News : June 2007

New TF rolled out at Silverstone International


First seen at Longbridge at the end of May, the TF LE 500 drew a mixed reception from the Silverstone International showgoers.

VISITORS to the 57th MG International Race meeting at the weekend were treated to the first public appearance of the new MG TF sportscar. The Longbridge built sports car took pride of place at the 57th annual MG Car Club celebration, which is world’s largest gathering of MG cars spanning over 80 years of the marque’s history.

The new TF, which is due to go into production later this year, features numerous new engineering innovations and cosmetic changes that will make the car a truly desirable proposition when it appears in showrooms.

“The public response to the new TF has been fantastic,” said Gary Hagen, Sales & Marketing Director for NAC MG (UK) Ltd. “This car represents a fresh new addition to the UK sports car market, and judging by the reaction at Silverstone over the weekend this car looks set to enjoy a healthy sales success here in the UK.”

NAC MG personnel were on hand over the weekend to answer questions from enthusiasts eager to learn more about the new TF. “This car has undergone extensive re-engineering and it is a very different proposition from the previous generation TF,” said Hagen. “From the outset our objective was to produce a highly desirable sports car that offers performance, fun, reliability and value for money in equal measure. This is a demanding market and the British public will not be disappointed.”

Silverstone International is the highlight of the MG racing season and this year attracted 550 race entries – and broke all previous records in the process. The racing covered all eras of the brand’s long history, whilst the headline MG Trophy race for MG TF and ZR models, won by Malcolm Gammons, was sponsored by Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC) for the first time since buying MG in 2005.

“We are delighted that NAC MG (UK) chose to debut the new TF at this event,” said Richard Jones from the MG Car Club. “It’s great to know that NAC understands the importance that enthusiasts will continue to play in the future success of the MG brand.”


What’s in store for Austin-Healey?

KEITH ADAMS


Professor Krish Bhaskar’s Project Tempest rendering from 2005 may well have been vapourware, but it seems like a good starting point for any spiritual replacement of the legendary Austin Healey 3000 as any.

THE recent announcement that Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC) and Healey Automobile Consultants Limited (HAC) intend to collaborate with each other on the future development of the Healey and Austin-Healey brands has been given a cautious welcome within the enthusiast community – but following the recent re-opening of Longbridge and the veiled promises of new sportscars in the pipeline, could it be that our predicted new British sportscars will carry the famous Austin-Healey badge as well as the MG Octagon.

The deal, inked between the two partners merely confirms that Healey’s automotive partner, HFI Ltd, is engaged in the design, development, manufacturing and sale, worldwide, of sportscars alongside NAC-MG.

However, atlong last, the ongoing speculation as to who owns the Austin-Healey marque has been well and truly been scuppered. This leaves the concerned parties to get on and devise a new sportscar collaboration. Although the re-opening of Longbridge ushered in the brave new world of a re-bumpered and newly instrumented TF roadster, NAC-MG’s plans for Longbridge seem almost certain to revolve around offering a wider range of models… and plans are already been drawn-up.

Although the new cars’ introduction seems hinged on the healthy sales performance of the TF in the UK and Europe, it’s clear that the Austin-Healey option is much more than a pipedream. NAC-MG’s Quality Director, Paul Stowe, has confirmed that heritage brands (principally Austin and Austin-Healey) are in the running for a revival, and taking NAC-MG’s sportscars upmarket might find more favour under the Austin-Healey banner.


Could the SV form the basis of a new Healey?

MG’s last attempt at moving upmarket was with the XPower SV, which despite its advanced carbon fibre construction and excellent road manners, was far from the success MGR management expected of it. The irony is that this car – or at least parts of it – could well make a re-appearance under the Austin-Healey banner, as the Intellectual Property Rights remain with MG Sport & Racing, which still falls under the auspices of Phoenix Venture Holdings – despite the majority of that company’s assets being auctioned off to the highest bidder last year.

With the 4.6-litre V8 engine allied to a well set-up chassis that was already developed, a new car could be produced in double quick time – assuming that NAC-MG and HAC see the SV as a suitable starting point. The first thing that would need to be abandoned would be the expensive carbon fibre body – which, if rumours at the time were to believed, was already on its way out in 2004 before the meltdown.

However, another source close to MGR maintained that other sportscars were in development – although more precisely launguished on the drawing board as more pressing matters were dealt with – and featured extensive use of aluminium in their construction. Since the arrival of NAC-MG at Longbridge, it’s been confirmed that related sportscar projects have been sighted, although again, they still remain on the drawing board.

There have been a couple of serious attempts in recent years to revive the Austin-Healey marque – most notably under BMW. During the late 1990s, it’s believed that the rather oddly styled Project Warwick advanced sufficiently to necessitate talks with the Healey family. However, these ultimately broke down – and if alternative Munich whispers are to be believed, much of what went into the Z4 roadster embodied the thinking behind that project, after it became clear that in the post-Rover sell-off, the Germans had lost any claim to the Austin-Healey marque name.

Before that, Rover considered a revival in the late 1980s under the design direction of Roy Axe, with the DR2/PR5 project that now resides in the Heritage Motor Centre having been styled to fit in with either the MG or Austin-Healey brand…


Project Warwick was a BMW-era attempt at a Healey re-birth…


Ford to sell Land Rover and Jaguar?

Financial Times


XK has been critically acclaimed, but alone it’s not enough to save the leaping cat…

FORD Motor has given Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and HSBC a mandate to sell Jaguar and Land Rover, its two British luxury brands. The planned sale does not include Volvo, Ford’s third premium marque, and is said to be in its early stages.

