£500 Chal­lenge

The MG’s all-round abil­i­ties im­press Mur­ray on a trip to one of Bri­tain’s big­gest clas­sic col­lec­tions

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - MUR­RAY SCUL­LION


Reg­u­lar CCW read­ers will have read about Rodger Dud­ding’s new busi­ness ven­ture last week. If you haven’t, one of Bri­tain’s big­gest car col­lec­tors is now of­fer­ing a stor­age fa­cil­ity for well-heeled clas­sic own­ers. So ob­vi­ously, I took it upon my­self to ven­ture down there to have a mooch around his col­lec­tion of As­ton Martin Lagondas and rare-groove odd­i­ties. It’s a hard job, etc.

As we needed to get car-to-car track­ing photography done on the same day, I took the MG, be­cause it’s the only £500 Chal­lenge car that’s up to the job.

Pulling up to Stu­dio 434’s orig­i­nal site in Pot­ters Bar re­vealed what we had let our­selves in for. Leav­ing the MG parked next to a Lan­cia Gamma Coupé, I walked past a Ford Pop and in to the fa­cil­ity.

Stu­dio 434 is es­sen­tially Dud­ding’s per­sonal car col­lec­tion, which he rents out to film and tele­vi­sion crews. And it’s be­wil­der­ing the first time you walk in. A vast sea of clas­sics greets you be­hind the rel­a­tively worka­day sur­round­ings. Jensens, one-off Za­gatos, Lo­tuses – I could go on and on. But I’ll stick to our £500 Chal­lenge MG ZR.

Af­ter pick­ing our jaws up from the floor, we took a few of Rodger’s cars out for a spin. I won’t say what we drove – you can read about them in a fu­ture is­sue – later, but I will say that I was might­ily im­pressed by our MG.

Pro­duc­ing all those fan­tas­tic im­ages of clas­sics be­ing driven that we bring you ev­ery week in­volves three peo­ple – one driv­ing the tar­get car, one driv­ing the chase car, in this case the MG, and the photographer hang­ing out of the chase car. And I have to say that the ‘Zed-ar­rgh’ makes a fine chase car, de­spite its fairly harsh damp­ing. It’s big enough to com­fort­ably ac­com­mo­date the photographer, yet the small enough to squeeze in to tight park­ing spots. Plus, its ac­cel­er­a­tion is pretty de­cent when you need it, though it does some­times strug­gle with two burly blokes on board.

Of course, the MG also had to get us from Peter­bor­ough to Pot­ters Bar and back. It per­formed ad­mirably on this long trip, which in­cludes the night­mar­ish A1 and plenty of stop-start traf­fic. This led me to a tiny-epiphany mo­ment.

When we first bought our lit­tle MG, I thought it would be a hot-hatch­hand­ful, so I was dis­ap­pointed to find that our lower pow­ered car was any­thing but. Our MG is, in fact, a very sen­si­ble and grown up car, which just so hap­pens to look like a mouthy hot hatch, which ac­tu­ally makes it very de­sir­able. In more re­cent years, man­u­fac­tur­ers have al­lowed buy­ers to spec big wheels, rac­ing stripes, and even wings on their low­est-pow­ered hatch­backs – just like on our MG.

I guess the next ques­tion is what we’ll do with it once our £500 Chal­lenge has run its course – our pho­tog­ra­phers are al­ready ask­ing what they’ll be hang­ing out of next.

Rodger Dud­ding’s 1974 Za­gato Zele 1000, com­plete with fetch­ing rac­ing stripe. Fore­ground: MG ZR, Volk­swa­gen van and two skips. Back­ground: One of the most ex­cit­ing car col­lec­tions in ex­is­tence. Rodger’ 1935 Austin Taxi – much classier than your aver­age mini­cab rot­ter, and no tired sus­pen­sion, crackly ra­dio, du­bi­ous smells or dodgy seat stains to con­tend with, ei­ther.

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