The first – and last – time Port was snared by a modern

| 17 Apr 2012

Our esteemed Group Editor recently published a blog about his wife's modern car – a Hyundai that was acquired (importantly) without any cash changing hands. Well, a free car is a free car.

This led me to reminisce about the time I bought a new car. Yes, bought (as in gave money for) a new (as in brand new, straight out of the factory) car. Shocking isn’t it? Well, it got

In my defence, I was swayed by my choice of classic steed at the time. You see I figured that a brand new MG would be the ideal stablemate for my '67 MGB GT and my wife seemed to agree. And so it was that we trotted down to our local Rover dealer to test-drive an MG ZR 120+ – essentially a rebadged Rover 25.

As it happened, we were both impressed with the result. The suspension was stiff (in a good way), the steering nicely reactive and the vivid Trophy Blue paintwork made the merest of nods in the direction of the extremely successful early incarnation of Subaru's Impreza WRC.

We returned to the dealer, signed lots of pieces of paper and trotted off home again, safe in the knowledge that although we had just signed a fairly sizeable direct debit form, we would be returning in several weeks to collect our brand new car.

Of course, what we didn’t pay too much attention to was that we drove the 1.8 litre 120+ putting out 115bhp, with modified brakes and a top speed of 119mph. What we decided we could ‘afford’was the 105, complete with a 1.4 K series engine, 102bhp and inadequate brakes.

Not only that, but I was curious as to the look on the dealers face when I assured him that he should tick the ‘no extra electrics’ box on the order form. I had decided that I didn’t need air-conditioning, electric mirrors and heated seats so wasn’t going to spend extra for those luxuries.

Several weeks later, we returned to collect our new car. I took the keys, signed more pieces of paper and made my way across the forecourt. Something wasn’t right however. Try as I might, I couldn’t unlock my brand new car. I pressed the button on the keyfob and pointed it at the MG in as many different ways as I possibly could, yet I still couldn’t get in. Eventually, the dealer came out having sensed something was wrong.

Yes – you guessed it. Despite it being 2001 and having signed a finance agreement that could have resulted in several budget classics on my driveway, my brand new car didn’t come with central locking – remote or otherwise. I felt like a right chump. After all, I had been
the one that ticked the ‘no extra electrics’ box, not realising that, according to good old MG Rover, central locking was an ‘extra’.

Clearly, after years of being told how amazing moderns were in relation to classics, my expectations of a new car were way too high. This was underlined by the fact that the rear offside door rattled in its hole while cornering with any gusto and the back seat fittings squeaked so badly that I ended up duck-taping it shut!

Not only that, but the trendy MG badges on both bonnet and boot delaminated within a year and the car often wouldn’t start unless you opened the petrol cap first in order to vent the tank.

So there you have it – that was the first and only time I bought a brand new car. 

At least with classics my expectations usually start quite low – I discovered two-speed wipers on the VW Beetle this morning and I’m not convinced the Rover, I mean MG ZR even had those…