Blogs : April 2006

27 April 2006

Fantasy league

By SEAMASTER

RIGHT, how about a blog devoted to the great cars they never made? I’m not talking about the ones we all know about, like the 75 Coupé, the TF GT or the MG Rexton — I mean variants of the cars they did make, for which there was almost certainly a market, but which never got produced. Speaking for myself, I would have considered buying any of these — had they ever trundled off the lines.

Here are my starters for ten:

1. MG ZR cabrio
2. MG ZS cabrio
3. MG ZS coupé

In fact, had I been relaunching MG, I would have demanded a soft-top variant of every car in the range, with no Rover equivalent, as a first step to putting clear blue water between the marques. And surely turning the four door ZS saloon into a two door coupé was no tall order — John Towers, The King of Soft Tooling, disappointed us greatly by not producing these, and lots of other niche-filling R8-style variants, off the platforms in question.

4. MG ZS180 Sports Auto

I would have seriously considered a facelifted ZS180 with the Jatco box mated to the 180PS KV6 in the ZT auto as an alternative to the ZT I did buy. Amazed they didn’t offer this, if only to broaden the range’s appeal.

5. MG ZP

ZP, zippy, geddit? Controversial, I know, but how about an MG CityRover derivative, based on the Mk2, to appeal to 18+ Saxo chavs with taste and discernment. There was plenty of potential in the platform to develop the CR into, at the very least, an insurance-friendly warm hatch, and there were plenty of potential MG buyers at the bottom end of the market to lap them up— just look at how many ZR105s they shifted. Priced at £5999 with a year’s free insurance, it would have saved the company almost single-handedly.

6. Rover 75 Countrywise

A la Audi’s Streetwise hommage, the A6 Allroad. Should have been launched at the same time as the infamous mgbeatsbmw.com guerilla marketing campaign — take the fight to ’em, and all that.

7. Streetwise by Rover 3-door CVT

Would have been the most attractive and persuasive “urban on-roader”, which was a good idea, that just came along too late in the day. For those who doubt that this spec was not offered, re-read your old brochures — I know, I wanted to buy my silver-haired old mother one.

8. Rover 600 Coupé

I know, I know, Honda were a shower by then and wouldn’t allow it. This is my fantasy scenario, remember. And how gorgeous would a 600 Coupé have been. Of course, it would almost certainly have hastened the speed with which BMW luger-ed the 600.

9. Rover 800 V8 Coupé

If only the planets had aligned to shoe-horn the glorious Rover V8 into the glorious 800 Coupé. Rovers, V8s, coupés — as inseparable, as unapologetic and as British as fish, chips and vinegar. It’s incredible they made us wait decades before there was even the suggestion of them all coming together again in the stillborn 75 Coupé.

10. Rover Montego, reskinned and with K-Series

As a compelling fleet/volume market saloon to compete with the Sierra Sapphire and Vauxhall Cavalier in a way the R8 never did. Would have retained the volume production and market share lost in the relentless clamber upmarket in the late eighties/early nineties. Another “Rebadged, reengineered, rediscover it” success that could have been?

I look forward to taking some flack and/or reading others’ could-have-beens in the forum!

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26 April 2006

Chernobyl

By KEITH ADAMS

PRECISELY twenty years ago, the world’s worst peacetime nuclear accident changed the future – and probably accelerated the fall of the Soviet Union. More importantly, the explosion and subsequent release of a huge radioactive cloud at Chernobyl-4 was a tragedy on a massive scale, and despite there being no official figures, we do know that people are still dying.

The issue of nuclear power is now back on the agenda, and the Chernobyl accident is being cited as a reason why this is a very bad thing. But from what I can see, it wasn’t nuclear power that was the enemy in this instance, but the ineffective and irresponsible handling of it. Pinpointing blame for the disaster is probably pretty futile now, but we do know it was a massive crime of misinformation, and one that cost lives.

We do need to learn lessons from the Chernobyl accident, and I’m sure we will.

Today, our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy.


24 April 2006

Drive it day!

