The Biomorphic MK2 ZS 180 (Supercharged)

Posted by Scott Biddlecombe on

So, this is a bit of a story, a bit of a long story in fact. Please feel free to go back to looking at our fabulous product listings, or read through our guides if you wish. But, if morbid curiosity makes you wish to read on, and you're not expecting a sort of blockbuster ending, then this might kill a bit of time for you.

I bought my MK2 ZS 180 all the way back in March 2015. I had been in the MG Rover scene only a few years at this point, but I became immersed in it. 

By this point I'd owned my ZS 120 for around 2 years, and it had been an exceptionally good car. A faulty coolant cap and a clutch were the only things the car had actually needed during my ownership, However, as much as I really liked my MK2 ZS 120 Hatchback (With 180 kit, finished in Starlight Silver MBB) I knew that what I really wanted was a MK2 Monogram ZS 180 Saloon. 

At this point the old .net build data site was still active, and the information showed that only 26 MK2 ZS 180s were built in Monogram colours. Now, 26 is a very low number and the most recently built cars were now 10 years old. So beggars can't be choosers and I decided that the next Monogram MK2 180 that came up for sale I was going to buy, regardless of condition.

And so, in mid March 2015 I was made aware of an eBay listing showing a MK2 ZS 180 Saloon for breaking just outside Birmingham. I had a quick look and it was indeed a Monogram, Monogram Biomorphic (IAF). The colour is a very rich mid green with a deep pearlescent sparkle that was part of the 'Special Metallic' paint options from the Monogram scheme. I had a look at the build data and it showed that there were 6 ZSs built in Monogram Biomorphic, and of the 6, 4 were 180s and 2 were 1.8 120s. But, the interesting thing was #5 was built in mid 2003 and then there was a big gap until January 2005 when a 180 was built.

The MK2 facelift was initiated in Spring 2004 so the last car must be this one that I'm seeing in the breakers yard. The ONLY MK2 ZS built in this colour.

With quite a bit of panicking and help from friends in the scene (most notably Lauren Hawthorn for negotiating with the breakers to not break it whilst I was stuck at work, and Lee Stott for doing the initial viewing) an agreement was made that they would stop dismantling the car and give me the opportunity to buy the car whole with the view to saving it. 

I arrived at the breakers, we went around the corner and there it was. Looking incredibly sad. Rear bumper, boot spoiler and most of the exhaust missing. The car had been written off (Cat C) for what was a very minor bit of damage on the N/S/R, The frame around the rear light had been pushed in around 2 inches, bootlid had a dent and the rear bumper was broken. The breakers had bought the car from one of the largest salvage companies in the country. They bought it initially with the intention of restoring it and bringing it back to the road. However, 7 months of layup gave the Crankshaft position sensor enough time to go on strike.

 With the relatively poor condition of the rest of the car they felt they should cut their losses and break it to recoup the initial investment. So, because they had a target value for bits, I effectively paid over the odds for the car. I won't go into how much, and to be honest 9 years later it doesn't seem like a lot, but considering I could have bought a running and driving car with fewer miles and some history for the same money, it was a bit much. But, credit to the breakers because a lot of places probably wouldn't entertain the rigmarole of selling such a car on.

So, now I had the car! I mean, it didn't run, it was missing loads of bits and needed a lot of paint, but it was mine! I'd saved it!

It got recovered to a specialist MG Rover business in Derby, who got it running with help from another specialist. The engine was smoky, and had a top end tapping noise. I asked the specialist to do the minimum required and with 2 attempts it passed the MOT and I was asked to get on a train and come pick it up.

I arrived in Derby in early June, and there it was. My car! With a black rear bumper, a less than ideal exhaust and the wrong wheels with the most budget of budget tyres (which I sourced). The feeling of elation was unreal. I hit the road late afternoon and slowly made my way back down south to the New Forest where the car will come to live. It was doing ok, until we hit J9 of the M40. I was coming off and the clutch biting point was really low, managing to get it to the lights. I then depressed the clutch as hard as I could and pop, the slave cylinder failed! Now, for ZS/45 owners this is a tale familiar to most. I now had no clutch, but at around 20:30 in the evening I decided to make it home anyway, and thank goodness the traffic was non-existent.

