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Blogs : January 2006

30 January 2006

A rare sight these days

By ALEXANDER BOUCKE

YESTERDAY, in the late afternoon, my attention was grabbed by a rather noisy engine note. There it was – Keith Adams’ well-known red Lada Riva 1200. These cars were once hugely popular here in Germany, but are now so rare (at least here in the West) that people stare at cars such as this. It must have been even more strange for other drivers to see this Riva on the Autobahn – especially seeing how it had travelled to be here…

So yes, the Lada has made it as far as Germany on its quest for Chernobyl – and is hopefully leaving towards Poland right now. Keith and his co-drivers will soon find the Lada will be more at home the further East they travel.

Let’s hope the Lada’s simple, robust nature will not let them down on the long drive toward Kiev, and they can enjoy all the experience travelling into unknown area brings – without constantly listening for strange noises from the car…

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27 January 2006

The maddest scheme yet?

By KEITH ADAMS

BY the time you read this, I’ll be completing my final preparations for what is probably my maddest road trip yet. The plan is simple – to take my trusty Lada Riva 1200 to the beautiful Ukrainian city of Kiev…

Okay, that doesn’t sound so bad – but possibly the timing could have been better. The Ukrainian word for February is Lyuti, which means fierce, biting or cold – and had we been going last week, that would have been true. The temperature in downtown Kiev was a positively scary -24 degrees. This week’s weather has been a whole lot more mild, and it is forecast that it’ll be a positively civilised -3 degrees when we hit there sometime next week.

I say, when… there is an ‘if’ element here, as our car is an 18-year old Lada.

If events are true to form, something seismic will happen to Longbridge next week – these things do seem to happen when I’m out of the country, so if something does happen, I’ll probably be the last to know about it.

Austin-Rover.co.uk goes on in my absence, of course, so if you want to submit a blog or have something else to say, you’ll need to send it in to our BMC technical guru, Alexander Boucke

See you in a week or so!

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26 January 2006

All of a sudden, CityRover doesn’t look so bad…

By KEITH ADAMS


(Picture: Autoindex.org)

WE don’t go a bunch on SUVs on this website – yes, they serve a purpose, and people seem to like them; but that doesn’t mean we have to get excited by them. However, there’s one that has really evoked interest in the past few days, with my mailbox clogging up with emails from people asking me what the story is with the Sonalika Rhino (nee Rhino-Rover). Anyway, enjoy the pictures above, because this is the last time you’ll see them on austin-rover.co.uk…

I have to say, usually my Spam filter would have kicked it when a Jpeg image containing something so obviously filthy hit my inbox, but it must have been going through a moment of weakness to allow this thing through.

Anyway, the story behind the Sonalika, and the reason so many people have emailed me, is that MG Rover is said to have been involved with this car. Certainly, the press release that accompanies these images state quite clearly that the Rhino was due to run with the G-Series common rail diesel engine, but that plan ran aground with MG Rover’s collapse, and an Isuzu engine was installed instead.

In its latter days, the L-Series engine blocks were manufactured in India, and it is not inconceivable that this was part of the deal with Sonalika to assist with production of the G-Series engine. As usual, if you know more about the MGR/Sonalika connection, please get in touch…

There has been much talk that MG Rover technically assisted with the development of this car, and as yet, we’ve not had this confirmed or denied, but one thing is for sure, the styling was not part of that arrangement. Many emails also asked the question – was MG Rover going to market this car over here? Well, the site stated its reservations about any re-branding deal involving MG and the Ssangyong Rexton, so it’s obvious where we stand with this contraption.

All of a sudden, the CityRover (a car we have a lot of time for here) looks extremely desirable and sexy…

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25 January 2006

Another new Sterling…

By PAUL SMAIL

HERE is a picture of my recently acquired 1990 Sterling ‘Oxford Edition.’ It has had only two prior owners, the first of whom maintained it meticulously and had service documents dating from delivery. The second owner only had it for a year, before requirements of attending college forced the sale of the car. Apparently there aren’t many of these left in the States, and I was fortunate to find one with only 84,000 original miles.

It has a beautiful leather interior and the V6 has power to spare. The Sterling also sports features like automatic climate control that I wouldn’t expect to find on a car of its vintage, and so far, all of the small things that make a Rover a Rover, work!

Credit must be given to you and your website; the bug has bitten me. Now I must convince my wife of the value of importing an SD1 Vitesse when they fall under the US Customs exemption for vehicles in 2011!

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Feedback:

I’M sure anyone who reads this site on a regular basis will know that we love the original Rover 800 – its crisp, clean styling and progressive engineering still cast a very positive glow over a set of weaknesses that Austin Rover launched the car with in July 1986.

As we’re now heading towards the 20th anniversary of the launch of the 800, it’s clear that there is a minor cult following growing for this car – certainly the Sterling and Vitesse versions. Okay, most people involved with the project admit that the BL/Honda collaboration didn’t go too well with this car – the Legend Gen 1 and XX were so far removed from each other as to negate the advantages of a shared platform… Still, at least lessons were learned with the R8, which followed three years later.

In answer to Kevin’s question on Monday, I’d say there’s no doubt the 800 has achieved classic status – and although age should not determine whether a car is a classic or not, it cannot help but have a bearing on the 800’s passage from banger to classic status. The crisp, chiselled look might not be in fashion right now, but the Eighties, and all that’s associated with it are, and as a result, these cars are well and truly there…

KEITH ADAMS


23 January 2006

My new Sterling…

By KEVIN DAVIS

WELL, I finally managed to collect the Sterling I bought last week on eBay for £300 – it wasn’t without problems; a perished radiator hose and an immobiliser which refused to mobilise were minor irritations. But I eventually managed to drive it away…

First impressions are the 2.7-litre V6 engine is very smooth, as is the gearbox, and steering that weighs up nicely as speed increases. It is, generally, a nice place to be in. It isn’t perfect by any means; the paintwork is generally good, but there are a few minor blemishes which need attention, but there are no dents in the body. In fact, it seems to have been relatively well looked after by its six previous owners.

My dilemma now is whether to use it as my daily driver. Should I sacrifice the relative reliability of my 1997 Rover 400 for a 16-year-old car with a dubious reputation? The other thing is that of image, I know; it’s a pretty shallow thing really, but is the Mk1 Rover 800 a classic, or is it still just a banger? I reckon it’s bordering on both at the moment, but now the Rover Company has gone, perhaps its status in classic circles may change.

Certainly, low mileage examples of these Rover 800s have been fetching fairly good prices lately – well over £1000 in some cases. So there’s obviously something happening.

I’ll have to think about it. Hard.

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20 January 2006

Jaguar…

By ASHLEY MICKLEWRIGHT

I TOO have being musing over what has happened to Jaguar in recent years. Ford have owned the company since 1989, yet have lost any idea how to handle its luxury brand. It has tried to compete with Mercedes, BMW and latterly Audi, but seems to be falling further behind.

While the German brands, a range of body variations (just like the R8; see below – Ed), Jaguar fails to offer the customers it seeks to win anywhere near the same amount of choice.

The first model launched under Ford was the XK in 1996, and although a very good car, it has failed to make a big impact on the Mercedes-Benz SL market. Despite weak sales, Jaguar hasn’t significantly facelifted the car during its long production run.

