launched at Le Mans 2001, the MG XPower TF500 demonstrated that there was a fighting spirit at MG Rover; one that wanted to show the world that the company could emerge from the shadow of BMW and produce some interesting, fast and exciting new cars. Certainly, that statement of intent was underlined beautifully by the balls-out brash XPower MGF.
Rob Oldaker, MG Rover’s Product development director made sure that the XPower message was clear: “The MG XPower TF 500 is proof that MG will be sensational and outrageous, and this is only the beginning. It can also compete with the best in the highest echelons of the performance car scene. MG is a fast moving bold brand with an appetite to thrill.”
Actually, the launch of the ‘500 pre-dated that of the production MG TF, so back in June 2001. Having said that, the styling prefaced the newer car beautifully, and so acted as a barometer to measure the public’s reaction to the car’s new face, whilst ensuring that the XPower’s brand name was further established, following the announcement of the ZR, ZS and ZT ranges. Chosing Le Mans to launch the car was particularly timeous, as the company were represented in the competition for the first time since the 1960s. Ex-F1 star, Mark Blundell headed a team of Lola-prepared LM780 machines.
Although MG’s Le Mans ’01 adventure ultimately proved fruitless, the cars ran extremely quickly… in all, it was positive publicity for the company.
The MG XPower TF 500 is powered by a race-bred 500Ps engine and six-speed sequential transmission in what is a much modified MGF monocoque structure, fabricated around the UK’s best selling roadster.
The links between the MG XPower motorsport programmes and the MG XPower TF 500 are evident throughout the car. Power is courtesy of the MG Le Mans XP development engine, mounted transversely behind the cockpit and driving the rear wheels via an X-Trac competition gearbox.
While externally MG XPower TF 500 appears radically different from the standard car, much of the original structure remains. The body is seam welded throughout and has a fully integrated cage. Front and rear subframes are modified to accommodate the new powertrain and handle the 3-fold increase in power output.
The track becomes 100mm wider at the front and 150mm at the rear. Four-pot AP Racing brakes ensure effective stopping performance. Wider tyres are specified for the task of managing the extreme power available – 225/35 R17 at the front and 265/35 R17 at the rear on MG multi-spoke alloy wheels.
Covering these huge wheels and extended track has involved some radical changes to the exterior style of the car – the wheel arches are flared and connected by a sill-mounted side-skirt. The front end is completely revised and is clearly influenced by the MG Lola Le Mans EX257 race car, and styled under the leadership of Peter Stevens, MG Rover’s Product Design Director. At the rear a high mounted wing-type spoiler balances the high downforce front end to ensure the car remains ‘glued to the tarmac’ at speed.