Car of the Month : January 2021 – Raphael De Serres’ MG ZS 180

Raphael De Serres tells the story of how he ended up buying an MG ZS 180, and why it now occupies a place close to his heart thanks to being the last one built (that we know of).

Words and photography: Raphael De Serres

MG ZS 180

I blame my good mate and journalist Antoine Minard for falling in love with MGs here in France. He bought himself a ZS 180 Mk1 about a year ago and, thanks to this, I found myself getting very interested in those very rare cars. Driving it on a race track was a very good experience too!

So, I found myself looking for a late MG and, strangely enough, I quickly found a Le Mans Green ZT-T 190 for sale in the country near Paris. I had to buy it of course! I love that car, and it is very practical too, but I had to have a ZS, which is much lighter and more fun to drive.

So here I was, searching everywhere in Europe on the Internet, when I randomly found this one for sale on FacebookMarketplace! It was listed among kids clothes and toys and dishwashers and, according to the advert, the car had only 30,000km on the clock, which I didn’t believe at the time.

Getting in touch

So, after a few ‘phone calls to find out more, I made an appointment to see it up in the north of France. However, before that, I found out the amazing information about the VIN, and how it had the highest number of this recorded. This car appears to be one of the last ZS 180s built.

When I viewed the car, I noticed it really had 29,000km on the clock and was in what people would describe as being brand new condition. Seriously, it still smells like a new car inside. I have all the files and books with car. So the story looks simple: when the factory closed down in 2005, this car was left unfinished on the line and, like many others, was hand-built at the end.

From what I understand the car ended up at the RC Harding dealership, but was really hard to sell because it was a left-hand-drive car of course! So, in March 2006, a customer, Mr Bentley bought the car for £9160. He then kept it until 2013 and it was then put on the Internet for sale. This is when a French gentleman found it and brought it to the north of France. After seven years of ownership (and a divorce), he told me the decision was made to sell it. And this is how I have found it!

He had no idea about the history of the ZS and that the car is probably one the last ones ever built!

Keith Adams


  1. As much as I enjoy reading about new cars, don’t they all look the same? With the need to comply with numerous crash requirements and to have the best fuel consumption figures – their overall shapes are so similar. Immutable laws of physics – in the form of impact deformation and aerodynamics – can be thanked for much of it, but when did (for example) an MG look like an MG? Badge engineering? Or just ‘badging’?

  2. As lovely as the ZS is (and it really, really is) My eye was drawn to the car in the background. It it a Lancia Kappa?

  3. What a great Car of the Month to start 2021. I don’t tend to think of the ZS as having been available in LHD. Lovely colour (Ignition blue?).

    I had a 2003, MK1 ZS120 / 5 door in X Power Grey that I kept for two and a half years. It was reliable and looked good during my ownership. The best of all the MG Rover cars I had… always liked the white dials. Raphael’s car looks superb.

  4. We had three ZSs, all around 2003, a 120 Hatch in Black, a 120+ Saloon (featured here as Car of the Month) and a ZS 180 Saloon (again featured here as Car of the Month). We loved them all, the build quality was a bit suspect and the paint finish on the black saloon was a little, umm, hit and miss (mainly miss), but they went well, never let us down and were great cars, loved them. Such a shame when, one by one, they went…

  5. Lovely car, the ZS180. I had a saloon in Anthracite purchased new in December 2001. I’d taken the cash alternative instead of a company car and was looking around for something sporty and decided to test-drive a ZS180 as a bit of a joker against my short-listed Impreza WRX and Lean Cupra R.

    I ended up test-driving a ZS three times because it was such good fun and easily on a par with the other two in my list, especially when the £3k to 5k price difference was taken into account

    The icing on the cake was finding this pre-reg’d example in a local dealer showroom with nearly £1500 off list.

    The cherry on the icing was a further £500 reduction between my first and second visits to the showroom !

    That car attracted lots of attention, most people thinking it was a BMW, with lots of surprised reactions when I told them what car it was actually based on.

    • This is a lovely car. Of the three models the transformation of the dowdy 45 into the ZS was by far the best, both in terms of looks and performance/handling. The journos at the time were all surprised how well they handled.

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