Blogs : August 2007

17 August

Her Name Is Rio and She’s Crap

By STEVEN WARD

We’d saved and we’d decided; we were going to have a new ZR with all the bells and whistles once the facelifted versions were announced. Leaving aside the awful practice of buying a car from a delaership (I think we settled on the 9th dealership) we ordered. And waited until September 1st had been and gone, some 3 months after placing an order. This was unbelievable at the time; the new cars had been annouced and MG-R has misread the demands (from customers as well as creditors!) meaning frequent factory lay-off and go-slows.

Anyway, the car duly arrived and looked great, we’d ordered the lastest solid Red called ‘Rio’ (which proved to be loss leader for MG-R) complete with ‘black burl’ facia from the 25 range for an additional 10p! No sooner had the car arrived than the faults started, but how bad could they be when the car dove this well?.

Immediately we noticed the steering wheel was way off centre, the passenger door didn’t fit, the throttle pedal had two modes -on and off, a rear speaker was blown and there were rattles from the driver’s door, tailgate and dashboard. When it rained, more faults came to light, if the intermittant setting for wipers were selected, the new electric tailgate release would trigger, or the front fogs would flash. Occassionally, the air-con would come on itself. Then the front indicators filled with water and the headlights misted-up. Amusing until it irritated. The throttle pedal was fixed by routing the cable correctly and actually assembling the lower dash, the intermittant wipers problem was partially cured by fitting a supressor and the speaker replaced. The steering wheel was centred on the second attempt and the tailgate rattle was traced to a very lose lock, although the taligate never seemed to shut ‘right’. However, by now it had taken to not starting and brimming the tank was tricky affair. The fuel tank issue was never sorted, MG-R had made a cheap plastic filler system that simply didn’t work. We never bothered brimming the tank again as fuel nozzles never cut-off correctly resulting a a absolute dousing in sans plomb. 3 days later in the dealership couldn’t trace the non-starting fault. Eventually, the AA diagnosed the fault; the start motor hadn’t been fitted correctly and was falling out.

Grind away the lower sill seam to give clearance, thats the official fix that was carried out on the passenger side…

More faults came to light, the new stylish airvents didn’t rotate, they were replaced, the air-con began to whistle, this would later become a howl, while the power steering growled. The sunvisors fell out, the headrest trims came apart, the internal door handles fell apart, the plastic seat trim snapped. Still, we poilished the car and noticed over-spray, mislaigned panels and bumpers. The 160 badge washed away and the MG badge delaminated. The bodyshell started to creak. Then without warning one night, a VVC camshaft snapped leaving us stranded. By now MG-R had gone bust, so we were without warranty, there were no dealers left in the north east. Adding insult to injury, we’d paid £575 for 3 years AA and servicing in advance which was now worthless. Mike Satur supplied the parts as these are no longer manufactured…….but more engine faults came to light. An incorrectly fitted cranksensor and a knackered primary O2 sensor.

The remote central locking was also giving us trouble. It was explained that MG-R had taken time to hide away the security electrics to slow theives, but failed to upgrade the remote handsets, hence the pitiful range. The rear Calipers were now starting to stick and howl, something that contiuned off and on throughout ownership. Still, the cars was now running again, although it seemed slightly hesitant at low revs. A change of ignition leads and the above mentioned Oxygen Sensor attempted to stop this without much sucess. We visited MG Sport And Racing where we bought a SV-esq front splitter and X-Power Springs and a ITG air intake system at vast expense. The bodyshop initially refused to paint the splitter as the quality was so poor. They refused to believe anything that bad could be described as Orignial Equipment. To this day, the quality of that splitter is a disappintment. The nice engineer who set-up ZR chassis knew nothing of the X-Power spring range and was miffed someone with the factory saw fit to mess with his spring rates. The ITG system was a pig to fit and seemed to pollute the oil at an alarming rate, although claims of an extra 10bhp felt true. The engine oil was changed at between 3k and 6k miles throughout its life. after 12k miles had accumulated it went across to mobil 1 oil with a full flush every second oil change.

