Technician’s Update : An Anglian quad-cam caper!

Mike Humble


As we walk skip or stumble along the path of life, we meet some interesting people along the way. Every profession has their own mavericks and oddballs, but in my, er, humble opinion it’s the motor trade that seems to attract a more eclectic mish-mash of troubled souls than crowd of random people. It is, of course, the people you miss when you hand over the keys to your demonstrator and leave the job and it’s rare to keep in touch with fellow sales staff.

One such exception to the rule comes from the few happy years selling MG Rover. Neil was a former Business Manager of mine who, after the famous Phoenix crash-landed back into the flames, sold his house, upped sticks and headed out East to Anglia country. Hailing from somewhere not far from Ipswich, he went back to his original profession of painting and decorating vowing never again to work with or sell cars in a dealership.

Out of the many folk I have rubbed shoulders with, he was the most entertaining to bumble along with. Potty about about five-a-side with a loud and often dubious vocabulary, he had a right-footed volley like a canon and a mouth like a canon being fired. Just recalling his persona has me sighing with nostalgic memories and some tales of his sometimes ‘unorthadox’ practices would make your toenails curl. Not your typical car man by any shape of the imagination but he made a living because of one thing alone – he was,and still is 100% motivated by money.

You see, he hates cars, hates the trade, and yet he was bloody good at his craft. To men he talked football and Rugby Union, to women he talked fashion and family life – a man for all people if you will, and this talent is what maketh a good salesman. Neil buys and sells the odd used car in his spare time from his expansive property earning the nickname ’90-day Neil’, owing to the fact his stock is normally the type you or I would run away from and anywhere else would take at least three months to sell his kind of stock.

Require a high mileage Laguna with little service history? Or a Twin-cam Ford Scorpio estate with factory fitted tow bar? Does a Category D 3.0 Omega going for a song make you salivate? If so… I’ll put you in touch. What makes his luck are the people he deals with and a smart salesman always knows who he can pop behind the wheel. He has armed forces personnel quite proximal and there is no easier person to deal with than a rich American with poppy in his pocket.

We recently spoke on the phone when he took in as a part exchange a rather down in the mouth MG ZT-T190 which, in his own words not mine was ‘ as unpolished and unused as Roy Castle’s trumpet ‘. Being pretty leggy (160K), he decided he would use the car as his everyday smoker, and so opted to spend a few bob putting into daily use. This gentleman’s shooting brake is a lovely car to steer about in especially with the creamy KV6 engine so long as everything works as it should.

To be sure and for piece of mind, the timing belts were earmarked for changing but after his trusted mobile mechanic scarpered screaming at the notion of this task, he rang a couple of contacts looking for a ‘mate’s rates’ price. The usual bankruptcy inducing figures came back which almost saw the MG go on eBay for spares. That was until a garage some 20 miles away came back with a quote that not only beat the others by a country mile but was so cheap, his wife had to gather him up from the Kitchen floor.

You see, Neil is quite cute in some respects. His opening gambit to the garages he called gave the impression they would get more work in exchange for a sharp pencil, not the case at all but hey… we like to save some bunts where we can. The girl on the phone from the garage asked if it was a 1.8 K-Series, to which my man replied back that it was a KV6 190 model. They promised to call back which they did and quoted £95 including VAT if he supplied the parts.

The KV6 cambelts may be good for 90K but its a truly gruesome job that's NOT for even most competent DIY motorists.
The KV6 cambelts (all three of them) may be good for 90K, but its a truly gruesome job that’s NOT for even the most competent and fearless DIY motorist.

Now this is a very fair price for a 1.8, but for the 2.5 V6, which involves a similar eye watering amount of labour and strip down as a mid life refit on a Boeing 747 – It’s unworkable! He told me that he asked for verbal conformation twice before dropping the car off with the bits in the boot and popping to Germany for a family wedding. Getting home again four days later there was still no call from the garage. He called them up and after explaining who he was an abrupt ‘yes it’s done’ came back.

At the garage the owner made a bee line for said former colleague and told him the car was ready and how he has sacked his new receptionist. She had written ZT160 on the enquiry and job card, also, the contact number was written down wrong too. The garage had tried to contact Neil but couldn’t even though they had failed to notice a small pile of his business cards in the recess below the ashtray. Amazingly, they had decided to carry on regardless and fitted all the parts he supplied – possibly working on the assumption they would bag more work in the future.

I questioned if he felt guilty to which he asked me what exactly had he done wrong – nothing I guess. He simply told me it was their look out that they employ such halfwits. My own take is that I would have left the car and not touched it and to hell with the customer – a £600 plus loss is more important than one customer you are never likely to see again anyway.

