A TALL STORY
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.