By KEITH ADAMS

SO, it was St George’s Day yesterday. And it was Shakespeare’s birthday. But most importantly – for us lot, anyway, is that it was National Drive It Day…

The idea was to get out and drive your classics and show the world that there’s loads of life left in old cars. I must admit I pulled ‘my’ X1/9 onto the drive and left it there for gawping neighbours to admire – but decided to take my relatively modern 620ti on a business trip to Oxford. Well, I say business – I really mean road testing an MG RV8 and a TVR Griffith, but that’s a different matter.

The trip involved a drive from my place in darkest Northamptonshire to a particularly picturesque part of Oxfordshire – about an 80 mile journey in all. On that drive down, I clocked two classic cars – a 1969 Mini Cooper and a 1937 Rolls-Royce. And that, I reckon was it.

A bit disappointing in all, although I hear down town Abingdon was MG City, so it could have been a good Drive It Day, after all…

If you were out and about and took some pictures, drop me a line, as I’d be delighted to hear that Drive It Day was a success – because from where I was sat, I’m not so sure.

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Feedback:

ON Sunday April 23, I took part in the run organised by Bury Mini Club. We left Bury St Edmunds and took a rural route to Aldburgh on the Suffolk coast and we all parked on the sea front.

We then took a diiferent route back ending up at the “Flying Fortress” pub at Thurston.

It rained on and off and this seemed to have had a deterrent affect on classic car owners. The only other classics I saw were as follows, a Bentley, a blue N-reg Princess wedge in Aldburgh itself (are you reading this?)

On the road we encountered several Farina saloons, a Jensen Healey, a MK2 Austin Mini and MGB GT in convoy and an Austin Healey 3000, and that was about it. Where was everybody?

IAN NICHOLLS


21 April 2006

MG Rover(tm). Why didn’t the ‘Phoenix Four’ use Austin or Morris too?

By SEBASTIAN MICHNOWICZ

IN response to Jack Yan’s entry of the 11th April 2006, I went to the trademark register website and had a poke around myself. It would seem that MG Rover owned the rights to Austin, Morris, the BMC name, and Wolseley (motor vehicles not Wolseley plc, obviously). I mention this because it doesn’t seem to me to be commmon knowledge amongst you BMC>Rover fans (though I could be wrong!) and it may have been an idea for the MG Rover bosses to have used one of the names to badge the smaller cars like the CityRover or the Rover 25 perhaps as Austin or Morris (maybe Wolseley for more upmarket versions) in order not to dilute the image of Rover as a prestige saloon car manufacturer or perhaps try to alter the company’s image to being that of one on a par with Audi or BMW.

It’s debateable, but a point I think worth considering. It can also be argued that there would be no brand devalutaion by badging the smaller cars as Rovers because BMW have the 1-Series and Mercedes-Benz the A-Class which are regarded as ‘prestige’, to a lesser or greater extent (more than the CityRover anyhow) but it has to be remembered that these manufacturers established their reputations building large, luxury saloons.

… what is the point of owning the rights to something and not using them?

Since the winding down of the Austin marque under Sir Graham Day during the British Aerospace days, it would seem that Rover underwent an identity crisis. Nobody seems sure of what a Rover is meant to be due to the wide range of cars bearing the name. The 75 is a beautiful car, the closest approximation to what a Rover is meant to be since the P6 and perhaps the SD1, but it looks out of place against a backdrop of 100s and R8s (good cars but purely Ford/Vauxhall territory).

That is essentially why the 75 depreciated so quickly – aesthetically wonderful but overall it was tarnished by the image of seemingly lesser goods. Had a different name be used for the smaller cars, Rover may have been able to re-establish itself as a manufacturer of large, luxury vehicles and shaken of the image of unreliability and poor quality it gained under BL. Keep your eyes peeled for top of the range Ford Mondeos usually designated by something like “Ghia, Ghia X, Titanium or Titanium X” emblazoned on the boot lid, and see how many you spot in comparison to the numbers of Jaguar X- or S-Types out on the road. Nobody with is going to buy a top of the range Ford when the same amount of money will get you a reasonably well equipped Jaguar, and this is the problem Rover had. Nobody is going to buy a 75 when sold alongside a CityRover, which carries the same badge, representing the same brand values but a test drive reveals it to be, at best, rubbish.

