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Blogs : December 2004

30 Dec 2004

New 2007 CityRover


HOW the motoring world has moved on since 1959 and the Issigonis Mini.

What was once different and progressive (transverse engine, front wheel drive) has become the accepted way to build small or medium-sized saloon cars, unless your name is BMW. Suspension has also improved beyond recognition. The original Mini’s innovative and space saving rubber cones may have represented a huge advance over the Fifties obsession with live rear axles and cart springs (Citroen’s Hydropneumatic system excepted), but today, a well sorted and simple coil spring arrangement produces a ride quality and handling balance not dreamt of 45 years ago.

So, a new CityRover for 2007 – it will need to offer something unique.

Will Dr Alex Moulton return from Toyota to design a brand new Hydragas? Will MGR’s tradition of innovative design shine through? The new car’s heritage is impressive, but if it is to be sold on the Indian subcontinent as a TATA, it will have to be easy to maintain without recourse to main dealerships. And that probably means steel suspension.

Equally, if it is to be sold in Britain and Europe to compete with the likes of the Fiat Panda, Renault Modus and Mitsubishi Colt it will need to be very well sorted in the chassis department, spacious inside and a great drive. It has to complete with or even surpass the competition, but if there’s one thing that sets MGR apart from other manufacturers, it is their ability to produce well sorted cars on a shoestring budget.

MGR will be very alive to the challenge ahead, and once more, we’ll all have to keep our fingers crossed that it goes to plan. Selling the current CityRover in mainland Europe will surely allow them to gauge the market. And maybe, just maybe, the BMW MINI will produce some kind of halo effect, allowing MGR to be successful.

Let’s hope so.

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29 Dec 2004

Staples2Naples 2005


ANOTHER year has nearly passed by, and it is time to look at what we’re going to be doing in 2005. One thing is for certain, Staples2Naples will be featuring in the schedule for September/October, and although we have yet to decide on a car, or who is going, but one thing I know is for sure – we’re going to enjoy ourselves…

If you have a few hundred quid spare, and have the chance to take a week off at the start of October, and feel the need to go sightseeing, this is a must – assuming your £100 car will actually get you there in one piece. We were very lucky, because we took a Honda powered Rover, with new brakes and clutch, and knew we could shurug off everything thrown at us – if anything, it was too easy.

This year, I thrashed the passes I drove
so much, I missed every amazing backdrop.
I did pat myself on the back for
overtaking countless cars, though.
Talk about missing the point…

2005 will see some changes though – day one will be the only day where we’ll be going fast (and I mean VERY fast) to cover distance – day two, three and four will be taken at a more sedate pace, so I can actually see some of that beautiful scenery we drove through. This year, I thrashed the passes I drove so much, I missed every amazing backdrop… even if I did pat myself on the back for overtaking countless cars. Talk about missing the point…

So next year – slower and more photography!

We’ve decided we are going to try and win it next year, and this poses some interesting questions. For one, we should go for a big turbodiesel, and cut down on the fuel stops… but then I think to myself, ‘what fun would that be?’

Decisions, decisions…

Good job there’s still ten months to go!

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For information about Staples2Naples, check out the official website:, but also check out our own story of the 2004 event…

28 Dec 2004

CityRover: It’s heading for Germany


MAY 2005 will see the launch of the CityRover in Europe’s toughest market – Germany. It will be interesting to see how German buyers actually take to the Indian built Rover – after all, we have plenty of German bloggers on this site, who keep telling us one of the most important aspects of Rover to them is its ‘Britishness’. Take that attribute away, and what are we left with?

Going on its British market form, it is fair to say the Germans might not take to the CityRover too well…

But hang on a second – will MG Rover learn from the lessons hard earned here in the UK? Can it introduce the CityRover for little money, and improve the quality? Were these the only barriers to its success in the UK? In Germany, MG Rover has less of the emotional baggage it has here in the UK, as it has been a bit part player for many years – and that means it can have the confidence to intoruduce it at an absolutely bargain basement without the fear of polluting the marque (as it has a tiny market share anyway)…

That would seem the way forward, but bearing in mind, the company is pushing the 75/ZT over there, and it is finding German Anglophiles who feel Jaguar’s current range is a little contrived, the bargain basement could still prove to be a risky place to be…

Still, it is nice to have a car in this sector of the market as there is considerable interest in it, thanks to the launch of the Brazilian Volkswagen Fox, and Renault-Dacia Logan. CityRover is set to be pitched at under 9000 Euros, and that puts it bang in the middle… And let’s face it, only a few small changes would transform this car…

Lessons learned, it could do well… here’s keeping out fingers crossed.

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27 Dec 2004

My BL Wedding


ON THE eve of the 30th anniversary of those two exceptional but underrated Harris Mann wedges, I’m pleased to say that both played major roles at my wedding, on the 25th September in Oxford.

