The MG faces up to its tough­est chal­lenge yet – win­ning over a mod­ern clas­sic devo­tee who’s, erm, ver­ti­cally gifted


THE STORY SO FAR Miles driven 51 To­tal mileage 76,918 What’s gone wrong The boot lock is start­ing to play up again I’d seen the MG lurk­ing in the car park and knew that I’d have to ex­pe­ri­ence it one day, some­thing I’d hith­erto man­aged to avoid.

Why? I have to ad­mit that late-model MGs have never been top of my shop­ping list. I have great re­spect for the de­sign­ers, en­gi­neers and fac­tory work­ers who pro­duced them – es­pe­cially un­der the dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion at the time – but the lit­tle ZR in par­tic­u­lar has al­ways left me a bit cold. Es­pe­cially in dark green. But this was plain old prej­u­dice; I’d never driven one. Would – or could – I warm to it?

I didn’t get off to a good start, though that was down to the er­gonomic chal­lenge of be­ing, well, me. Put it this way, my good lady calls me her gi­ant. Any­one watch­ing me try­ing to get into the MG would prob­a­bly have thought that I was wear­ing it rather than sit­ting in it.

Still, once I’d got over my ini­tial ir­ri­ta­tion that the seat didn’t go back far enough and re­shaped my left shin around the bot­tom of the cen­tre con­sole, I could take in the in­te­rior.

It’s cer­tainly an odd mix – I love the look and feel of the seats, but the steer­ing wheel feels like some­thing a tod­dler wouldn’t want on his favourite toy car.

Still, this is all about the driv­ing and it is, after all, a £500 car. Sadly it sounded like a £50 car on start-up, and the clutch’s high bit­ing point wasn’t ex­actly en­dear­ing ei­ther. Once I’d kan­ga­roo’d out of the car park, I went in search of the MG’s nat­u­ral home – the B-road – and and all my crit­i­cisms melted away.

It revved to 6000rpm beau­ti­fully and han­dled well, too, tele­graph­ing plenty of in­for­ma­tion through the thick steer­ing wheel and man­ag­ing a sur­pris­ingly tight turn-in for what is now a fairly old car. Whinges about in­te­rior qual­ity? For­get ’em. Mod­ern cars are so in­su­lat­ing that you have to be re­ally zip­ping along to ex­tract any ex­cite­ment from them, thereby put­ting the sanc­tity of your li­cence and the safety of other road users in se­ri­ous peril.

The MG’s raw­ness is a re­fresh­ing change from more con­tem­po­rary ma­chines. Yes, it’s noisy. Yes, it creaks. And yes, you can hear the sus­pen­sion work­ing. But more im­por­tantly it makes you grin, and all with­out go­ing much be­yond 60mph. It sounds like a car, not a mo­bile iso­la­tion tank.

It’s not per­fect – the gear­box isn’t ter­ri­bly help­ful and I just can’t warm to the looks. More im­por­tantly, I’m also about five inches too tall to fit in it prop­erly.

How­ever I now un­der­stand why so many peo­ple fall for them and why they have such a de­voted fol­low­ing.

Would I have one? No, I’d rather spend the same sort of money on an Alfa Romeo 145 Clover­leaf. But from now on I will cer­tainly nod re­spect­fully to the driver of any ZR I pass on the road.

It re­ally is that good.

The mo­ment Nathan wished the MG had a sun­roof. De­spite the driv­ing rain.

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