It then introduced the X300, which was a success, but the company capitalised on this by launching coupe or diesel versions. Although there have been two-door prototypes produced, Jaguar seemed too timid to take the plunge…

William Lyons never produced retro styled cars. His style was evolution not revolution, exactly what BMW practiced until it went all Bangle-y – which, despite press resistance in the early days, seems to have gone well. William Lyons designs were always contemporary and looked to the future – very cutting edge. The 1961 E-type is a case in point…

William Lyons never produced retro styled
cars. His style was evolution
not revolution…

Then in Ford’s bid to expand Jaguar, it followed the policy of retro. I do not know who thought up this policy, be it Ford or Jaguar management, but feel it was very misguided.

This was Jaguar’s undoing and sowed the seed of today’s troubles. When launched the current cars are new and fresh, but the retro has dated very quickly, and thanks to the competition, the X- and S-type have been left behind.

Now we have the launch of the new XK and it’s a gorgeous looking car. The only problem is it’s too similar to the Aston Martin DB9, and lacks originality.

I now believe that Jaguar are changing their policy, and are no longer going to challenge Mercedes, BMW and Audi head on, but instead are going for the niche market, as per Porsche.

This must mean an end to the X- and S-type. Only time will tell whether this change in policy will save Jaguar, from being closed or worse. If it has to be sold to a competitor, Peugeot-Citroen could do with a luxury badge – and Toyota or Honda would love it!

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Feedback:

EVERY point made in the recent Jaguar blogs is plausible, but I’d like to suggest that the problems and missteps noted are really symptoms and not causes. It simply appears to me that Jaguar and Ford were never a good corporate “fit,” and if anybody could do anything about that, in 16 years it would already have been done.

The reasons why this is so are mysterious to anyone outside, and quite possibly to anyone inside, the firm. Mergers and acquisitions are always iffy, and in the auto industry perhaps particularly so — its complex logistics, high capital and labor costs, and absolute centrality of brand management present lots of opportunities for things to go wrong. In this case they clearly did.

Jaguar is a great brand and Ford has plenty of expertise, and it’s curious that the combination of the two has produced such beautiful cars and such ugly losses. It’s curious, but it’s a fact nevertheless.

Ford’s position is now declining badly–there’s a big announcement on cutbacks scheduled for Monday the 23rd–and I predict they’re going to have to bail on Jaguar, if not this week, then very soon. Rumors are already out there, as this article shows:

http://www.just-auto.com/blogs_detail.asp?art=1019

As with the end of a bad marriage, when the time comes it will be impossible to say exactly whose fault it all was. Let’s hope both partners willl have learned something, and be able to make better choices in future.

FRANK ASHE

WITH reference to the comments on Jaguar I have been a fan since the late fifties first having driven an XK120 in my teens. I feel that Jag has lost their way in recent years, the S Type pretty awful styling always thought a vertical bar in the grille would be a benfit to the poor styling. The new XK, was the front end lifted from the Ford Cougar, not good enough Jaguar, I am afraid. Look at the heritage E-type, D-type, XJ220, XKs and try harder.

A lot of Jaguar’s appeal was visual, that is now sadly lacking.

I worked for a BMC dealer in the bad old days but still found like many others enthusiasm for Rover/BMC/BL/BLMH etc. What history, the Mini/1100/1300/classy Rovers etc. So sad to see it all go, but the heritage lives on.

JOHN GREENE

Postscript to the Jaguar blog – Renault bid for Jaguar late last year according to just-auto.com.

Have you visited the Tata website recently – the Indica is looking better and it seems ironic that the estate version is the Indica Marina….

CHRIS CHAPMAN


19 January 2006

Am I missing something with the R8?

By KEITH ADAMS

WE rather like the Rover R8 around here – it’s blend of compact styling, classy looks and advanced engineering still tugs the old hear strings today, some 16-and-a-bit years after it was launched. An I’m not alone – in the search to find the best BMC>Rover car since the Mini, our readers voted it fourth, ahead of some pretty tasty machinery…

And rightly so, we say – the R8 was a pioneer in many ways. Certainly in terms of platform stretching: from the single floorpan, we arrived at a three- and five-door hatchback, a two-door Coupe, a Cabriolet and a vaguely ‘lifestyle’ estate. All that was missing was an MPV version – and could almost be talking about a current generation of family hold-all.

Well, a MPV version was actually sketched on the drawing board, eventually succumbing to the emerging Odin/Pathfinder project – but I digress.

I guess that’s why I’ve ended up buying another one. I’ve had a few before, and have yet to find one I didn’t find competent, efficient and likeable, and I’m hoping to do the same with my latest aquisition – a 416GTi, of 1990 vintage. The reason I picked it up was simple – I like them and I wanted another…

And let’s not forget the brilliant performance our similarly-engined 216GTi put in on the Staples2Naples run in 2004 – it performed so well, Alexander, Declan and me were frankly amazed…

Imagine my surprise when mentioning this to my work colleagues at CCW, I was met with a rather underwhelming reponse. Russ and Richard yawned, and Bill sighed… are they really that bad? Okay, I don’t buy cars to impress other people, I buy them because they intrigue me, but I remain baffled at these guys’ responses – it seems that it has aged badly, looks like a ‘council house car’, and will be a sackful of trouble.

And yet, when these cars were new, the magazines didn’t stop raving about them, and for a brief period they were pretty much as desirable as a BMW 3-Series or an Audi 80. So why has time been so unkind to the R8, and why does ‘the man on the street’ seem so unenamoured by them? It beats me, but I guess I’m not exactly unbiased…

Perhaps some of our readers could explain it to me…

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Feedback:

I THINK it’s everyone else missing the point with R8’s, that’s why the local scrapyard has a plentiful supply of parts, often with rare full leather interiors and such.

Perhaps the varying build quality of later cars added some scepticism, my coupe isn’t a patch on the 216 GSi and I imagine your GTi. Perhaps it is the translation to 3-door, it looses the wood on doors, yes, real wood of course, not fake stuff like in the R3. The large length results in it feeling loose in places. The dash is a wonderful piece of design in my opinion, it’s conservative yet premium, like the car, it looks and feels solid. In the right colours it is stunning, I defy anyone who wouldn’t describe the 216’s half leather dark interior as sexy, but that said, it’s not very ‘Rover’ is it? The VVC on the other hand is, and it’s where I want to be, but some of the slick style and sporting ambience of the original is lost. This only applies to half leather or more, because the cloth looks almost blue rather than ash grey.

Low specifications have hurt values, lack of power steering, electric windows, mirrors and so on all hurt the cars perception because a base model ‘I’ available with a carb is so Spartan you may as well buy something else.

Rover always does specification badly – why have an electric sunroof when you have manual windows? I would prefer the reverse. A basic interior with no height adjust or lumbar support (at least the coupe has the latter on both sides too) and no arm or rear head rests looks terrible (see the 1995 model year brochure with the HHR making an appearance along side the outgoing R8). Basically it was fashionable I guess, and it is now no longer cool to like Rover when you could have a one series with pitiful interior space, and a dash that looks like an evil profesors operating theatre, you expect scalpels to fly out of the vents. The R8 represents an aim for all Rovers misconceptions- it’s now old, K-series, low spec, some ‘banger’ examples, Honda collaboration and bits, low value, still cherished by elderly people who perhaps bought them new, came from what was left of BL and it’s a FWD Rover. And the manufacturer no longer exists. It doesn’t matter it was a fantastic design, a class leader, first to introduce the amazingly efficient K-series, the premium family car sector, a 200bhp 2.0-litre, independent suspension, amazingly corrosion resistant, abilities beyond it’s class, fantastically engineered allowing for various bodies and so on, because people can successfully look into the worst things about them.