The front end received two resprays while the rear just the one – the paint wasn’t resiliant at all. Then the head Gasket started leaking externally. We were just about to do this when the second camshaft snapped on the motorway. Another new camshaft from the ever helpful Mike Satur. While the head was off, the some values need regrinding due to pitting – despite being run on BP petrol for the vast majority of the time. A third oxygen sensor was fitted along with new spark plugs to stop the low-rev stutter to no effect. This needed removing to be cleaned periodically. New software was uploaded to give the engine a lease of life. By now, the VVC mechanisms themselves was as loud as a cold L series at full chatter. I even fitted the diesel sound-proofing kit to save more embarrassment. As a active committee member for the local MGOC, people would come and ask what a Diesel ZR was like to drive so loud was the chatter. They were shocked when I said it was petrol. The lowest point was when a good friend and MG nutter who is a highly qualified engineer commented on the joke 160 badges on my ‘diesel’. “ITS A PETROL” I said biting his head off much to both of our embarassment. MG-R had ignored its engineers concerns and denied an oil feed to the VVC mechanisms, while its labourers didn’t give the required concern while assembling the units were the offical reasons for the death rattle.

The bodyshell was now groaning so much we bought a rear strut brace to quell the shake. However, it seemed to be too late – in wet conditions water would creap through the rear wheel arch seams. The top tailgate seems were going rusty and if the vehicle was on anything but straight ground, the doors wouldn’t open perfect. The drivers door was now out of alignment and the window regulator was playing-up. The cure for the aligment? Grind away the lower cill seam to give clearance, thats the official fix that was carried out on the passenger side. The reason? MG-R skimpted on the thickness of the steel. The door card would now foul the rubber trim making getting in and out a real paint. You literally had to reattach the door card virtually each time the door was opened. The vehicle was now stutterling at low revs ever more violently. This was now making the doors creak on their hinges and latches. A quick tighten was need every 3k miles. Those latches and hinges wouldn’t stay tight for some reason.

It stalled too easily and increasingly frequently too, no doubt related to that bloody stutter which seemed to affect starting. Oil consumption wasn’t anything to write home about either, I tried to stem the leaks, but the rocker cover had stripped the threads for the bolts. Coolant was being lost again – this time due to the expansion cap failing along with hose clips. Both items cost-cutted by MG-R. It was turning into a nightmare. One day Melanie came home from work and was stuck in the car. The drivers door had snagged the trim and she couldn’t force it while the motor on the passenger side had took to shrieking instead of actually working. Lastly, the gearknob had worn out, the most simple of things. It would fly off when a quick gearchange was executed, so too did the front bumper inserts around the indicators and fogs – they’d been inadquedly designed. Shockingly, given the type of the use the vehicle was subjected to, the full exhuast had rusted through in just 2 years- replacements are Original Equipent only for the 160. This meant X-Part and the cost was £300 alone for the back box. X-Part had whacked prices up to cover the soft-tooling programe which produced replacement panels with the demise of the factory. Never have I seen such a poor quality origninal exhaust system. The car had to go, but even selling it privately for less than ‘trade’ had not takers what-so-ever. Time then to trade it in, only no sensible dealer wanted it. Those who did insulted us. Eventually we part-exchanged it for an obsolete ex-rental Mondeo some 3 months before its third birthday, meaning it had shed some £10k in that short time. We always knew we’d bought a car which hemoraged cash, MG-R themselves lobbed 20% off the purchase price through their Privledge Vehicle Scheme the week we picked ‘Rio’ up. But to have lost £10k and suffered those faults is an awful lot to forgive.

And people wonder why the public stayed away from MG-R products in their droves.

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Feedback:

What a tale of woe Steven Wards MG ZR provides. It is unbelievable that in the early 21st Century a main stream European car manufacturer could have produced such a complete Lemon.

Reading this takes me back to tales of disintegrating Metros and Maestros that used to litter the pages of motoring magazines of the era. I am also old enough to remember the same tales about Marinas, Princess’s and Allegros!

It seems nothing was learned. No matter how the company was managed and no matter how much money was thrown at it by the Government or BMW.