The news follows persistent speculation that Ford, which sold the Aston Martin sports car marque to a Kuwaiti-led consortium in March, might look to unload the two brands as part of its drive to create a more streamlined and competitive volume car business. Ford is understood to be selling the two brands jointly because of the significant overlap of their operations.

The US company, which reported a record loss of $12.7bn last year, is in the midst of its “Way Forward” restructuring plan, aimed at restoring its competitiveness and returning its core North American operation to profitability in 2009. Ford may have an easier time selling its two British brands to private equity investors than a rival carmaker. Fiat Auto on Monday denied reports that it considered buying the two brands. Renault also denied a report that it was interested in buying the brands.

The London-based City AM newspaper reported that Alchemy Partners’ Jon Moulton was lining up a £3 bn bid to buy the brands. Mr Moulton could not be reached for comment on Monday morning. Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, which owns Volvo, Jaguar and Aston Martin, saw its pre-tax loss last year widen to $327 m from $89 m the previous year.

Ford does not report on the individual brands’ financial results, but Jaguar is understood to have accounted for much of the loss. Despite a buoyant world market for luxury cars, the brand’s portfolio has struggled against its competitors. A spokesman for Premier Automotive Group declined to confirm or deny what he called “speculation” about the sale.

Ford, which lined up a $23bn financing package to see it through its restructuring late last year, has repeatedly denied immediate plans to sell the two brands. When Aston Martin was sold in March Lewis Booth, PAG’s head, said: “Jaguar and Land Rover are not for sale.”


Range Rover Sport has been a massive success in the SUV sector, and has raised LR’s stock considerably…


MG 7 Coupé under consideration?

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Words: Keith Adams

OF course, we’ve all seen this car before, but its reappearance at Longbridge in 2007 is both puzzling and welcoming – puzzling because we’re wondering why it would be unearthed; and welcome because it was a timely reminder of just how pretty this car actually is. Regular readers will remember that back in late 2004, the MG Rover Group unveiled it wearing Rover badges and we wondered why the hell this car hadn’t surfaced much earlier.

However a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and in the new post-Chinese world of Longbridge, this beguiling car has been dusted off for a re-airing, after having received a brand makeover – but the question remains: why would this be so?

This MG7 Coupé may have been tucked away from prying eyes at the recent re-opening of Longbridge, reserved for management and VIPs’ eyes only, but that didn’t stop an eagle-eyed snapper managing to get an exclusive close-up view of the car. The re-branding of the Peter Stevens styled car is a clear indication that NAC-MG is either considering this car for potential future production or using it as a carrot (just as MG Rover did back in 2004) to encourage inward investment for the company.

The styling’s not been changed at all, and the MG makeover has been pretty superficial. But we reckon that’s a good thing as the stunning two-door concept looks so right that it could be argued that nothing really needed to be changed. As these exclusive pictures reveal, the MG logo sits in a Rover shaped recess on the grille, and there’s a neat new boot spoiler to cover up the badge plinth that formerly resided there, so plainly there’s lots of work to do.

More interestingly, this was the first opportunity to take a close look at the beautifully crafted instruments, which are a step beyond the originals – as well as the wood ‘n’ leather laden interior, which is a traditional Rover – rather than MG – styling cue. When the car first appeared in 2004 at the annual Autocar awards, it won plenty of plaudits for its balanced styling, despite being conceived purely to demonstrate to the then-potential partner, Shanghai Automotive, that Longbridge could design desirable cars.


MG badge has been hastily grafted on…

Although the NAC-MG would not readily confirm anything other than TF Roadster production for Longbridge recently, Nanjing Auto’s CEO Yu Jian Wei stated that a new Coupé could be launched, followed by all-new sportscars – assuming that sales for the roadster were satisfactory. Although it is a good bet this will be the TF GT, as unveiled alongside the original Rover 75 Coupé back in 2004, the presence of the MG 7 Coupé is certainly interesting. It indicates that the Chinese company is clearly ambitious, and that given the money, could be interested in building this range-topping ‘halo’ model.

There were VIP guests at the re-opening ceremony that could indeed help make this happen.

However, we reckon that the chances of it going into production are pretty slim, but as the old cliche goes, never say never. Much of the tooling to get the MG7 saloon into production at Longbridge is still there, although installing new presses for the Coupé -only parts would require significant investment – along with the re-engineering work and development of new hardware.

However, the newly scaled-down Longbridge would be the perfect place to hand-build the new car, or one of several small-scale coachbuilder could be drafted in – as was the case with the 75 limousine a few years back. British assembly would add credibility to the Coupé proposal, especially in Nanjing’s status-conscious home market.


Gallery


You’ll find plenty of BMW 3-Series Coupé hardware here, but the style is pure Longbridge…


A closer view of the driver’s environment.


Panel gaps upto production tolerances on this one-off prototype.


New rear spoiler rides the Rover plinth badge.


Coupé instruments are pretty.

 


MG TF factory manuals available again…

If you’re looking to get under the engine cover and enjoy your MG TF in the traditional way, you’ll be needing a workshop manual in order to avoid making a costly mistake – and no other resource comes closer to helping you achieve those aims than a good factory manual. Thanks to Rimmer Bros, you’ll be able to do just that…

Rimmer Bros, the only authorised MG Rover mail order specialists, now has a reprint of the original MG TF factory workshop manuals in stock. The part number, RP1077, includes the original publications RCL0493, RCL0057ENG ,RCL0124 and RCL0495(2)ENG into one weighty volume.

Invaluable information now available for just £42.95. To get your hands on a copy call Rimmer Bros on 01522 568000, visit www.rimmerbros.co.uk or email sales@rimmerbros.co.uk.

Rimmer Bros also has other enthusiasts’ books available for the MGF and MG TF such as buyers guides and original owners handbooks.

Posted in: AROnline News
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

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