We needed to make sure that our MG ZR is ready for its appearance at the NEC this weekend. So we sent it to Holland…
THE STORY SO FAR Miles driven 752 Total mileage 78,805 What’s gone wrong The parcel shelf is broken
DAVID SIMISTER There was a nervous silence as the man in the hi-vis jacket eyed up our MG. Our plucky ZR has pulled off some impressive feats, but that doesn’t matter to a discerning Dutchman with an eye for classics.
It’s a sort of unspoken truth that blokes wearing fluorescent clobber at the gates of car shows are the highest authority when it comes to what is – and, more importantly, what isn’t – a classic. Our fluorescent-wearing friend had the power to forbid us from following the MGCs and Minis in the classic display area and bundle us off into a normal parking area full of Nissan Qashqais and Audi A4s. After a 320-mile sprint across four countries it looked as though we were about to fall at the final hurdle. So I dropped the window.
I didn’t even bother with Dutchenglish, the go-to made-up lingo for most Brits in these parts. ‘Erm. We’re from England,’ I said hesitantly. ‘ Classic Car Weekly. Do you speak English, by any chance?’
The chap gave us a vaguely bemused smile. ‘Does Shanna Claush have a beard? Of coursh we shpeak der English. Go right ahead.’
I’m glad we did, because it meant that the idea we’d come up with in the pub a few weeks earlier hadn’t been a complete waste of time. We’d heard of a quaint show called British Cars and Lifestyle, which celebrates people dressing up in bowler hats and singing Vera Lynn songs as much as it does MGs and Triumphs. It is possibly the most unapologetically British car show we know – but it just happens to be held in a small town in Holland.
With the ZR being the Union Flag-waving contender in our £500 Challenge, we reckoned it’d be the perfect car to show our friends across the Channel that you don’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy a spot of classic motoring. It’d also be the perfect test of WCL’s long-distance abilities – it’s already survived a return Christmas shopping trip to Edinburgh, but we reckoned that if it could make it to the Netherlands and back it could take on anything.
Or at least it would if it hadn’t been involved in a light crash a few weeks earlier, literally and figuratively putting its nose out of joint.
If you’ve been reading CCW over the last few weeks, you’ll know that we managed to remedy the ruined snout in the nick of time – albeit by grafting on a Rover 25’s front end rather than the octagon-badged one it’s supposed to have. It looks far neater than any of us expected, but as I pointed the Rover-badged chrome grille south towards the M11, I still had a slight paranoia that something about the new repairs would go horribly wrong.
I needn’t have worried – by the time the ZR pulled on to the Eurotunnel’s carriages three hours after setting out from the CCW offices, it had proven itself to be a happy bit of hatchback motoring. It also meant that I could settle down in the passenger seat for a well-earned rest, because I’d drafted in managing editor James Sadlier to do the rest of the driving to the Dutch border and beyond.
Which in hindsight was a mistake, because while I missed out on the MG’s nimble handling and responsive K-series engine, I could spend hour after hour reflecting on the fact that it’s a bit thrashy at motorway speeds. When it’s dry the speed limit over there is a full fat 81mph rather than the 70mph we Brits are used to, and James was using every last mile an hour to make it to our hotel in the Dutch town of Rosmalen on time. As we zoomed past the French truckers the rev counter needle was sitting at a constant 4000rpm – great for overtaking, but rather grating and wearing when you’re blasting through Belgium at speed.
The following morning James and I were ready for the show. Our MG was in with a good chance of being accepted as British enough for the outdoor displays – there were plenty of other MGs queuing for the event, but ours was the only ZR we could see. Luckily Mr Hi-Vis agreed with us.
’Blokes in hi-vis gear are the highest authority at classic car shows’
This opulent Bruges building is a psychiatric treatment centre –appropriate for an MG that thinks it’s a Rover.