While it may seem a heck of a long time ago now, the MG TF was well received when it was a new car. Indeed even when it was relaunched later in the 2000s, Autocar said that "on the road it is still a great little sports car", praising its steering, balance and compact dimensions. Replacing the F's Hydragas with more conventional suspension proved a worthwhile decision for the TF and its dynamics. Sadly, much like the Mk3 Toyota MR2 in fact, the mid-engined layout that proved so beneficial to the MG's handling compromised its practicality; with the front-engined MX-5 as perhaps its closest rival, the TF was a harder sell as an everyday sports car.
Then there were the K Series head gasket problems. We won't say much on it here, because it's been dwelt on a great deal, and fixes have been devised, but it must have had an impact on buyers' confidence as secondhand purchase. Especially so, presumably, with the Japanese reliability offered elsewhere in the sector.
But what if the two could be combined? Bring together the dependability of a Japanese powertrain with a TF chassis and the result would be fantastic, surely. That's what this car aims to achieve, a Honda K20a2 - so that's the EP3 Civic Type R engine - conversion on a 2002 TF. It's been performed and now sold by Maidstone Sports Cars, self-billed leading Honda conversion specialist of the UK, and looks absolutely brilliant.
Because the engine swap is just the start. Also treated to racier cams, an Integra Type R inlet manifold and Jackson Racing supercharger, this TF is now producing 350hp, which should be more than enough to get on with given an 1,100kg kerbweight. Its gearbox has been rebuilt with fresh synchros, and there's a Wavetrac diff to help get that power to the ground - all the way to 165mph, it's claimed.
In fact, the TF comes equipped with everything it's likely to need to make a perfect (yet unassuming) track day machine. Brakes are now by AP Racing, with discs, calipers and lines uprated; Nitron coilovers have been fitted, along with a rose-jointed rear end, adjustable ARBs and polyurethane bushes; the tyres are now Yokohama AO48s and the subframes have been seam welded and strengthened to ensure the little thing can deal with the extra strain now being placed on it. Oh yes, and it makes flames - always a good thing.
MSC has a detailed build thread on its project, describing the TF as "transformed... into a real track weapon", with power that "just keeps pushing and pushing". All very exciting; apparently it'll do 0-100mph in less than 10 seconds, too...
Frankly we're sold, the combination of all that hardware in such an unlikely - yet actually quite suitable - donor vehicle quite enticing. The price could well be a sticking point, though, given the TF is currently for sale at £25k. That not only buys all manner of alternatives from Caterham, Lotus and Zenos, but also, of course, much more serious performance cars that could be turned to track use - Porsches, M3s and so on.
But you'll see plenty of those at track days, which isn't something that could be said about the TF. The potential here for fun is enormous, with a chassis optimised for track use and one of the finest four-cylinder engines in history zipping it along. Bravo to MSC for the idea and what appears to be fine execution - we look forward to hearing more from whoever is the next lucky driver...
SPECIFICATION - MG TF
Engine: 1,795cc four-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 160@6,900rpm
Torque (lb ft): 128@4,700rpm
First registered: 2002
Recorded mileage: 32,000
Price new: c. £15,000
Yours for: £24,995
(Specs for standard car)