible in the mix. And I remembered the old Top Gear where Clarkson reviewed the current crop of "affordable" convertibles, and then wittled them down to the best three:

    Lotus Elise
    MG F
    Mazda MX5

    And then tested them against each other. The MG F came out tops as the best roadster on sale at the time. The Lotus Elise came second (based on it being too raw for everyday enjoyment), and the Mazda MX5 in a healthy 3rd place.

    I have never driven any of the above. But I have always wondered why the MG F fell out of favour? I'm happy to see one or two now as classic car shows now. I always liked the neat soap bar look of the original.



    Last edited by markcro; 21-06-2022, 01:04 PM.
    We all stood around in a circle naked, thrusting our clinched fists in the air screaming "Jap Power!!"

  • #2
    Clarkson was plugging everything MG/Rover back in those days for context so maybe not the most impartial reviewer, but they were a respectable choice here and in the UK. For some reason Rover turned into a bit of a loser brand and I guess it's hard to recover from that. In fairness also, all of those cars have fallen out of favour in general. People don't buy light cheap-ish sports cars anymore. Their loss mostly but that's how it is. There's also the Irish angle where these cars were tax friendly due to their engine size and tax is obviously #1 when it comes to selecting a car as we know and in 2008 things changed.

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    • #3
      It never fell IN to favour in the first place with buyers.

      It was arguably technically superior in some ways to the NB MX5 which was mostly a re-skinned NA dating back to 1989, but most people just stuck with the MX5. It was cheap, it offered more accessible FR thrills and it's much easier to maintain than a mid engined car. Also, if you wanted an MX5 level mid engined car this side of an Elise, there was the MK3 MR2/MR-S which was a better drive and better looking, if less practical, while in practice being 100KG lighter than either for comparable spec and quicker to boot with similar power but more torque.

      A standard 1.8 MGF had 120bhp, a 1.8 MX5 sport 140, the MR2 138bhp, but the MR2 had a roughly 25-30nm torque advantage to either. There was the VVC version of the MGF with 147 bhp and 174nm torque, but I don't know how this compared pricewise to a regular 1.8 or its competition. (There was also the Z3, Mercedes SLK, Kia Elan and bargain basement but LHD only Fiat Barchetta in the mix at the time too, there was a lot of choice).

      Having owned both NB MX5s and an MR-S, I think the MX5 is the better all round ownership experience as an only car and easier to have fun with on the road at lower speeds, but the MR-S/MR2 is the more hardcore focused car with chassis capability well in excess of its power, up the power and you have an S2000 killer. As time has moved on and such cars move firmly into the realm of second/fun car for me now, if you were to ask me which one of those two cars I'd like a really sorted example of back again, it would be the MR-S/MR2. I think it's a bit more special an we will not see its like again.

      It was good and of course the UK motoring press will be a little over lenient on MG Rover products, but you don't topple the MX5 by being good, you need to be exceptional. The MK3 MR2 didn't exactly dent the ageing MX5s spot either. The Elise being over-raw is perhaps exaggeration, but it's a matter of perspective and what you can live with.

      There are plenty of exceptional cars that never captured the public imagination either, so who knows.
      Last edited by crank_case; 21-06-2022, 01:30 PM.
      https://www.instagram.com/diecast_1_64/

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      • #4
        Funny you should post this as I have a big shopping cart that I'm about to click "buy" on for parts for mine. I've had mine for 12 years though for almost 6 of those it has been in storage since I left Ireland.

        They're nice little cars and drive well though not without their faults. There is large parts availability, the suspension now has a well sorted coil replacement available and most of their reliability issues can be sorted quite cheaply.

        As a cheap roadster they're a lot more resistant to rot than something like an MX-5 so from that POV make a lot of sense as a cheaper project car for somebody. Some UK cars are in really bad shape but given that the earliest ones aren't far off 30 seeing terminal rot on some examples isn't a huge surprise.

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        • #5
          IMHO the great thing about the MX5, especially as a 2nd car is that they are - bar rust - utterly indestructible.

          If you're buying this sort of car, why go for something that gives trouble unless you have some sort of affinity to MG/Rover or they were mega cheap to begin with. We all know how capable the MR-S is but they will all give motor problems sooner or later.

