Final Parking Space: 2005 MG ZT 190

Murilee Martin

The final new MGs sold in the United States were 1980-model-year MGBs, after many decades of Morris Garage machinery winning hearts on our side of the Atlantic. There were new T-Types, MGAs, MGBs, Midgets, Magnettes, 1100s, and other cars roaring out of American MG dealerships, with MGBs and Midgets remaining common sights on our roads deep into the 1980s.

Back in the United Kingdom, though, vehicles bearing the storied octagon badge continued to be built. Today’s Final Parking Space episode documents one of the very last properly British MGs.

2005 MG ZT 190 badge closeup
Murilee Martin

The ZT’s first model year was 2001, so these cars won’t be legal to import to the United States until 2026 at the earliest. I still find discarded MGBs and Midgets on a regular basis in the car graveyards of the United States, but the best means of finding UK-market MGs in their Final Parking Spaces would be to travel to Great Britain and hit one of the two American-style scrapyards over there.

So that’s what I did.

Modern MG cars parking lot
Murilee Martin

Soon after arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport, I arrived at the rental car lot to acquire wheels (an A-Class saloon) and was presented with vivid evidence that the MG brand still exists. Between a Peugeot and a Fiat (both ancient European manufacturers now owned by Amsterdam-based Stellantis) stood a pair of MG ZSes; indeed, you’ll see new MGs on roads all over Western Europe right now. These machines are built in Asia by Nanjing Automobile, though design and engineering work still takes place in England.

2005 MG ZT 190 lettering closeup
Murilee Martin

You could make the case that even the ZT doesn’t have full British ancestry, since BMW took over the company very early in the car’s development (you’ll want to read the excellent AROnline article for the full story). However, at the time, the Bavarians were more interested in the car that became the New Mini and so stayed mostly hands-off with the Rover 75 and its ZT descendant, pumping money into the project but leaving the Rover Group engineers and designers to create what turned out to be (arguably) the last of the purely British MGs. In fact, the 75 and ZT were meant to replace the Rover 600/800, which were developed jointly with Honda and contained a great deal of Accord/Legend DNA. I say this car earned its proud Union Jack badges, which now live on my garage wall.

2005 MG ZT 190 side
Murilee Martin

MG had endured a rollercoaster of ownership changes since the Morris Garage built its first cars in 1924. The British Motor Corporation took over in 1952 with the merger of Morris Motors with the Austin Motor Company. In 1966, BMC absorbed Jaguar, then merged with Leyland Motors to become the British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968. The British government took over in 1975 to create British Leyland, which killed the MG brand (in favor of its deadly intra-corporate rival, Triumph) after 1980 but revived it every so often for badge-engineered cars.

British Leyland begat the Rover Group in 1986, with British Aerospace acquiring the MG brand a couple of years later. BMW bought MG in 1994, then sold it to Phoenix Venture Holdings in 2000; this company built MGs as the MG Rover Group through 2005, at which point Nanjing Automobile gathered up the ruins after a disastrous few months. There’s a lot of history in the junkyard!

2005 MG ZT 190 detail
Murilee Martin

The ZT is thus one of very few true MGs from the post-1980 period (again, there’s plenty of room for argument about definitions here, and I’m personally biased, as an American who daily-drove a British Racing Green chrome-bumper MGB-GT while in college). While I’d prefer an MG F to a ZT for myself, the ZT was by most accounts a very good saloon that deserved a much better fate than what it got. Production of ZT-derived cars for the Chinese market continued through the middle-2010s.

U Pull It parts lot map
Murilee Martin

U-Pull-It UK is owned by Dallas-based Copart, and their two British facilities are in York and Edinburgh. I visited the York yard, about four hours’ drive north of London and very cold in January. Prices are good and the employees are friendly there. I recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

Citroen vans rear pick and pull UK yard
Murilee Martin

I shot dozens of interesting vehicles at this yard, as well as at more traditional dismantlers (known as breaker’s yards in England), and I will be writing articles about English scrapyard inmates ranging from a Bentley S3 to an Alfa Romeo Brera S in the near future.

2005 MG ZT 190 interior seats
Murilee Martin

The interior of the MG ZT was comfortable in the traditional British style, with generous helpings of high-quality wood and leather. BMW didn’t want the car to compete too directly with its own 3 Series and 5 Series sedans while the ZT’s Rover 75 ancestor was being developed (hence its size between the two), and MG Rover went all-in on non-German interior design for the ZT.

2005 MG ZT 190 engine
Murilee Martin

The engine is a 2.5-liter Rover DOHC V-6, rated at 187 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque and giving this car a tested top speed of 140 mph. Versions of this engine came to our side of the Atlantic under the bonnets of Land Rover Freelanders and Kia Sedonas.

2005 MG ZT 190 interior shifter
Murilee Martin

The transmission is a five-speed manual, driving the front wheels. A rear-wheel-drive version of the ZT was available as well, made possible by the deep floorpan tunnel, powered by a 4.6-liter Ford Modular V-8.

2005 MG ZT 190 Scotland UK plate detail
Murilee Martin

It began its career driving in Scotland but it will be crushed in England.

2005 MG ZT 190 interior dash gauges
Murilee Martin

U-Pull-It was kind enough to shoot a photo of the gauge cluster with the ignition powered on for their inventory site, so we can see that this car had a mere 97,795 miles at the end. That’s fewer than most of our MGBs have today.

2005 MG ZT 190 manufacturing sticker detail
Murilee Martin

It appears that this car was built a few months before the axe fell on the MG Rover Group. Just 1870 ZTs were built for the 2005 model year, so this car is yet another example of the “historically significant and very rare, yet not worth much” category. You’ll see more of that phenomenon in this series, I feel compelled to warn you.




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    I saw several of those in–of all places–Havana Cuba when we were there in 2016. One thing you won’t find in Cuba are junkyards! But the streets are a rolling smorgasbord of vintage pre-1960 Detroit iron, rapidly disintegrating Soviet cars from the 80s and early 90s, and a smattering of more modern machinery.

    Murilee you are slightly mistaken. The Scottish stickers are from a motor accessory store. The first two letters dictate where this car was originally registered and this one came from Nottingham, Scottish registrations begin with an S

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