Car of the Month : February 2015 – Dave Dawson’s MG ZR 105

Since its launch in 2001, the ZR has had a cult following. However, today, good ones are getting fewer and further between. Although this one is DAVE DAWSON’s daily driver (at least until his MG3 arrives), it’s good to know its in good hands…

Dave Dawson's daily driver shines like a diamond in the drizzle...
Dave Dawson’s daily driver shines like a diamond in the drizzle…

My ZR followed a Rover 75 1.8.  I’d always wanted a 75 and perhaps turned a bit of a blind eye when I bought it. The head gasket needed replacing after 3000 miles. I was rescued by the local X Part agent but their replacement only lasted 1000 miles!

For a lengthy  20,000 miles the next head gasket was fine. However, I then noticed coolant weeping after a cold start. It was time for the 75 to go, but its replacement just had to be another MGR!

AROnline Contributing Editor, Clive Goldthorp, advised me of a nearby used car dealer he’d discovered, specialising in MG Rover cars. Within just a few days the proprietor rang advising of a very tidy, low-mileage ZR.  I just had to see it. I wasn’t going to limit myself to another 75, which realistically was more car than I needed.

Dave's ZR is both immaculate and rot-free, and cars in such condition are getting rarer by the day
Dave’s ZR is both immaculate and rot-free, and cars in such condition are getting rarer by the day

The ZR in question was a 105 3-dr in British Racing Green – a 2003 car with only one owner for its first eight years, the ZR had been barely used by its second owner for the next 12 months or so. The total mileage was only 29,100. The service history wasn’t just full but brilliant. The ZR had initially been looked after by the supplying. Wirral-based MG Rover dealer and after that always by a garage which has effectively taken over from the franchised dealer, namely Peter Jones Engineering of Prenton in Birkenhead.

When I went to view the ZR, I was initially pleased at its very tidy appearance. Relieved to find a max coolant level with no ‘mayo’ deposits, everything else on my forecourt check was fine, too. A short distance into the test drive and I thought: ‘This one is mine – a total ‘no brainer’!”

Cabin is kept clean and tidy
Cabin is kept clean and tidy

I have now owned the ZR for almost two and a half years, increasing its mileage to 58,000.  Peter Jones continues to look after it. Shortly after I acquired the ‘MGem”, Peter gave it another full service and changed the cambelt – a wise precaution. Since then, he has given my ZR a full service every 9000 or 10,000 miles with an interim oil change. Beyond oil, filters and plugs she hasn’t needed much. The front pads have only very recently been changed. Likewise, the exhaust mid section and back box. Other than this, Peter has only had to fix the passenger side electric window mechanism – that failed in frosty weather. There have been no head gasket issues to date. However, after the 75, I do keep a very close eye on the coolant level…

Thanks for the plug, Dave. AROnline stickers are still available, by the way - drop me a line at for details on how to get one
Thanks for the plug, Dave. AROnline stickers are still available, by the way – drop me a line at for details on how to get one

Disaster nearly struck late last year. I was taking the usual route home from work when, on a multi-lane city centre stretch a car in the lane to my right slammed on his brakes. Realising he was not going to avoid ‘rear-ending’ the car in front the guy opted to change lanes and hit me instead! On no!!! Luckily, however, he only caught the middle of my driver’s door. Sill, pillars all okay. Phew!! A local body repair shop soon sourced a (yellow) ZR door. You’d never know – they performed a brilliant job. Peter Jones has just had to replace the door card clips but the paint job and door fit are just fine!

Driver's door has been replaced, but you'd never have guessed...
Driver’s door has been replaced, but you’d never have guessed…

In summary, the ZR is staying with me. I just couldn’t part with it. She’ll very soon be joined by an MG3 younger brother!

Craig Cheetham


  1. Looks smart in Green, really makes it look like a premium supermini! Nice one!

    Hope the MG3 goes well – I’ve started seeing them TV advertised and more on the roads thanks to the new local dealer, great that they’re starting to sell!

  2. The first and last photos are earlier ones – but not as early as the date suggests. More like early 2014. The side on shot is very recent though and again shows what a great job was made of replacing the driver’s door (it was dinged late 2013) The interior shot is no more than a month ago.

    The mileage is now 62k. The only other replacement has been a windscreen wiper linkage – Peter Jones had one in stock and I was in work by 11am! She’s still running great – the engine management light flashed very briefly at the weekend but has not come on since. I rang my trusted Peter Jones and will have it on the diagnostics if it comes on again.

    Hoping to have my MG3 before the Zed gets much over 65K. It will then be part retired. Come on house – sell!!!

    • No, I’ve thought about it and I’m pretty certain the dates on the first & last photos are in fact right. Therefore, we have before and after damage shots. They did make a great job!

  3. verry good looking car!
    I had a rover 214 IS as a first car, i sold it Because of a valve problem and a head gasket that was leaking, i regret it to this day altough i drive a brand new (and probably better build) car.
    There is something about them that i cant resist.
    In 10 years i will see one and still think of my antracite metallic 200!

  4. Nice car. Dave’s experiences with his ZR are similar to mine with a former ZS (53 plate). I only needed regular servicing, pads, tyres replaced in two and a half years of ownership. Luckily I avoided any HGF before I sold it at 36,000 miles.

    The original ZR/ZS came in LeMans green but I think BRG is nicer.

  5. Great looking car. I had one for a couple of years in Trophy Blue on an 02-plate. The 105 has plenty of ‘go’ to it, in fact I always felt its performance defied its capacity.

    Mine was a + model, which gave it 17″ ‘straight’ alloys and the side skirts – both welcome additions I felt. Although a great looking car regardless, I always felt the deep front and rear aprons don’t look quite right without the matching skirts.

    • Hmm… I have toyed with the idea of trawling the scrapyards, finding some side skirts and painting them BRG.
      I can see your point – the skirts would ‘beef it up’ all round but then again I do like the purer look without them.

    • Not wishing to pick a fight, but the “Plus” models did not get the larger alloys or side skirts as standard – these were both options….

  6. Took the ZR for its ‘pre POL inspection’ yesterday – another oil change if nothing else.

    A slight leak from the camshaft oil seals was discovered. So, these were replaced. New cam belt also fitted as oil had leaked onto it. Alternator drive belt replaced too.

    Peter Jones again had everything in stock and the ZR was ready by about 3:30pm. He said everything else was fine.

    A careless taxi driver grazed the nearside corner of my rear apron recently. However, he very willingly offered to pay and so the whole rear apron has now been re-sprayed. Very shiny & spotless!

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