If after nearly 40 years of intervention and bale out all it could manage was Steven Wards MG then it really did deserve to go in 2005.

PAUL HAMPSON

It’s actually true that after the facelifts and during Project Drive, the quality of the cars suffered immensely. My uni tutor, who was then a design engineer for MG-R said that, during all the design processes they were severely costed-down on what they were allowed to implement on the cars, and that included all of the original equipment. Panel gaps couldn’t be altered properly and plastics had to be a bit on the cheap side to say the least. He absolutely hated the whole thing and said that the facelifts were a waste of time and money. He even commented on the MG X80 project and the MG ZTV8, saying that they should have opened up money cases and chucked it all straight down the drain instead. Allied that to the fact that that engineers couldn’t do enough testing, and that the factory operatives were always forced to go full pelt, often missing out detailed quality problems – not their fault. He reckons that if you do buy an MG ZR, only get the ones just after BMW sold the company; a lot of work went into them before the Z-cars were released in the first place, and the quality was still pretty good. Of all the Kevin Howe balls ups, why did they bother with the dire facelifts and other silly projects, when they should have concentrated on the 45/ZS replacement. Even Ford noted this during their assessment when MG-R broke up.

ROSS ARMSTRONG

Steven Ward’s story of his ZR is amazing and I can only say totally different to our experience. Our ZR 105 was purchased new in 2003 and has been used everyday on the motorway close to clocking 40000 miles with only wear and tear items such as brake discs and exhaust requiring replacement. With all the motorway driving, the Trophy Blue paintwork is almost without a blemish and so far the car has performed exemplary.

There are several over MG and Rover cars amongst friends and the feed back of experience illustrates very few problems. So Steven, we can only sympathise with your problems and hope that things get better from here on.

JOHN MORGAN

I just read Steven’s Blog and it really hit me hard.

I’m owner of a Pearl Black ZR 160 Mk2, too and did not have any problems since I bought it new in May 2005.

Many people are telling me, that the facelifted models are crap, but I really can’t confirm that. Either I’m just lucky or I’m blind… and I don’t handle it with kid gloves. For example I installed a coil-over suspension and I’m riding it hard over Nürburgring Nordschleife from time to time. It never let me down and runs absolutely smooth. I love it!

JÖRG AUSSENHOFER

The story of the ‘Rio’ ZR sounds to me far beyond ‘normal’ glitches. Surely that car was sabotaged? Talk of paint repairs etc suggest that it was damaged somewhere along the delivery process – maybe that’s why it took so long to arrive ? (And maybe a delivery driver buzzed the engine, too?) On the general subject of Rover reliability, since 1991, I ran an 827, a 623 and now a 75 CDTi Tourer. All three cars have given exemplary service and I wish I could have kept the 827 and 623 as classics!

IAN ELLIOT


20 August

A perfect Autobahn-stormer?

By ALEXANDER BOUCKE

Last weekend a journey covering about 320 miles had to be made, and having mainly unrestricted but otherwise boring stretches of Autobahn to cover, I was looking for something quicker than my Maestro 1.3 to drive. Naturally the car of choice would have been our Rover 216 GSi, but since the Honda engine in it decided to drink oil at a rate more sensible cars would do with petrol, the frequent stops to refill – about every 60 miles – would have defied the aim of getting there fast.

This left me with borrowing one of my parents cars, and the choice fell onto our little 1990 Rover 114 GT. Featuring a 90PS variation of the DOHC 1.4 litre K-series engine, on paper it surely was up to the planned task.

Having never driven it on a longer journey, I was quite curious how engine, ride and roadholding would leave me after some hours driving it. The 114 is surely not a very quiet car, and not a very soft one either. But it shows a couple of very typical Hydragas features when on the move: After being a bit on the harsh side in town, the suspension gets more compliant at speed. Due to the stiff damping bumps left quite a bit of vertical movement in the car, but the interconnection left a surprisingly pitch-free ride considering the short wheelbase. Another great feature was the really good straight line stability, even at very high speeds on less then perfect road surfaces, coupled with pin-sharp steering response.

