You could argue that Rover was instrumental in popularising the V8 engine. When it got hold of the blueprints for Buick’s 3.5 litre V8 it went to town, with the first big Rover V8 hit being the mighty Rover P5B (the B stood for Buick). It was the perfect engine for the big, luxurious Rover. It was laden with torque, it made a great noise and of course, it could hustle the frame of the P5 along at an impressive rate. We, as the buying public, seemed to be keen to pick up what Rover was putting down, and we bought the P5B in big numbers.
Thanks to the success of the P5B, the follow-up act that was the P6 3500 was just as well received (though it’s a shame it was never built with the engine Rover originally wanted, which was a jet turbine – really). After that, we were given the SD1, which in Vitesse form was nothing short of an animal. These three cars, then, cemented our love for the V8. After the SD1 though, we were left wanting. The replacement car, the 800, was only available with a V6. The V8/Rover relationship seemed to be over. Until, that is, the early ‘00s.
Rover created the 75 in the late ‘90s, and it was a car dripping with retro style and more than the occasional nod to the P6. It was laden with wood leather and chrome. Very Rover. However, it wasn’t offered with a V8. At least not at first.
Because Rover bosses were slightly giddy with money, they ordered the build of a V8, rear-wheel drive Rover 75 and MG ZT. The ZT was the track-suited, athletic, aggressive version of the 75, and that’s what we’re looking at here. Both the ZT and the 75 are cars that shouldn’t have ever happened. They were front-wheel drive to start with, so Rover engineers had to completely redesign the chassis to take the rear-drive Ford V8. There is actually nothing under the 75 and ZT V8 that can be shared with the normal, front-drive versions. It was a full-on exercise in engineering. It should have been a silly idea, a pipe dream, it shouldn’t have actually happened. But here we are, and we’re glad it did.
As the name MG ZT 260, would suggest, the 4.6 V8 packs 260bhp, which isn’t a lot for such a large engine. However, because it’s a Ford unit, there is nothing to stop you from doubling that power figure with nothing more than bolt on parts. What further sells this car is the fact the engine is mated to a manual transmission, not the hopeless automatic. Three pedals, eight cylinders and complete control for the driver. Bliss.
This car has had a new engine fitted 25k ago, but this was down to someone hydrolocking the old one. Don’t be put off by that. You’re getting a much newer engine in rude health, and that’s a good thing. It’s been owned by an enthusiast, it’s got loads of MOT, it’s the right colour and it looks to be immaculate. The best bit, however, is that it’s just seven grand – for one of these, that’s a bargain. This is a British muscle car that you can use every day, and one that will surprise a few people when they hear the glorious noise of that Ford V8.