I was driven by my best man to the church in my 1980 TR7 (sadly the weather didn’t allow for the roof to be down) where we waited for my bride, Rachel, to arrive in my 1978 Princess 1800 HL. Our driver was Anthony Webber, an original Mini enthusiast whose 1972 metallic pink convertible was also present as was my uncle’s Wolseley 15/50 and my Dad’s wedgewood blue Rover 75 V6. An impressive cavalcade you must admit, much to the annoyance of my bother whose impressively modern Audi A4 convertible was relegated to further back in the convoy.

The Princess makes a perfect wedding car with just the right amount of chrome, ‘opulent velour’ and all that space. But it nearly couldn’t take part: while being serviced for the happy day a passing lorry caused a stone to smash the rear window. Top Austin Rover specialist Adrian Fell in Aylesbury scoured the land for a replacement but none was to be found so he replaced it with the one from his own car – now that’s what I call service!

On another note – I’m writing a Princess anniversary piece for the Oxford Times next year. The angle the paper wants is to see how many Oxfordshire based Princesses we can call upon. If you’re interested please let me know.

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22 Dec 2004

CityRover: what’s needed?


GOOD News about the CityRover appears to have been pretty thin on the ground as of late, at least in comparison to the news about the rest of the Rover line-up.

It has been pretty well agreed on, and in the press that what’s needed is a simple programme of price reductions across the range perhaps accompanied by an improved spec sheet. Those who might have expected such an announcement when it was stated that the rest of the Rover range was going to receive similar treatment last week might have both been a little disappointed and confused.

Quite simply little appears to have gone smoothly for MGR with regards to the CityRover story to date. The disappointing sales appear to have driven home the message that its time for some changes, yet nothing happened. The reason behind this might be that MGR have been locked in bitter discussions with Tata (who supplies the CityRover) over who should foot the cost of adding better equipment and charging a lower price.

It has even been reported that Tata intends on pulling the plug and ending the deal, still with very little appearing to have happened.

Until today that is!

Perhaps these improvements will be what’s
needed to make the CityRover more appealing
to the great British public.

Whoever has ended up footing the bill for adding extra value to the CityRover, must be hoping that reducing the prices by £500 per model will do the trick and encourage people to buy CityRover’s in greater numbers. Certainly more than the current 6000 per annum at least. Initial reports suggest that the starting price will drop to £5995 and see ABS, PAS and a driver’s airbag as standard. The mid models cost £6995 and the top models now cost £7995.

Over 50 improvements have been made; including improved interior trim materials and a doubling of the service intervals from 6000 to 12,000 miles. Perhaps these improvements will be what’s needed to make the CityRover more appealing to the great British public. Perhaps they won’t, and buyers will forever see the CityRover as being a poor quality product that is overpriced.

However £5995 doesn’t seem too bad for a cheap new car, especially compared with the likes of Peroduas and even the once trendy but now ageing Ford Ka.

Certainly the new prices must have an effect upon residual values of existing CityRovers, and it might just be possible to bag a used bargain!

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21 Dec 2004

Merry Christmas, happy New Year…

TO ALL OF the readers, who have enjoyed, offered their support, and added their input, may I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year…

The site wouldn’t be the same without you all.

See you in 2005!

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20 Dec 2004

De-retroing the 75


GETTING gack to one of the more lively discussion themes on this website and forum, I have now removed the ‘retro’ features from the exterior of the Rover 75, corrected the strange front-bumper gap-lines and added a dark-grey colouring of the lower end, as per the then-new Audi A4, A6 and some BMW had (and the Rover 800 Coupe)…

I can’t see the car look retro anymore, it just shows that the basic shape was looking very modern a few years back.

…and here’s a 75 dashboard bereft of its retro-style dials. Or maybe not…

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16 Dec 2004

Something positive?


PERHAPS at long last there is some positive news beginning to emanate not only from MG Rover, but also from the Midlands car industry.

After the announcement of the imminent closure of Jaguar’s historic Brown’s lane factory it looked like things couldn’t get much worse for Coventry.
Unfortunately they did, once again thanks to Ford controlled Jaguar.

Midlands today have just announced that Jaguar are pulling their investment out from the regeneration of Coventry, and taking their name away from the new stadium. The regeneration is reported to require around £130m and Jaguar were to have played a pivotal role by being one of the largest investors. Not any more.

However, Midlands today also reported on news from that other (once) prestige Midlands based manufacturer, Rover. For a nice change the news was relatively upbeat and the news team were supportive!

The main report was on the large scale loss in sales this year, predicting that the year end total will be around 120,000 cars, and the subsequent imminent reduction in prices on Rover cars along with improved specifications.

Fancy leather upholstery, electric seats and GPS SatNav as standard?
Well, you get them all in a Rover 75 Connoisseur SE according to the salesman.

And here in lies my comment about a supportive news team. The salesman was asked to make a pitch to viewers, in order to persuade them to at least consider visiting their local Rover showroom.