I did not really try to get any top-speed readings, but the car cruised happily at speeds between an indicated 95 and 115mph, with the engine buzzing between 5000 and 6000rpm, where the torque started to drop significantly. Though not a rival for all those hard driven turbo Diesel filling the fast lanes, I had no problem keeping up with light, but fast traffic. Petrol consumption proved – not too surprising – a bit heavy at about 35mpg, but on the other hand the engine did not consume a drop of oil or water, and it’s just working up to the 120k mile mark.

Who’s said those K-series are fragile?

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Feedback:

I concur with your experience with the 114. I ran an 8 valve 1.4 Rover Metro, as it was then, in around 1991, and was astonished by its easy high speed capabilities, even in the base single cam form. K Series just need to be looked after properly – vacuum fill of coolant etc., then they are OK.

IAN ELLIOT


14 August

See ya!

By KEITH ADAMS

TIME is ticking on, and while most of you have enjoyed your summer’s breaks, I’ve been back at home, sulking, and generally being moody at the crap weather we’ve been having. The reason for the stay-at-home was I fancied a change of pace, and the place I had my eye on in Tuscany tends to get booked up rather rapidly… hence me not getting a spot until mid-August/early September.

I chose Tuscany because I’ve driven through the region enough times, and promised myself that one day I’d take some time out to really explore the place. I think I became bewitched by the place when driving my S2N Polo back home – off the motorways. It was frankly stunning, and almost pretty enough to keep my eye off the arse end of our Allegro, that Alexander was driving, and I was dutifully following.

The rolling countryside was so green, the Cypress trees, so picturesque, and the numerous signs of the ancient Roman civilisation led me to conclude that it wasn’t just warm, friendly people and the great roads that were drawing me back to Italy.

Anyway, enough of that.

So, until the beginning of September, there’s not really going to be much happening here – unless you want to make it happen. If you want to blog for us, we can post your ideas – and if you have a feature or news story you’d like to see up here, then you can send them in, and fill the pages. www.austin-rover.co.uk is a website that is driven by its readers, and we like to think we upload what you want to see… Well, here’s the perfect opportunity to make a splash, and become part of the team.

To make your views heard, and to get your stories up, simply send them into our Technical Editor, Alexander Boucke, who will ensure they make an appearance on the website. Please, please, please don’t allow the site to become dormant in my absence…

See you soon!

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10 August

New MINI is a Mini

By IAN SENIOR

I’M getting a bit tired of those people who say that the new MINI is not true to the values of the original. There’s the same problem with the current Ford Fiesta, it doesn’t represent the rock bottom, basic, value for money motoring that Ford offered with the Popular throughout the 1950s.

Alec Issigonis designed his Mini to provide the cheapest possible motoring in the smallest possible package. He did this so well that incidental benefits such as the car’s superb handling soon became the prime reason why the car found a much wider market than his design brief anticipated. As time went on, the Mini evolved into a car that became completely classless and appealed to a very wide audience. If you just wanted the cheap transport that Alec set out to provide, it did the job supremely well. It also became the car to have if you wanted cheap driving pleasure, a cheap racing or rally car, or an expensive (courtesy of Harold Radford and his ilk) baby Rolls Royce.

You can’t get that kind of thing today. Cars aren’t as universal as that any more, and you can’t really imagine anyone wanting to turn a Citroen C1 into a baby limo. Towards the end of its life, the original Mini was selling only to those who wanted a special (and even archaic in many respects) driving experience, a touch of history or a hint of fashion. To put up with that, you had to accept cramped accommodation and zero ride comfort. Other things about the old Mini were just about bearable, only the steering and handling remained outstanding. Sure, it was a very handy size, but not too many people were bothered about that any more.

Minis of any type are an acquired taste. It’s
just that I have the taste for both of them…

Producing a new Mini in the spirit of the old one would have been commercial suicide. Tiny, cheap and basic cars are almost a niche market these days, most people want creature comforts and a bit of space inside. Increasingly, they also want something a bit out of the norm. And there are a large number of people who don’t mind paying a bit extra for something special, as long as it’s still a practical tool on an everyday basis.