I’ve never been that taken on Maestros, of the 21 members on my site to date, most of them drive Maestros (and a Montego), and I’ve never seen the attraction, I don’t dislike them, but apart from a Montego, and a hotter one at that, I never wanted one.

Maybe that’s how history will come to view the R8…

ANTHONY ENDSOR

TAKING a cold hard commercial view of things the R8 is probably far and away the best car BMC/BLMC/Rover etc ever produced.

In terms of build quality, reliability and in its time desirability the car ticked all the boxes and eclipsed the Escort 4, Astra 3, Golf, Tipo, Renault 19 etc opposition.

Not only did the car sell in large numbers, but at a premium price as well. Its no co-incidence that the last time Rover was profitable was during the R8’s existence. Both 200 hatch and 400 saloon models featured well up the sales charts and when combined sales are taken into account it was probably the UK’s best selling car during the early Nineties.

Its such a damned shame that Rover pulled the plug on it after only six years to replace it with the awful HHR 400. Sales went over a cliff in much the same way they dived when the Allegro replaced ADO16. I believe this was the point Rover began its final terminal decline.

PAUL HAMPSON


18 January 2006

What’s the story here?

By KEITH ADAMS

CHRIS LANE sent these interesting pictures to us the other day, and the result was a bout of head scratching here…

Initially you might look at this picture and say ‘ahh another Rover V8 – so what?’ Well, look closely, and you’ll see the long wheelbase conversion. Yes, that’s right – the ultimate ministerial Rover 75 in all its glory was residing at Longbridge on the 23rd December – the day Chris snapped caught it on film for us.

The thing is, MG Rover always claimed its LWB Rover 75 would only be offered in diesel and V6 forms, as the rear wheel drive conversion would have been too costly to engineer – a new propshaft and other bits would be needed.

So, what’s the story? Is it a one-off for the Longbridge management, or perhaps someone at Whitehall? Or is it a case of someone being mischevious with a V8 wing badge?

If you know the full story, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!

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17 January 2006

What’s wrong with Jaguar?

By MIKE GOY

JAGUAR, the once proudly independent British manufacturer, is really struggling. Ford bought the business for £1.6bn in 1989, after valliant efforts from Jaguar management to “go it alone”. This followed a difficult 15 years as a BL brand, and has made it easy pickings for any acquisitive major manufacturer which felt like adding a luxury marque to its portfolio. So, how is Jaguar doing after 16 years of Ford ownership?

A quick look at the BBC News web site reveals the following headlines for 2005:

Jaguar future raised in Commons
28 Nov 05 |

Jaguar ‘to quit Browns Lane site’
25 Nov 05 |

Jaguar pins revival hope on new models
18 Sep 05 |

Up to 300 jobs to go at carmakers
07 Sep 05 |

Jaguar cuts ‘Baby Jag’ production
21 Apr 05 |

Jaguar negotiates £534m Ford aid
04 Jan 05 |

Now, in addition to the £534m aid requested last January, Ford is about to pump £1.2bn into the business in a desperate attempt to keep it afloat. Ford’s Premier Auto Group (PAG) cannot afford to lose this amount of money, especially in the American market. Jaguar’s pre-tax losses totalled £429.3 million for 2004, and the competition continues to be cut throat. BMW and Mercedes-Benz are both riding high at the moment, and, as it tries to fight back, Jaguar hopes for a product led revival.

Step forward the XK. Dubbed the spiritual successor to the iconic E-type of 40 years ago, the styling isn’t a patch on the Malcolm Sayer-penned original. Sharing much of it underpinnings with the new Aston Martin DB9, it fails spectacularly to match the Aston’s beauty.

Jaguar’s tagline back in the Fifties was ‘Grace, Pace, Space’.

What happened?

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Feedback:

This was in AUTOCAR last week (‘Ask Goodwin’ I believe). His answer, and one I agree with, is no-one wants one.

I was shocked last night when I was told the XJ is too accessible! But perhaps some of its British extravagance is lost with no sixth light window. I personally love the look of the new XK, apart from it’s slightly gormless face and I think it and the DB9 are visually much of a muchness; don’t get me wrong I know the difference, but the DB9 itself suffers from something of a Coy Carp face, giving out mixed messages.

Jag is still hell-bent on making another E-type, and as a result they’ve copied it’s face twice on the XK models. If anything the last XK which I would class a success had a lot more to apologise for visually with an overly pinched rear end, slightly blobby detailing and awkward proportions. One Jaguar S-Type Engineer commented “The proportions at the back have always been wrong as a result of needing to fit golf clubs in the boot, stretching and spoiling the shape”.

The new XK is modern in appearance, modern interior, well proportioned and sounds like black holes colliding a few thousand times a minute. What more could one ask for, really? The S-Type falls into the trap of being very retro and has not made a credible ‘5-Series Class’ rival. Is that because it is based on a Ford of America chassis rather than their own? As for the X-type, I actually really like it (although I haven’t driven it myself), it’s a lot like the 75 with a decent FWD set up and a range of engines and opulent interior, except you can (affordably) get the rear wheels driven as well as the front which seems to be required to make it a 3-Series rival to say “I have rear or all wheel drive”.

The similarities end quite soon because visually it is a shrunken XJ where as the S-Type harks back to it’s name sakes of times gone as the 75 does to Rover’s P5.

Clearly until this point Jaguar are making the same mistakes as Rover; retro styling. I have no personal problems with the styling of the Rover or Jaguar range but clearly all those in the market do, and what does that say?

I sincerely hope that this XK is a success for Jaguar, it deserves to be…

ANTHONY ENDSOR


16 January 2006

I know my place…

By KEITH ADAMS

I’M sure you’ve all seen that very famous comedy sketch featuring the late, great Ronnie Barker, Corbett and John Cleese parodying the ingrained British class structure – and how the middle class Barker took great pleasure in looking up at the managerial Mr Cleese, while looking down at Corbett the worker. Poor old Ronnie Corbett seemed to take the brunt of it – being working class and vertically challenged, he came away from the famous sketch with a stiff neck as well as knowing his place in society…

Well, after a week or two of commuting 60-miles a day in my reasonably priced Lada Riva 1200, I can tell you I know exactly how Mr Corbett feels… In a nutshell, trod on and looked down-upon.

But, do you know what – the experience is proving rather fun and highly amusing. No, I’m not going all masochistic, but am simply enjoying seeing life from the underclass that so few of us enjoy these days. Because of our short eight hour days, I’m going to work and coming home in darkness, and yet I still get to see first hand the effect the humble communist car has on other road users.

…in the UK, the way you are treated
by the majority of road users depends
on what you’re driving.

Acceleration is pathetic, but at the same time, it will cruise (noisily) all day at 70mph (in a way), and as a result, is pretty comfortable keeping up with the hustle and bustle of the A605/A14 rat-run. However, I’ve been finding that although it’ll perform with the best of them, other road users (and generally those driving repmobiles) take it as an affront if my humble Lada passes them. Being dark, I have the advantage of stealth – but enjoy predicting a now all-too familiar pattern exhibited by these drivers.

Here are some of the more easily predicted behavioural traits…

I come up behind, they move over, they look across and realise what I’m driving, let me pass, then swing out and overtake me immediately…

Another one is the single carriageway joker, who will ride my poor car’s bootlid all the way along the busy stretch of road – even though it’s impossible to pass, and I’m going the same speed as everyone else.

And not forgetting the joys of the roundabout cut-throat merchant – the one that sees a Lada is coming, assumes it’s going slowly and pulls out forcing me to brake – or the lane changer, who will carve in front of me and fill the 20-foot gap in front of me left in heavy traffic.

