The MG TF Midget was unveiled at the 1953 Motor Show, and it was basically a foregone conclusion that it would meet with mixed reactions from enthusiasts and journalists alike. It was no secret that the TF was a stop-gap measure because production of the long-awaited MGA was delayed by indecision on the part of BMC’s managing director. Lord felt that the MGA and the Healey were too similar, and for this reason the TF became part of the MG story. Many thought the TF was simply a revised TD, one snarky journalist even reporting that it looked “like a TD with the front pushed in”.
For the engineers at Abingdon, led by Cecil Cousins, it was a model sufficiently different from its predecessors, yet continuing the traditional classic lines of the T-series. The TF was introduced at a time when other manufacturers were producing very sleek and streamlined models. The aforementioned Healey, although from the same camp, was seen as a direct competitor, and Triumph with its TR2 was seen in the same light.
Many motoring journalists were of the opinion that the TF would not be a success, especially as there was such a wide choice of sports cars available to potential buyers. However, even in the face of such stiff competition and the fact that the TF was only intended as a stop-gap measure, the two TF versions with 1250 cc and 1500 cc sold a total of 9,600 units in 19 months, which was quite an achievement.
Essentially, the TF was based on the same chassis and mechanical components as the TD Mark II. The centre section of the body remained virtually the same as on the TD. The most important change was the introduction of a sloping radiator grille, which for the first time concealed a separate radiator. The bonnet also sloped significantly forward, achieved by lowering the radiator grille by three and a half centimetres in relation to the top of the bonnet. The front wings were also redesigned to accept clad headlamps instead of the traditional screw mounts on the wing struts as on the TD.
The end result was a car that was pleasing to the eye, but still looked a little dated compared to the offerings of other manufacturers of the time. The car was originally launched with the trusty 1250 cc XPAG engine, but many enthusiasts were disappointed with this engine as they had hoped for more power.
In late summer 1954, a new 1466 cc engine, designated XPEG, was introduced for the TF. The new engine produced an impressive 63 hp, which corresponded to a power increase of 10.5 %. Externally, there was no indication of the distinction between the two power units other than the engine numbers, and on the car itself there was little evidence of the TF 1500’s identity other than two discreet “TF 1500” motifs on the side panels of the bonnet and two additional rear reflectors. The larger power unit helped to boost the TF’s sales, particularly in the United States, and of the 3,400 TF 1500s produced, only a handful were sold in the UK. It is known that Abingdon would have preferred not to produce the TF if the MGA project had been approved earlier. Nevertheless, the TF, and especially the 1500 version, has become one of the most sought-after classic MGs.