On that note, the report mentioned that MGR are increasing their dealership network from the current 260 to just over 300. It was then suggested that MGR would hardly be doing this if there were not new cars on the way to sell, and that this was perhaps the most tangible sign that Chinese money is on its way to Longbridge.

Well, even if the news from Coventry is pretty grim at present and Jaguars’ reputation within the Midlands is suffering, at least MGR are now making an effort.

Whilst the report that there were six to eight visitors at Longbridge, who didn’t want to be interviewed, may ordinarily not have raised interest the fact that they were all of Chinese origin might raise a smile or two!

Well, even some of the Longbridge workforce were pleased with the news emanating from the factory at present and predicted a happy Christmas.

On that note: Merry Christmas everyone!

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14 Dec 2004

An MG Rover showroom near Marble Arch..? With its reputation?

By Stuart Beveridge

MY FAMILY and I have just came back from an exciting, but very expensive weekend, in London! It is always an experience to see just how quickly the UK’s capital changes – literally by the month! One excellent addition to the most exclusive part of the West End has to be MG Rover’s new premises. Its new showroom has literally pushed Mercedes-Benz out of pole position in Park Lane, and now the embattled company has a sparkling new – well 6 month old – showroom, plumb in the centre of swinging international London!

It is an excellent opportunity for all MG Rover Fans to drop in to see, and sit the its latest models – all at your own leisure, and with very friendly and helpful staff to boot. There is no evidence of high pressure “flog em at any price” salesmen. As a bonus, there are even for-sale notices of ex-works demonstrators, offered at much reduced prices… Not something one usually associates with Park Lane.

A second bite of the cake? My view of the Rover 75 V8 has certainly changed after seeing it in the flesh. It certainly has tremendous potential and could become an excellent basis for a new ‘range’ of 75s, with rear wheel drive and a new range of petrol and diesel engines, a new dashboards, and that 6-speed double-clutch gearbox I keep hearing about…

The MG XPower SV is a smasher, but I hope the later versions have higher metal quality MG badging, and not the tacky cheap plastic ones I saw on this model.

Take advantage of the chance to visit the showroom, if you are Christmas Shopping at Selfridges or Harrods, with the family, and nip off for a couple of hours to visit the showroom (Marble Arch tube station) – It has excellent leather sofas, and its a chance to relax from the hustle and bustle of London’s West End!

Safety Fast and Happy Motoring in 2005

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13 Dec 2004

What does 2005 hold in store?

ONE thing is for sure – 2005 will be a year of anniversaries. In March, the Princess will celebrating its 30th birthday, and it is a good bet a few car magazines will be celebrating the event with a raft of retrospective articles. I suspect most will actually be pretty flattering (at long last), because it is now time for the bullshit to stop – the Princess was – still is – a good car, and it is about time it was given due credit in the mass media.

Strengthening values on eBay of late already show us the age of the four-figure Princess is well and truly with us, and before long, we could see it being elevated to SD1 levels of status in classic circles.

I think it deserves it…

Before then, the TR7 also hits the same milestone, and it is an interesting phenonemon. Still not quite accepted by die-hard Triumph aficionadoes, the TR7 is seen as more of a BL car than a Triumph, and to be fair, this perception is correct. But does that make it any lesser of a sports car? Of course not! It may be a bit weak and limp-wristed in 2-litre form, but it still possesses a certain magic in the way it feels to drive. It possesses that certain something – a quality we call the ‘Spen King factor’.

Allow me to elaborate. It rides well, has firm, but beautifully damped suspension and deep down, it has the feeling of a well-engineered precision instrument. Despite its short wheelbase, you still flow this car around corners in the way you do an SD1 (a car it shares many of its design principles with) – and although at the time of its launch, the press marked it down for not being sporty enough (a euphamism for ‘it doesn’t possess set-in-concrete suspension settings’) it has a delicacy of response that belies its heavy handed looks.

Strengthening Princess values on eBay of
late already show us the age of the four-
figure Princess is well and truly with us,
and before long, we could see it being
elevated to SD1 levels of status
in classic circles…

The idea of a TR7 being precisely engineered might jarr with anyone who suffered from Speke build quality, but that precision was more about design and engineering, rather than assembly. A true test of a classic is how well it weathers the sands of time – and the TR7 has aged extremely well – a convertible in a bright metallic colour, riding on alloy wheels still looks contemporary – to my eyes anyway.

That’s history, what about the present?

It is fair to say MG Rover’s PR department is now well and truly on the offensive – and with more young blood joining the team early next year, it should go from strength to strength. We’ll finally get some marketing, too. 2005 will also see the SAIC/MGR joint venture sealed, and we should soon begin to see a number of small, but significant product launches, before the arrival of the big gun RD/X60 late in 2006.

The 75 could receive a new dashboard, and will perhaps lose its retro dials (that only I seem to like), but more importantly, we’ll finally see evidence of significant investment at Longbridge. If the robots start going in to Longbridge at the end of the year, we’re looking at RD/X60 finally becoming reality.

