Blog : The Rover 75 – an endangered species…

Keith Adams

Rover 75

A Rover 75 wearing a German number plate yesterday.

It seems hard to believe that it’s coming up to 13 years since the Rover 75’s fateful launch at the 1998 Birmingham Motor Show. Anyone who was at the unveiling will never forget the way that the then head of BMW, Bernd Pischetsrieder, unveiled the car and then torpedoed its launch by questioning the future of Rover in the UK. I can distinctly remember one disgruntled Rover staff member saying to me, ‘if he were in the middle of the road right now, I would not slow down to avoid him.’

Strong words, indeed….

However, you can see the point. Here was a car that the Designers, Engineers and Tester Drivers at Longbridge and Gaydon had been sweating over since 1993 – it was their great white hope; the car to save the company; and the boss himself had parachuted in to tell the world that, unless he had some help from the UK Government, he’d be moving out…  and, as we know, events moved rather rapidly.

Despite a warm reaction from the press, the car was delayed into launch and, with each passing week the future of the ‘English Patient’ was looking increasingly shaky. Buyers’ confidence was slipping away and that caused a spiral of despair which led to Rover’s sale within a year of its brightest new car going on sale.

What of the car itself? The Rover 75 was an interesting mixture of exquisite design detailing and slightly clumsy retro. The flanks, for instance, were so beautifully sculpted and the relationship between the wheels and glasshouse was near-perfectly resolved. Indeed, compared with what many fellow Designers considered the sector’s most stylish car, the Alfa Romeo 156, the proportions were spot on, even if there were jarring cock-ups like the ill-fitting grille and bonnet, the questionable wing/bumper interface and the dull back lights.

There was no doubting the car’s engineering, though. It was thoroughly developed and signed off by Wolfgang Reitzle – no mean feat – and although the K-Series powerplants were okay, the NG four- and V6-cylinder engines, to be built in Hams Hall were on the horizon. The 75’s suspension set-up was class leading. Yes, it initially felt soft and stodgy but, stay with it, and you were left with a car with impressive ground covering ability.

Was the Rover 75 was a victim of circumstance? Not entirely… It was a bold design statement and, as we know, these do divide buyers.  Unfortunately, the faux-classic saloon, which rode the crest of the retro wave back in 1999 would prove seriously off-message once 21st century new edge design took over. In a nutshell, it was a gamble and one that failed to pay off.

By the time of the BMW sell-off and Phoenix takeover, the car should have been on life support. However, two factors played into its hands. In the opening months of the Phoenix takeover, a mild form of patriotic fervour took over and people started actually buy the 75. All of a sudden, it started earning a positive reputation…

The ZT and ZT-T followed in 2001 and all of that opinion-dividing retro was dumped – leaving people with nothing but a fine big saloon. Again, sales remained healthy and a small but enthusiastic following ensued. In short, the depth of quality which always underpinned the 75 was saving it from a fate worse than death in trying circumstances. In the end, it wasn’t enough – the Phoenix Four wasted their opportunity and the company sunk, leaving the Chinese to carry on building the 75 to this day.

The 75’s biggest issue in the UK is, of course, how well it is going to weather the years ahead. Its fine engineering may have made it a good car – and near brilliant in places – but now, over a decade on, looking after one on a shoestring (as many now are) is proving very difficult indeed. It’s expensive to fix, with many BMW parts, and overly complex in areas that the skint really could do without.

Your clutch started slipping? That’ll be the plate, the master and the slave cylinder please. Don’t do them all at once and you’re going to regret it. Fuel pump packed up? Into the tank you go and more. Pulling it apart? Make sure you collect all of those clips and fittings. All of them… Don’t and it’ll rattle like a pig. Finally, are the tyres wearing out weirdly? You did make sure you tracked it with a full tank. No? Tisk…

That’s before we get to the engine. The K-Series, as we know, does have its problems. It’s a lovely little thing when it’s as it should be. However, put it in the hands of the average £500 car buyer, and it’s on death row. Checking the coolant? Nah. Maybe the oil? Not a bit of it. Then moan when the head gasket goes or the head melts… and off to the scrapyard it goes! Another disgruntled ex-Rover owner is born…

I’m pretty sure that, in ten years’ time, there will only be a handful left – if that. That would be a shame given what a delightful car this is – and an indicator of a paradise lost.

The generation that preceded the 75 weren’t a patch on that car. The 800 was a nice, progressive thing when launched in 1986, but it was finished by the time the R17 came out in 1991. It looked old and brought Rover into its pastiche era in the most undignified way. The 600 was nice but overpriced and dull. Both were developed into decent sports saloons – the 800 Vitesse Sport and 600ti – but the cooking models, forget them.