Ahh – I hear you say – this is what motoring is like in 21st century Britain – I should get used to it and stop whingeing. Well, for one, I’m not whingeing – it’s rather funny, and two, it happens a damned site less when I’m in the Saab Aero… I did get it in the Rover 75, though – but mainly only from Passat and Jaguar X-type drivers. Strange that…

Nahh I suspect that in the UK, the way you are treated by the majority of road users depends on what you’re driving. And let’s face it, losers drive Ladas, right? Perhaps – but what worries me is that now Rover’s a thing of the past (for now, possibly), will its drivers be increasingly thought of as backing losers, and will we get treated increasingly badly by everyone else?

I sincerely hope not, but the signs aren’t promising.

Gawd bless the class system…

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Feedback:

YOUR story intrigued me, as I too have suffered at the hand of ‘snobby’ drivers; firstly while I was learning to drive, I was regarded by other drivers as still being unfamiliar with the road – I was tailgated, cut up and hooted at when I stalled the engine…

When I passed I wore a ‘P’ plate in my back window for a week as I believed it might make some drivers actaully be a little more considerate, but it made some worse than before – as they made even more dangerous manoeuvres, thinking I was able to correct their misdemeanours!

I also believe the type of car you drive also determines the treatment you get out on the road. My first car was a Metro 1.1, which people believed was slow and lethargic. They seemed to do the most dangerous things just to get ahead. I then added a 216 Coupe to my fleet and found driving attitudes towards me changed slightly – but I have to confess, I gave as good as I got in it.

BEN ADAMS

I READ with interest your article rergarding being a ‘LADA’ driver!

Since I am now the proud owner of a fully restored ’67 Vanden Plas Princess 1100, I too have noticed that I am treated differently when driving. While many people just smile and go by, (some even pipping their horns!) there are also lots of drivers who just can’t wait to pass ‘the old fart’ in the ‘old car’.

I am only 40!

It’s as if they dont want to get ‘stuck’ behind me, so instead do everything in their power to overtake me at the earliest opportunity – quite often when it is frankly almost dangerous to do so. Like you, poeple also pull out without realising I am doing more than 20 mph… actually my car will cruise at 70 and is not THAT slow on acceleration.

You mention the ‘repmobile’ crowd – I would go one stage further – I find almost without fail, it is German car drivers who are the worst, particularly BMW drivers. They seem to have this superiority complex, and just because they drive a BMW, they feel that they are better than the rest of us.

They cut you up without regard, or swap lanes at the last second as they think they ‘have the power’.

This is not just confined to me driving my VP1100. It happened just the same for this particular breed of drivers when I had a 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer and many other ‘ordinary’ cars too! (no, not the Evolution model).

Does anyone else find this to be the case? I really don’t dislike the BMW product itself – just the arrogant, pretentious people who drive them…

RICHARD COLLETT

VERY interesting. We get treated very differently according to which vehicle we are using!

In the 1973 Austin Marina van (tatty harvest gold with rust, dents), we get treated much like Keith in his Lada. It’s slow so everyone wants to pass you and you can sense people looking down on you, I drive this one every day but I don’t really care what they think about it…

Driving an Austin A40 (1959 or 1960), everyone wants to overtake you, but they don’t look down on you and you get lots of good comments at the fuel station or in car parks! The A40 is great for parking in supermarket car parks as it’s narrow and fits into the small parking spaces (I’m sure parking spaces are shrinking!)

This brings me to the Rover 600. It still looks very modern, and its in excellent condition, so we get treated as ordinary members of the human race. This is great out on the open road, however in the small parking spaces people seem to think it’s okay to open doors on to it or nudge the door mirrors with shopping trolleys…

So I rarely use the 600 for shopping trips, choosing instead the A40 (so narrow it fits easily into a tight space) or the Marina van which being tatty people keep clear of it.

I’m the same person in any of the cars, but you do get judged on apperances, very shallow or what?

ANDY JONES

LADAS and such like are not sad cars. In the real world, this is where the clever money goes. They cost next to nowt and usually get you from A to B without too many hassles.

For mega bucks you could get youself a Beemer and usually, and then not always get from A to B in one piece. However, this is what I reckon makes an amusing vehicle, and could I suggest a Porsche Cayenne as a good example:

1) Gordon Brown gets about 13 grand in VAT – he’s laughing
2) The dealer makes a couple of grand for screwing number plates on – he’s laughing
3) the importer gets about 15 grand for… err what exactly? – he’s laughing
4) Porsche make it for about 15 grand – they’re laughing
5) I hope the purchaser is pleased with the car – and laughing all the way…

I know every time I see one I want to laugh at it.

PAUL CLARKSON


14 January 2006

Six hundred not out…

By ROGER BLAXALL

‘SIX hundred not out’ – not a jingoistic Daily Mail headline from the next England cricket tour but the working title of a new owner’s club for the underrated 600 range I’m hoping to set up soon.

Regular readers might recall that I bought a 1997 (P) 600 SLi a few months ago after my Citroen ZX Avantage 1.4 hit – that being the operative word – the end of the road when I drove into the back of a stationary Rover 75 on an unfamiliar route home, trying to dodge some notorious roadworks.

A quick search in my local paper found the Rover nestled among the Ormskirk Advertiser’s ‘bargains under £1000’ section and with money eased from the missus’ purse, we both travelled to a village near Preston to view the two owner car. A quick test drive revealed nothing out of the ordinary and we settled on £500 – not bad considering it had cost the vendor some £7000 back in 2000!

That £200 discount was to cover two tyres and a full service which came to £185 thanks to discovering a Rumanian ex marine engineer in Ormskirk who specialises in excellent quality partworns at £15 each and a service from trusty Trevor, ex-Ormskirk Rover who fixed everything I’d mentioned, apart from the air conditioning, which needs some heavy duty electrical work although I’ve been assured the compressor still works.

Suffice to say, I am very pleased with most things about the car. Fuel consumption at around 30mpg is taking some getting used to after the 45 of the Citroen but the Rover’s far more refined and well finished. It has run faultlessly so far despite the recent cold snap we had locally. The fuel bill is eased by having a Shell garage which must be the cheapest in Lancashire (if not the country) with unleaded recently at 84.9p per litre (it’s on Northway, Maghull if anyone local is reading this) while Trevor has told me the only job that needs doing soon is a new cambelt at 120,000 miles, some 8000 miles hence.

I can’t find a specific 600 Owners’
Club and a visit to the Rover stands
at the Classic Car Show revealed
some interest in the idea…

Anyway, to cut a long story short I can’t find a specific 600 Owners’ Club (apologies if I’m mistaken) and a visit to the Rover stands at the Classic Car Show revealed some interest in the idea.

Perhaps it’s just the good folks of West Lancashire who know a bargain when they see one, but there are at least twenty 600’s around here, and I know that Trevor looks after no less than seven Ti models! Every so often a tatty high mileage diesel version will turn up at our local fleet specialist and that brings me to my dream 600 – or at least one of them … I spotted a 600 diesel dressed up like a Ti model, with six spoke alloys, lowered suspension and front spotlights – owned by a mechanic at the new Signature XPart centre in Kirkham, near Preston. It looks very purposeful indeed and with a planned ‘Tunit’ conversion on the diesel version I’m now looking for, I think the extra power will suit the car well. All I need to do now is find a suitable car… an R-Registered SLDi turned up for £995 as a local part-ex this week but it was sans sunroof, the non standard radio was faulty, it was untaxed and needed two front tyres.

