A PAIN IN THE NEC
Our MG promotes Britain’s classic clubs at the country’s biggest resto show
THE STORY SO FAR Miles driven 143 Total mileage 78,948 What’s gone wrong The parcel shelf’s still broken
Driving inside the NEC is the weirdest thing. After donning hi-vis jackets and signing what feels like a million health and safety disclaimers, you creep through the halls at a snail’s pace, negotiating your way through millions of pounds’ worth of classics. The entire Aston-Martin Owners’ Club stand could be wiped out with one wrong move – especially unsettling when you’re in control of a three-door hatchback snapped up for £450 the previous summer. Our ZR initially felt like a bit of an imposter when it rolled past the half-drawn shutters guarding the Practical
Classics Classic Car and Restoration Show, but it had an important mission ahead of it.
Waiting in Hall 11 was a perfectly sized space on the MG Car Club Zed Register’s stand, and DA03 WCL’s job was to draw as many curious showgoers over to it as possible. Happily our MG had a trick up its sleeve – a Rover 25 front bumper, fitted a few weeks earlier. In an odd sort of way our hastily attached incorrect snout was perfect for drawing people over.
And the questions started rolling in as soon as the NEC’s doors opened the following morning. The number of slightly baffled showgoers trying to work out why we’d brought a Rover along by mistake had soon hit double figures, but once on the stand they started asking about the Zed Register’s next get-together at the Kent and East Sussex Railway. See? We’re doing valuable work flying the flag for Britain’s classic clubs. Honest!
To help us in our quest, Zed Register member Louise Allen unleashed her car cleaning wisdom on our car, and quietly broke out the Autoglym on the opening morning; the sight of our car being improved throughout the show drew even more people onto the stand.
Every time I wandered back through Hall 11, I began to wonder whether the Register’s members had somehow secreted our car out and swapped it for another one (dodgy bumper included). Don’t get me wrong, the MG is normally one of our cleanest cars – but there was a shimmer to the paintwork and a glow from the alloy wheels. That can’t be our car, surely?
It was – and it was pulling in the numbers. By the time the Practical
Classics boys were firing up their Jensen Interceptor outside Hall 9 for the show’s finale, the number of curious onlookers being drawn on to our stand by some spurious Rover trim had soared past 60, and a couple had signed up to the MG Car Club’s modern classic-friendly offshoot in the process. Mission accomplished.
The ZR didn’t just leave the NEC cleaner – one of the Zed Register’s members took pity on our broken parcel shelf and chipped in with a secondhand replacement.
We’re also all the wiser regarding our front bumper hunt. Louise informs us that, while our old ZR’s bumper was a one-piece unit, the detachable grille from the later MkI models is directly interchangeable with our car’s Rover one, as is the body-coloured trim next to the front indicators. The search continues, but now it’s a slightly easier one.
Louise Allen puts the finishing touches to her magnificent work in keeping DA03 WCL looking its best on the ZR/ ZS/ZT Register stand, where our £450 classic drew lots of attention. Looking on are Geoff Hirst, John Thompson, Adam Sloman and Paul Money.