Ironically, the chances are that the deathly dull 620 will outlive the 75 by sheer dent of its tough Honda mechanicals, which are also a more realistic DIY proposition. I’ve owned three 600s now – two 620s and a ti – and, although the Honda-engined cars are almost coma-inducingly dull, they just work and keep on working. My first, a 620i with 116bhp, had 240,000 miles on the clock and looked like it had been to Helmand and back, but it still drove like a nearly new car –  it was still on the original engine, gearbox and drivetrain. The second one was low-mileage and well looked after –  it might as well have been a new car.

You can’t buy that kind of dependability – it’s priceless.

That’s why I’ll wager a bet. Look at the How Many Left? websitein 2021 and there will be more 620s than there will be 75 1.8s. Anyone care to bet against me? It’s unfair, of course, but then again, so is life…

Posted in: 75/MG ZT, 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.

83 Comments on "Blog : The Rover 75 – an endangered species…"

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  1. Mike Humble Mike Humble says:

    That’s all so very true Keith.

    I have pondered over buying a wonky 75 1.8 on more than one occasion but, just the same as when I considered an Alfa Romeo, I got all jittery and my writing hand started to sweat – I just couldn’t commit!

    AROnline’s regular readers will know that I worked for myself for a number of years as a mobile tec in the North East. Most of the 75 petrols were nothing short of buggered. Many of the “death row” motor traders were palming off high spec 1.8s for daft money. One trader down here is still trying to offload a Connoisuer 1.8 on a W plate for £2995.

    Actually, the car has been there that long, I have suggested that Horsham District Council should re-name the road Moonstone 75 Avenue – it’s what us sales guys used to call a “landmark” car!

    I love the 75 because its shape and style is so right – yet I kind of reckon BMW almost willed it to fail. There was, quite simply not enough “hands on management” – couple that with Mr. BMW totally wan*ing up its launch and you have a laughing stock on your hands.

    That’s so very bloody wrong!

  2. Keith,
    I agree with most of what you say but the 75 has a peculiar charm of its own.

    I reckon that the 75 Tourer (or estate car in old language) makes a particularly attractive package when coupled with the BMW diesel engine and will, I think, outlive the saloon version.

    I am a member of the Rover Sports Register which actively supports all Rovers including the later 75s and has many members who use them as every day cars. We regularly have 75s attending our rallies and, as a club, are always looking for ways to increase their longevity.

    AROnline readers can obtain more details by visiting the Rover Sports Register’s website.

  3. Paul McFarlane says:

    I totally agree that the 75 is a lovely car to own and people do seem to view it as a classy car.

    Our own 75 was bought cheap and, although we do look after it, when repairs start to get complex/expensive it will make more sense financially to replace rather than repair. The 75 is like many modern cars with complex electric systems which are not amateur mechanic friendly and so few will survive to classic status (except sports or luxury cars).

    However, the 75 deserves better – it was not just one of the best Rovers since the P6 but, in my opinion, one of the best examples of modern saloon car design.

  4. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    I’ve been eyeing up late-model 75s on eBay. There are nice-looking ’04/’05 models with c.35,000 miles on the clock for around £5000 – diesels with the BMW engine.

    What else can you get with that style and refinement, at that mileage for that price? I’m very tempted to trade in the ageing family Volkswagen Touran for a real British classic while they’re still serviceable and good value.

  5. Paul says:

    I think that, by the time the 75 was launched, BMW’s patience with Rover’s management was all but exhausted. BMW initially trusted Rover to bring the car to production and received assurances that the project was on track for a launch many months before the car actually went on sale.

    However, when BMW turned up to validate the car before full production, they couldnt believe the state it was in. Several key elements of the body had to be completely re-engineered to stop leaks and make it fit for sale.

  6. Kev Sharp says:

    Reading this brings a tear to my eye… I bought a brand new Midnight Blue Rover 75 1.8 Club in 1999 – it was the only brand new car I have ever owned. The list price was £20,000 but I got mine for £12,800 tax free through Rover Military Sales.

    My ex-wife, who was fully knowledgeable about looking after a car (NOT), failed to notice the engine temperature creepng up one day and that led to HGF. I note Keith’s comments about the clutch and that happened to me as well – who thought it was a good idea to put the cylinder inside the gearbox?

    Those issues aside, I loved my 75 and it was with a heavy heart when I last saw it on my ex-wife’s driveway full of junk and with the dashboard lit up like plague sores in 2009. I just didn’t have the money to rescue it but, even now, I still look up and take notice when I see a 75 – especially one in Midnight Blue.

    The Rover 75 was, in short, a car killed before its time.