So, if there are any folk out there who may be interested in clubbing together, please keep in touch. I have already started to gather literature and will be speaking to the Gaydon Heritage Centre library to order some reprints of roadtests, etc. Tatton Park would be a great introduction for a Spring ‘meet’… I’ll keep you posted on any feedback. And if anyone’s selling a decent 620 SLDi/GSDi or late model Ti, get in touch! Call me on 01695 574019 or email rogertblaxall@hotmail.com for more info.

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Feedback:

DO we all really need another owners’ club, when all these little single-model outfits should be thinking about clubbing together (pardon the pun) and forming the Rover Owners Club? Just think about the strength in numbers! Okay, there’s Rover Torque and the Rover Sports Register that are going some way towards this, but we’re still a long way from the Utopian dream…

So how about it Roger – let’s talk about a Rover Owners’ Club, with different registers within the club for each individual model. It seems to work well for the MG Car Club and MG Owners’ Club.

I also thought about the idea of BL and BMC Owners’ Club, which could incorporate the Maxi, Marina, Allegro, Princess, Metro and Maestro/Montego, but suspect we might struggle getting that idea off the ground… Still, it’s a nice thought.

One question, though: which club would the SD1 sit in; the Rover Owners Club or the BL and BMC Owners’ Club?

KEITH ADAMS

GIVEN where we are today, with the wide range of existing Rover clubs that cater for everyone who enjoys driving a Rover, whether they wear reversed baseball caps or pipe and slippers, perhaps we should take a leaf out of the Book of Austin and form a Federation of Rover Clubs?

If nothing else it would make for a great annual meet, as well as the pooling of invaluable technical knowledge, support and advice.

MIKE McCABE

REGARDING “Do we really need another owners’ club”:

I think that the emphasis on any club has to be towards the specific interest of a particular member. If a club has too wide a remit, can it serve the interest(s) of a particular member as well as possible? As an example, if there were a single club for all BMC>Rover cars, would the newsletter it produced fully satisfy someone with a ’77 TR7 when it has articles about a Riley 1.5 and a Rover 75.

I also presume that any BMC>Rover club, as postulated, would incorporate the MGOC and the MGCC?

Surely, the best thing is to have the proliferation of single-interest clubs, that can cater for the specific needs of a particular set of enthusiasts – ie. you newsletter contains only articles about the Rover 600, but a federation of these clubs is formed and “cross-fertilisation” occurs. That is large events, shared technical articales (ie, an article on the A-Series, for example, would be available to Mini, Metro, Minor, Marina, Maestro/Montego, Spridget, Allegro, 1100/1300 clubs etc.)

Don’t stamp down on people with a similar interest getting together – as happend with the recent forming of the 75/ZT club. Create a federation that links them together encourages them. Then we WILL have the best of both worlds.

LESLIE BUTTON

IS this not what the Austin Federation goes along way in doing, perhaps it isn’t one singular club. But it unites all clubs together, and you can see what a success this was with the centenary this summer gone.

SKATIECHIK

I’VE been thinking about this for some time, being the owner of a Rover 600 part of me thinks ‘great the 600 deserves a specific club’ but I also think it would be good to have one club, like for example Club Triumph or The Jaguar Enthusiasts Club, MG Owners Club.

It would have to cover a wide range of different cars with different registers (as Keith said) It depends on interest levels from the owners I suppose. I know how good it was last April on the convoy from Gaydon to Longbridge the vast range of different vehicles all together but from a very large family. We do have Peterborough every year which is in effect a national rally but nothing much the rest of the year. A club covering all the different vehicles that turn up at Peterborough (plus all the modern Rovers!) would be a good start. Perhaps called BMC>Rover Group?

Having said that I’d join a 600 club if it started I think if you are already in a good car club you probably won’t see much point in a ‘big’ club, Personally I find looking round a show at a range of different BMC/BL/Rover vehicles much more interesting than a small group of similar cars at a one model club.

ANDY JONES


13 January 2006

What we need from Triumph

By RICHARD TRUETT, Automotive News

AT the North American International Auto Show BMW officials were on hand during press days earlier this week. Once they again made no mention of adding any other brands.

Last year, BMW’s U.S. boss, Tom Purves, told me that the he has great affection for Triumph, but that it would be too costly to relaunch the brand and that because there has been such a long lapse in production, name recognition is very low. So why not let someone else use it, I asked. Purves said Triumph was too valuable to let someone else have and BMW might use it someday.

There is a growing realization, I think, that MINI won’t be able to stand on its own forever in the USA. Sales will slow down someday. And when that day comes Triumph would be a natural to move MINI buyers up.

I bought a MINI in 2003 and loved it, but I sold it last year because it was just too small. It was the best ownership experience I have ever had with a new car and had there had been a Triumph available, I would have bought one.

My fear is that BMW officials own the Triumph name but do not know about the brand’s DNA. I had hoped to convey to BMW some of the things any new Triumph car would have to have to be true to the brand. I didn’t get that chance, but perhaps they will see it here.

After owning nearly 30 Triumph TRs and the two Dolomite Sprints I imported from England to the USA last year, I feel I can at least start the debate about what traits any future Triumph cars must have.

This is my list so far:
o Extraordinary turning radius
o A very sweet engine, one that has character, bags of low-end torque and something unique and special in terms of engineering. (remember Triumph pioneered fuel injection on the TR5 and 16-valves on the Dolly Sprint)
o Wood trim somewhere on the dash, console or doors (nearly all Triumphs had wood)
o Interesting exterior colours and interior trim
o Fun to drive with good handling, good all around performance, better than an MX-5, but not quite as fast as a BMW Z4
o Affordable
o Easy to work on and customize

At the BMW display at the Detroit show, BMW showed a fastback concept version of the Z4 sports car. The designer was standing near the car. I mentioned that something like this could be made into a new GT6 or TR. He looked at me as if he did not understand what I said. My feeling is that Triumph is not a top concern for BMW now, nor will it be in the foreseeable future.

If anyone would like to add to my list of traits that make a Triumph, please do. Those of us who own the classics are the guardians of the brand.

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Feedback:

HAVING considered a BMW as my next car – I think BMW would do very well to market the 1-series as a Triumph, losing the awful styling. The RWD chassis is entertaining and precise, but the BMW brand image is very offputting.

Sadly for BMW, Mazda have pulled out all the stops for contract hiring, and my new car will be an RX8 – one of the few interesting RWD cars on the market and dirt cheap to contract hire.

RICHARD SCISSORHANDS


12 January 2006

We counted them all in…

By MIKE McCABE

…THE 104 Rover 75s and MG ZTs that is, as they rolled up to The Motor Heritage Museum at Gaydon on Sunday 8 January for the first meet of the new 75&ZT Owners Club. The 200 or more people who spilled out of the cars and onto a windswept main car park braved freezing temperatures to show their love of the last of the line.

The event proved to be the biggest ever single gathering of 75 and ZTs (except for the long gone days of the car storage parks at Longbridge!) Luciano Luppi drove his facelift ZTT 1000 miles from Genova in Italy (and back again) to attend the meet. Jan brought his Belgium registered 75 saloon and Club75 member Jurgen flew in from Germany to be with us.

BBC Radio WM showed interest with a morning programme interview and a Birmingham Post photographer was spotted roaming amongst the melee of Longbridge and Cowley’s finest. It was a great day out for everyone, from the 7 year old heard exclaiming ‘look Dad it’s A Sterling’, to the sporty ZT owners and a group of 75 owners who were clearly enjoying their retirement as well as the opportunity to still drive a Rover.

