We in­vited Chris to take our ZR out for an evening at a clas­sic show – but un­for­tu­nately we for­got about the trees it’s been parked be­neath

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

THE STORY SO FAR Miles driven 59 To­tal mileage 79,638 What’s gone wrong It looks like it’s been aban­doned!

CHRIS HOPE Al­though this is the first time I’ve writ­ten about the ZR, it’s by no means the first time I’ve been be­hind the wheel. My in­tro­duc­tion to our £500 MG came a cou­ple of weeks ago, when ed­i­tor Simis­ter and I drove al­most down to the bot­tom of the coun­try to visit a clas­sic car deal­er­ship in Bas­ingstoke. David vol­un­teered for driv­ing de­tail on the way there, while I han­dled the re­turn leg. It was im­pres­sive enough from the pas­sen­ger seat, but I’d grown even more fond of our bar­gain Bri­tish hatch­back by the time I’d driven it back to Peter­bor­ough.

It didn’t get much use fol­low­ing that six-hour round-trip, so I thought I’d take it along to the evening clas­sic car meet at Stib­bing­ton Diner, just up the road from our Peter­bor­ough of­fices. As­so­ciate ed­i­tor David has at­tended The Great North Road Ve­hi­cle Gath­er­ing be­fore and fan­cied a re­turn visit in his Rover BRM. The more the mer­rier – es­pe­cially since the two of them hadn’t been pho­tographed side-by-side in the year or so that the ZR has been on the fleet. This way, we’d be able to com­pare notes on two dif­fer­ent takes on en­liven­ing the Rover 200 for­mula. David Simis­ter was up for a drive in his Eunos Road­ster, too, so our con­voy of Bri­tish Racing Green modern clas­sics was com­plete.

On the evening of the show, I strolled out into the carpark in search of the MG, only to dis­cover that who­ever had used it last (not that I’m point­ing any fin­gers) had elected to park it un­der a row of trees. Not a prob­lem in it­self, but hav­ing re­mained there dur­ing count­less con­sec­u­tive down­pours, only to then bake in the early sum­mer sun, the re­sult was a once-proud MG that now looked more like a par­tic­u­larly shabby barn find.

It was cov­ered in bits of tree ( leaves, buds, seeds – even a twig or two), dirt and a lib­eral coat­ing of bird drop­pings and sticky tree sap. I doubt that I could have made the poor thing look any less show-wor­thy if I’d tried.

As desperate as I was to set out in search of a nearby car wash, fear­ing the em­bar­rass­ment of turn­ing up to a clas­sic car meet in a car look­ing as ropey as this, there sim­ply wasn’t the time. Both the Davids were peck­ish, and too busy snig­ger­ing at my predica­ment – the show had to go on, even in a sap­sad­dled hot hatch.

We ar­rived at Sib­bing­ton Diner just af­ter 6pm, to find the ad­ja­cent grassy area al­ready full of clas­sics. All credit to or­gan­iser Mark Fish­pool for al­low­ing an MG that looked as though it had been dragged through a hedge back­wards to join them; if it had been me, I would prob­a­bly have turned it away.

Hav­ing parked up and posed up for the oblig­a­tory own­ers-with-their­clas­sics pho­tos, the two Davids went off in search of sus­te­nance while I had a look around. It’s fair to say that the ZR was low­er­ing the tone of the show – in­evitable, given that it was in the com­pany of a gleam­ing Sun­beam Rapier H120, Chevro­let Corvette Sting Ray C2 Con­vert­ible and a pair of Daim­ler SP250 ‘Darts’.

And yet, for all of its cur­rently calami­tous ap­pear­ance, it still drives beau­ti­fully. The slick gearchange and well-weighted steer­ing are par­tic­u­lar high­lights for me as they al­low you to re­ally make the most of what lit­tle pep its 1.4-litre K- Se­ries en­gine has to of­fer. The ride is far more com­pli­ant than I was ex­pect­ing, too, and aside from the no­table travel on the clutch pedal, it drives much bet­ter than a well-used £500 car has any right to.

Per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, then, I’ve booked the MG out for my drive up to New­cas­tle this com­ing week­end and I’m gen­uinely look­ing for­ward to it. It will be parked on my in-laws’ drive­way, though, and they’ve made it abun­dantly clear that I’ll have to give it a thor­ough wash be­fore they’ll al­low it any­where near the house.

Oh well, I sup­pose I’d bet­ter go and find a bucket and sponge, then…

Chris tries not to look too em­bar­rassed about the state of the MG, while Davids S and B try to sup­press their snig­gers.

Rookie er­ror – don’t park cars un­der trees for long pe­ri­ods… Would you take a car to a show look­ing like this?

SP250 and Viva HC ex­em­plify va­ri­ety at The Great North Road Ve­hi­cle Gath­er­ing.

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