Rover 75s : They’re still out there

Steven Ward 

Steve Ward's Rover 75: It's still got it

Steve Ward's Rover 75: It's still got it

Another Friday which means another four motor auctions to cast my critical, bargain-hunting eye over. Buying cars at auction has been very hard graft this year – in fact, the hardest I’ve ever known. The effects of Scrappage, an economy in recession and the promise of tens of thousands of public sector jobs being cast to the four winds have severely hampered the prospecting abilities of traders like myself. Still, we drag ourselves out and look to find something worth buying to turn a modest profit on. I’d not had a good day so far – everything sensible I’d looked at was damaged, faulty or just plain expensive. 

That’s why I slipped into default mode: Rover hunting. These days, you see, you need to hunt them out as they’re getting rarer by the week. Time and travel know no bounds when you’ve got a faulty mind which still rates Rovers as stock worthy of retail. For today, I’d discounted one venue whilst looking at the compiled list over breakfast, which just meant three hectic visits to fit in buying, gossip, tea and bacon sandwiches. 

A race down the A19 to look at a late Rover 25 diesel was my first stop. 55-plated, GLi spec, very low miles (25k) but with only one service stamp. Finished in silver and in a three-door body shell, it wasn’t looking terrific, five-doors are what’s really required. Oddly, it had leather (with rear centre armrest), but no air-con (still, there was a slide ‘n’ tilt). The fog lamp surrounds were present in the bumper (unusual as they’re pretty rubbish), but no fogs. Sadly, it also had and a generally shabby demeanour. The rear wiper and roof aerial had been snapped off and there was corrosion where the ill-fitting body panels met. 

Never mind, I’d still have a go. However, something odd struck me – it had a centre console which was unlike anything I’d seen before. I got in the car and had a good go at it. It was definitely factory tough, but almost certainly a prototype injection moulded item. Where on earth had this come from? Maybe it had been found in the factory to finish the car after Phoenix had called it a day?  Who knows? 

Sadly, I never got a chance to photograph it or even sketch it. The car was unlocked, started and driven into the ‘ring. With my professional head on, ensuring mechanical integrity was more important than recording trim variations for posterity – I hope you can understand that. Anyway, the car made a staggering amount of money and so I was out of the bidding sharpish. Not to worry, there were more auctions to attend, so I headed North West to get onto the A1(M) for another sale and a better cafeteria. 

Rover 75s really are that bit special and, for an enthusiast, the right car is a delight to behold. I’ve just sold my Audi A4 Avant out of boredom. This 75 is already making my life brighter… 

The first gem I’d open my Black Book for here was an 05/05 Rover 45 GSi saloon finished in the final incarnation of that BL favourite: Champagne Beige. Black leather, turbine alloys, 72k and a few service stamps. It would never set anyone’s heart alight, but it had potential to shine and impress the traditional Rover buyer. The head gasket was showing the first signs of HGF by depositing a few bits of mayo in the header tank. 

The tow bar would have to be removed and I’d got a spare sound blanket for the bonnet. This would have to be far, far behind book to make a business case for it. I was outbid by a private man and lost the car for £50. Not to worry, the 45 is the least desirable of stock for the most part and that colour was doing nobody any favours. Then, over a cup of tea, my mobile rang. 

It was Gav from another auction house. ‘Steven, you’ve got to come to today’s sale.’  ‘Why’s that then Gav?’ I sounded cynical to wind him up – he knows I’m good to make the place look busy for the Internet cameras. Anyway, he continued ‘We’ve got a Rover coming in with your name on’. ‘Have you really Gav?’ I asked. I usually get a bit weary at this point because the auctioneer knows I’m up for most MG Rovers and I’ve got to ensure I don’t get ‘run’ for the privilege of my affliction. 

Anyway, the conversation concluded with Gav saying ‘It’s a proper old thing and I’m putting it near the start of the sale, so you’re going to have to get here sharpish’. ‘It had better be good Gav, it’s POETS Day you know?’  I finished my tea, kicked a few more tyres and headed out of this particular sale. 

I swung by the garage and said to my boss, ‘do you fancy a 75?’ He looked a bit nonplussed. ‘Diesel?’ he enquired barely looking up from his Daily Telegraph. ‘Nope, Petrol,’ I said confidently. ‘Petrol V6 actually’. He looked up and twisted his face. ‘Not Really,’ he said. He was of course right. They’re bloody hard work to shift as you’ve got to get the right man in to buy it and that takes time. 

