RE: MG ZS 180 | Shed of the Week

RE: MG ZS 180 | Shed of the Week

Friday 22nd November 2019

MG ZS 180 | Shed of the Week

The MG ZS has a deserved cult following - although not one which has denied it perennial Shed status



An MG ZS 180 might look like something Captain Mainwaring would drive, but if he were ever to find himself behind the wheel of one, his cap and specs would soon be askew in classic comedy fashion once he discovered the truth beneath the 180's milktoast exterior.

A fully independently suspended and lowered platform with bigger wheels and brakes than the stock ZS gave the light (1285kg or thereabouts) 180 terrific handling for a 2.5 V6-engined FWD car. Our Shed is a four-door saloon with, you would think, more torsional rigidity and by extension even sharper handling than the 5-door version. That's why you'll see a lot of them being used as trackday slags.

You could carry on doing that with this one, or you could use the current MOT - valid to next June, advisories for light corrosion to both rear springs and the rear ARB - to retire it to the relatively calm pastures of the public roads, where you might enjoy its everyday practicality almost as much as the trumpety six-pot rort from its socially-acceptable cat-back Powerflow exhaust.


The pics of this Shed are slightly random, and there are none at all of the interior, which is a pity as one of them might have shown the heating control panel that also saw service in the Pagani Zonda - really - but assuming the part-leather upholstery isn't bearing too many hallmarks of the odd awkward moment on the track it should still look and feel quite luxurious in there.

None of the nightmare head gasket scenarios that haunt the mechanical reputation of four-cylinder K-series Rovers apply here. The ZS 180 did have a few glitches of its own though. Unlike the 2.0 V6 motor, the quad-cam 2.5 V6 used for the 180 has not one, not two, but three timing belts, one at the front and two at the back. The engine's tight fit in the bay means that replacing these belts is not a task you'd fit into a spare five minutes. The book time for the job is seven hours but it can take anything up to twelve on a bad day. The official replacement schedule is 6yrs/90k miles but those who know wouldn't risk it beyond 5yrs/75k. Our Shed's mileage is 145,000 miles, so even if it's had its belts done once it could well be due to have them done again now.

Anyway, be that as it may, this car has plenty of important/major new parts, among them - delightfully - a Sheddist clutch slave and master cylinder. Sheddist is a Telford-based MG boffin who has designed and built a few improver bits for these cars, including (our own Shed thinks) new actuator rods for the VIS butterfly valves. His clutch upgrade kit is highly praised in the ZS 180 community because much of MG's original clutch componentry was made of plastic and about as robust and rich in feel as a wet sock. Leaky thermostats and seizing rear brake calipers can also put the mockers on your enjoyment but these are not hard issues to resolve.


These factory flaws are a damn shame really because at heart these are great little cars. Part of the secret of the 180's sprightliness was its VIS, or Variable Inlet System, Rover's equivalent of V-TEC. One small DC motor controlled an inlet manifold flap operating between two tracts, one long and one short, the theory being that the long tract improves low speed torque and the short direct tract boosts top end power. Another motor controlled six butterfly valves in each short tract leading to the inlet valves.

The whole thing should produce a noticeable kick at around 3000rpm and another one at around 4500rpm. Over time, these butterfly valves do have a tendency to fall off the valve actuator rod, especially if you didn't pay plenty of attention to keeping the oil clean. You'll know you've got a problem in this area because the engine will start to make diesel-type noises. At least one owner who went into the engine at that point and simply hoicked out the butterflies out reported no drop off in performance, which if true sounds weird and at the very least makes you wonder about the design functionality of that second VIS motor.

As said, beyond the bland styling and the well-documented and fixable shortcomings, these are good cars that are capable of rustling your petticoats at speeds well in excess of 130mph with a low-seven-second 0-60 time. All you have to do on this one is replace the bits that aren't so good, a process that is well advanced here on our Shed. Plenty of fun still to be had here at Β£1250 with a full spare set of Toyo-shod wheels, or a round thousand without them.


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Author
Discussion

Cambs_Stuart

Original Poster:

736 posts

33 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
That looks like a very good shed. Nice find.

miken2k8

118 posts

32 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
These really do handle amazingly would much rather this than a 328 or similar rwd

HumanSteamroller

112 posts

26 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
Can't really knock that price, even if the belts do need changing.

ReaperCushions

3,839 posts

133 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
Would make for a great fast road / track car project. Strip a bit more out (without making it antisocial) and you could have a lot of fun for not much money.

Sandpit Steve

377 posts

23 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
These were great fun back in the day, good shed.

AlecT

128 posts

158 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
''Unlike the 2.0 V6 motor, the quad-cam 2.5 V6 used for the 180 has not one, not two, but three timing belts, one at the front and two at the back.''

Actually the 2.0V6 is no different to the 2.5 apart from the length of the stroke, still quad cam and three timing belts, a very nice smooth engine as found in many early Rover 75's

2smoke

81 posts

60 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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Not seen many of these in black, certainly not for many years anyway. Looks good and would be plenty of fun for the money.