          I'm not sure on current MX5 single make racing regs but I thought that they used to have a rule that engine & gearbox had to be standard & unopened. I do however recall Mazda entering two (NC) MX5s in the Britcar 24hr around 2010. The cars obviously have to be race and safety prepped so they got a cage, seats and harnesses, external electric cut off and a fire extinguisher and apart from some stickers that was pretty much it. Running gear, axles, engine, box all standard. One of the cars finished 11th in class and around the middle of the 60 entrants, completing 1,500 miles and the other car was knocked out by debris. Until the 2nd car retired, all they got was fuel and tyres.

          They are tough, tough cars that are tracked and hillclimbed and hooned all over the world day in day out and rarely if ever give gyp. I mean... why buy anything else in the class? And I think that's the discussion and advice that eventually happens amongst prospective buyers and it causes cars like the MGF - which by all accounts were quite good if in tip top nick - to slide down the pecking order in the used market. Well, that and the parent company going wallop, but that's another story.
          1998 Porsche 911 3.4 Carrera 2 (996)
          2000 Mazda MX-5 1.8 Jasper Conran #68/400
          2003 BMW 325i E46 Sport Touring


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          • #6
            Originally posted by Flet View Post
            IMHO the great thing about the MX5, especially as a 2nd car is that they are - bar rust - utterly indestructible.

            If you're buying this sort of car, why go for something that gives trouble unless you have some sort of affinity to MG/Rover or they were mega cheap to begin with. We all know how capable the MR-S is but they will all give motor problems sooner or later.
            Having personal and expensive experience of this - not that big an issue now I reckon.

            The issue, aside from disintegrating pre-cats which are only there for California ULEV status and can be happily removed and still be Ireland compliant (because you've still got a regular cat, and being part of the manifold, it's doesn't appear you've removed anything. If you gut them it looks like you've got a stock manifold, if you go aftermarket, it appears you've removed no emissions gear and just fitted an aftermarket manifold, also they do almost nothing for overall real world emissions and are purely there as a measure to reduce emissions from startup) - the main issue is the design of the short block which specified undersized piston rings for fast break in which is incredibly short sighted. This and the pre-cat issue often make each other worse. Oil gets thrown up into the pre-cats, so they disintegrate faster, pre-cat material falls into the compustion chamber causing damage and increasing oil consumption.

            Any car post 2002 model year won't be affected. Any car with its short block replaced or its engine rebuilt to newer spec should be fine also.

            Then of course, if you go with the near plug and play 2ZZ swap and can get it past your insurer, you end up with the more powerful high revving engine the car always should have had, but almost no reliability issues apart from maybe lift bolts which I don't think is catastrophic, just stops the cam change.

            As the MX5 has gotten ubiquitous in amateur motorsport like you say, some of the Autotest/lanes rally lads have switched up to the MK3 MR2/MR-S for a cost effective weight/traction edge over a tricked out MX5

            I agree, the MX5 is the default option, it is popular for a reason, it is the easiest to maintain, etc. but in second car I don't need to depend on territory, the MK3 MR2 is the one that just gets me excited about more, but you're talking to an over-optimistic idiot trying to sort out a limited production sub-MX5 kei car with horrific rust issue and a poor parts availability instead of sticking with Miata Is Always The Answer. I dunno, they're great, but I just couldn't stay interested in my last one at all, wanted something that gave me that mental buzz and connection and it just wasn't doing it for me anymore.. Maybe it's because it was my third one.
            Last edited by crank_case; 21-06-2022, 02:23 PM.
            https://www.instagram.com/diecast_1_64/

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            • #7
              The MG F and Lotus Elise has the same power of about 120bhp, the same engine . I think 118bhp from memory? But then were upped to 160bhp at some stage?

              I always really liked the clean, cute looks of the original MG F. The later face lifted one, was a bit too glitzy looking, but still not bad. Cheap open top mid-engined fun, and there used to be a fair few around me. And then over the years they all disappeared. I always wondered why people didn't pick them up as classics? Or maybe they became too cheap and were scrapped/ run into the ground.

