Viking Burial

The stillborn Rover P8 remains a fascinating technical fossil, but should the cause of its demise be laid entirely at Jaguar’s door?

P8 in pre-production prototype form. (c) AROnline

Lost causes exert an undying fascination: The Beach Boys’ original Smile LP, Orson Welles’ allegedly destroyed original cut of The Magnificent Ambersons. These and others like them, while unrealised (or unfound) live on in our collective imagination, unsullied by inconvenient reality.

In 1965, the Rover Motor Company was a successful independent carmaker, producing well-regarded luxury saloons and a range of highly capable off-road vehicles. However, its flagship P5 saloon was dating and lacking the resources to replace it, Lode Lane’s developmental head, Charles (Spen) King, working under the guidance of Peter Wilks proposed a modular range of cars to be derived from a single base unit. Continue reading “Viking Burial”

Ripples

The bland Triumph which owed everything to a low-key Honda led to the next collaborative effort which Car Magazine headlined as a ‘Bland Rover’. From such inauspicious beginnings came something of a revolution.

Project XX in launch guise. (c) Classicandperformancecar

“England Expects – but Austin Rover Struggles to Deliver”. Cover of Car Magazine in the issue which covered the launch and first drive of the Rover 800.

Looking back, the 800 could probably be acclaimed as a commercial success, in the UK at least, but its launch and early years were dogged by poor quality, bad reliability and uneven capabilities. It represented a faltering of the emerging track-record of BL-Honda cars in terms of reliability.

From the outside looking in, it is easy to Continue reading “Ripples”

Afterglow

The Acclaim did not live that long a life, but, in a quiet and unnoticed way typical of the car itself, its legacy can be considered to be enduring.

TA late
A late Triumph Acclaim – taken in the Heritage Motor Museum.

“NO OFFENCE. Reliability, something not always associated with BL products, was the most memorable characteristic of our LTT Triumph Acclaim, though the spritely Honda drivetrain also won it approval”. Title of Car’s Long Term Test article regarding an Acclaim HL which it ran over 28,000 miles in 18 months.

So, the Acclaim did achieve a reputation for reliability.

Ian Forster would have been delighted to Continue reading “Afterglow”

No, Stand Not By The Yonder Line

It’s not commonly known outside Denmark and northern Germany that the Danish border has only been in its current place since 1921. Before then much of what we call southern Denmark was in German hands.

1878 Rover SD-1 windscreen

Near the old border which runs east to west from Kolding, I found this car, a 1978 Rover SD1 which had been redecorated as a post-1982 Rover Vitesse (it’s a mash up). I am not an SD-1 expert so I restrict my comments to the vehicle shown in these photos. I passed by the car in order to visit Askov, a small town famous for its folk high-school which sojourn took me by the hand and led me to Continue reading “No, Stand Not By The Yonder Line”

A Consternating Hot Bath On The Landing

While motoring around last week I saw this car swing dramatically into a parking lot. So, I went and stalked it.

1969-1977 Triumph 2500

The owner was very pleased to tell me a little more about the car and I learned a little about its design history. It counts as one the great examples of a succesful facelift and, in my view, one of Giovanni Michelotti’s finest works among a quite rich collection from his portfolio. The most interesting insight of my little carpark chat was that if you Continue reading “A Consternating Hot Bath On The Landing”

Small Is Beautiful… and Why Modern Cars Are (usually) Better

Sometimes driving the dream isn’t quite what it is cracked up to be. New contributor Chris Elvin outlines why he’s done a’ Rovering…

Image: Chris Elvin

Despite passing my driving test shortly after my seventeenth birthday and having been enthusiastic about cars from toddling age, I managed to retain the position of being the only person in my immediate family never to have owned a car until quite recently, in my late 30s.

A combination of city-centre living and having spent most of my adult life in another country to that in which I learned to Continue reading “Small Is Beautiful… and Why Modern Cars Are (usually) Better”

Fly Me Down To The Moon

It’s another new year. What was happening 20 years ago? 