Keith Adams kindly agreed to act as judge for the day choosing as best ZT a superb Trophy Yellow ZT-T 190. A facelift 75 Connoisseur in two tone Blue and Silver won best 75 and the top award could only go to Luciano for his 2000 mile round trip to the meet. A great start for the club. Now the hard work really begins as we work out how to satisfy demand for technical and parts support, as well as more successful meets and social events.

www.75andztclub.com

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11 January 2006

Rich man’s Rover SD1…

By JOHN BATCHELOR

SEEING the Aston Martin Rapide story in several magazines this month has reminded me of the SD1 connection. I had a read through your SD1 development story, and although you have the ‘Poor man’s Aston Martin’ headline, you may not be aware of the other connection.

Back in 1981, I was working at Canley where the High Performance Derivative (HPD) of the SD1 was under development. In addition to deciding what induction system to use (the four twin-choke Webers sounded wonderful but were a mite awkward to keep in tune), they also had to choose a name.

Aston Martin was approached for the possible use of the ‘Rapide’ name, but declined to allow its use, and an alternative in-house name chosen instead. Rover had got as far as producing ‘Rapide’ strobe side decals for styling reviews.

‘Rover Vitesse’ came to mean something very special to many people but ‘Rover Rapide’ has a nice sound to it too.

Also there at the same time was the ’82MY facelifted TR7 with SD1 knee-level groove from bumper to bumper instead of the infamous sweeping swage line. It looked so much better…

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10 January 2006

What’s going on with Nanjing?

By MIKE GOY

MERGERS and acquisitions are a regular occurrence in the British financial markets. Usually, a smaller company is acquired by a larger outfit in order to:

o grow the business
o reduce the competition
o cherry pick/asset strip

Nanjing’s approach, by contrast, seems to be to do absolutely nothing. It has said plenty, but apart from transferring Longbridge infrastructure to China, little has happened. Its — supposed – aims are to resurrect the MGR dealer network, thereby enabling sales of MG branded cars across the world. However, Nanjing will have to start from scratch, as nine months has passed since the dealers last sold a car, and the sales workforce and infrastructure must be long gone by now.

Is Nanjing’s real ambition just to sell MG cars in China? And what do we really know about the intense rivalry between them and Shanghai Automotive? Are MG’s new owners just concerned with domestic one-upmanship, trying to sideline SAIC and its Rover brand?

Who — if anyone — is advising Nanjing? With every day that passes, the MG name becomes more irrelevant, sidelined and forgotten. If BMW does persevere with their Triumph ambitions, then the re-emergence of MG as credible opposition assumes vital importance. The potentially lucrative US market beckons…

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Feedback:

CONGRATULATIONS for expressing doubts about the honest intentions (or otherwise) of the Chinese. I fully agree. Frankly, I think the time to re-open Longbridge, in any related way to what it was, had already gone.

My forecasts are that:

o Some sort of cobbled-up MG Rover production may begin in China in the next year or so.
o The Chinese will eventually say that demand only justifies buiilding cars in one location (i.e. China) and that therefore, etc, etc…
o Whatever then belongs to the Chinese at Longbridge (and, from what I think I understand, that no longer includes freehold to the land itself) can either be sold off for scrap, or merely scrapped.
o In which case, will they have the sense to hold a memorabilia sale ? (You too could buy Len Lord’s office chair, etc…)

But, then, I’m a fully paid-up cynic, who has at least been of the same consistent opinion throughout this messy saga.

GRAHAM ROBSON


9 January 2006

V8 wonder

By KEITH ADAMS


Here’s a face that cleared the outside lane of the M40 with considerable ease…

SPENT the weekend behind the wheel of another Rover V8…

Again, I came away from the experience impressed and frustrated in equal measure. For one, it has reaffirmed my lingering love affair with these old school bruisers. The Rover version has a perfect chassis set-up – compliant in ride, firm in damping and smothering surface imperfections with disdainful ease. Not only that, but it’s so at home on the motorway, you could almost believe that the car was built solely for the purpose of traversing the UK’s six-lane blacktop.

Of course, there’s a lot more to the Rover 75 V8 than a commanding motorway performance, but because of a short weekend, pressing schedules and the need to be at the first meeting of the Rover 75 and MG ZT Owners Club meeting, this kind of motoring dominated our time together. I’m still amazed at how well this car hangs together – it feels as though the R40 was designed to be this way right from the beginning, when we know that is a million miles away from the truth… I guess its astonishing ability is a testament to the heart and passion of the hard-working engineers behind it. It’s just a shame that we’ll probably not see this platform serving any further purpose in the future…

So if I was so impressed, why the frustration?

Simple – the autobox doesn’t suit my driving style, and I came away feeling that the package was slightly compromised by the slightly lethargic nature of the set-up. It’s an old-school slushbox, with slurred changes, and plenty of slippage – and to me, that means loss of efficiency. Yes, this car takes off like a rocket, and has huge reserves of mid-range power, but deep down, I know it can do so much more when hanging off the Tremec five-speed manual ‘box.

So, I guess my V8 of choice would be the MG ZT 260 V8.

Well actually, my ideal choice would be a manual Rover Vitesse version – but they didn’t make that.

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6 January 2006

Triumph Who?

By AYD INSTONE

WHISPERINGS of a re-launched Triumph at the MINI plant in Oxford has started up new model speculation and heated opinion that we didn’t think we’d see for a long time.

A new BMW Triumph is good news. Good news for the Cowley plant where with more than one model we can hope production will continue for some time to come. Good news for British automotive (as a British built, foreign owned sportscar is the best we can expect). Good news for Britain as a light of hope is lit that we’re not totally useless when it comes to production. I hope it’s called TR9.

But some of us think that there’s no Triumph DNA left? Well wasn’t the Acclaim, the last Triumph, built at Cowley? So there is some form of continuity at a plant that has been in production of British cars continuously.

And for those who think the Triumph name is dead – that’s irrelevant. BMW have the marketing clout to sell you a four wheeled fishfinger if they chose. The ‘purists’ who dislike the new MINI and dislike their fading memory of a bygone era to be tarnished are so insignificant to the millions who have chosen to buy and will continue to buy.

The world will love the new Triumph and BMW will be applauded for their ingenuity and genius. If only the owners of MG can pull the same rabbit out of the hat in time.

Compare a successful launch of a dead car brand with new Doctor Who on television. A year ago it was a dead brand – irrelevant, laughable, old fashioned, half remembered as a joke with wobbly sets. Now after being ignored for over 16 years, given a successful re-launch it’s second only to Eastenders. 10 million viewers. 4 Radio Times front covers and awards galore (as well as being the single biggest money making franchise for BBC Worldwide). It has finance for a third series already in the bag and has spawned a spin off series ‘Torchwood’.

A new BMW Triumph is good news for the
Cowley plant, where with more than one
model, we can hope production will
continue for some time to come…

What’s amazing to anyone who’s been a fan of that show is that the continuity is still there which is so important. The latent memory of a brand is so much easier to re-mould than starting cold. They cleverly took the best aspects of the programme and ignored the not-so-good bits. They addressed all the failings. They’ve brought it up-to-date without spoiling what attracted people to it in its heyday. It’s not a retro-fest or a tongue-in-cheek spoof. It’s what it should be. It’s what we always imagined it was.

This year we’ll be seeing the return of old favourites the Cybermen and K9 and they’ll be as fresh and exciting to the kids of today as they were in the old days and the toy shops will be full of talking radio-controlled figures, comics and games. And if the old buggers in their 30s and 40s don’t like it, who cares? They’re yesterdays men. The same is true of cars. The audience for the new MGs should be people who have just passed their driving test now. They are the ones who need to be wooed. They may never have driven a Rover as the kids watching new Who will have never seen a Dalek – until now.