Over the past ten years there has been a boom in the sale of small cars, tempting youngsters like myself (I’m 19) with deals like one year’s free insurance, which may not have been economically viable for any proprietor of Rover, but it might have been possible to have dented the monopoly that was the Citroën Saxo with a pretty looking, small car, that didn’t carry the Rover name. The attitude people my age seem to have is that “Rover is to grandad, as Morris Minor is to cool and iconic”, despite production of the Minor ending nearly 40 years ago.

Apart from all this, what is the point of owning the rights to something and not using them? Rights are worth money, the Austin and Morris names could have been sold on (maybe with BMW’s permission, depending on whether they had any say in the matter, I’m not sure) to somebody in Britain or the Motor Heritage people for good money which could have gone towards the RDX60 project which is exactly what MG Rover needed to keep going.

On the point of ownership of the Rover name, it is owned by BMW. A clause in the sale agreement to Phoenix Venture Holdings said that they had the right to use the name for 50 years from the time of sale in 2000. The idea was that In 2050 Phoenix would pay back the £800 million loan given to them at which point the rights to the Rover name would either be relinquished by BMW or sold to them. In the case of bankruptcy, then BMW would take back the rights to the Rover name, which has what has happened, much to the annoyance of Nanjing Automotive, who apparently wants to use the Rover badge on its cars as Rover seems to have a good reputation in China (or so I have read).

NAC is not to happy with badging its cars MG, as the marque isn’t well known there, although it seems that is what it’s going to have to do, as they are up against some competition for the rights to the Rover name. Ford apparently are interested in buying, as it would reunite Rover with Land Rover, adding completeness to Ford’s portfolio. There are also the Anglophiles at BMW that want to hold on to the name; incidentally, BMW also owns the rights to the names Triumph (Motor Cars only) and Riley.

Not being able to use the Rover name, Nanjing are going to try and release the updated ZT model, badged as an MG, worldwide rather than in just China itself (which would be much cheaper). The idea with restarting production at Longbridge is to, of course, retain the marque’s heritage, rather than erode it (I’d rather be seen dead in an Austin Ambassador than driving a Chinese MG).

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Feedback:

ALL this talk about using old Marques is really ridiculous! Every time you introduce a new marque you create another product line needing launch, promotion, brochures, posters etc. advertising, image boosting activities, and incredible costs all round.

Worst of all though, you confuse the marketplace! What did the difference between Riley and Wolsey really mean to the man in the street? What differentiated Austin from Morris, where were the brand values laid down for Rover and Triumph?

Quite honestly all those names meant confusion and probably helped the eventual downfall of MG Rover.

One of the world’s most successful companies has just one brand name; BMW, covering everything from motorcycles to 4x4s and sports cars. Even the mighty Toyota only has one upmarket spin-off in Lexus.

Forget all those Marques and marketplace confusion, choose one, decide where it’s values are, develop fine engineering and designs on the chosen theme; then sell sell sell! You don’t need another marque to do a sporting model! Enhance the whole range with your sporty models and spend your promotion budget wisely on that brand.

This is what every successful company in the world does; it’s mad to dilute marketing efforts into different brands. Weak companies keep on old brands in fear of losing a few customers who like a certain names. They may keep that usually aging market, but they confuse the wider base of potential customer who go elsewhere, to brand they can understand!

ALEX MATHIAS


19 April 2006

I bloody love this site…

By KEITH ADAMS

JUST when you think you’ve heard it all, someone comes along and tells you something you simply didn’t know. Today’s blinding piece of information concerns CKD production, and although we have a hugely comprehensive list of what was built where, it comes as a genuine surprise to learn that BL was building cars in Malaysia.

As can be seen in today’s Have Your Say page, Mick Bruce has come up with some information new to us about car production in this far-flung part of the world. Now we know a bit, we’d obviously like to know more – so if you’re in possession of the story behind Malaysian production, drop us a line at the usual address and tell us all about it. Please…

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18 April 2006

New toy pleasantly surprises

By KEITH ADAMS

YOU know how it is – sometimes you can’t help but inherit cars, even if you know in your heart of hearts, you don’t really one. It kinda happened to me again – and right now, as a result of an idle conversation, I have a Nightfire Red Rover 620ti in my driveway…

Still don’t get me wrong, this is no bad thing. I’ve always been a fan of these T-Series turbos, and although I’ve generally gone down the 800 route, I’ve always admired the clean and simple styling of its smaller, less costly brother. I also like underdogs – and the 620ti is surely one of the most famous examples of this breed you can buy. It packs a healthy 197bhp, and yet, very few people know about it – and that means values are depressed, and street cred is almost non existant.

