Transforming a "TF"

 

If you read my article in the February issue of the mag you will recall my transition from ‘F’ to ‘TF’ ownership.  I told of my misgivings and how the ‘TFs’ firm and jiggly suspension left me somewhat dismayed.  Driving on Hertfordshire’s pot-holed roads was not an experience to be savoured – had I made a mistake?  After all I was more than happy with my ‘F’ but found an almost new, shiny, ‘TF’ offered at a silly price, too tempting to turn down.  Even with one noisy tappet (very common) I decided to buy!

 

Polished and looking like new I stood back and admired my new acquisition, hoping I could learn to live with the car’s shortcomings.  I knew I could sort the suspension probs by fitting a suspension comfort kit but, as I was not prepared to shell out for a ‘tappet job’ I would have to live with the woodpecker-like tap which was only apparent when I ‘tuned into it’.

 

Having lived with the suspension niggle for eighteen months I decided to bite the bullet and sort it!  I knew I was into spending big money & to add to the pain the car was due for a cam belt change.  Looking at spending approximately £700 did not make me too happy!  Maybe I could change the cam belt myself and save in the order of £300?  Having only ever worked with ‘time honoured’ mechanisms, like timing chains, I was reticent to get involved with rubber drive belts.  Driven by the incentive of saving approximately £270, I decided to tackle the cam belt change myself.  Surprisingly, it was a relatively simple job and took approximately four hours.  Incidentally, close inspection of the old cam belt showed absolutely no sign of wear or deterioration but at four years old cam belt changes are recommended. Even though my car had

only done 17,000 miles I thought it wise to follow the manufacturers’ advice.

 

Now, with the cam belt worry resolved and approx £270 better off I was in the right frame of mind to spend the cash necessary to sort the suspension problem.  The Club Spares Department sells three different ‘Suspension Enhancement’ kits of which the Comfort Kit is best known.  This kit was designed by the original designers of the ‘TF’ suspension, has a very good reputation & is possibly the most popular option.  The second kit includes a facility to adjust the suspension height & lowering the suspension, arguably, improves the look of the car & must marginally improve the road holding. The third option is to fit adjustable Spax shock absorbers. Talk to the Club spares people for unbiased & valid advice. Having spoken to a LoLarm customer who had fitted  Spax ‘shockers’ to his ‘TF’& was very pleased with the result, and with Spax shockers fitted to my ‘C’ roadster and GT, this is the option I chose.  Fitting new shock absorbers is a very simple job and takes approximately 20 minutes per corner.  Having supported the front of the car on axle stands and removed both front wheels, the shock absorbers/spring assembly was unbelievably simple to remove. Removal of the top nut and the lower bolt securing the top & lower end of the shock absorber allowed the spring/shock absorber assembly to be removed from the car (see pics). Dismantling the old shock absorber assembly & fitting the new shock absorber to the spring assembly only takes a few minutes & entails undoing the retaining nut, removing the old shock absorber & replacing it with the new one. The front springs are not under tension so do not require the use of a spring compressor & the rear springs are only under very light tension. Refitting is simply a reversal of the removal procedure. Removing the rear shocks is a similar operation. Am I pleased with the modification? With two long trips planned I was about to put the modified suspension to the test and ascertain whether the expense and effort had been justified.

 

Northumberland was a place we had always planned to visit so with a cottage booked in Craster (famous for its kippers) we set off with the top down in our ‘TF’ at 6.30 on a sunny June morning.  Heading north up the A1, with the sun behind us and over 300 miles ahead of us, listening to Johnny Cash on the CD player, we relished the drive.  The A1, free of week-day traffic, is a fantastic road, ultra smooth and no pot-holes!  I was therefore unable to assess the modification to the ‘TF’ suspension.

 

We were enjoying the drive & I couldn’t resist occasionally reducing speed, dropping down to third and piling on the revs.  The K-Series engine just loves being worked hard.  I often hold 2nd gear until the rev limiter cuts the engine – after all the ‘TF’ is a sports car, meant to be driven hard. At our lunch stop, ( Little Chef) we were impressed by two extremely ‘well turned out’ MG ‘A’s gleaming in the car park-one being a rare twin cam.  Inside the Little Chef we immediately identified the lucky ‘A’ owners.  After half an hour of MG chat we were on our way following the two MG ‘A’s.  Half a mile down the road I couldn’t resist dropping a gear and blasting passed them! 

 

Once settled in the cottage and after a night’s sleep we decided to explore the area and drive the ‘TF’ as it should be driven -on the traffic-free roads.  We also took the opportunity to meet David Gray who runs boat trips from Amble.  David was an early LoLarm customer who gave me considerable help and feedback in the early days of LoLarm development.  David is a very proud ‘F’ owner and allowed me to put his car through its paces.  I was now in a position to compare the ‘F’ suspension with my modified ‘TF’ suspension.  What was my conclusion?  You will have to read on to find out.

 

Our next trip was down to Polzeath, in Cornwall – the place of my childhood.  We booked a caravan at Lundynant Caravan Park and planned the weather just right – seven days of cloudless skies – ecstasy, never having to put the top up!  The A303 and A30 are great roads, travelling early on a Sunday morning (out of season) avoids most hold-ups with the exception of minor delays at Stonehenge.  For us, this journey is just over 300 miles and with the top down and hot sun is an experience to be relished.  The ‘TF’ engine seemed unusually smooth cruising at the ‘legal limit’, the occasional burst in third made it all the more enjoyable – what a fantastic engine the K series is! The A303 and A30 are superbly maintained roads, my modified ‘TF’ suspension was therefore not put to the real test, my unmodified suspension would have coped well anyway.  The Cornish minor roads were a different story & made my ‘new’ suspension work overtime! Once home the Hertfordshire roads were the ultimate test. Now for my conclusion.  Was the suspension worthwhile?  Was it a good investment?  Was the money well spent?   The answer is a resounding ‘yes’!!  With the Spax adjusted 6 notches clockwise – 22 more to go – the suspension is totally transformed. The unrestricted springs can now do what they were designed for – cushion the bumps.  No more stress-making, bone-jarring, jolts; the irritation had gone, the car is transformed beyond my wildest expectations and, yes, my ‘TF’ now rides better than an ‘F’.  The Spax shockers can be adjusted from ‘saloon car soft’ to ‘track day hard’ by simply poking a long screwdriver through the wheel spokes and setting the shocker adjusters

to the desired comfort level. Driving my TF is now a very pleasant experience!! I’m sure that what ever option you choose you will not regret the decision. Ah yes, the noisy tappet is cured, giving the engine an extra few revs & a bit more work has sorted the problem! Apparently this is a recommended solution.

 

I am now no longer looking to replace my ‘TF’ with an ‘F & I would even go as far as admitting that I prefer it to my ‘C’ roadster – I don’t believe I’ve said that! We are touring central France for two weeks in September - what car do we take the ‘C’ or the TF? I’ve never had this dilemma before. With LoLarm fitted, no longer having to watch the temp gauge & with potholes & manhole covers posing no threat I may even take the TF! SEPT 2008   Andy C

 

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