So it can be done. In television at least. With the right talent it can be done in automotive as well. BMW know this. They’ve done it once and they’ll do it again.

Roll on the Cowley Triumph TR9.

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4 January 2006

Where did the quality go?

By DAVID HENDERSON

I THINK I may have worked out why nobody bought MG Rovers towards the last days of the company. I have recently had the opportunity to drive a very late model Rover 25 1.4, and that really opened my eyes. The engine was very sweet and willing to rev, but was coupled to an imprecise gearbox with the strangest gate I’ve ever encountered. Fourth gear lived somewhere near the passenger’s right thigh, which took a bit of getting used to.

The clutch was very light, but gave no indication at which point it intended to bite, and this coupled to an extremely wooden brake pedal made stopping and starting a bit of a guessing game. The ride and handling were not bad at all, soaking up B road bumps and surface imperfections well and taking high speed corners with ease. But those were the good bits. And I’m afraid it was a short list.

The old menace of build quality reared its ugly head the moment my bum touched the seat. The door closed with a solid enough thunk, but in the process the outer shell of the grab handle came away from the door trim. Oh dear. Taking a few minutes to survey the surroundings only brought more and more failings to the eye, from a very bland centre console to surface plastics hard enough to break toffee on.

The ride and handling were not bad at
all, soaking up B road bumps well and
taking high speed corners with ease.
But those were the good bits. And I’m
afraid it was a short list…

The last time I saw plastic that hard and shiny it had a CD in it. The control stalks around the steering wheel look as if they were carried over from an early eighties Toyota Corolla, with switches and buttons that look as if they have been lifted straight out of an R8. No bad thing in 1989, but certainly not up to speed in 2005. I have a Mk4 Astra that has 112k on the clock, everything is solid, nothing looks as if it is about to fall off even after seven years of abuse. But in the Rover, I was terrified that every prod and press would lead to a foot well full of shiny black plastic.

And this is why nobody bought the 25. Everything else was better. I remember driving a mk2 Astra, and thinking back the 25 is more in keeping with it than the newer cars it was supposed to compete against. I have been in many new cars recently – Focus, Astra, Megane, all the big players – and to think the 25 was supposed to compete with those absolutely boggles the mind. Why oh why did MGR not spend the money from the XPower SV and the 75 V8 on keeping the 25 fresh? Sure, the SV is a great car and the V8 is a legend in its own lifetime, but the 25 is the bread and butter, the thing that keeps the company afloat and pays the bills. They neglected it and paid the price I’m afraid.

I saw the 25 again yesterday. The glovebox lid is broken now. But as I stood looking at the car, in bright red with multi spoke alloys, I couldn’t help but like it. Perhaps if they had updated the interior a bit, the car would have sold in sufficient numbers to fund a replacement.

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Feedback:

I CAN back this argument up with my recent experience with a MK2 MG ZS 120.

I can easily remember sitting in a MK1 ZS on a 51 plate a while ago, probably one of the last cars to be spared of the dreaded Project Dive… I mean Drive, foisted on to MG-R’s model line-up in the Phoenix Four’s quest for that golden break-even point.

The dash felt well laid out and was made of good quality materials; more than a match for the bland, but solid materials used in my father’s T-plate Audi A4, which considering the retail cost of the Audi, it was pretty good going.

Fast forward to June of this year and the difference in quality is glaringly worse. For starters, I open the drivers door and I am immediately greeted to a rather bare interior door card missing the top wood/plastic strip featured on previous models. The new one was more like what Honda used in their Civic of the time. Not a good start.

I enter the vehicle and stare at the car’s grey plastic fascia and accompanying fake chrome Audi-esque heater vents. I personally think the vents were a nice feature, if a little out of place with the dated Honda interior styling. I give it a tap, and the dashboard replies with a deep, but hollow knock, followed by a slight squeak as I relieve the pressure from its surface.

I also felt the colour of the interior was more in keeping with Hyundai’s ‘cheap and tearful’ offerings, than Vauxhalls and Fords; just swathes of tasteless grey all over it.

The accountants also seem to have had a tinker with the design of the steering wheel as well; it felt hard and cheap. I can easily remember the steering wheels of the preceding 400 series, little has changed design wise, but quality has taken a noticeable dive.

Switchgear material has also changed as well, going from smooth and shiny eighties inspired plastic to rough and ridged plastic. Although in their defence, engaging the switches does not feel as cheap as they look. Everything locks into place firmly and precisely; the accountants must have forgotten about this little feature.

All in all though, it was a disappointing experience. The new ZS has looks to die for with the new style grille and flared wheel arches. If only it had the quality to match.

LIAM OLF


I AM glad to hear someone else praise the 25 for its ride and handling; for a car so oft put down, it drives well.

I am slightly perplexed as to the pedal and gearbox feel issues though. The gearbox was the one thing that did go wrong on my 25 but everything else was very good, however before it failed it always felt fantastic, it had a nice short and firm throw, more like the MG than previous Rover badged cars. The clutch was fairly light, and I say fairly because I’ve driven things in either extreme, it was communicative enough, which I appreciate having spent a lot of time in heavy traffic and total lock up in and around Birmingham.

Again the brakes were spot on, stopped quicker than anything else, on a sixpence, but were never lacking in feel contrary to the 216 for example, which is too easy to go from gentle braking to lock up. I have to completely agree on that shoddy new dash though. It seems to be made from regurgitated Lego, with a Duplo designed centre console. Who were Rover trying to kid by using those TT-esque vents and then trying to point out that they’re like Audi ones? The dash looks fairly modern but in reality we’re back to Metro and Fiesta build and quality circa 1990- i.e. simple but cheap.

Gone are the soft touch fascias that made the R8 such a progressive car with its premium feel than the rivals. The switchgear couldn’t have been cheap to reposition either, it’s not inter-compatible, and the buttons and HVAC controls are not from the R8, all it shares in that sense is the basis of the Honda stalks, although even the rotary pieces on the stalks are different to the R8 and the finish, and the way they feel, the 25’s are more direct and ‘clicky’ that the R8’s, meaning all it shares, roughly is the fittings and the stalk itself has the same dimensions.

I also noted the glovebox felt flimsy and shockingly poor, and I’m glad I didn’t wait two months or so for a facelift car, and I never had any problems with the dash and quality really inside. ON the subject of low rent dashboards, check out the Renault Modus and Ford Fiesta, both of which also have stepped back to odd solid plastic dashboards rather than lined with foam padded material.

Also, we did have a previous 25, which was from 2003 and was certainly more flimsy inside. Either I have just been incredibly lucky with ours or the 25 in question is a particularly bad exception. It is this odd variation in quality that seems to have divided motoring enthusiasts over the years it seems, my 25, aside from PSA derived gearbox, is built fantastically, as was our 1990 216GSi, but our previous 25 punished us for buying a cheap car and the Coupe, five years younger than the 216, seems to have dropped severely on build quality.

ANTHONY ENDSOR


READING the latest update, regarding the Rover 25… I would add my voice to the praises of late-model MGR handling, but only at speed! Having driven an MGF and found it delightful – utterly competent in all conditions and speeds – the TF fell harsh and lacked compliance until the car was travelling at the legal limit, when it all began to come together.