Don’t be too surprised if you start
hearing me preaching about these cars,
and how it’s a great time to buy…

So, when Brian Gunn offered me his after he decided to feed his long-held Jaguar ambition, logically I knew I should have said ‘no’ (I have an SD1 needing hundreds spending on it, an R8 that’s just had hundreds spent on it getting a new MoT, a Saab Turbo that eats tyres faster than an Italian devours pasta, an Alfasud that patiently awaits its escape from storage, and a part share in an X1/9 which desperately needs my ministrations on its clutch), but found myself saying ‘yes’ all the same…

After a bit of spit and polish, and a few miles on the road, I’m quietly impressed. Yes, it lacks that last few per cent of abilities that made the 800 Vitesse Coupe so impressive, but for a four-seater hold all which you can pick up today for less than £500, it’s a helluva a nice car… Brian might have grown bored of it, but I suspect it’ll do proud service in my household for a few months to come – maybe longer.

You see, I love Q Cars, and they don’t come much more effective than a de-badged 620ti…

Don’t be too surprised if you start hearing me preaching about these cars, and how it’s a great time to buy.

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13 April 2006

We’ll be back

By TIM BURGESS

SO here we all are a year on from the demise of MG Rover and I feel like s bit of a traitor to the cause. It was always my intention to sell my 75 this year, but a few advisories on the MoT and a bit of bodywork due to a hit and run, merely brought the decision forward a few months.

So, after nearly 44 years I now find myself without an Austin/Morris/Triumph/Rover somewhere in my life. Ironically this turn of events was brought about by going to look at an MG ZT, however, my head was turned by a temptress from the east and I ended up buying a Honda Accord Coupe. The ZT had 48k on the clock on a 52 plate, while the Accord had 19k on an X-Plate with a service book full of dealer stamps to verify the mileage, and was 2 grand cheaper; well, do the math, as they say.

I have always loved coupes and if MGR were still in business and the 75 Coupe had seen the light of day I am sure things might have been different. I would probably have done the work to the 75 gradually during the year and held on for the inevitable huge depreciation that afflicts big two-door Rovers to take its toll. After all, that’s what made the Sterling Coupe affordable to me a few years back. Now I console myself with the fact that Honda were, in my opinion, the best business partner that Rover ever had, producing most of the models that I hold in high regard. Perhaps I can even convince myself that what I’ve actually got on my drive is a 600 Coupe (another Rover might-have-been).

Perhaps I can even convince myself that
what I’ve actually got on my drive
is a 600 Coupe…

Every time I see another Copperleaf 75 I do feel a pang of sorrow, I miss the old thing. We did over 50,000 miles together in the two years I had the car and it never missed a beat. It was also one of the nicest places to be on four wheels, I didn’t even mind being stationary on the M4 for hours at a time. Not many cars can do that.

But what of the Honda? Well, it’s a superb drive, it looks great, the 2 litre Vtec makes a pleasant noise when pressed and the leather seats are very comfortable. It’s automatic and it has cruise control, so you can almost drive it with your brain turned off. But ultimately, it lacks one thing that the Rover had in spades and that’s class. I guess that’s why Rover sold so many more 600s than Honda ever sold Accords over here.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we rejoin the fold; probably with an MG TF to replace Elsa’s ageing MX-5. You never know, I might even buy myself a Tomcat just as a weekend toy, and to save it from the tender ministrations “Fast Car“ reading fraternity.

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12 April 2006

Getting the money shot

By KEVIN DAVIS

YOU’VE decided to sell your car and think that the best place to sell it is on eBay. Well, you’re probably right but don’t rush into it, take the time to list it accurately by following a few ideas that have served me well.

