Attending the relaunch of the MG TF at Longbridge got me wondering: is it possible to successfully relaunch a car after a long pause?
Alfa restarted manufacture of the deleted Giulietta Sprint in the early 1960s when the succeeding 1963 GTV got off to a slow start, Lancia stalled the Monte Carlo while it developed a second-generation version with less terrifying brakes, and there have been cast-off cars, such as the Vauxhall Victor and Hillman Avenger, that reappeared in far-flung countries after they disappeared at home.
But for one make – MG – this stunt has been pulled twice. Admittedly the RV8 of the early 1990s was more than simply a reincarnated MGB, what with its V8 engine and part-resculpted body, but it was a B at heart, launched more than three decades after the original.
We’ve only had to wait a tenth of the time for the re-emergence of the TF; production halted abruptly in April 2005 when MG Rover went under. This time the car is barely changed, though, as MG’s owners Nanjing hope to rekindle some of the demand that made this car Britain’s best-selling small roadster from its launch to its enforced demise.
Back in 1995, when the MGF first appeared, few would have thought then that this Metro-based sports car would have lived a decade, never mind the 15 or more years that Nanjing is now hoping to wring out of the design. Still, there is a precedent: the MGB lived for a good 18 years in its original form.
But things have changed dramatically since then, and modern buyers no longer have to put up with the sort of compromises that were integral to the British sports car ownership experience back in the early 1980s. With the TF, British enthusiasts may not be quite so keen to tolerate this charmingly outmoded sports car.