I can’t wait.

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10 Dec 2004

The Rise and fall of Rover in Spain

By Rafael Neira Márquez

LAST Monday, I was sitting in my car, waiting at the traffic lights. I saw one of the three MG Rover dealers in my city (Sevilla, in the South of Spain). It was closed. The showroom was empty, save for a few “Nuevo Rover 45” posters in the walls. Another poster on the showroom window said, ‘For Rent’.

Then I remembered 1991. I was 15, and It was the year my father decided to buy a new car. One hot day in July, we entered the showroom to see the Montego 2.0 EFI. My father was delighted to see electric windows, mirrors, sunroof, the walnut in the dashboard, that upmarket upholstery, the elegant lines of the body. He was almost convinced, but in the end some ‘friends’ told him the Montego was unreliable, difficult to resell, and suffered from heavy fuel consumption. In the end, he bought a Renault 21, and to make matters worse, it was the non-turbo Diesel one.

A lot of Spaniards thought differently to my father. Many bought Rover 200s, Montegos, and even 800s. In 1991, Rover sold almost 16,000 cars in Spain, with the best seller being the 200. Perhaps it doesn’t seem like a massive number of cars to sell, but Rover España became the third best selling importer, behind Fiat, Volkswagen and equalling BMW.

The beginning of the Nineties was a profitable time to be a Rover dealer.

Back in the Seventies and early Eighties, BL dealers in Spain were few and far between. They sold the rather strange BL portfolio (Metro, XJS, Range Rover, TR7, SD1 Turbo Diesel all in the same showroom?) to a few people. Then, in the mid Eighties, the Montego was launched, and although Spaniards didn’t find the Maestro appealing (would you buy an Austin ‘Master/Teacher’?), they liked the conservative, but classy and well balanced lines, of the four door saloon.

In 1987, you could buy an MG Montego 2.0 EFI for the same price as a Sierra 2.0i, and get a much better equipped car (with four electric windows, a sunroof and even air conditioning). 13,512 people bought a car from Austin Rover that year. Sales were on the way up, with the 200 series proving the favourite. Strong sales continued into the Nineties, with the 100 series and the ‘modern-classic’ 800 joining the range; nearly 35,000 Rover 200s were sold until 1995, the year of its demise.

You can still see them in our cities, their paintwork now looking a bit patchy (summer Spanish sun), Rover badges having disappeared long ago. But in alll cases, the are still going strong – their Rover K–Series and Honda engines happily buzzing away.

The trouble continued: at the launch of
the 75, people still perceived Rovers to
be unreliable cars. Considered expensive
to fix, their resale values languished at
the bottom of their class. All this,
twenty five years after the Austin 1100s,
the Victorias, the SD1s…
the dark years of BL.

After a few good years, everything started to go wrong. Just as it was back in the UK, the 600’s sales proved disappointing. Despite generally good reviews in the Spanish press, sales melted away. The same happened with the 400. Only the 200 gave Rover any reason to be hopeful, as the 100 and the 800 were, by this point in time, long since dead.

The trouble continued: at the launch of the 75, people still perceived Rovers to be unreliable cars. Considered expensive to fix, their resale values languished at the bottom of their class. All this, twenty five years after the Austin 1100s, the Victorias, the SD1s – the dark years of BL.

Today, in Spain, MG Rover sales could be worse, but they’re not what they used to be. I have been surprised to see a reasonable number of new 45s on the roads, and the MG ZR has a following. But, I reckon they are cheap here, and that is the root cause of relatively strong sales (a 45 costs 13,000 euros with air-conditioning). I don’t doubt the 75 V8 is a great car, one that is enormusly appealing to me, but apart from a bunch of dyed in the wool petrolheads, no one wants a big-engined petrol car nowadays.

In Spain, 60 per cent of all new cars sold are diesels.

Still, I feel optimistic. Firstly, the 45 replacement looks fantastic; secondly, the new Roadster plan seems possible; thirdly, MG Rover hasn’t brought the CityRover here.

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9 Dec 2004

The Phoenix Masterstroke

By ‘OldChap’, forums

I HAVE been annoying some old contacts and found some new information which you may be interested in, you may recall my first impression of the recent announcement by MG Rover of the Joint Venture with SAIC was one of disappointment. It seemed all had value within the MG Rover company had been sold off or merged into the newest, and most desperate survival plan, leaving but a shell of a business, four rich businessmen and BMW still waiting for repayment of that interest free loan.

Those critical components that made the company are gone, the real estate of Longbride sold, the parts division sold, the rights to the Rover 75 platform and production line, K-series engine range, MG and Rover trademarks all placed in the hands of new Chinese dominated Joint Venture. What is left of MG Rover? Well nothing, that’s what, however after some consideration and a frank conversation with regular at Studley Castle I found that maybe I had missed the point, let cynicism rule over, as it’s not what’s left of MG Rover but what exists of the company that John Towers and co. formed back in 2000 – Phoenix.