AutoTrader is a great way to sell your car for a fixed price, but you’re limited to only 40 or so words which means that you have to get to the point, which may not be a bad thing. But eBay allows you to elaborate so much that you can end up saying too much.

Don’t sit at the keyboard staring at a blank ebay listing description box wondering what to write as you’ll only forget loads of things about the car that may well be important and could help to sell it for more money. Spend a few days writing your description on Microsoft Word, keep updating it as you remember things and save it. Don’t exaggerate or lie and avoid words like mint – that could mean it’s got a hole in it! Once you’re happy with it just cut ‘n’ paste it into the description box on the ebay listing.

As for the pictures, people don’t want to see your lifestyle in the background; they want to see what you’re selling. If it’s 10.30 on a cold wintry night don’t dash outside and take a few quick snaps with your mobile phone of it parked in the street covered in ‘Police Aware’ stickers. Likewise don’t walk across the road and take a picture of the house with the car in the driveway – you’d be surprised how many pictures like these end up on ebay.

Give the car a good clean then take it to a local beauty spot or industrial estate and get some nice shots of the car, fill the frame with the car. You’ve only got space for six pictures on the listing so make them good ones, four of the exterior and two of the interior is a good balance, and don’t take them in direct sunlight, use the shade. Don’t bother with a picture of the engine bay – everyone knows where it is. And don’t take pictures of your Audi TT on your sister’s sink estate; do I need to say why?

Just a few things that can make your ebay listing painless and fun, basically it’s all about planning ahead. Of course, if you’re selling a 1970 Rover P5B that’s got a tree growing through the floor, disregard all of the above!

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11 April 2006

Rover TM: Who owns it?

By JACK YAN

QUICK checks today at the UK trademarks’ register.

Rover is owned by BMW for tricycles (class 12)—this is the old registration from 1884; and cars, cycles and land vehicles (also class 12), in a registration dating from 1906.

It’s also owned by BMW if Rover were to branch out into ‘flying machines’.

As far as I can tell, BMW has the name sewn up as far as the UK is concerned. The one that concerns us is the car marque. On September 15, an application to change the agent or address was received by the Patent Office (the TM33 form), but it’s not a form for a change of owner.

Interesting facts here include:
the Rover TM was owned by BLMC Ltd. until 1990;
the Rover TM was held by ARG and Rover until 2000 when it was then transferred into BMW ownership;
last year, Caterpillar became a licensee of the Rover name.

So for the UK, SAIC doesn’t appear to have the Rover name, and does not yet appear as a licensee under English law. Not sure how to search the German register, where I guess it would appear, too.

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10 April 2006

Drive it day!

By KEITH ADAMS

JUST a quick note to anyone who owns anything classic shaped out there.

This Sunday (April 23), sees the UK’s first national Drive It Day. Organised by the Federation of British Historic Vehicles Clubs (FBHVC), the plan is to encourage everyone who ows a classic car to use it on the roads on Sunday in order to show the wider world the sheer extent of the classic car scene in the UK.

It’s not a protest against anything – just an opportunity to show everyone the rich and interesting motoring heritage we have in the UK. And that’s something we’re keen to do here at www.austin-rover.co.uk.

So, if you drive something classic, interesting, or just plain old, please pull it out of the garage and take it for a spin on Sunday. There are a nuimber of organised events taking place across the UK, but you don’t have to do that if it’s not your bag…

For more information, go to the FBHVC website and click on the Drive It Day link…

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8 April 2006

Taming the ‘Ring?

By KEITH ADAMS

AFTER yesterday’s adventure in Essen, I thought it only fair to take a nice relaxing drive in the countryside.

So, being based about 30 miles from the Eifel mountains in Germany, it seemed only reasonable and right to take a quick drive to the Nuerburgring and see what all the fuss was about. I was lucky enough to bag a MINI Cooper for the drive out, and it seemed that a gentle cruise around the fabled circuit could be a great deal of fun.

When I arrived at the entrance to the Nordschleife, I was surprised by a couple of things: there were loads of Brits there, and my car was by far the least powerful in the queue to join the track.

Still, despite my reservations, I have to say the experience of lapping the track was possibly one of the most enjoyable of my motoring life, and even though I was in a 115bhp 1200kg MINI, it didn’t stop this little funster showing some of the bigger, more powerful cars there a thing or two in the twisty stuff…

Yep, if you ever get the chance to go, no matter how fast or slow your car is, go for it – you’ll never regret it.

