Originally posted 26 March 2011
It was strange seeing MGF prototypes PR1, PR2 and PR3 for the very first time on a recent visit to Longbridge. I had seen them in the pages of David Knowles’ excellent MGF and TF book as well as on the pages of this very website but had never really appreciated the huge differences between the three cars nor, indeed, how prescient – nay brave – Rover’s management was for plumping for the mid-engined car over the more obvious choices available at the time.
My first thought, on seeing the three cars, was just how the front-engined FWD M16-powered car seemed the obvious one to go for – especially given the critical (if not sales) success of the M100 generation Lotus Elan. PR1 certainly looks conceptually similar to the Elan and would probably have been a damned sight more muscular thanks to the M16-Series engine under its bonnet (see image in the Gallery below).
The RWD PR2 looks the most anachronistic of the PR trio, even if it would have delivered the most thrills for old-school drift-loving drivers. However, in the era of the Mazda MX-5, this would have probably brought little new to the table and may well have suffered in comparison, unless it had a V8 under the bonnet – and then it wouldn’t have been the affordable sports car the company was looking for.
The mid-engined car, PR3, initially to me anyway, looks the least desirable. It’s tiny and almost toy-like compared with the other cars – it looks like a bit of a pudding basin – and yet it was chosen for production. That suggests to me that this was a decision made on two overriding factors – potential parts commonality with the R6 Metro and its sheer dynamic brilliance (it must have been to seduce the bosses out of the RWD car).
However, they made the right choice – especially once Steve Harper re-packaged the F16-based concept into something you’d actually want to see on your drive. Would you have made the same choice?
I also had a quick look around the TF Coupe concept, first shown in 2004, and am amazed to see how well it’s stood the test of time. That car would still appeal as a latter-day MGB GT replacement (in terms of evolution, it’s much the same thing – a coupe based on a roadster). Indeed, considering the TF Coupe’s styling genesis looks something like this:
Gerry McGovern (original F16)
Steve Harper (production and packaging PR3)
Gerry McGovern (to MGF with the front and rear lights)
Peter Stevens (to TF)
Peter Stevens (Coupe treatment)
…it’s amazing how well it looks today. I want one.
[Editor’s Note: Our apologies for the poor photography – put that down to poor light conditions, no tripod and the sheer surprise factor of seeing these cars. We will take a proper set of pictures in the near future.]