Rover R40 concept: Car Magazine, Jan 1998

At Gaydon, Rover’s engineers worked on the R55 (to be sold as the R40). Predictions suggested a vehicle with rounded windows like a 1992 Nissan Micra and an upright chrome grille with main body surfaces akin to the 75. Rover expected the launch to be in 1999 when the last of the Honda-based Rovers would be phased out.

Interestingly, it was expected that the R40 would be sold only a year from 1998 and that a mid-size executive car would Continue reading “Fly Me Down To The Moon”

Mercury White Moonlight Makes Landfall on the Littoral

We recently explored the matter of how long it takes to align two ranges of cars when one company takes over another or there is a merger. In the cases of Ford and GM, covered earlier, the process seems to take under a decade. Are there counter examples?

BMW didn´t know what do with this: autoscout24.de

Today I will take a look at the case of Rover, which marque came under the control of BMW in 1994. Rover (when under BL) had already been part of a co-operative venture with Honda.

That process began under the Triumph brand when BL decided to use a slightly modified version of the Ballade as the basis of the Acclaim. The cooperation changed tracks slightly when Triumph was shuttered and Rover began to Continue reading “Mercury White Moonlight Makes Landfall on the Littoral”

Altered Images

Today we explore alternative realities – one where perhaps Rover didn’t necessarily take the fork in the road marked ‘SD1’. What would that have looked like?

Image: Autocar

Counterfactuals are for the most part, exercises in futility, or at best, wishful thinking. When it comes to the products of what used to be British Leyland, added layers of poignancy come as standard. Few cars embody this like the Rover SD1 series; a car of enormous visual promise, fatally undermined by Continue reading “Altered Images”

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
Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket – Plato’s Garments Cloak the Sunrise”

Fastback Flashback

We attempt to remain aloof to the Rover SD1’s visual appeal, but like the car itself, we fall at the final hurdle.

Image: stubs-auto.fr

When it comes to legacies and reputations, has sufficient time elapsed to talk about the Rover SD1 without falling into the usual narrative tramlines? It’s a tricky one isn’t it? After all, the big Rover remains a deeply likeable car with much to commend it. Yet at the same time, although it never quite attained Lancia Gamma levels of customer toxicity, it became the living embodiment of British Leyland’s genius for snatching defeat from the cusp of victory.

It’s easy to Continue reading “Fastback Flashback”

Stolen Thunder – 1986 Rover CCV Concept

Intended to signpost the crucial 800 saloon, Rover’s CCV concept could be said to have eclipsed it entirely.

1986 Rover CCV concept. Image: arrse.com
1986 Rover CCV concept. Image: arrse.com

Why Austin Rover chose to display CCV at the Turin motor show a matter of weeks before the launch of their highly anticipated Rover 800 saloon seems a curious one in retrospect. For although it gained them a good deal of column inches and the approbation of the design community, it also ramped up anticipation for the new saloon model – which was dashed slightly when the 800 was revealed later that year. Continue reading “Stolen Thunder – 1986 Rover CCV Concept”

The world’s Oddest Head Restraints

The head-restraints in the Rover 3500 always struck me as overkill, the ones in the back I mean.

1968 Rover 3500 rear headrestraint.
1968 Rover 3500 rear head-restraint.

Sorry about the reflections in the photo. 80% of that head restraint is not adding comfort or restraint. Why did they make them so big? We wrote about the 3500 before. Continue reading “The world’s Oddest Head Restraints”

Misposted in Posterity’s Pigeonhole : Rover P6

We ask if it’s sometimes better to die young.

Rover 2000TC C

Recently it’s been pointed out that, whatever his past achievements, such as a surprisingly admirable commitment to gay rights, David Cameron, British Prime Minister at the time of writing, will be defined by history as the man primarily responsible for Britain leaving the European Union and, conceivably, of causing irreparable damage to the EU itself. Whether you deserve it or not, posterity can be a harsh judge. Continue reading “Misposted in Posterity’s Pigeonhole : Rover P6”

20 Years of the Rover 200

Happy 20th anniversary, Rover 200. Or is it 21st anniversary?