I suspect my long-suffering passenger, Alexander Boucke might think differently though…

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7 April 2006

German fancies

By KEITH ADAMS

SPENT the day at what is billed as the World’s largest classic car show, the Techno-Classica in Essen, Germany.

It’s the second time I’ve been to this amazing event, and I have to say that it continues to impress deeply. Entrance costs are reasonably cheap, as is the parking, and once you get into the halls, I promise you’ll be blown away by the sheer scale of the thing…

The clubs area alone, matches the entire NEC Classic Motor Show, and that’s before you get to the manufacturer’s area and the autojumble stands.

For me, though, the deep joy in going to this show is the sheer number of cars there I’ve never seen before in the flesh. And when I say that I don’t mean the priceless Mercedes-Benz 540Ks, Gullwings or Bugatti Royales, but things such as mint and clean VW Polo Mk1s, Citroen Meharis and Renault 12s… for example. In fact, I think I must have shown my true colours at the show when rather than making for the expensive stuff when I first went in, I sought out a Lloyd micro-car to photograph…

Of course, there was a very strong British contingent there, and for many if you like Stags, Minors or Jag Mk2s, this was definitely the place to be. There were millions of the things.

In fact, it’s pretty obvious the Germans love our cars – there’s even a magazine there called ‘British Classic Cars’, which is packed full of our iconic motorcars.

I guess that raises the question: why didn’t they buy our cars when they were new?

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll see you at Essen next year…

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6 April 2006

Missing the market

By KEVIN DAVIS

THE iconic Volkswagen Golf GTi was the car that all manufacturers wanted to beat; it was the benchmark hot hatchback. Rover successfully managed to create a serious rival in 1991 with the launch of the R8 216GTi, but by 1997 the GTi scene wasn’t so good for Rover.

BMW’s bizarre marketing strategy for Rover in the late Nineties saw natural rivals being abandoned for the sector above, which meant that the 1996 Golf GTi was up against the smaller but more expensive Rover 200vi which, compared to the 1991 216GTi, was almost half hearted. The natural rival for the Golf GTi was the Rover 400 HH-R, which had the size and dimensions to be a credible rival but instead it was bizarrely pitched against the Mondeo class, which was a pretty tall order.

The 400’s natural rival was the Golf, so what sports saloon and hatch could Rover have produced from the rather dowdy 400 range? The 400’s were blessed with the 1.4 and 1.6 K-Series engines and though the 1.8 VVC would have been the ideal unit for a GTi rival it could only be found in the 200 range and MGF at that time.

It wasn’t until BMW’s departure in 2000
that we saw the full competence of the
400 as it morphed into the MG ZS…

The 2.0 litre T-Series engine was the biggest engine in the 400 range and was ideally suited to the car. Already blessed with anti-roll bars (no K-Series engined 400 had them) the 420 was reasonably well sorted; only slight tweaks to the suspension were really needed for a more sporty drive, and a sporty interior would’ve brought the 420 up to GTi specification.

Comparing the basic performance figures for the VW Golf 1.8GTi and the humble Rover 420Si it’s clear that Rover had a very competitive GTi chaser.

0-60 30-70 0-100
Rover 420 Si 8.6 seconds 8.5 seconds 26.3 seconds
Volkswagen Golf GTi 1.8 10.0 seconds 9.9 seconds 29.5 seconds

Sadly, BMW saw it differently and chose instead to market the Rover 400 as the car to ‘Relax’ in and let the expensive for its size 200 Series do all the work in the GTi market. If the potential of any model in the Rover range wasn’t fully realised it’s the 400 Series. It wasn’t until BMW’s departure in 2000 that we saw the full competence of the 400 as it became the MG ZS range. It’s a shame that we had to wait until 2001 for a credible performance version of the Rover 400 that was launched in 1995, albeit an MG. Just another missed opportunity thanks to BMW.

