Cars come and cars go, and the majority pass into obscurity without leaving much to remember them by. The MGF was an interesting development in the late history of the Rover group, turning up in the mid ’90s as a mid-engined shock to the rather conservative Rover system. The development process had been a protracted one, involving numerous concept cars including the wondrous MG EX-E, and the rumours of a “New MG” had been circulating since Noah was a lad, or at least since the MGB had finally bitten the dust in 1980. When it arrived on the market in ’95 the MGF was actually the first all-new, all British car to be launched since the notably less exotic Austin Montego of ’84.
Yet, as far as the wider world is concerned, it was always of minority interest. Despite the UK rather liking it, it was never really embraced by the rest of the world. Internationally renown diecast manufacturers weren’t exactly clamouring for licensing rights, either, so it was left to an old English name in models to shrink the MGF to portable proportions. That name was Corgi, who in the late ’90s became MG’s appointed maker of miniatures.
Click the images for late-’90s Rover Goodness
I added this to my collection a while back for a few reasons. I wanted to have some representation of Rover’s last stand, I wanted to have another K-Series engined car to go with my Lotus Elise, and I wanted to add to my CAR magazine small roadster Group Test collection, which includes the BMW Z3 and Alfa Romeo Spider.
The first thing to point out is that it isn’t really a very good model, if we’re brutally honest. The overall shape is pretty good, and the casting gets my seal of approval, too, with crisp edges, accurate curves and no visible casting seams. But the shut-lines are a bit on the generous side- this may have been a ’90s Rover product but even that isn’t a valid excuse to Corgi- and the front bonnet / luggage area doesn’t open, which is a bit lazy, and the other doors swing on massive, intrusive doglegs.
It’s also a bit disappointing to see that the rear wheels are linked together so crudely by a solid axle- which means no effort put into any suspension modelling, and an awkward low-slung moulding visible under the rear end of the car.
Next disappointing aspect is the lighting, which is flat grey and unremittingly two-dimensional apart from a few moulded-in character lines, so no points for detail, and in fact a negative scoring for the visible mounting studs, too. Thank goodness they’re the right shape, and broadly speaking the right colour.
And while we’re pointing at downers, the tyres are horribly truck-like with their exaggeratedly high profile, with no sidewall markings and only a rudimentary tread pattern. This is a real shame as the wheels themselves are really nice, well moulded and with nicely printed central MG octagon badges.
Engine detail is limited but the way it’s buried under the load compartment gives Corgi an excuse. You can make out the inlet manifold and the top of the battery box, and both of those things look passable enough, so I guess that’s OK.
The load compartment is a bit on the plain and lazily modelled side, though, being moulded from shiny grey plastic which looks nothing like what the real deal looked like. This is pretty shameful as so many manufacturers, even budget ones like Maisto, do a far, far better job.
The interior is quite well observed, the layout is accurate and the main dials are correctly marked, and very clear too. Extra bonus points for the MG octagon on the dashboard top and the Phillips R960 stereo which I recognise from my own Rover. I also enjoy how the lurid and oh-so-90s seat fabric pattern is repeated on the door panels. But. The plastic is black and hard and oily, and just not very nice to touch. Some kind of rubberiness or attempt at flocking would have made all the difference, especially when the fundamentals are all in place.
I’m a bit saddened that this was the best Corgi could do- even if it’s only actually a Corgi by name and the actual construction was contracted out to somewhere on the Pacific rim, the famous brand name deserved better. And it’s also a shame that this was The Only 1:18 ever offered of the MGF, a car which was far more interesting, and more capable than its low, low market value and throwaway reputation portray.
The Corgi MGF is available on eBay for a wide variety of asking prices. Pay as little as possible, or don’t bother at all.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016)