That’s where the MINI comes in. Okay, there’s no legroom in the back, and a tiny boot, but such things are unimportant to most owners. If I wanted all that room, I’d buy a more mainstream car. I bought mine because here was a car of genuine character and quality, that offered many of the good things I loved in old Minis – the handling, the steering response, the looks, the character – and also excised all the awful bits – the cramped driving position, the (lack of) ride comfort, the rust, the build quality. It has its own surprises too – the excellent long distance cruising ability and the quietness are something that you would hardly believe if you’d just stepped straight out of a Mini and into a MINI (if you get what I mean).

Minis of any type are an acquired taste. It’s just that I have the taste for both of them.

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8 August

K- vs D-Series

By MARK GOMER

AH, the summer show season, dont you just love every minute? Fields upon fields of classic cars, 1960s music banging out over the PA system and the smell of Autoglym whilst you gently get sunburned. This was the scenario facing me on an unusually warm and rain-less summer afternoon after having just done a short journey up the A605 in what may well be one of the most over-looked hot hatches of the early nineties, as well as a personal favourite of mine.

So, imagine my delight when Keith posted a request on the forum asking if someone could do him a favour and take his R8 216 GTi to the BL/BMC Rally in Peterborough? Naturally, I said ‘yes’ before fully thinking anything through at all and before I knew it I had a serious dilemma on my hands. How do I get my R8 216 Coupe to Peterborough AND someone else’s 216 GTi? After a quick phone call to a good mate of mine and an offer of the loan of my Coupe for a weekend, it was game on and we headed down to Kettering to pick up the GTi. Grounds for a pretty good chance to clear up an age-old debate, is the Honda engine better than the Rover?

After spending a short while discussing Maestro Turbos with Keith, we set off for Peterborough, Honda D16A8 power, closely followed by its replacement, the Rover K-series 1600. Now on paper the K-series has a distinct disadvantage, having only 109bhp against the D16’s 124bhp. Luckily my K-series has been treated to a few under-bonnet modifications to bring that up to 119bhp to make things more even. Also, it’s worth pointing out that there are only 3000 miles difference in the odo-meter readings and both cars have been used ‘as their maker intended’.

…as the caravan pulls over to the inside,
initially, the response and willingness of
the D16 sees me starting to pull
away slightly…

My first impressions are that the D16 is much better suited to town work, having more tractability at low revs and more much livelier response from low down in the rpm range, unlike the K-series which needs to be worked through the gears more and requires a lot more effort to get up to speed.

Once we leave the confines of the nearest village, its time to join the rather dull A14. Both the D16 and K-series have the same characteristics of being high-revving 16 valve engines, so its time to see how these two compare in a straight line in full on short acceleration down the slip road. We peel off the roundabout in second gear and it’s flat out to join the dual-carriageway. It’s the first time I introduce the rev needle towards the red but above around 6700rpm the D16 is starting to sound thrashy and running out of steam, which puts me at a disadvantage knowing full well that my K-series will pull all the way to its 7200rpm limiter. Bugger.

By the time we reach the end of the slip road, the gap between the two is no bigger than when we started. We settle down to a steady cruising speed to see how the two compare with mile-munching, not something either of them were destined to do but certainly something they are easily capable of, only problem being that the D16’s closer gearing means it has to attain a higher engine speed to keep up with the traffic, something that can be an irritation on long journeys I should imagine. The longer gearing on the K-series, gives it an ace up its sleeve in this department.

We turn off, on to the A605, which turns out to be an absolute bore-fest thanks to being stuck behind a caravan most of the way, except for seeing a Ferrari 599 and a lunatic on a motorbike pulling a wheelie for at least 500 yards.

After around 15 miles, I’m grateful that the road pans out much wider, incorporating some much needed three-lane sections. I see my chance to try and get rid of that pesky K-series again so I drop it down into third and give it all as the caravan pulls over to the inside, initially, the response and willingness of the D16 sees me starting to pull away slightly. By the time I’ve passed and moved over, I’ve got to go for fourth, another glance in the rear view mirror shows the Coupe starting to slowly gain on me and I can hear it on song and pulling hard, still in third gear. Who said these Rover engines were crap?

