GO­ING DUTCH

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…

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Living With Classics -

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.

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