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Feedback:

I THINK it wrong to blame BMW for Rover’s confused marketing in the mid-Nineties. The decision to market the 200 as an Escort/Golf rival and new (HHR) 400 as a Mondeo rival had been made well before the BMW takeover, with the cars coming to market only 12 months later.

BMW’s mistake was to trust Rovers management to make a go of things and simply throw money at them whilst maintaining only a light touch on the tiller. That and the impact of a highly valued pound began a rapid downward spiral that lead to BMW pulling the plug on the English patient in 2000.

PAUL HAMPSON

I have just read Paul Hampson’s feedback to the “Missing the market” blog and see that the strength of the Pound is again being given as (at least partial) reason for BMW dumping Rover.

I may be missing something blindingly obvious here, but if this was a major factor, why did BMW retain a factory and go on to produce the MINI here? Isn’t subject to the same economic laws as Rover? If BMW saw that the pound would weaken sufficiently to make MINI production viable here, presumably it would also have had the same effect on Rover?

RICHARD STOBBS

BMW was indeed foolish to thwart any sporting ambitions for Rover; a four-door 420 Vitesse would have had offered something rather more subtle and mature than hatchback rivals and would have fitted nicely beneath the 3-Series.

Sadly, it was not only BMW to blame for the neglect of the Vitesse brand. In the Nineties, Rover’s range included a GTA (surely the Metro GTA/GTi would have sold like hot cakes with an MG badge), GTi, Vitesse, Ti and Vi, and a sports car called MG. Typical of the confused marketing which eventually killed the company.

With hindsight, perhaps the MGR ‘Zed’ Cars should have been badged Rover Vitesse. The Zeds never caught on outside of the UK and instead of creating a halo effect for their Rover cousins, they actually achieved opposite effect, defining Rover as dull.

My advice to Nanjing would be – flog MG while it’s still worth something, snap up the Rover brand for a bargain price, and start punting out the baby Bentleys overseas markets expect.

New MG saloons could provide a viable alternative Alfa or BMW, but everyone makes stiff riding cars with dark interiors these days, Rover offered a genuine choice.

Leave MG for sports cars, bring back Rover, this time with a Bulldog Drummond of a Vitesse to cater for press-on types (and to keep sweet today’s me-too motoring journalists, with their single-track minds).

IAN WALTON


5 April 2006

Thank you all

By KEITH ADAMS

WE’VE been running our site’s statistics audit software now for long enough to get a good feel for how many people are coming to the website and what it is they’re looking at…

One thing that surprises me is just how many of you there are out there!

The figure in the results page that really reveals how many people come and visit is the one that reports how many unique hosts there are that visit us. And within the space of a day, that figure seems to be hovering around the 6000 mark (can that be extrapolated to 160,000 per month?) If we’re really getting that many readers per day then it proves that MG Rover might have been in trouble for a long time, and its cars of questionable ability in the current market, but there’s a huge number of people out there who care enough to log-in and find out more about the subject.

It’s getting close to a year since MG Rover fell into administration, and the situation at Longbridge remains as dodgy now as it did then – yes, Nanjing wants to build cars there, and the MG and Rover marque names look set for a Chinese revival, but the fact of the matter is the company has effectively been moribund for a year now, and yet public interest remains as strong now as it always did.

It’ll be interesting to see how things change – and in what way once the Chinese cars start coming online. One thing is for sure, times are changing, and we’ll be here to make the facts get reported as they should be.

And by the look of it, so will 6000 of you – every day…

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4 April 2006

Should we open a new gallery?

By KEITH ADAMS


Sophie Ellis-Bextor easily overshadows the car she’s modelling – some MG TF or another.

I’VE been ambushed by a bulging inbox.

Thanks to Ian Nicholls’ blog below, it would seem that the cult of celebrity pervades even the readers of austin-rover.co.uk… I must admit that I’m not really one for popular culture, and although I enjoy a good bit of radio, and even the odd film or two, I’m not one for ‘faces’…

Having said that, there are plenty of people out there who do, and more power to them, I say, So, the question needs to be asked – should we start a gallery of stars and their cars? Featuring nothing but the cars enjoyed on this site, would a gallery like this be an appreciated addition to the site? And do you have lots of pictures we can use?

