£500 Chal­lenge

MG ZR

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

THE STORY SO FAR Miles driven 31 To­tal mileage 78,053 What’s gone wrong Is the bon­net shut­line as it should be?

DAVID SIMIS­TER ‘Erm, we’re ring­ing about that MG bumper you or­dered.’

It was the phone call I’d hoped I would never have to take. On the other end of the line was Peter­bor­ough-based clas­sic spe­cial­ist Karl Elling­worth – the man to whom we nor­mally turn when one of our rustier clas­sics needs res­cu­ing in one shape or form – with an up­date on our search for a new ZR bumper. And the news wasn’t good.

While we could at least breathe a sigh of relief that our MG’s brush with a road­side safety bar­rier had re­sulted in just a few cos­metic bruises rather than any­thing more se­ri­ous af­fect­ing the ra­di­a­tor or other gub­bins be­hind the front bumper, our search for some new trim hadn’t been quite as suc­cess­ful as we’d hoped.

We spent weeks trawl­ing the clas­si­fieds and ring­ing end­less spe­cial­ists in the hunt for a re­place­ment bumper in the cor­rect shade of Bri­tish Racing Green ( CCW, 1 March), but short of get­ting one in the wrong colour and go­ing to all the trou­ble and ex­pense of hav­ing it re­sprayed, the na­tion­wide search had come up with pre­cisely noth­ing.

So we hit upon the ge­nius plan of buy­ing a Rover 25 bumper in the cor­rect hue and swap­ping all the sporty gar­nish­ings over. Hope­fully, no­body but the most ea­gle-eyed MG-Rover cognoscenti would ever be able to spot the dif­fer­ence.

But ob­vi­ously (un­less CCW has been re­launched in au­dio­book form only – per­haps read by Nick Larkin) you can see that it hasn’t en­tirely gone to plan.

The prob­lem was that while the donor Rover’s ra­di­a­tor grille is re­mov­able, the ZR’s is ef­fec­tively a one-piece unit that’s in­te­grated into the bumper. It seems bizarre that two vari­a­tions of the same car made in the same fac­tory within six months of each other would have to­tally dif­fer­ent de­signs of ra­di­a­tor grille, but there you go.

Which is why CCW con­trib­u­tor Richard Gunn and I ended up at the menders the fol­low­ing morn­ing, look­ing at two seem­ingly iden­ti­cal yet in­ex­orably dif­fer­ent bumpers, scratch­ing our heads.

In the end we de­cided that hav­ing DA03 WCL back on the road with a new face was prefer­able to it be­ing out of ac­tion for the long haul and look­ing sorry for it­self. So on went the 25’s chrome-fronted snout, and we haven’t looked back since.

Apart from a bon­net shut­line that doesn’t seem quite as tight as be­fore, we’re sur­prised at how neat the Rover’s shiny grille looks on our MG. It’s also good to be back be­hind the wheel again. It feels peppy and en­er­getic – none the worse for its close en­counter. It also buys us a lit­tle more time to find that elu­sive MG bumper – if you’ve got one in HFF Bri­tish Racing Green, do get in touch.

But the real rea­son we’re so glad to see it back in ac­tion is be­cause, just be­fore all the bumper jig­gery-pok­ery, we booked the MG in for an ad­ven­ture on the con­ti­nent – and it’s back on the road just in the nick of time. We just hope the cus­toms of­fi­cers don’t con­fis­cate its pass­port on ac­count of it no longer wear­ing the face with which it was born!

Even so, it’s run­ning smoothly, so fin­gers crossed that our trip across the Chan­nel is smoother than its dis­as­trous en­counter a stone’s throw from our of­fices. Keep an eye out for next week’s is­sue to find out how our plucky MG gets on.

’We didn’t want our poor ZR to stay out of ac­tion, look­ing sorry for it­self’

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