Theme: Aftermarket – Plato’s Garments Cloak the Sunrise

Fun fact: for Ireland only this car came with a 1.4 L petrol engine.

That had something to do with Ireland’s punitive car taxation system. Still, it’s a puzzle. The Celtic Tiger roared loudest around then: was Rover (Irl.) Ltd so desperate to sell cars that they had to

pull a stunt like that? The car’s addenda scream performance aspirations which a 1.4 won’t be able to deliver, I would have thought. How many remain out of the 20 (guess) they shipped?

Now: I’m 67 words into this article and the astute among you will be wonderingly thinkingly asking what this lovely motor has to do with “aftermarket”.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m being a little satirical.

By the turn of the century Rover was running out of resources and also keen to drag their range away from the comfort and retrelegance territory BMW’s ownership had forced them into.

In 1995 Rover launched the 400, a pleasant car straddling the blurry land between Golfy cars and Mondeo-y cars. To allign with the 1998 Rover 75’s name, the 400 was renamed 45 and the style tweaked a bit. In 2000 BMW cut Rover loose and immediately Rover’s designers rushed to restyle their range to allow for tuned versions to be marketed as MGs. With a minuscule budget this panic operation amounted to new paints and some plastic bits reshaped with huge haste. The results epitomise one of the harshest accusations one can level against a facelift: that it looks aftermarket.

The loudest detail is the vent on the wing: the standard panel was dressed with a plastic lip for the arch and a non-functional vent coated with carbon-fibre film. Solecism with a fat cherry on the crown. Stephen Bayley has nightmares about it even today. It’s not even non-functional, it’s anti-functional. Some aftermarket tuning does increase performance. The things that don’t are the ones inviting derision – think of a 1.0 litre Fiesta with the deep spoiler and race tyres that is not one second faster than stock. This car suggests that which is why it can’t capture our respect.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

7 thoughts on “Theme: Aftermarket – Plato’s Garments Cloak the Sunrise”

  1. I realise now that I have actively avoided getting to close to these things to notice, but good god that plastic “vent” panel is astonishingly shonky looking. The ZR/ZS/ZT cars have a tiny cult following but they all stank of desperation, and there is little less appealing than desperation. At the time they put me in mind of a 40 something new divorcee desperately trying to relive their youth with inappropriate clothes and embarrassing behavior.

    There was a concept of a “75 sport” floated at one point, which was a much classier and more appealing creation.

    The Phoenix plan was obviously going to fail right from the start, John Moulton was portrayed as an evil capitalist at the time but if they’d gone with his plan to immediately strip away the dead wood then the company may have survived and thrived. In actual fact a bit of ruthless pairing away of obvious rubbish was the one thing that could have saved BMC/BL/MGR at most points in the sorry story.

    1. In September 2001 Car magazine rated this the best driving of the three MG variants. Frustratingly none of the handling ability has survived to make it into the new breed of MGs. The mistake Rover made was to smother some worthwhile and apparently rather good engineering revisions with the kind of tat splattered over this car.

  2. Necessity being the mother of invention, the classic (Rover) and sporty (MG) lines was prescient of the current practice for differentiation through optional trims. A desperate gamble for Rover, of course, but the reasoning behind it was sound.

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