But that said, Neil was always one jammy bugger anyway!

Mike Humble


  1. Good tail. The epic task that is KV6 cambelts must have sent many of these fine cars to an early grave and certainly put me off buying one a while back. Shame Rover didn’t make it an easier job or at least somehow managed to stick all of the belts at the one end of the engine!

  2. I could never understand buying a car from someone who doesn’t really like them, especially in a dealership. I remember talking to a Honda representative about my mother’s car and the guy didn’t even know which wheels were driven. I’m not exactly in the market for a new car, but something like that would be very offputting.

    I suppose I am conflating ‘doesn’t like cars’ with ‘doesn’t know about the product they are selling’, but it stands to reason that you wouldn’t know the ins and outs of something that bores you utterly.

  3. When I had my KV6 ZT-T, I wondered about doing the belt kit here in Aus as prices tend to be marked up way over those in the UK. At 250,000km & just spending $1,000 on thermostat, breather & coolant hoses, I got shot of it while it was all still working after reading about all the other stuff such as sensors that could pack up.

    So Mike, is 600 quid a normal price for the job? Been looking at a ZT again lately as I still have a fondness for them. Bought a Disco 2 V8 instead though, as at least there is a knowledge base here for when things go awry.

    Hope your ‘mate’ keeps his ZT-T awhile. They really are a beautiful car to smoke about in & even an auto can get up & boogie if needed. Sigh.

  4. Andrew (5)

    To smoke about in = Trade speak for driving a car be it your own or a company vehicle.

  5. This sort of thing really annoys me. It also confuses me. Why are we allowing manufacturers to take alot of our money for vehicles with design flaws designed in? BMW E46 lovingly put in backwards with single run timing chains – MG engines so closely packaged you need six months and a Sherpa guide to change the oil filter. I seem to remember something called trading standards & fitness for purpose.. how is a vehicle fit for purpose when its designed to blow up like a grenade @ 60k miles?
    I know of vehicles that’ve done over 400k and are still going strong – why? because if you screwed the customer in the 60s/70s it was your lookout as to the result – these days no one has a clue. Garage destroyed my neighbors car by ragging it & blowing & warping the head – when she complained they fobbed her off with not our fault.. and got away with it..
    As for the secretary getting sacked I think that’s a little unfair – smacks of blaming her for their decision to do it anyway – the garage would have been well within their rights to just refuse..

  6. The easiest bit is doing the inlet/exhaust camshaft belts, otherwise its no different to a Alfa V6- just a little bit easier.

    The large castings that double as engine mounts etc. are quite substantial and impart a well engineered solution.

    Its a 4/5 hour job, and competent home mechanics will find doing one a job well done.

  7. Nice story, amazing that the garage took the hit.

    I disagree when you say “that’s NOT for even the most competent and fearless DIY motorist”

    I had mine done when I bought the car, by a 75/ZT Specialist. a couple of years later, whilst investigating some issues, I found that the tensioner pulley hadn’t been adjusted – the procedure isn’t in Haynes or even Rave I believe, but there is a PDF floating about the internet, courtesy of pulley manufacturer INA.

    It’s important that it’s adjusted correctly as from the bearing factory the adjuster is only tightened to 10nm, and the pulley can rotate on the back plate until it touches the latter, knackering the belt, putting the timing out a bit or even wrecking he belt completely!!

    To adjust the pulley, you have to do most of the work for changing the cambelts – I replaced the pulley and hydraulic tensioner too, to be safe. At first I got into a mess by trying to get away without using the special tools, but once I relented and used the tools it was fine. I also changed an oil seal on one of the secondary sprockets. Hardest part was getting new camshaft oil seal caps in place straight.

    So I managed it – and I’d never even touched a cambelt before!! I had only ever worked on an A-series before getting my KV6.

    Big job but do-able.

  8. I doubt the Honda V6 was any less complicated. my 827 blew a head gasket – the time bill alone was 24 hours of work (3 days excluding the head testing). there was one saving grace. The mechanic said I was lucky the head gasket blew, because in his opinion, the cambelt was about 100K away from snapping. the water pump probably wasn’t changed at the previous cambelt change and had torn the back of the cambelt.the joys of modern engines. It is interesting to note that the GMLSv8s for example still use overhead valves and one common cam shaft, yet fordv8s have gone to(more complicated) overhead cam(s) some time ago and the Jag V8 has 4 cam shafts. an exponential problem (almost) alex

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