Sil­ver­stone or bust

With a fresh MoT in hand, it should be easy for our ZR to get to MGLive! and back again – shouldn’t it?

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

2003 MG ZR

THE STORY SO FAR Miles driven 131 To­tal mileage 80,003 What’s gone wrong Noth­ing this week, and the grille’s been sorted!

DAVID SIMIS­TER There was an omi­nous beep barely 25 miles into the jour­ney. An en­gine warn­ing light flick­ered into life, ac­com­pa­nied a few sec­onds later by a fairly dra­matic drop in power as the limp-home mode kicked in. There was go­ing to be a fairly long wait be­fore my jour­ney to Sil­ver­stone could recom­mence.

That’s how my first trip to MGLive! – well, MG90 to be pre­cise – kicked off when I made my first visit to Sil­ver­stone three years ago. The hire car I’d been given so I could re­trieve my MGB gave up the ghost fairly early on, though to be fair my ’72 GT didn’t miss a beat when I fi­nally picked it up. Fel­low CCW scribe, Mike Le Caplain, on the other hand, had to aban­don his MG Midget when it wouldn’t start.

We’ve both been scarred by the ex­pe­ri­ence, then, which is prob­a­bly why we started this year’s out­ing with a quick snap of Mike’s Midget and our £500 ZR parked up out­side my house on the out­skirts of Peter­bor­ough; if all else failed and light­ning re­ally did strike twice, we could at least tell the MG Car Club that our re­spec­tive charges had made it this far.

I’m not sure how Mike was feel­ing, but I’d ev­ery rea­son to be con­fi­dent, be­cause for all its lit­tle flaws, DA03 WCL has never bro­ken down. Not even when I tasked it with climb­ing Bri­tain’s steep­est road, or when Nick Larkin de­cided to bor­row it for a ‘ hol­i­day’ last au­tumn and it came back with an in­te­rior full of bis­cuit crumbs. Our bar­gain MG’s man­aged to reach Hol­land with­out break­ing sweat – so an hour down to the road should be a piece of cake.

What’s more, it fi­nally had the right grille. I’ve long de­fended the ZR’s tem­po­rary Rover 25 nose – bodged on af­ter the orig­i­nal was dam­aged – as look­ing far neater than it had any right to be, but af­ter pick­ing the car up the night be­fore MGLive!, I’ve have to ad­mit that the chrome mesh grille suits it much bet­ter. There are plenty of re­place­ments do­ing the rounds on­line, but rather than go­ing to the ex­pense of hav­ing one re­sprayed I was in­sis­tent on wait­ing for one to come up in the cor­rect shade of Bri­tish Rac­ing Green (that’s HFF, for any MG Rover devo­tees). It took three months to find the right one but I’m glad we waited, be­cause it looks su­perb.

Our car also felt on tip-top form on the blast down to Northamp­ton­shire, per­haps buoyed by hav­ing an­other 12 months’ ticket in its favour. You still sit too high, the ride’s too firm and the plas­tics in the cabin are truly hor­rid, but you tend not to care when the K-se­ries sings on the exit from yet an­other per­fectly ex­e­cuted bend.

The ZR had a treat in store when it ar­rived at Sil­ver­stone too – MG Car Club Zed Reg­is­ter mem­bers, Paul Money and John Thomp­son, had re­mem­bered our car’s bro­ken par­cel shelf from its visit to the Prac­ti­cal Clas­sics Clas­sic Car and Restora­tion Show ( CCW, 12 April) – and they’d brought along a ready-to-fit re­place­ment. It’s al­ready mak­ing a big dif­fer­ence, be­cause we no longer have to fight with the par­cel shelf ev­ery time we want to fill up with shop­ping.

But the best thing of all was see­ing our ZR in MGLive!’s model-by-model dis­plays, pos­ing proudly next to all those freshly pol­ished ZRs and ZTs. We just missed 2016’s event when we bought it last year, so get­ting it break­down-free to Sil­ver­stone this year – with the right grille on it – was our big am­bi­tion for the plucky three­door hatch. See­ing it at MGLive! is what The £500 Chal­lenge is all about; prov­ing that you’re just as wel­come at one of Bri­tain’s clas­sic shows in a £450 hatch­back as you are in an MGA or TA Midget.

All it had to do now was get me back home again, which it duly did with­out miss­ing a sin­gle beat.

As for Mike’s Midget…well, that’s a story for an­other day!

Mike Le Caplain’s MG Midget 1500 joined our ZR for the trip to Sil­ver­stone. Made it! Our ZR joins the Zed Reg­is­ter’s turnout at Sil­ver­stone for this year’s MGLive!

Other ZRs that took part in this year’s event in­cluded Ray Col­lier’s ZR190, which raced at Sil­ver­stone in the MG Car Club’s Cock­shoot Cup event.

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