Is MG Rover is dead but not buried, sacrificed so that Phoenix has a future?

What is in Phoenix’s future? it has is 30 per cent of the new Joint Venture and at first glance little else, but John Towers has consistently and categorically enforced the line that the SAIC – Phoenix/MG Rover JV is not a take over by the Chinese but a series of agreements that will leave MG Rover stronger and still independent. I believe that John Towers is an honest man and although it is not unknown that creative use of the English language can be used the fool the unwary I feel compelled to believe the Phoenix line.

Giving MG Rover and her ancestor’s generally tight lipped approach to business and reluctance to build display show cars, the recent timing of unveiling of concept cars and aggressive SAIC deal PR campaign at first looked contrived, but now I not so sure, is it possible that Phoenix is actually getting its PR act together?

The troubling question was what is MG Rover/Phoenix part to play in this JV with SAIC beyond the short term? Temporary design center and minor licensed assembly operation? Well no it has been stated by John Towers that the recent agreement for technology transfer to SAIC – which has widely been taken to be the use of the K-Series and Rover 75 production cars – is only one element of a potentially greater partnership and that the Chinese are soon to place large capital investments in MG Rover which again is widely assumed to be for Longbridge to finalize the Rover 45/ZS replacement car and hand it over to the JV thus removing the final hope of independence as it currently exists.

Is Longbridge’s only future destined to be a builder of 200,000 cars a year from this JV as has been quoted? I don’t believe so, CAB1 & 2 could easily ramp up to produce 300,000-400,000 cars a year with Powertrain producing the lion’s share of the engines too, and even if this figure is true with Phoenix owning 30 per cent of the company that is producing 800,000 cars in China the royalties from which must amount to a substantial number indeed, is that money going to line the pockets of the Phoenix shareholders or placed into the operations at Longbridge?

So what does Phoenix posses that is not tied up in this JV?, well Longbridge is under a fairly long term lease so walking away would be costly, the Powertrain business and the land it resides on still belong to Phoenix, even if the rights to the K-Series does not. Then there are collaborations with various transmissions and engine technology companies at home and aboard that have recently announced, they would seem costly and pointless agreements if Phoenix were to looking to sell out, the Tata deal from which the CityRover car was created still has a contractual period outstanding, and the MG TF & SV platforms are all outside the deal as far as can be fairly accurately assumed, agreed most of these ventures or collaborations are fairly minor but why bother with them if they were only to complicate a takeover?

If Phoenix was able to do this introduce
a new sports car, it would have no choice
but to re-launch any non-JV product under
another brand name; the strongest in the
available portfolio to Phoenix is Austin.
Now Austin-Healey starts to make more
sense as the halo sports car for Phoenix.

Although not generally a listener of rumour mill, some time ago several semi-official reports of re-launching brand names from the past were circulating which coincided with reports of MG Rover purchasing the rights or use of various names from British Motor Heritage. Then along came the purchase of a couple of vintage cars from the Gaydon collection which gave rise to some speculation in enthusiast circles of what might be upcoming.

Now recent speculation concerning the impending revival of the Austin-Healey brand is occurring, which is perhaps true; if only result of other conditions. That is to say that it may play a supporting role only, not centre stage. For example with the reported sale of amongst other things both MG and Rover trademarks to the new SAIC-Phoenix Joint Venture company, the question remains what would Phoenix have left to do business with if they could not use MG or Rover brands?

With advance royalty payments arriving from China, Phoenix has some renewed potential to engineer a unconventional recovery, as Phoenix has completely outside the terms of the JV maintained control of its established, effective and imaginative design team, which is in the process of engineering a small, medium, large and sports car designs and derivatives for the JV.

What does this mean for the company based at Longbridge? The answer, I have learnt, is to create a sister company to MG Rover to engineer and launch (initially) niche models outside the JV using the underutilized facilities at Longbridge, providing yet more evidence of the gritty stamina and tenacious longevity that has been a trademark of group over the years.

If Phoenix were able to do this (the SAIC has yet to be formally agreed) it would have no choice but to re-launch any non JV product under another brand name; the strongest in the available portfolio of Phoenix is Austin, now Austin-Healey starts to make more sense as the halo sports car for the brand, as does the limited 200,000 figure from the projected production for JV range from Longbridge, allowing the Phoenix’s new Austin subsidiary to develop in parallel with this JV.

I don’t think this view is particularly overly optimistic but what I hear its a plan that is already making headway.


This raises a number of interesting possibilities, but certainly adds flesh to the bones of the Austin-Healey rumour doing the rounds at the moment. If Phoenix can operate successfully outside of the SAIC/MG Rover joint venture, then there are many exciting possibilites.

Roll on the new British Motor Corporation!


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8 Dec 2004

The new Midget – what it should be.