If you are in possession of pictures like this which you feel would look good on our site, or simply have an opinion on such things, please get in touch

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Feedback:

LIKE yourself, I’m not one for ‘faces’ either.

I did find ‘Lennon and the Maxi’ very interesting though as I already knew about the accident from Mark Lewishon’s very interesting book on the complete history of the Beatles’ recording sessions. What really surprised me was that there was a Maxi involved!

This site provides a welcome respite from all things ‘celebrity related’ and it would be nice for it to remain so. However, if there’s a picture out there of Raquel Welch in a 1750ss Allegro or indeed a 18/22 Series then I might be converted…

JIM GRAY

I WOULD prefer the site to stay free from so called celebrities and their cars, they all ready occupy to much media space. This site is great just as it is.

ASHLEY MICKLEWRIGHT

Re: ‘Sophie Ellis-Bextor easily overshadows the car she’s modelling – some MG TF or another.
Quote: “I’ve been ambushed by a bulging inbox.”

What a terrible affliction – but what did Sophie Ellis-Bextor say next! We’re all agog!

PAUL REID

The website is excellent, I do not know how many hours I have spent reading and re reading the articles. It is my favourite site, I get so engrossed I cannot pull myself away sometimes.

Please do not spoil it with celebrity pics, they just spoil it.

The kind of people that like celebrity pics are not going to appreciate the development story of the Mini etc. Thanks for an excellent site. I must have visited this thing hundreds if not thousands of times since 2001.

IAIN McLAUGHLAN


3 April 2006

Lennon and the Maxi

By IAN NICHOLLS

IT is well known that all four Beatles owned Mini Coopers, but it appears that John Lennon briefly owned an Austin Maxi. The original 1485 cc engined Austin Maxi complete with its dire cable gearchange, was launched in Portugal in May 1969 to lukewarm reviews.

Sometime between the launch and 29th June 1969 an example was purchased by John Lennon and his new wife Yoko Ono. In this day and age it seems laughable that a member of the world’s biggest musical act would buy a mundane car such as the Austin Maxi – it would be like a member of Coldplay or U2 buying a Rover 25!

We live in an age when Premiership football players have no qualms about buying exotic supercars and flaunting their wealth. However, on the 29th June, John, Yoko, his son Julian and her daughter Kyoko (from her first marriage to Anthony Cox) began a motoring holiday of Scotland.

The Beatles were about to embark on their final batch of recording sessions that would result in the album “Abbey Road”. However John Lennon would be absent from these sessions until 7th July 1969. This was because he had a serious car accident in the newly purchased Austin Maxi on July 1st 1969. The Lennons had visited one of John’s aunts in Durness, Sutherland but disaster struck in or around Golspie that day.

In this day and age it seems laughable
that a member of the world’s biggest
musical act would buy a mundane car
such as the Austin Maxi…

According to one source John Lennon lost control of the Maxi and drove into a ditch. The occupants were taken to the Lawson Memorial Hospital where John had 17 stitches for a facial wound, Yoko had 14 stitches and Kyoko had four. Julian Lennon suffered from shock. All four were detained in hospital.

The following day Julian’s mother and John’s first wife Cynthia, reportedly angry, travelled up to Scotland to take her son back to London. On July 6th 1969 the Lennon’s left hospital and flew back to London in a specially chartered helicopter that departed from the front lawn of the Lawson Memorial Hospital. The use of a helicopter was more in keeping with the image of a top rank rock star than an Austin Maxi.

On August 8th 1969 the Lennons moved into their new mansion , “Tittenhurst Park” in Ascot.

According to many sources Lennon later had his Austin Maxi crushed into a cube and exhibited it on his lawn at Tittenhurst Park, which eventually passed into the ownership of Ringo Starr in 1973 – after the Lennons left Britain on September 3rd 1971.

In the case of John it was for good.

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Feedback:

Here is former bassist Bill Wyman and his MGB!

Love the site here in Texas.

JAMES

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.

1 Comment on "Blogs : April 2006"

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  1. Paul says:

    In response to that comment long ago re the value of the pound – If your selling a premium product at a premium price as BMW/MINI is, currency fluctuations are easier to deal with than if your wading about at the bottom of the market, forced to offer savage discounts to shift an ageing model range with little appeal

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