  7. Eric says:

    Here’s a sign of the times – I have just traded on an immaculate (and, when I say immaculate, I mean no dents, dings or rust) 75 Classic SE CDT with a spotless full black leather interior for £600!

    I struggled to get anyone to give me a price or who even wanted it to sell again in the banger sector of the trade. Yes, the car had done 110,000 miles but had had two owners and came with a full stamped up service history and 10 months MOT.

    Mind you, I have been there before with the P6 and the SD1 but who can afford to hang on for 20 years let alone have the space to put something like this away and wait for the day when the car will be sought after by collectors and undoubtedly change hands for several times the money?

  8. Hilton Davis says:

    Someone in our street owns a 75 Taxi (02 reg) – it still looks in good nick and the engine sounds lovely. Last night, I followed a 75 which had those silver/chrome LED rear light lenses added – frankly, I think the original Rover ones are better!

    I reckon that the Rover 75, MG ZT and, for that matter, the Roewe 750 still have what I call “that look”.

  9. Mike Humble Mike Humble says:

    @Hilton Davis
    I know exactly what you mean and you are right!

  10. DRose says:

    The Designers and Engineers were not just sweating away at Longbridge and Gaydon. I worked on Project R40 at Canley as did most of the Project Team in the early days. The site was being demolished around us before we eventually moved to the new GDEC at Gaydon.

    I still remember discussing the exhaust tailpipe options with Richard Wooley before the hidden option was chosen. Ironic that, years later, we were putting tailpipes back on MG ZT…

  11. Craig W says:

    I would still like to own a 75/ZT one day, but it would have to be the BMW diesel-engined Tourer version.

    I agree with what you say about the 600. I had a 623 GSi for four or five years – it was very reliable indeed and I still miss it. Sadly, it seems to be off the road now according to the DVLA website.

    I could never bring myself to buy a K-Series-engined car and the 600 was my last Rover. The British-built Honda which replaced it has been even more reliable than the 600. It is almost ten years old and has only had the tyres and front discs and pads changed – apart from the usual service items, the rest of the car is factory original.

  12. Mikey C says:

    The 75 may have character and those who love them REALLY love them. However, you have to say it was a brave mistake because it’s styling was completely out of kilter with what the majority of people wanted.

    It seems retro styling works in small cars (Beetle, MINI, 500) but not in larger ones (75, S-TYPE).

    • Edmund says:

      “Out of kilter with with what the majority of people wanted”…sadly populism never breeds excellence hence the 75 was a bold statement of individuality. It was a raspberry blown in the face of technocratic corporatism which demands soul-less ‘extruded’ styles and monochrome grey interiors. Indeed, it was also patriotic and represented the Britishness that I knew as a child. Do I own one? Yes , a BMW -engined Connoisseur SE and what a great car it is !

  13. Pandol says:

    I bought a 75 CDTi in August 2005 for VW Golf money (£16k). It was the best car I ever owned. I sold it last year for £2,500 with 130k on the clock. The 75 never let me down and the comfort off the scale. I loved it. I still miss it and wish I could get another one…

  14. Richard says:

    Well, the 75 divides opinions but, for me, it looked and felt more like the spiritual successor to a Wolseley than a Rover. I think going retro at that time was a major mistake because they needed to get a car out there that could appeal to as big a market as possible – the 75 needed to be a true competitor to very good and well-established rivals from Ford, VW, Honda et al, and dreaming up some bit of 1950s retro was never going to do that.

    Unfortunately, the various managements from the 1970s onwards never managed to define what a modern Rover should be. Think how Volvo redefined itself into a more modern and desirable brand yet still retained its core attributes (safety, quality). That never happened with Rover and, when they did have the chance to dream up something original, it was the 75 dripping in leather, burr walnut and chrome.

  15. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    @Mikey C
    I think the Rover 75 did hit the right buttons retro-wise – it was certainly a better design than the Beetle. I can pretty much guarantee you will see more 75s than new Beetles these days. Actually, perhaps this could be an AROnline challenge – a bit like the RSPB’s Birdwatch campaigns! “Record how many VW Beetles and Rover 75s you see in one day”…

    You certainly can’t argue that the MINI, and, more recently, the Fiat 500, have caught the public’s imagination and are selling well.

    I understand what you are saying Richard about market appeal, but can anyone name a big Rover that DID have mass market appeal and sold in numbers? That, by the way, is a genuine question rather than a purely rhetorical one.

  16. Richard says:

    I’m fortunate enough to drive a company car. I drove a diesel 75 Tourer from 2002-2005. What was remarkable was its effect on those who either didn’t know particularly about cars or didn’t know about cars sold in Britain.

    My wife used it once to pick up her friends to take them to a book club. They all said “What a lovely car! What is it?” They couldn’t believe it when they heard it was a Rover. There was just such a gap between what they heard in casual conversation about the brand and the experience sitting in my car.