IN THESE days of EPAS, ABS, EBD, ATC, electric windows and A/C on everything, it occurred to me that if MGR has a new Midget is in the planning stages, it should avoid all of these trinkets. If not, it could screw the new car up, badly, very badly.

Let me explain. I happen to own an Mk1 Austin-Healey Sprite and a very early Mk3 1500 Midget, and have helped restore both an MG TB Midget and a PA Midget. All of them were as basic as basic could be, in terms of specification (ignoring the 1500, which was a cheap botch-up to a 1958 car in order to allow it to comply with US regulations). Importantly, though, they were very well thought out driving machines.

The standard Spridgets were much better cars to drive than the MGB ever was. They had a much better in competition history than their bigger brothers. Midgets also have one more thing in their favour: they are very easy to work on, and everything is easily accessible (again ignoring the 1500, an engine it was not designed to have).

So what should the new Midget be like?

Well, it should have nothing in the way of power assistance – just like the original versions. Not even a brake servo. Safety equipment should be the absolute minimum Type Approval laws will allow. The car should also be a modifiers dream – it should be easy to replace any part with an uprated version (aftermarket or otherwise). With the current fashion of car modding, maybe MGR should revive the ‘special tuning’ division and tap into this market.

Ease of access makes a mid-mounted engine almost impossible, and is the main reason I say any new Midget should not have a mid-mounted engine. Unless, of course, it is designed for the entire rear end to lift up, wings and all.

So whatever the new Midget will be, it should be cheap, very simple, and easy to take apart and put back together.

One other thing, it should use the Morris minor steering rack!

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Is the world ready for something quite so minimalist?


7 Dec 2004

Stretching the brand


FOLLOWING BMW’s takeover of Rover in 1994, Bernd Pischetsrieder expressed a wish to see Triumph and Riley return. Apparently a bit of an Anglophile, he may well have been letting his imagination run away. BMW retained the Triumph and Riley rights, so they are no longer MGR brands.

But I wonder if they would be willing to license the Riley name (perhaps the weaker of the two) back to MGR, as indeed they have for Rover? With a whole new Asian market in prospect, courtesy of the Chinese, could the name resurface?

Potential MGR line-up:

CityRover: three door hatch

Rover 25: three door hatch (Streetwise discontinued)
MG ZR Rover 25-based three door hatch
Riley 4/130 Rover 25-based Coupe and convertible

Rover 45: five door hatch
MG ZS/160 Rover 45-based three door hatch
Riley 4/160 Rover 45-based Coupe and convertible

Rover 55: five door hatch, estate
MG ZS/200 Rover 55-based hatch (to include 6 cyl variants?)
Riley 4/200 Rover 55-based Coupe and convertible

Rover 75: four door saloon, estate
MG ZT/ZTT Rover 75-based saloon and estate car
Riley 6/250 Rover 75-based Coupe and convertible

Rover 75: V8 Four-door saloon
Riley 8/300 Rover V8-based Coupe and Convertible

MG Midget: new mid engined small convertible/Coupe
MG TF: new mid engined convertible/Coupe

Austin Healey 4600: two-door convertible/two-door coupe

MG XPower SV: Discontinue this model in favour of Austin Healey. The MG name is not associated with expensive sports cars

So many car companies these days have multiple brands, distinguished by different outer panels but the same ‘body in white’ underneath (VW, Audi, Seat). I suppose that particular technology wasn’t available in the late 1950s, so badge engineering was the only — admittedly short sighted — alternative for the Farina saloons. And having a corporate name that means nothing (BMC, British Leyland) only seems to work for General Motors. Every other motor vehicle manufacturer goes by the strongest brand name (Ford, Fiat, PSA). I only suggested Rover, MG, Riley and Austin Healey because of the possible volumes achievable by SAIC — enough (hopefully) to support multiple brand names.

In reality, I would be very surprised if Riley was to resurface…

But it was a very strange dream.


If this plan came into fruition, it would be high-time for MG Rover to be renamed into something more grandiose. I’ve often throught the introduction of more marques should be accompanied by a name befitting such a wide-ranging company. Think about it – MG Rover as a name would not seem, right for a company boasting Rover, MG, Riley, Austin-Healey (and Morris for the commercials)…

No, a big company should be given a big name. How about The British Motor Corporation? Has a nice ring doesn’t it?


Re your reference to the “British Motor Corporation”…

There was a telly documentary series (which I am sure you saw) called “When Rover met BMW”. It it, BMW got their UK advertising people to look at how the Rover Group should be positioned. Their recomendation – as they sold Rover, MG, Mini and Land Rover, that “Rover Group” was a misleading name and should be changed. What did they suggest……”The British Motor Company”


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6 Dec 2004

Zero to hero…


SO, MGR goes from zero to hero in one giant leap. In these days of instant communication, video conferencing and wireless computing it doesn’t really matter where in the world you are, so long as you can keep in touch. Longbridge, Pune, Shanghai. Not quite Dearborn, Halewood and Cologne but definitely on the right lines. And what a golden opportunity for all concerned. On paper this is a brilliant match.