              To be fair to the Top Gear/ Clarkson review above. He did say that the Elise was the best and most fun drivers car. But picked the MG F over it, as he would not be able to live with the Elise every day, and the F gave bags of fun, and yet comfort for everyday use. But he did say that if the MG F got any more feminine looking, it would have wings on it!
              We all stood around in a circle naked, thrusting our clinched fists in the air screaming "Jap Power!!"

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              • #8
                Originally posted by markcro View Post
                The MG F and Lotus Elise has the same power of about 120bhp, the same engine . I think 118bhp from memory? But then were upped to 160bhp at some stage?
                ..but about 200-300kg weight difference which goes a long way.

                There was the original VVC MG available from near launch with 143bhp like I said, then a 160/170bhp-ish Trophy later on - these engines also found their way into various Elise models.
                Last edited by crank_case; 21-06-2022, 02:28 PM.
                https://www.instagram.com/diecast_1_64/

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                • #9
                  fifth gear did a side by side on the MGf & Mx5 at one point and the MGF came dead last

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                  • #10
                    A little note on the MX-5 (ND), there's suddenly a lot of love for it out there. Even evo is praising it in the last issue which is pretty much unheard of, PH was saying nice things about it a week or two ago. I don't know if everyone has gotten fed up with fat tyred too fast stuff that you can't have much fun with or what's going on. Which is surely going to apply to the older versions of the cars mentioned in this thread also.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cold View Post
                      A little note on the MX-5 (ND), there's suddenly a lot of love for it out there. Even evo is praising it in the last issue which is pretty much unheard of, PH was saying nice things about it a week or two ago. I don't know if everyone has gotten fed up with fat tyred too fast stuff that you can't have much fun with or what's going on. Which is surely going to apply to the older versions of the cars mentioned in this thread also.
                      That is interesting alright. Especially as I remember some reviewers back in the day saying stuff like under powered, good but lacking that "it" factor type boll0x. As cars get old, maybe as we get old, we start to realise that things don't have to be the best of the best. Cool and fun is all that you need in a lot of cases. Or even just different. And with old cars, alot of the things that made them sh1t, is what makes them great now..
                      We all stood around in a circle naked, thrusting our clinched fists in the air screaming "Jap Power!!"

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                      • #12
                        Didn't the MGF have some form of hygrogas suspension?

                        I think that quite often when these niche cars have a common issue (like the MRS or early water cooled 911's) they tend to get looked over by the second hand market, who see them all as 'a bit of fun' and don't want to buy in to big, expensive hassle down the line.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by VeeAte View Post
                          Didn't the MGF have some form of hygrogas suspension?

                          .
                          A simplified version I think, but I believe they switched to conventional coils by the time you get to the MG-TF refresh.
                          https://www.instagram.com/diecast_1_64/

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                          • #14
                            I seem to remember something about the MGF and it’s less forgiving engine location, ease of maintenance not being its forte, that and “rover” reliability concerns it was never going to put a dent in the MX5 sales and the Caterham were just too niche again. Haven’t driven any myself so can’t comment ergonomics but I imagine a Caterham being less than easy to live with than the Lotus.

                            The MG RV8 was always something that I recall having a fondness for though and I don’t ever recall seeing these going cheap






                            I’m standing in a field full of sheep, is it wrong that I feel aroused?? 🤨🤪

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Bazg2 View Post

                              The MG RV8 was always something that I recall having a fondness for though and I don’t ever recall seeing these going cheap

                              Definitely not cheap, and arguably doing the restomod thing before restomods. It's basically an MGB heritage bodyshell on steroids with more modern mechanicals. Note I said, more modern, and not "modern" ..I think its purpose was probably to prime the market for the MGF and remind people that there was a time MG did more than tarted up Metros, Maestros and Montegos.

                              Also you could have had a TVR V8S- which I'd prefer or if you want to be a real hipster, a Marcos Mantara V8 which you could also have with a Rover V8, but there were some LM versions made with Chevy small blocks.

                              Last edited by crank_case; 21-06-2022, 10:47 PM.
                              https://www.instagram.com/diecast_1_64/

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