The quality of the interior has held up better than the quality of the concept of the Rover 827.
Given the depredations of the Danish climate and the fact this car was assembled in the UK, today’s discovery, a Rover 827 coupe, has held up rather well. Goodness, the leather interior is even developing a patina which I used think was only possible on cars made before I was born.
The Rover 827 seems to be more older than its 21-years would suggest. The underlying concept is even more ancient than the chassis upon which the car was based. The idea is of a prestigious range-topping coupe. Although 1993 seems to me to be part of the modern era, there must still have been engineers at Rover who had their roots firmly in the 60s and 70s when it seemed natural to propose a coupe spin-off of whatever saloon happened to be going and just did one like they always did (or would like to have done).
Lancia had a similar idea with their Kappa. Neither fared so very well in the market which didn’t want so very many two doors cars with large engines (or even two-litre jobs in the case of the Lancia). Customers were expressing their automotive desires in other ways and avoided these cars. The idea was of another time.
The 800 was produced with the American market in mind but after a disastrous experience with the Rover Sterling*, Rover withdrew from the US market leaving the 827 stranded in Britain, miles from the Houston dentists and Millwaukee realtors for whom the car was intended. They ended up making company cars for their executives and their main dealers.
But as well as a change in fashion, the car industry was entering a rigid period where economies of scale had altered so that it wasn’t profitable to make smaller runs of cars even if the variation amounted to no more than chopping out some doors and centre-section. The manufacturing process was being geared to greater and greater volumes and CAD had not yet become so systemically integrated that variations could be easily be made either. CAD was just guaranteeing data quality but it was not doing anything to speed up design; possibly it was even slowing things down. Because of this, the 800 was sequestered from the process and had to be mostly finished by hand. Quite possibly there hasn’t been a volume-car produced with so much intensive hand-labour since then.
Into this process where hand-crafted deviations from the mass design/production process were more and more intolerable came the Rover 827 in 1992. It was what you might call a halo model. Such a car might have had this effect a decade earlier but perhaps not since the late 70s did this kind of strategy work. Kevin Morley, who was marketing director of Rover, left the same year as the car came out, perhaps daunted by the challenge of selling a 70s car in the 1990s market. That said, his next job was as director of his own marketing firm which had one client, Rover Group.
With hindsight we can see clearly that in many ways this car was an revenant from the 1970s, its concept and ethos redolent of an era where neighbours noticed each other and where Rover’s style of middle-class comfort still had some value. This was not true of 1993, and not even 1983. Just a few short years later all this became very clear as Rover was reduced to rebadging its own cars as MGs and applying plastic cladding to 25s to make them into Streetwise variants. In 2000 Rover withdrew from the world market.
Looking at this car, a guaranteed rarity in Denmark (it might be the only one), you can see an opportunity to have a blend of Japanese engineering and British upholstery on your driveway. Normally to have a vehicle with this Cinzano-era feel you’d need to be thinking of something a good deal older and a lot more rust-prone; I am now seeing thick flat burgundy paint and a pimpled chrome Jaguar badge.
Now that I come to think of if, there weren’t all that many luxury coupes made in Britain that weren’t Bentleys, Rolls-Royces or Jaguars. So, this Rover is – if you can stand the rather inelegant dashboard and tiny-grille – a rare chance to have affordable British comfort in a comparatively modern package. The price here is just under DKK 50,000 which is about £5,500. The mileage is rather too high though: 238,000 miles and that’s why in this case there is something rotten in the state of Denmark today.
*but not as bad an experience as that of the few customers the car garnered.