A ‘no’ though, is never really a ‘no’ where a Rover is concerned and when the sun is shining. I headed back out to the last sale of the day. I met a known Trader in the reception as I picked up a catalogue ‘There’s a Rover in there for you,’ he said.  ‘So I hear,’ I replied.  This was good news, it was obviously in fine fettle and one of the biggest buyers was giving way to me already, which meant others would hopefully follow suit, if I did indeed want it. 

There it was in the hall, the third car of the sale. The 02/02 Rover 75 saloon finished in Metallic Copperleaf Red powered by the 2.5KV6 coupled to the JATCO auto. Built to Connoisseur SE specification which means cream leather, climate, alloys, chrome mirror caps, electric windows and mirrors, CD auto-changer in the glovebox, LowLine Alpine ICE, heated and electrically adjustable seats with rear pockets, multi-function trip computer, this was really the top-of-the-tree R40. 

Moreover, in addition to the standard kit,  this car had the Driver Intelligence Pack which gave you an auto dipping rear view mirror, (surprisingly handy), reverse sensors (essential) and cruise control (useful for Average Speed ‘Scameras’). The car had covered just over 34,000 miles by one private owner. The service book was a treasure trove.  The supplying dealer had serviced the car no less that eight times over the course of its privileged life according to the stamps. 

What’s more, the car was taxed and tested right though until the summer – a genuinely good bonus. Gav was right to ‘phone me and so I dipped my toe into the sale. After a small amount of lacklustre bidding (I think the back wall had bid twice, along with the Fire Extinguisher), the car was knocked down to me as ‘provisional’. The supplying dealer would have to be contacted to see what they wanted to do as their reserve was not achieved by me.  90 minutes later, I got a nod and wink to say the car was mine. The game was afoot. 

I raced back to the garage to get the cheque book and took off back down to the auction to get my latest bit of stock (I bought other cars that sale, but who cares?). I got the car back and poured through the details. The car had just been subjected to a cherished plate transfer. The plate which had been removed was worth, in my opinion, the thick end of £35k.  When your initials are followed by the number ‘1’ how would you value it? 

The car had a detachable swan neck tow-bar (again another expensive Genuine Rover option) and this tallied with a parking permit for the Yachting Club. This car was oozing proper Old Money. The car was beautifully presented, the paint was smooth and glassy suggesting it has been garaged all of its life, the pale leather is unmarked throughout, the tyres had good quality rubber on them with deep tread all round. Mud-flaps all round reinforce the image of a conscientious owner and the piece de resistance – the remote controlled rear window sun-blind that was lifted straight from the BMW 7 Series. 

I decided there and then it was my new ‘smoker’ and I wafted home the long way. I can see why Rover were so proud of the R40, it seems more Jaguar that Jaguar achieved with anything this side of a XJ and feels so, so strong and smooth. I’m going to run this car and take it to the Pride of Longbridge – unless it sells. This particular example is largely free from the worst excesses of Project Drive too – for example, the bonnet catch appears through the grille to ease opening the bonnet. 

My advice to you is this: if you’re thinking of buying a Rover or MG to cherish, get your skates on. Their ever worsening residuals mean they are falling into hands of owners who, well how do I phrase this politely, may appreciate them, but cannot cherish them to their needs. 

Insurance companies are writing them off for the slightest scratch which isn’t helping the situation unless you like hoarding parts. My advice, then, is threefold.  Start looking, pay the right price, but don’t don’t go out on a financial limb for the right car for reasons mentioned above. They really are that bit special and, for an enthusiast, the right car is a delight to behold. I’ve just sold my Audi A4 Avant out of boredom. This 75 is already making my life brighter… 

Steve Ward's Rover 75: It's still got it

Steve Ward's Rover 75: It's still got it

Posted in: 75/MG ZT, AROnline, Essays
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

27 Comments on "Rover 75s : They’re still out there"

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  1. Jon says:

    A brilliant car… My ex had a 2.5 KV6 in black, but otherwise the same spec as this one and loved it. We’d previously had an S-TYPE and an X-TYPE but a fully-loaded 2.5 has the measure (or more) of those.

    Jon.

