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?
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.