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December 2017 – Special Feature

Our Secretary Ray Kemble has written an amusing and interesting insight into his ZED entitled “The Loch Ness Monster Revealed- Part 1”

For many years now, people have been subjected to incongruous sight of the Secretary of the ZR/ZS/ZT Register tuning up to events in a white MG TF. There were rumours floating around that he did own a ZS, but no one had ever actually seen it and its existence was put in the same category as the Loch Ness Monster and flying saucers. Now measures are afoot to reveal this mythical creature in all its glory.

The reason for this is that my 5-door ZS 180 in trophy blue was subject to a number of unfortunate events. First I managed to damage the rear spoiler and tailgate backing into a sign post on a dark wet night in a Heathrow car park. Then. one night returning home I was negotiating a flooded road when I was hit by the bow wave of a truck going in the opposite direction. When I got home there was a knocking sound coming from the engine. Next day I tried to investigate the problem only to find that the cable had come adrift from one of the bonnet locks and the bonnet could not be opened. So the car was put in the garage and my old well used MGF pressed back into service out of semi-retirement. It became one of those things that one day you’ll get around to and the ZS languished in the garage for nearly 10 years. During this time the MGF gave up the ghost and I had to spend the money that would have paid for getting the ZS back on the road on a new TF LE500. The battery went flat and a couple of attempts made to get the bonnet open but there were always more pressing things to do. And so the ZS passed into its mythical status.

Getting the ZS which now resembled a barn find back into service became a project that I decided I would get around to one day. This year at MGLive! the resolve to do something was stronger than ever. I was aware of Beech Hill Garage; they are reasonably local to me and have a good reputation for restoring MGs of all ages. So I made enquires at their stand and following that called them on the Monday morning. Despite being very busy a plan of action was agreed that the car would be collected on the Tuesday and taken to Beech Hill for an assessment. After that it would be returned until it could be taken on as an over winter project. So the car was picked up on the Tuesday and trailered to Beech Hill for assessment. Over the next week they went over the car with in detail to see what work was needed. The good news was they had managed to get the bonnet open. The bad news was that they had run up the engine and that the knocking was coming from the bottom end of the engine and it appeared that a bearing had gone. A new engine would be required. They also came up with a long list of stuff that need to be replaced, including, alternator, discs and hubs where they had seized together, rubber suspension bushes, wheels and tyres. Anthony Allen of Beech Hill gave me an estimate for the work expecting me, I think, to say the car was not worth it and to scrap it. However my reasoning was that I needed a new car and I couldn’t see anything new that particularly inspired me, so I could use the same money to get the ZS restored.

In fact the car had a number of things it its favour as being a suitable subject. It is an early model 5-door 180 which makes it unusual. Added to that, when I bought it the budget was originally for a new MGF, but the ZS was much cheaper and so I had ticked all the optional extras. So it has a sunroof, rear head restraints and electric windows all round; all of which adds up to a fairly rare car. So it was agreed to go ahead and get the work done. With all these factors and that the car had great history in that I had owned it since new, Beech Hill became very enthusiastic about the project. They put a plan together to start straight away with the aim of having the car finished by the end of September.

One thing to sort out was the broken spoiler and dented tailgate. Trawling the Internet, I found a tailgate in the correct trophy blue colour complete with large spoiler on eBay. The only problem was it was on buyer collect in Wisbech which is quite a way from where I live in North Hampshire. After discussing with Beech Hill it was decided to purchase the tailgate as the price being asked was reasonable if only for the spoiler. So one Saturday I hired a van and leaving very early drove to pick up the tailgate leaving enough time to get back to Beech Hill before they closed at lunchtime. The seller of the tailgate turned out to be a guy who specialises in breaking MG Rovers. He had a number of Zeds and MGF/TFs that he was working on.   I took his contact details as he may be useful to know in the future. They looked at the tailgate and decided it was in better condition than the one on my car and will be swapping it over.

The engine was stripped down to basics and shipped off to be exchanged for a refurbished unit. This has been fitted and the car once more is able to move under its own power.

When the engine was run up for the first time they also found that the throttle was jammed open so the engine raced away. The throttle body was corroded so a new one was needed. The garage were expecting another ZS to come in and they were planning on breaking it for spares. The throttle body from that car was earmarked to replace mine. In the event, that ZS proved to be a runner so they decided to save and restore that ZS as well. Finding another replacement proved to be difficult and in the end they got a local engineering company to clean up mine. However the throttle still sticks when release slowly. This may free up with usage but it still may be necessary to find a replacement.

In replacing the engine one of the oil cooler pipes was found to be corroded. Beech Hill were unable to find a spare but they had a contact would could make the pipes to order and they got one built by them.

The body work has been looked at and is generally OK, but there are some dents and scratches that will need attention. The garage commented that there were some curious scratches on both c posts that they couldn’t account for. I managed to solve the mystery by confessing to them that I had been dumping the hardtop from the MG TF on the back of the car in the summer as I had nowhere else to put it. With the garage now unencumbered by the ZS I took steps to prevent any similar problems in future. Using a set of MG Rover hardtop wall brackets and a pulley system designed for hanging a bike in the roof I have rigged up a system to keep the hardtop in the ceiling of the garage when off of the car, leaving room to put the ZS or the TF underneath.

Due to the problems in sourcing some of the parts the end of September target has been and gone and the costs have risen much above the original estimate. This seems par for the course for restorations. I still hope to have the car ready for Christmas and since the original plan was to have the ZS for MGLive! in 2018 that’s OK. We would also like to have the car on our stand at the MG & Triumph Spares Show in March and the Practical Classics and Restoration Show.

Anthony at Beech Hill tells me that the ZS has already been the subject to a lot of interest. People seeing the car are dismayed at seeing yet another zed “being broken for parts”. Anthony is quite happy to point that “No, this one is being saved and restored”.

To be continued…..