  2. Craig MGR says:

    The 75 has aged rather well – it still looks like a ‘big , expensive posh car’. Just seeing that wonderful interior has got me thinking about parting with my 45 – as nice as it is, it hasn’t got the beautiful detailing that the 75 has.

  3. Andrew says:

    R40 FTW as usual…

    A terrific find!

  4. Will says:

    Big petrols may be hard to shift, but it really is a buyers’ market if you don’t have a huge commute and don’t mind MPG figures the wrong side of 30.

    The 75 always looks classy and they are usually looked after by their owners – let’s put it this way, you won’t find any with tacky Alpina alloys or Lexus-type lights…

  5. VAG Dave says:

    A lovely car and a nice write up. It’s interesting you make the Jaguar comparison – my non-car oriented girlfriend often points out higher spec Rover 75s and makes comments along the lines of ‘that’s a nice Jag’.

    I’ve always liked to make that comparison myself, but it’s nice that people with no interest in cars see them that way too.

    I would love to buy and preserve a nice example of a 75, but sadly money and space don’t permit this currently…

  6. Keith B says:

    @Will
    There’s a guy round the corner from me with Lexus-type lights on the back of his 75!

  7. Will says:

    @Keith B
    I stand corrected. They’ll ruin anything!

  8. Lord Sward says:

    @Will
    I’m getting 26.7mpg around the doors.

  9. KenS Ken Strachan says:

    @Keith B
    It doesn’t have purple “w*nker lights” underneath as well, does it?

    Seriously, one reason why the R8s were often such bargains secondhand was that their elderly owners looked after them. I still see quite a few that look immaculate – unlike my 218!!

    My dad’s HHR saloon needed refurbishment before sale – T-cutting scars off the front wing incurred hitting a fallen branch in the countryside, cleaning the tobacco stain off the driver’s grab handle but, more crucially, replacing a colander-like fuel tank.

  10. David 3500 says:

    A beautiful car, the 75 – one which makes you feel very special every time you climb into it, let alone when driving it, and, as Richard Woolley, the Chief Designer for the 75 said at its launch, “it is one of those cars you always give a second glance to as you walk away.”

    Nice spec and the ideal engine, by my reckoning. My ideal example would be in Royal Blue metallic with the Sandstone interior (as found in Steve’s example) and fitted with the optional 17-inch Meteor alloy wheels. Just perfect…

    A very nice example, Steve.

  11. Hilton Davis says:

    Another nice looking 75 in a pleasant colour. The interior colour scheme looks good too. This car oozes class and still has that look of authority about it. I hope it proves to be a good long term buy. Good luck!

  12. Mark Hayman says:

    I have one of the last Rover 825 Sterlings in Metallic Oxford Blue. However, I would very much would like a top the range Rover 75 in the same colour with some optional sporty alloys. A nice tourer/estate would be great – a good looking, functional car. Good luck with your new car.

    Regards,

    Mark.

  13. Andrew Elphick says:

    I think the plot has gone sidewards here – Steven will only be a very “short term” owner of this car!

  14. DM Southampton says:

    It’s interesting to hear yet another mention of Project Drive – does anyone know if it achieved any good? For me, it did nothing but make Rovers lose their charm – post facelift, the 75 also looked cheaper and, for example, the standard of leather, where used, looked appalling. Take a look at any interior shots of 04/05-55 plated cars on Auto Trader and the leather looks thin, ruffled and about to come apart. Such a shame…

  15. DaveyC says:

    I’m not suggesting that Project Drive improved the cars – I think some of us have turned it into an obsession. The difference wasn’t as great as some seem to think.

    Incidentally, I’ve heard that the Project Drive cars had poorer quality air in their tyres.

  16. Starbug2 says:

    I’ve got one 😉 : an ’04 Tourer CDTi Club SE – it’s a very nice car but had not been as well looked after before I got it and so had some issues. However, overall, it’s a very good car – it’s a shame the Rover 75/MG ZT did not have the life it should have had with BMW, Project Drive and the balls up that ended Rover – for now…

  17. Simon Woodward says:

    I’ve missed a bit here but can someone explain ‘Project Drive’?

  18. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    @Simon Woodward
    Isn’t ‘Project Drive’ the process of de-contenting which led to certain elements of specification being deleted to save money during the MGR period?