I’d dismissed this as being ‘sporty’ suspension, but I found the Streetwise we nearly bought in May suffered the same fate. My initial surprise and delight at the grip and handling of the chassis through some 60mph S-bends I know well became horror (and slight queasiness) at the undamped, oscillating ride on a poor road surface at 40mph – being both wobbled and jiggled by a chassis which simply didn’t know which way to pull.

And yes, the revised interior was a funny mix – the pretty but cheap dashboard, and those electric window switches, seemingly designed to collect dust, dirt and spills and placed in as illogical a place as possible…

I didn’t get to drive the ZT260 properly but it too felt harsh – albeit with much better damping.

(incidentally, the dealer mentioned in “Why Won’t They Deal” did eventually sell their Streetwise – for £6,295 (or less – that was the price it was reduced to by July) – the Mercedes A-class my father eventually bought has been faultless).

Congratulations on the continuing content in this site! Good luck finding a ZT260 – I wish I’d been able to get one before everything went under.

RICHARD KILPATRICK


I CAN’T comment on the quality of the Rover 25, but I don’t believe that the shortcomings mentioned here are reflective of the entire MGR range.

They are perhaps more indicative of how the 25 has simply become outdated and outclassed as its competitors have improved both in design and quality. My 2005 MG TF160 is extremely well assembled and to date nothing has fallen off or given undue cause for concern. The quality of the trim and the quality of assembly is noticeably better than my previous 1997 MGF VVC. It certainly doesn’t compare well to the Audi A4 I recently drove but there is no way I could say that the overall experience of owning this vehicle indicates that any significant level of cost cutting took place later in the production run. I also recently had the chance to drive a ZT260, which if anything seemed even better assembled than my TF.

Admittedly both of these models are “flagships” of the range rather than the bread and butter models, but I would not expect any significant change in standards of assembly through different models.

MICHAEL WOOD


3 January 2006

Bloodlines

By MICHAEL JAMES

IN various and differing historical and preservation circles many discussions have centered around what defines the complex issue of originality. For example can a fully restored antique car finished in an authentic period colour and specifications be deemed as original even if the vehicle originally left the factory in a completely different finish and state? Some tend to think so; others disagree on this seemingly simple question.

I have always seen it as an interesting, if a little pointless argument until a few months ago when MG Rover finally slipped into oblivion with the sale of the wreckage of MG Rover to Nanjing by PwC on behalf of the owners last genuine owners, Phoenix.

The moment PwC sold MG Rover’s assets they effectively drove the last nail in the casket of all that was Austin, BMC and MG Rover, after 100 plus years they, and all the others, finally departed. But surely as Nanjing purchased those assets there remains some lineage, however tenuous still it existence, right? Well for me no, it’s gone, swept away.

The reasoning is simple, it’s not the factories at Longbridge, it’s not the cars, nor was even the fascinating history, it’s the simple fact that the employees, the people have gone, they were the flame that was the businesses sole, and this is what was finally extinguished at that moment.

The linage of the people whom designed, built, marketed and managed the company had been removed from the last of the hardware, tools, bricks and mortar, the final separation was complete. They have gone and so has the spirit, for if the company, be it Nanjing or anyone else ‘re-start’ production it will be with new people, new blood, even if some were formally employed at Longbridge the line was broken, the spirit departed.

But surely as Nanjing purchased those
assets there remains some lineage,
however tenuous still it existence,
right? Well for me no, it’s gone,
swept away…

No one could seriously believe BMC alive and well because an old antiquated Morris Oxford is still being built in India today could they? So it’s clear it’s not the metal bashing or the physical designs that makes a connection, its much more than that, so even if a new Phoenix arises out of the ashes it will never be anything more that the an owner of a trademark, they whoever it is, did not create the history on which they will trade.

MINI, Jaguar, Daimler and Land Rover have all been separated from the former Mother company but they all retained some links with the past, some ancestry, people, British industrial DNA if you will.

Now British Aerospace may have ruthlessly asset stripped, BMW may have incompetently mismanaged, the Phoenix four may have stupidly sold the family silver but they all maintained that critical DNA, from my perspective Nanjing purchased copyrights and hardware nothing more.

A former long term BMC/MG Rover employee explained – If a man divorced his wife and she retained his family, name a tenuous link may exist, but if she were to have children and they carried the name of the previous husband, no real linage is maintained, MG Rover is the Father, Nanjing is the Wife and any new MGs will be those bastard children.

So one final question that arises is if BMW via MINI tries to recreate Triumph again, or indeed Riley, will they maintain those genes or will it be devoid of that essential DNA?

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2 January 2006

Welcome to the future…

By KEITH ADAMS


Makes you think, ‘What if’…

AS much as I’d never wish ill of anyone, I have to say that in a way, I’m glad the Rover 45 isn’t with us anymore. Yes, okay, it wasn’t a bad old bus to drive in MG ZS form, and the carriage-clock styling belied a certain sophistication under the skin, but let’s face it… the HH-R/X20 had seen better days.

To ram the point home, Honda has recently launched its latest Civic – and it’s a belting, futuristic, stylish, adventurous and daring design. Okay, many people are going to bemoan the company’s baffling decision to ditch the independent rear suspension (something the R8 had all those years ago), but factor in that styling, the availability of one of the world’s best diesel engines, and VTEC petrol power, and it is fair to say we’re not just looking at a car that embodies ‘now’, but something that resembles an Eighties vision of 21st century motoring. Can you imagine the magazine and website group tests that lined up the 45 (and rivals) against this car? It doesn’t bear thinking about…

All of a sudden, the Focus, Astra and Golf look staid – and they’re all still reasonably new…

And just think, a little over ten years ago, the company that built this car owned a 20 per cent stake in the Rover Group. If only British Aerospace had more courage and a little less ambition to turn over a quick buck selling the company to BMW.

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1 January 2006

New Year’s resolutions

By KEITH ADAMS


Taking a ZT 260 V8 to Santa Pod last February – a lot of fun…

PUTTING aside the natural disaster that was MG Rover’s fall into administration, and the farce that is Nanjing’s ownership of what’s left, 2005 was actually a pretty good year. The website continued to grow, despite predictions made by colleagues and friends who said that it would fizzle out now MG Rover’s pushing up the daisies, and I’m writing full-time. But here we are – and austin-rover.co.uk is still with us.

At the start of 2005, I made a few New Year’s resolutions, most of which I managed to stick to. One was to take an MG ZT V8 to a race track, and although a Run What Ya Brung at Santa Pod isn’t quite a full track day, it was a hell of a lot of fun. Another was to take something ‘interesting’ to Naples… Well, Alexander, Declan and I did that alright.

I think for 2006, one resolution worth making is getting myself a Rover 75 V8 or MG ZT 260… It’s possibly going to be quite tough, given the pay in motoring journalism, but it’s something to aim for.

Another is to make some inroads in my plan to expand the scope of the website. MINI, Land Rover and Jaguar are all ripe for plucking right now, and although Jaguar is going through a bit of a crisis right now, there’s the impressive new XK to look at, and beyond that, the new S-type, which is almost exclusively British engineered.

This time last year, I made all manner of predictions (well, hopes really) for MG Rover’s future, and largely, they didn’t come true, thanks to the Chinese deal falling through at the last minute. I won’t be making any predictions this time around, because – well, there isn’t a lot to predict. If anything is going to happen at Longbridge (or indeed China), 2007 will be the year it happens. So, 2006, will be all about looking back, and filling in all those gaps in the site’s coverage…

So, to all our readers, Happy New Year, and let’s hope 2006 is happier than 2005…

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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Posted in: AROnline Blogs
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

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