I got the car home and immediately set to work the next day, I fixed the hydraulics with a Dark Ice 'Sheddist Style' system, I serviced it (it was very clear it hadn't been serviced for a long time) and I booked it in with a friend's garage for some paint. 

After 10 days I got the car back, accident damage removed correct wheels on and a Duplex exhaust had been made. We also removed all the old cigarette papers, detritus and dubious modifications from the car (someone had stuck DRLS to the outside of the headlights.......)

Later that month was the prestigious MG Live event at Silverstone which I had won tickets for. I took the car and for the first time in years the car was out being appreciated again! Best of all the ticking in the engine had stopped, so when I got back from MG Live I immediately booked the car in for timing belts. The engine at this point had covered just under 100,000 miles and I was keen to try and save it. 

However, not 5 minutes after booking it in for timing belts, there was an almighty bang. As I came to a halt at the side of the A35, the smell of hot oil everywhere and the sound of bits of engine hitting the underside of the car, I knew what had happened. Catastrophic big end failure.

The car was recovered home, and it immediately became apparent that I'd done a spectacular job. 4 holes in the crank case, and Cyl 1 and 2 totally destroyed.

We stripped down the engine and was became apparent was the sump had sludged up from poor maintenance, and the oil change I had done likely lifted some sludge which got into the crank and blocked the galleries on Cyl1. 

A new engine was sourced with 30k less on the clock and very quickly we were back in business.

Over the coming years the car provided valiant service. I moved to Cornwall with it, we went to Nürburgring, we attended dozens of shows, and every few weeks I was doing jobs to try and keep improving the car.

Apart from a setback with a front end respray from a local bodyshop which, lets not mince words, was utterly dreadful. The experience of owning the car was great.

By July 2019 when I took over DMGRS I had covered 40,000 miles in the car and had done the following work to it

-Extensive paintwork

-Brake Discs/pads

-Engine replacement

-Timing belts

-Full Janspeed Exhaust with Duplex

-Bilstein Shocks with Xpower Springs

-Polybushed arms

-Refurbished interior with PPH Sports Leather Seats

-Lots of miscellaneous little bits and bobs with attentive servicing.

During the early times with DMGRS the car still got used a lot. But, the time had come for what I was always hoping for. Forced Induction.

A handful of ZSs around the country and in Europe have forced induction, and most commonly with the Sprintex 2087L kit from the Australian Market ZT 220s. After 2 failed attempts, in 2023 I managed to secure a working kit from another ZS that was being turned back to standard, 

After a lot of arguing with the electrics (The piggyback ECU is properly antiquated) I got it running and running well. The supercharger is a not huge with only a .87 Litre capacity, but it works well on the car. With the breathing modifications and running essentially the base map for the ZT220S, I would say the car has around 230BHP. (That's a complete guess, but it's probably about right). But, the noise is ridiculous ( in a good way). The induction roar is replaced with that iconic twin screw whine that is synonymous with superchargers. The Janspeed exhaust, belts out this angry yet whaling tone whilst the supercharger begins this ever louder and more intense whine as you climb the rev range. I am aged 32 at the time of writing this, and the child in me does not get bored of that sensory experience. 

The next steps are to build a brand new engine for it. I have a brand new block, Omega 3590 Pistons, Westwood ductile liners and a brand new crankshaft. Yes we all want more power, but for me the strength and reliability must come first. Eventually, once the SV project, TF and the assorted other cars are done I will get round to finishing this. 

It is difficult to know how to make 9 years of ownership, of what is a glorified Rover 45 interesting in this very condensed timeline of events. I find it interesting, maybe you did too. I don't know. I could make this very, very long but I'm sure that it wouldn't have a positive effect on people if I did.

Anyway, I'm sure that one day I'll update everyone and you can see how the car is getting on, and thank you to everyone who I've met with the car, and particularly those who helped me get to where I am with it.

Many Thanks


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