1995 or 1996 Rover 200: Autocar
1995 or 1996 Rover 200: Autocar

Around about this time 20 years ago Rover enjoyed the beginnings of renaissance. We all know where that ended. It ended in a story that classic car journalists like because they can rake over and ask “what if” as they swirl madeira in their glasses.

This image is from the front cover of Autocar, January 17, 1996. It’s one of the first reviews, perhaps. Either way. Water. Bridge. Under. A lot of. The article pitted the Rover 214 against the new Fiat Bravo. I’d like to say which one won but in the end Continue reading “20 Years of the Rover 200”

A Photo for Sunday: 1967-1973 Rover P5B

After a bit of a hiatus a Photo for Sunday returns with an old favourite of Driven To Write, the Rover V8 engine in its original UK application, the Rover 3.5 Litre.

1967-1973 Rover 3.5 litre.
1967-1973 Rover 3.5 litre.

This one was not seen in my local neighbourhood, but in the midlands of Ireland. Normally I do as little editing as possible with these images. As there was a person sitting in this car I promised to anonymise the photos. Hence the blockular incongruities.

The Rover isn’t relatively big compared to most modern cars. It’s probably smaller than a VW Polo. You can measure it and yet still not believe your eyes. It still looks enormous and incredibly imposing without having the massive, stately-home inertia of a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow which manages to Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: 1967-1973 Rover P5B”

Looking Back: 2001 MG ZT-190

Regular readers of this site know that there are only three natural positions for a product in the car market: luxury, sporting and economy. And?

2001 MG ZT-190: automobiles-sportive.com
2001 MG ZT-190: automobiles-sportive.com

And don’t get pushed too far from them. That’s the no-man’s land of not very sporty, not very cheap and not very luxurious. The unmarked graves of Lincoln (unfilled at the moment), Saab, Oldsmobile and Lancia are all in that bourne from which no car maker returns. Apart from Saab and Borgward.

On with the story. Continue reading “Looking Back: 2001 MG ZT-190”

Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 7

The Useless Estate Car

Rover Estora 2
Image : http://www.mbclub.co.uk

Today there are quite a few contenders for that dubious accolade, possible exemplified best by the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake. The idea of tacking a glassy, generous box onto the boot of a saloon, maybe even lengthening it a bit, in order to make something supremely useful just isn’t sexy in the 21st Century. People don’t want to be thought of as saddoes, who are only at their happiest bustling around B&Q with a groaning trolley of timber flooring. No, their lifestyle choices are better and, whilst they might need a bit of added loadspace for windsurfer accoutrements, old school golf clubs or just to fit in an extra Louis Vuitton hatbox, it’s important that the car doesn’t look in the least bit practical. Continue reading “Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 7”

Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 2

The Four Door Coupe

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The Mercedes CLS is rightly cited as the direct production inspiration for today’s coupe saloons, but can we look back to the Rover P5 as being the first car to offer the option of less headroom for more money? Today, I agree it looks quite good but, at the time, as a rather dogmatic kid, I found it rather illogical. It’s not as if the high-sided P5 was ever svelte, but I suppose its appeal is a slight one of menace, more akin to that of a chopped Mercury. Continue reading “Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 2”

Theme: Secondhand – The Rover V8

The story of how the Buick aluminium 215 engine became the Rover V8 is often-enough told so I will use this little posting mostly as a short guide to some of the most entertaining versions.

1986 Rover P6 V8 3500: theworldaccordingtomaggie.com
1968 Rover P6 V8 3500: theworldaccordingtomaggie.com

Sold to Rover, the engine powered Range Rovers, Rovers, MGs and TVRs along with Morgan. Jalopnik has a good short version of the story here In a nutshell, Buick wanted a lightweight, small capacity V8. They decided to use aluminium which led to a chain of problems that were still being dealt with 40 years later. Among those problems are slipping liners and porosity. If you scroll down the comments at the Jalopnik article you’ll find a neat list of V8 engines used by GM in the late 60s.   Continue reading “Theme: Secondhand – The Rover V8”

Theme : Benchmarks – The Rover 620 SLi And Its 1993 Peers

In 1993 the Rover 620i faced the BMW 318i, the Citroen Xantia 2.0 and Ford Mondeo 2.0. 