  19. @Simon Woodward
    @Jonathan Carling
    Yes, Jonathan, your are correct – you can find out more about Project Drive in an article entitled When pennies count in AROnline’s Facts and Figures/History section.

  20. Simon Woodward says:

    Clive Goldthorp :
    @Simon Woodward

    @Jonathan Carling

    Yes, Jonathan, your are correct – you can find out more about Project Drive in an article entitled When pennies count in AROnline’s Facts and Figures/History section.

    Cheers, lads…

    Simon.

  21. Kevin Davis says:

    A good story, but I find it really hard to get excited about 75s these days. I see so many going through the auction with problems that I have started to think there are no good ones left and apathetic bidding (again, the rubber plant and Gents Toilet sign placed bids) means interest just isn’t there.

    There’s a clean and tidy 2002 MG ZT 2.5 been there for two months now and no one will bid over £1200 for it – as the bird muck and dust piles up on it you have to feel a little sorry for it.

    They do sell, but have to be very, very cheap – when I say cheap, I mean a few hundred quid…

    Actually, it seems odd that that car wasn’t sold to an independent dealer, as I would have thought that would be prime forecourt stock. Mind you, what do I know, I’ve been stitched up with an 02 1.8 Vectra C. All that glistens…

  22. Dominic says:

    You’ve got a lovely looker there – I hope it hangs about a bit so you can enjoy it for longer!

    I always notice Rover 75s – they have a certain class. I personally prefer the Tourer’s looks though.

    A Dealer friend of mine had an 02 1.8 last autumn in metallic cardigan biege but I thought that it was rather unimpressive to drive. The retired chap who bought the car was pleased with it though and, at £800, he should’ve been!

    Just after that a colleague at work bought an 03 Tourer – it was a nice car but, when I enquired as to what he had paid for it, he replied “four”. I hesitated then jumped in with “what? hundred?” never believing he’d paid £4k for it. My colleague looked somewhat offended…

    I would think the dealer was laughing his head off on the way to the bank, but he likes it and was happy with what he paid. Mind you, it’s just his work car though – he has a 75 saloon for weekends!

  23. Tim_Burgess Tim Burgess says:

    David 3500 :
    A beautiful car, the 75 – one which makes you feel very special every time you climb into it, let alone when driving it, and, as Richard Woolley, the Chief Designer for the 75 said at its launch, “it is one of those cars you always give a second glance to as you walk away.”

    Nice spec and the ideal engine, by my reckoning. My ideal example would be in Royal Blue metallic with the Sandstone interior (as found in Steve’s example) and fitted with the optional 17-inch Meteor alloy wheels. Just perfect…

    A very nice example, Steve.

    I couldn’t have put it better myself. Mine looks just like your ideal spec: 2001 Y reg MK1, right down to the Meteor alloys. It’s only a 1.8 but it has the Freelander sump rail and MLS head gasket and has provided me with 5 years and nearly 50k miles of happy and mostly trouble-free motoring.

    I was going to trade it in for a new daily driver but , apart from the pathetic amounts offered, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it and so she is now in a genteel, pampered retirement.

    She makes me smile every time I get in and take her for a drive and has more class than an entire car transporter full of German things. Quite simply nothing else on the market the right side of an XF comes close in terms of the feelgood factor…

  24. Chris Jackson says:

    I have recently had to part with my 75 Tourer because I could no longer afford to run it. I loved the car to bits and, in fact, shed a tear when it went. The Rover 75 is one of the most underrated cars of the last 30 years – a beautiful car. Oh, and by the way, I am only 35.

  25. Starbug2 says:

    Chris Jackson :
    I have recently had to part with my 75 Tourer because I could no longer afford to run it. I loved the car to bits and, in fact, shed a tear when it went. The Rover 75 is one of the most underrated cars of the last 30 years – a beautiful car. Oh, and by the way, I am only 35.

    You may get another one some day…

  26. gerry wright says:

    Gerry Wright
    I have recently had a problem with my 75 Tourer. Garages told me I needed a new autogearbox then a new ECU. I was beging to think I would have to say goodbye to my beloved Rover. But I persevered and found out it was a dry joint in one of the plug connectors in the instrument pod all sorted. What a relief all is well and I can drive round in the comfort, safety and style I have become use to.

  27. steve says:

    we have a 75 conniseur limo spec , christ what a car love it , one owner and full mdsh , and fully loaded , p s goes like stink !!!!

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