Hub

4,473 posts

147 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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Love the touring car look of these, though the pre facelift is probably better looking. The right engine too. Good shed!

s m

18,364 posts

152 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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Great return to form after last week’s awful Fiat pudding

Nice find cool

Augustus Windsock

1,876 posts

104 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
My main abiding memory of these was the yellow one that my parents neighbour bought new
The amusement factor was when he was stood on the drive assessing it from different angles and I asked what he was doing
‘Something doesn’t look quite right’ he said
We kept looking and eventually realised that the car had come from the factory/dealer with 3 matching tyres and one that was a different size/profile
The indifference shown by the dealership was stunning and was perhaps indicative of how the manufacturer was heading downhill...

Stu78

133 posts

84 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
And don't forget; even in standard form these have the same track performance as the starting second row of BTCC!

zedx19

2,089 posts

89 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
Mate of mine had one of these many many years ago, I had a phase 1 172 at the time. Went out for a spin in it, not knowing anything about it and expecting it to be dire, but was massively impressed. Felt quick, handled great and made a great noise. He did have a lot of problems with it though, gearbox would work fine when warm, but when cold he couldn't engage some gears. He paid for new linkages, new oil, new clutch but nothing helped so he gave up and punted it on.

Frimley111R

10,275 posts

183 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
Augustus Windsock said:
My main abiding memory of these was the yellow one that my parents neighbour bought new
The amusement factor was when he was stood on the drive assessing it from different angles and I asked what he was doing
‘Something doesn’t look quite right’ he said
We kept looking and eventually realised that the car had come from the factory/dealer with 3 matching tyres and one that was a different size/profile
The indifference shown by the dealership was stunning and was perhaps indicative of how the manufacturer was heading downhill...
I remember someone telling me that their car even had parts of the body that simply weren't welded together. Not badly welded, just not welded at all!

I've always liked these but it's hard to find a good one now.

InitialDave

5,999 posts

68 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
Well, I guess there goes my plan to get Shed Of The Week by listing mine cheap!

novus

114 posts

109 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
Augustus Windsock said:
My main abiding memory of these was the yellow one that my parents neighbour bought new
The amusement factor was when he was stood on the drive assessing it from different angles and I asked what he was doing
‘Something doesn’t look quite right’ he said
We kept looking and eventually realised that the car had come from the factory/dealer with 3 matching tyres and one that was a different size/profile
The indifference shown by the dealership was stunning and was perhaps indicative of how the manufacturer was heading downhill...
You must have been bored to go to the dealer with him to complain about this and then witness this stunning indifference you speak of

daveco

3,706 posts

156 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
novus said:
Augustus Windsock said:
My main abiding memory of these was the yellow one that my parents neighbour bought new
The amusement factor was when he was stood on the drive assessing it from different angles and I asked what he was doing
‘Something doesn’t look quite right’ he said
We kept looking and eventually realised that the car had come from the factory/dealer with 3 matching tyres and one that was a different size/profile
The indifference shown by the dealership was stunning and was perhaps indicative of how the manufacturer was heading downhill...
You must have been bored to go to the dealer with him to complain about this and then witness this stunning indifference you speak of
What a bizarre response. Who says he had to go with his father to the dealer, to witness the indifference??

rallycross

10,525 posts

186 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
These old things are surprisingly good fun to drive!
I bought one a few years ago following a previous zs180 appearance on shed of the week ( I paid £385 for a 2004 with full history 3 owners 130k Miles) cheap as it had a short mot.

These are fun as they have such stiff suspension excellent handling with sharp turn in, loads of grip and great traction and a great engine loads of grunt that sounds lovey, a car completely at odds with a standard Rover 45 staid image.

My one seemed well built everything worked even the AC and it could cope with a good thrashing. These make a very good track car I’d describe how it drives as like combining a 205 Gti and a Golf VR6 taking the best bits of both to create an unlikely track day special.

I’ve still got a load of bits off my one available including a K&N kit shedist clutch cylinder, inlet, exhaust and wheels/good tyres.





Edited by rallycross on Friday 22 November 08:41

s m

18,364 posts

152 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all

alorotom

7,344 posts

136 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
I just can't see past the dire Rover 45 base and the sheer amount of these (real and faked 45's) that used to buzz around councils states and retail parks, it's almost as if this is the car that zafira owners had before they impregnated several ladies of less than loose morals ...

I've never driven one and have no desire to. Not for me at all - clearly there is a lot of love for these though.


greenarrow

1,869 posts

66 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
s m said:
As I recall (I used to have this track day article) on the day, in the wet around Castle Coombe, only the Clio 172 was faster than this MG ZS and only by a few tenths. ZS was faster than EP3 Type R and Focus ST170 amongst others....so clearly a good chassis.

I've always had a soft spot for these - no idea why - I think I just like an under-dog.