1994 Rover 620 Si
1994 Rover 620 Si

All of these cars had something going for them. Car magazine judged all four to be “formidable”. Car estimated the BMW to cost €17,000 with a few options thrown in to make it habitable; ditto the Rover though it came with more features as standard. The Mondeo cost only £14,000 in GLX trim (I miss trim designations like that). Citroen wanted £17,500 for their car. So what are these cars worth now?

If you Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – The Rover 620 SLi And Its 1993 Peers”

1980 Rover V8-S Roadtest

“Roverpowering!” Archie Vicar describes his impressions of the new Rover V8-S.

1980 Rover V8-S in Triton Green
1980 Rover V8-S in Triton Green

The text is what appears to be a transcript of an article from “Today’s Motoring Magazine”, July 1980 (pages 45-46). Original images by Nigel Rollister-Hyde. Due to reproduction problems, archive photos have been used.

That the Rover 3500 is a remarkable car goes without saying. Since its launch in 1976 it has won a firm following and has set a new benchmark in the large hatchback class. But the 1976 car was far from perfect, some say. It lacked a height-tilt adjustment for the driver’s seat cushion and a rear screen wiper, for example. Furthermore, the rear seats were set far too low and the passenger’s vent seldom functioned reliably. The steering wheel also obscured the minor instruments too and the lights’ master switch was hard to see. But there were compensations such as Continue reading “1980 Rover V8-S Roadtest”

Theme : Dashboards – The Rover P6

An Ignored Classic

Rover V8 Int

In Simon’s introduction he mentions the original P6 Rover dashboard, and I think this merits more scrutiny. The P6 Rover ceased production in 1977, ending its life as a British Leyland product built in 2.2 and 3.5 litre forms, and viewed as a rather staid design with a latterly gained reputation for poor build quality. Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – The Rover P6”

1987 Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 Versus the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator 3.0 CDi

How bad were Jaguar’s quality problems in 1987? And what was Car magazine thinking when the XJ6 won a giant-test against the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator? The Jaguar was rusting before their eyes.

1987 Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 automatic, with OEM rust.
Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 automatic, with OEM rust.

On page 129 of the November 1987 edition of Car, there is photo of a door-seal parting company from the door of a Jaguar XJ-6, a new Jaguar XJ-6 provided by Jaguar Ltd for a comparison test. Did they not check before loaning it out? Or was it fine the day it left Brown’s Lane and then rusted in the interim? Continue reading “1987 Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 Versus the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator 3.0 CDi”

Theme: Advertising – Rover’s RIME EEF.

It was the year 2000 and according to the predictions from 1970 we’d have been traveling on hover-speeders and wearing metallic-nylon bodysuits. Somehow that didn’t pan out. For Rover, it was still 1959 though.

2000 Rover 45 2.0 V6
2000 Rover 45 2.0 V6 print ad.

For your education and general knowledge, today’s item on advertising is an example of exploiting the customer’s worst instincts and distracting them from the selling point. This was done not only by the form of the ad as conceived, but simply by ensuring the message was concealed by the centre fold of the magazine. ‘Rime eef’, it reads. Continue reading “Theme: Advertising – Rover’s RIME EEF.”

Something Rotten In Denmark: 1996 Rover 2.0 Ti

How does Rover’s vanguard of 1996 look today?

1996 Rover 600 2.0 Ti diesel
1996 Rover 600 2.0 Ti

It’s hard to tell. The seller of this particular orphan has only just learned to use a camera. Two out of the three photos (twelve are allowed for free) at the car-sales website are taken with the sun light coming from behind the car. Thus in two out of three photos the image is mostly a Honda Accord silhouette with some Rover 600 chrome here and there. The third photo shows the front rear three-quarter with no shadow. Continue reading “Something Rotten In Denmark: 1996 Rover 2.0 Ti”

Something Rotten in […] Denmark: The Baby Bentley

The quality of the interior has held up better than the quality of the concept of the Rover 827.

Image

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. Continue reading “Something Rotten in […] Denmark: The Baby Bentley”