The interior was basically unchanged too, unless you count the fact that the driver’s footrest had to be sacrificed to make space for the massive Tremec gearbox that went with the engine.
The first time I drove one I initially thought it a simply enormous waste of time, effort and money. Normal 75s and ZTs rode beautifully but this one was merely adequate while the engine’s voice was always present in the cabin even at a gentle cruise.
But then I got to a soaking wet Mallory Park and spent an afternoon in theory trying to keep up with works driver Anthony Reid in another one, but in reality becoming more and more obsessed with how much oversteer I could induce without actually losing control. I discovered perhaps the most delightfully balanced, endlessly playful saloon car I had ever driven.
More than dozen years and perhaps a thousand car tests later, I still remember that day and still go online to see if there are any nice ones out there. The excellent howmanyleft.co.uk website says there are fewer than 100 still registered in the UK and nice ones are few and far between. But there’s one for sale right now with fewer than 50,000 miles on the clock costing nine grand, and if I could work out what I’d do with it or where I’d put it, I’d be very tempted indeed.
Looked at now the MG ZT260 seems something of a folly, but then many of the world’s most interesting cars are. And sometimes I wonder if those who signed what would have been enormous cheques to pay for its development did so in the knowledge that the days of the company were probably numbered anyway. If nothing else, it ensured MG Rover when out with a thundering rear-driven V8 bang, not a fizzy little front drive whimper.