Upon reaching Peterborough itself, the city presents a whole new different type of challenge, namely hundreds of roundabouts. Despite having 205mm wide tyres and a front strut brace, this isn’t where I was expecting the Coupe to be better than the hatch, and it wasn’t. Having the targa roof it loses its rigidity, along with composure and definition of the hatch, which was sweet and predictable, as well as being easy to correct and adjust.

As soon as we arrived and set up camp, my colleague was quick to criticise the lack of torque that the K-series offered and how much you needed to work the engine to get anywhere quickly, a trait that unfortunately I’m all too familiar with.

So, the consensus at the end of the day was that the D16 was a better engine, it’s more useable and responsive, as well as being by and large more reliable and generally a good jack-of-all-trades, with only its close gearing letting it down for long journeys. On the other hand, a well driven K-series can be just as quick, if looked after, will last just as long and….oh yes….it sounds better.

Ultimately the K-series has something the Honda lump doesn’t – and that’s character.

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7 August

It’s an addictive thing, this Maestro…

By KEITH ADAMS

I HAVE put my Maestro Turbo away for a little rest now… It had a nice outing at the 14th Annual BMC/BL Rally, as well as a hot, fast run to work this morning, and I’ve come to the inescapable conclusion that this thing is rather addictive. You see, it’s not the fastest or most glamorous car I own – I’d say my SAAB 900 aces it for glamour, and the 9000 leaves it for dead in terms of performance, but what really does it for me about this Maestro is its sheer low-key giant-killing ability.

Being dressed down for the occasion means that my poor car is open to all sorts of abuses from other motorists – usually in the aggressive sort in company motors. Now I’m no boy racer (more of a ‘gentleman racer’ really), but there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had in more than keeping your own in modern traffic. From 50-70mph in fifth, this thing really flies – you don’t need to change down to get the old girl to lift her skirts, and in those two-lane situations where boxed in behind a truck, it’s satisfying to pull away from that annoying tailgating BMW 3-Series when the lane clears.

From 50-70mph in fifth, this thing really flies –
you don’t need to change down to get the old
girl to lift her skirts…

As a passenger said to me yesterday, it would be great to discover what the Maestro’s victims muct be thinking when their car gets a drubbing from what outwardly looks like an unlikely source. Seeing all the Tickford Turbos yesterday made me realise that the bodykit transforms this car into something approaching attractive, but such is the underground cult of these cars that there’s little chance of doing the Q-Car thing. I’d have one of course, because I prefer the styling… but that’s just me.

If it’s so much fun, why have I put it away for a few days? Well, I value my driving licence, and I’ve been growing little red horns from behind the wheel of this one…

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6 August

Feeling the heat in a field

By KEITH ADAMS

I THINK I spent far too long stood in a hot field in Peterborough yesterday, as the face staring back at me from the mirror this morning looked more lobster/human hybrid than the usual grumpy old man… The reason for this seemingly stupid act was for the pleasure of enjoying seeing a wonderful collection of cars from the BMC>MG stable, and to meet likeminded individuals – who might normally hide their filthy secret under a veil of embarassment.

Still, it wasn’t just the cars that impressed – but the knowledge and enthusiasm of the people who attended… and the refreshing number of younger people who came along to enjoy the sight of Marinas, nestling alongside Maestros – with the occasional dashes of Rover 00-Series cars.

I’ll put up an event report anon, but if you came along to say ‘hi’, it was great to meet you… it’s just a shame there wasn’t more time to talk to everyone – and a little more shade.

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3 August

New MINI is not Mini…

DAVID MAYNE

It’s an obvious thing to say and has probably been said, but wouldn’t Mr Issigonis be spinning in his economically and beautifully designed grave if he copped eyes on the new MINI? It’s really a restyled badly packaged BMW 1-Series with a bit more charm.

But, there is hope. There are plenty of proper Minis around that aren’t badged as MINIs but are spiritually and in execution, Minis that Issigonis may have been proud to put his name to.