Continuing the Ford analogy, the putative MGR/SAIC/TATA alliance will at least begin with a blank sheet of paper — no financially troublesome and poorly planned Jaguar range, nor the boom and bust cycle that seems to afflict the US operation. However, Ford have shown the way with the development of Aston Martin into a genuine Porsche/Ferrari competitor — is there room to stretch the MG/Austin Healey brand names? MG may well be associated too much with smaller, cheaper machinery, but Austin Healey…

Then there is General Motors’ substantial international alliance which includes the troublesome Saab range (BMW competitors? I don’t think so) and a hefty share in the money swallowing Fiat automotive group. And, like Ford, the realisation that Vauxhall/Opel does not have BMW’s premium image. Corsa and Astra sized vehicles would seem to be their natural market.

Rover’s brand values may be on the floor at the moment but there is potential to reintroduce some kind of premium element, and in comparison to large vehicles from Ford and Vauxhall, the range topping 75 V8 somehow doesn’t appear at odds with the smaller cars in the Rover range. That’s face it, if Skoda can manage it…

MGR as the new Audi? Yes please.

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3 Dec 2004

Range Rover Sport – not the stormer we hoped…

From this…

To this…

THE Range Rover Sport is a nice looking SUV – and we’re sure that it will bring in the punters, but we can’t help but wonder at why it has been so watered-down for production. The Stormer concept had hinted at something genuinely different within this sector of the market, and gave us hope that Land Rover were actively looking at the idea of an SUV designed for drivers. For a start – it looked better than anything else – and by that, we mean the Cayenne/X5/M-Class Massive, which, no matter how fast they are around the Nürburgring still look like vans… and ugly ones at that. I anticipated something as exciting (and groundbreaking) as the original 1970 Range Rover….

However, the new car – the Range Rover Sport (and what’s so sporty about this thing?) – is pretty (Richard Woolley has done a great job within his brief), it and purposeful, and it does look better than the opposition… but in no way is it the jaw-dropper the concept was. What is it? Nothing more than a slightly smaller Range Rover, with a Jaguar engine in it. Big Deal. Can’t really see the point in it… Maybe my perception of it will change once I’ve tested it, but right now, I can’t help but feel extremely disappointed.

Perhaps Land Rover simply wasn’t ready to take the next step.

The Japanese probably are…


Walking through town the other day, I spotted a mid-Eighties Range Rover. There’s a lightness of touch to it’s styling that both the P38A and the current Range Rover lack. It looked like it would run rings around it’s heavy-looking successor – OK I know that’s not technically the case, but without driving either car I’d say the original looks both sportier and more suitable for traversing dodgy ground.

Given the Range Rover’s shift upmarket, I don’t think this is anything for Land Rover/Ford to be worried about. It’s not a suitable look to base the Range Rover Sport on, a car which I’d imagine is targeted at a very different market to it’s bigger brother. Why didn’t they put the Range Stormer into production? It doesn’t quite have the 1970’s Range Rover’s lightness of touch, but it looks fantastic in it’s own right and as sportily brutish as the Range Rover is classily brutish.

I respect Richard Wooley’s talent, but there does seem to be little evidence of it in the RR Sport’s boring lines. I hope we’re not going to see more of the same from Ford, who seem to be very capable of shooting themselves in the foot at the moment. We don’t want more pretty but unadventurous X-types in place of all those stunning Jaguar concepts, or gawky MkII Focuses in place of the brilliantly styled MkIs. People appreciate and remember interesting production cars much more than concepts (anyone remember any of the concepts on display in Paris at the Citroen DS’s unveiling?). All manufacturers are guilty of the same sin, but it’s all the more frustrating when there’s such obvious talent at the company, which at present only Volvo and Aston Martin seem to know what to do with. I hope when MGR find their feet they don’t too fall into the trap of thinking the buying public can’t handle a bit of innovation.


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2 Dec 2004

Big Healey – should it return?


I know it is only speculation — highlighted by Phoenix the blogger — but a new Austin-Healey 4600 (utilising the Ford 4.6 litre V8 from the MG ZT and a modified rear wheel drive RD/X60 platform) would be really fabulous. After reading up on Austin-Healey trivia, it would appear that MGR and the Healey family control rights between them, (and not as some claim, BMW).

As I understand it, Austin-Healey was left at the altar in 1967 when US safety regulations sounded the death knell for the 3000. A new Healey 40 years later could be a TVR beater, all muscle and aluminium. And the signal for MGR to mount a successful return to the US market.

Keep mid-engined powerplants for the MG TF and the new MG Midget (when it arrives) and market the Healey as an out and out musclecar.

And then invite Clarkson to take a test drive.


