Goodwood, goodwill and the thrill of new metal at last
I visited the Goodwood Festival of Speed for the first time ever yesterday. I’d got free tickets from MG too for signing up for updates on their website ages ago. They probably gave them away to anyone who wanted them, but it still felt special.
I wasn’t, though, just a freeloading ticket grabber. I really did want to see the new MG6 and, as part of the Moving Motor Show, it looked pretty good. There was the ubiquitous orange one that 50 lucky people had a chance to drive up the hill and a silver one that had had its battery disconnected, frustrating everyone, including the people running the MG stand, who couldn’t open the boot: one of the first things you want to try on a hatchback. Re-connecting an exhibit’s battery was deemed dangerous by site health and safety, an ironic decision in light of what happened later.
It’s odd how it’s taken Austin/Rover/MG thirty years, since the Princess/Ambassador concepts were abandoned, to finally catch up with Ford and Vauxhall and produce an upper-mid sized family hatch to offer an alternative to the Sierra/Mondeo and Cavalier/Vectra/Insignia that have been so much in demand over the past three decades. As a Princess fan myself, I smiled a wry grin thinking that, at last, after all these years, here it was: the return of the perfect Wedge (in all but name). This IS what the Princess would have looked like today if it had been in continuous development.
We were warned that the left-hand drive interior was Chinese cheapo spec and that a luxurious and sporting modern interior design was underway for September. The cars at Goodwood were real production models and not concepts or mules so I think that was an honest and transparent statement to make. Mind you, it wasn’t actually that bad.
However, MG must not give any opportunity for nay-sayers come the launch. Build quality and price point will be the tipping point for the company now. The car itself is ready to do the job. For those that haven’t seen one yet, sitting in it, it felt like an MG should. From the outside it may not have the old Z look we became used to and many have feared that it looked perhaps too ordinary to be a true MG.
When you’re sitting inside, though, it feels like the cockpit of a sports car, as it should. I’d wager that it won’t just be the dashboard that gets a UK makeover but the body trim too – a good set of colours would be the icing on the cake. The new idea of building the octagon badge into the grill is a brilliant one. It not only looks good but it helps to remind us that this is the first original MG since the F, the first that doesn’t have to worry about trying to fit an octagon into the space left by a shield.
The fact that MG had exactly the same sized stand as Jaguar (with the amazing XJ and supercool XF), Rolls Royce, Honda et al, is amazing if you stop to think about it. That perceived equality should go a long way to reviving the brand in a serious, meaningful way – if MG Motor UK can keep it up.
Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to drive the MG6. Someone came back from the track in a Honda and fainted in the heat, slamming on the accelerator and ramming into 6 or 7 people (4 went to hospital) before damaging the oldest, surviving E Type and the latest XK on the Jaguar stand and then crashing through the window.
For a brief time the structural integrity of the building was then in question. With hindsight, one may have questioned the idea of having valuable exhibits, searing heat, a fully open thoroughfare with punters ambling about all over the place along side general public drivers keen to see how fast they could go. In any way why wouldn’t that lead to a disaster of one kind or another?
Turning back to the MG6, I really hope it takes off. After seeing the car in the metal, I believe it deserves to. The chaps on the stand were keen to push the fact that 250 British engineers had worked tirelessly to bring the dream back to life. Remember, after all these years of hurt, it’s actually going into production at our favourite factory to be followed by a new MG3 based on the Zero Concept in 2012 and, possibly, an MG derivative of the new (if perhaps less appealing) Roewe 350. If these new models succeed, then we get the new MG7 or MG8 – not a return of the Rover 75 in any form but a real and delicious ZT replacement.
I was also told that TF production would cease this year. The TF’s around 15 years old and virtually hand-made so, as the Chinese have no appetite for two-seaters, we need the saloons to work and generate the cash to invest in a TF replacement. All fingers should therefore be well and truly crossed, all sacrificial gifts and prayers offered up to any and every relevant deity and let’s seriously hope (and demand) that there’s some Coalition support for them too.