The Citroen/Peugeot/Toyota C1/107/Aygo is for my money as near as your going to get to a classic Mini design – small, compact, seats four adults, stupidly cheap to drive and own, and all importantly fun to drive.

And there are others, too. The Kia Picanto, any small Daihatsu, and a few other. Even the Micra, 206, C2 and the Suzuki Swift are closer in feeling if not size to the Mini.

So, when are people going to stop buying the fat, middle aged and fraudulent MINI and go for all those cool little runabouts that really are proper Minis?

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Feedback:

I WOULD agree with David here, the BMW MINI is no mini, ok it has been a sales success because it appeals to fashion yet it has no practical use as a small car, a victim of style over substance one might say, its very big on the outside yet tiny on the inside, the complete opposite of Issigonis’ “wizardry on wheels”. Even with the new Clubman (do they not realise the estate was called Traveller??) its big, cumbersome and heavy, thats why there isnt a 1.4 litre version. Hardly cheap to run then with the higher tax and fuel costs.

If Issigonis was around today I think theres three cars he would interested in looking at:

1.C1/107/Aygo-It has been designed from the outset to be a small but useful car, it can seat 4 adults comfortably,is keenly priced and doesn’t cost that much to run. Although I imagine he would disapprove of the Cd Player and MP3 socket as he hated music in the car!

2.Volkswagen Fox-this is a well-built car from a now well established premium manufacturer, although not as techically advanced as the C1/Aygo/107 in offering MP3 sockets and diesel engines but it does pass the “Ronseal” test-in that it does what it says on the tin!

3.The Fiat Panda, its small but has 4 doors which makes it so much easier to use the back seats, reasonable boot space and is a complete doddle to drive even if you don’t use the CITY steering button when parking.

On a related subject I have read this week that the new FIAT 500 is sold out in Europe and production has been increased at Tichy in Poland to alleviate this but I am shocked that people are prepared to spend around £11,000 on what is essentially a Ford Ka MkII and will no doubt be available from a Ford Dealer near you for considerably less than £11,000. I seem to remember SMART and Mitsubishi having two similar models on sale, the SMART was more expensive and is now no longer on sale. I would like to predict that the 500 will be a flop in Britain but sadly people are prepared to spend their money/credit card limits on fashion items these days rather than vehicles that have a practical use.

Why oh why did MGR not invite these people to come and buy the SV-R or the CityRover!

BEN ADAMS


1 August

Happiness is Maestro shaped, part 2

By KEITH ADAMS

I’VE bowed to pressure on the forum by whipping up to the workshop this afternoon and loosing off a couple of pictures of the prototype MG Maestro Turbo. As you can see, this Moonraker Blue example looks absolutely stock, apart from the roof spoiler – and there’s not even a hint of badging to give the game away. In fact, as I earlier asserted, I’m wondering if this is, in fact, the world’s best street sleeper?

Well, probably not, but there’s no doubting that this fine car has masses of Q-appeal – as the drivers of one or two repmobiles found out on my journey down from Scunthorpe on its way to the MoT test centre.

A full project – and report will follow in due course. And for all those going to Peterborough this weekend, you’ll get to see the beastie first hand, with some of the documentation that makes this car so damned intriguing…

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Feedback:

HAPPINESS is indeed Maestro shaped! The first one I had was an MG1600 R-series in my second year of driving when I was 18. It cost me £80 and even had two months tax and MoT on it! Unfortunately, as I was driving to get the car re-MoT’d, the front left spring shot through the lower shock absorber spring mount so I had to come up with a plan. I ended up going to my local breakers yard and managed to get some Motobuild shocks/springs from a Montego – and they were lowered too! – not bad for £15 a piece.

In the end I got new rear shocks/springs too – Such a difference. I have never had so much fun with a car since. The tyres I used were budget Ukrainian made ‘Matador’ 175/65/14’s and they had such amazing lateral grip, it was difficult to come unstuck from the road. The power and grip were just right. It was also an incredibly light car. It would be quite interesting to see how it would fair with a 1.8 K-Series engine.

ROSS ARMSTRONG

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Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

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