I think there is a faction within MG Rover, which would like to see the Austin-Healey make a return. Remember that before the SV, the MG marque was not so much associated as big, expensive rorty roadsters, but with well-priced, fun sportsters, and hotted-up saloons. The will has been there for a while, too – first Roy Axe penned his DR2/PR5 prototype (which, although badged as an MG, was initially conceived as an A-H), then BMW pressed ahead with Project Warwick (pictured above), before realising it didn’t own the rights to the Austin-Healey name.

Healey, on the other hand, seems to have a much different image to MG (equally positive, if not more so) – and one which is still revered among classic fans. Especially in the USA (look at the value of an Austin-Healey 3000 compared to an MGC). Given a modern-day incarnation, MGR could have the perfect vehicle with which to return to the USA, and it would become part of a formidable line-up.

Just think of it – the ZT 260 V8 (available in automatic as well as manual form), for the saloon lovers, and the Austin-Healey 4600 for the sports car aficionados. Note I did not include the TF in that line-up… too old, and potentially too troublesome for the American market (sorry).


The thought of an Austin Healey 4600 at full chat makes me come out in goose bumps — go MGR!


I would buy one like a shot. I always thought it was a stupid idea getting rid of Austin-Healey.


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1 Dec 2004

A bargain if ever I saw one…

WHAT does £40m buy you these days? If you’re in the car industry, not very much. If you’re a wag, you could possibly say it buys almost three years of MGR research and development, but well, that would be cruel…

In reality, £40m amounts to very little, when you consider the budgets companies such as Ford, GM and Toyota have at hand to play with. I bet Toyota are prepared to lose that much money on Prius sales every year in the USA. As I said, in automotive terms, £40m is spare change. Consider what it cost VAG to develop its new range of FSI and EuroIV TDI engines, and you get the idea…

However, if our friends at AUTOCAR are to be believed (and they’re usually on the ball), then £40m has bought rather a lot for the Chinese.

They say: “Autocar has learned that MGR has already sold the rights to the 75 platform and production line and the Powertrain division’s engine technology to SAIC. It’s not been revealed to what extent SAIC now owns the 75 and the engine range and whether these rights extend beyond the immediate Chinese market. Newspaper reports have insisted the deal was completed for just £40m.”

MGR has already sold the rights to the
75 platform and production line and the
Powertrain division’s engine
technology to SAIC.

Think about that for a moment. MGR has just completed the sale of the Longbridge plant to property developers, St Modwen, and now it seems that it has practically given away ALL of its car and engine technology to SAIC. In other words, if this is correct, the K-Series engine – that revolutionary powerplant – is now Chinese, the class-leading 75 drivetrain, suspension set-up and body is now Chinese.

This is excellent news for the Chinese and their Joint Venture company, but what does it mean for Rover?

What MGR management tells us about the deal is MGR will design cars for SAIC and they will get built in China and at Longbridge – but as far as I can see, MGR actually doesn’t own anything anymore (or that will certainly be the case after the SAIC deal is inked).

We need to see how this deal pans out, right now, it looks like MG Rover sold the family silver, as well as everything else in the cupboard to the Chinese in exchange for the continued existance of the (Chinese owned) Rover name, and car production at Longbridge.

Jobs maintained in the West Midlands is good, but I can’t help wondering about how it all went wrong and we ended up in this position…


If what is reported in today’s blog is correct, it is indeed a sad state of affairs when the once great manufacturer – favoured by Statesmen – is now a motoring puppet with the Chinese pulling the strings.

If we have sold the 75 platform and other rights, what exactly do we have left? Is that because they didn’t want the rest of the range…?? Is the badge going to be re-designed and have the Chinese translation of Rover on the top? We need to know what the terms of the agreement are- what happens when the Chinese have extracted what they want from the joint venture and no longer need MGR as part of their long term strategy? It happened with BMW, where we were no longer part of their plan- who’s to say it’s not going to happen again with SAIC? Will MGR be for sale on eBay (as jokingly reported on SniffPetrol the other week)? Will someone be able to buy what is left at an autojumble in a couple of years time? Terribly cynical I know, but it has happened and could again- it may not happen for a few years, but it is a possibility.

One thing we all have as users of is a passion for the company and a real desire to see it succeed. MGR feels like one of the family and it is a shame to see it being messed around and torn in all directions. Could we get somebody from MGR to answer questions on a weekly basis posted by users of this site to keep us informed of what is happening? Ideas can flow both ways, and I believe it would stop a lot of the speculation if we were given the facts. Looking back since the BMW sale, there has been endless speculation – will it/won’t it succeed, deals that have fallen through, and we are now in dire straits.

I agree that we need the cash to continue, and with the new models planned we should claw back some valuable credit and market confidence in the brand, but it is a very worrying time for all at MGR I’m sure at the moment.

Could you imagine VAG being in this position in 20 years time?


Posted in: AROnline Blogs
Keith Adams

About the Author:

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

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