    I used the 75 for business a lot. I would often pick people up from the airport, from outside the UK, often outside Europe and they would frequently say “What is this? It’s beautiful!” They were even more surprised when I told them it cost less than an Audi A4.

  17. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    We had a Club SE 2.0 for a couple of years and the sum total of repairs for the two MoT’s we put it through was £4.65 – yes, the decimal point is in the right place. This was for one number plate light and one coloured indicator that had faded. We only did about 6000 miles a year in it but I still think that is pretty impressive.

    I feel privileged to have owned one and wish we could have kept it as a ‘leisure time’ car but it wasn’t really affordable at the time. It is a shame to hear they are becoming increasingly difficult to keep on a budget, but maybe one day we will be able to afford ourselves the luxury of owning one again, even for car shows and the like. Anyway, if it’s over 10 years old we, at least, can get Classic car insurance!!

  18. Richard says:

    @Paul T
    A Rover with mass market appeal? Mmm… nothing springs to mind although the Honda-derived Rovers did quite nicely when they were pitched a few quid more than the comparable Ford. I guess that, had they priced the 600 sensibly, it could have done well in the Mondeo class.

    Mind you, if they’d kept Austin as the volume brand, Rover could have gradually got back to making quality saloons capable of matching anything out of Stuttgart or Munich. It would have also spared us all twenty years of debate about how far downmarket you can take the Rover brand.

  19. Simon Woodward says:

    It’s a sad business this but very true as I have just found out today. I have a few vehicles to play with during the day but I could do with a cheap saloon to replace my BMW, which I use when I need four proper seats.

    I have therefore shortened my list down to either a 75/ZT or a X-TYPE during the last few months. It won’t do many miles a year so engine size isn’t an issue but I just want a relatively hassle free motor that’s a little different from the run of the mill stuff out there.

    I have found a very nice ZT-T and a X-TYPE – both one owner and low mileage and roughly the same age. I want the ZT-T but this article and several chats to people in the trade have put doubts in my mind. Today, I saw the bill for a KV6 rebuild in a friend’s garage – he’s an old-fashioned mechanic who fixes cars and does not just bolt as many new bits on in the hope it will work again.

    The cost of just the parts alone without labour would keep Clarkson in haemorrhoid cream for a whole year – a lot of money in other words. That’s sad because there are some great 75s and ZTs around but it’s a second car that will do 3k a year and I feel I can’t take the risk.

  20. Craig MGR says:

    A Rover with mass market appeal? Surely the R8 was a Rover with mass market appeal?

    I think the R40’s retro styling helped to keep it fresh and distinctive. Had the car been a fairly conservative contemporary design it would have become bland and forgettable, which is what happened to the 600.

    I think the launch advert, which you can see on YouTube, sums up the 75’s legacy quite well… “It’s far better to provoke a reaction than none at all.”

  21. David Whittington says:

    I just recently took over ownership of my late father’s 75 Tourer diesel after my trusty old 220 GTi bit the bullet and I’m constantly impressed by its ride quality seat comfort and fuel economy – it’s like a Rolls-Royce compared to my old car.

    I can’t help feeling the Chinese should have sold their version (the MG7) over here instead of the tired old MG TF.

  22. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    @Craig MGR
    My original question asked if there was ever a BIG Rover with mass market appeal that sold in numbers.

    Much as I liked them, the cars you mention plus the 25 and 45 were a ‘downgrade’ of the traditional Rover car (and the Metro/100-Series took it down further still). They did not devalue the badge but, as Richard said in an earlier post, they could have used Austin for mass-market and Rover for the more exclusive/prestigious/luxury models which the Rover heritage represented.

    Mind you, they laid it on thick a bit by having an SD1 which was a Rover Vanden Plas (two high-end monikers on one back panel!).

  23. Richard says:

    Point of order, Mr Chairman. Was it Pischetsrieder who presided over the actual launch of the 75? Wasn’t it another BMW executive who was in charge of Rover by then?

    Pischetsrieder was certainly the only BMW man who thought buying Rover was a really good thing and had his head filled with all sorts of romantic nonsense about the British motor industry (Riley coupes spring to mind) when he should have been concentrating on turning Rover into a proper range of cars. However, wasn’t it Reitzle who actually ran Rover at first and he was then replaced by another German (can’t remember the name now).

    I think I’m right in saying that Pischetsrieder and Reitzle didn’t get on and both quit BMW (the former for VW and the latter for Ford’s Premier Auto Group). However, I thought both had left BMW/Rover by the time of the 75’s launch.

  24. Will says:

    What a shame… I have to say, though, that when I was looking at cheap cars recently, the only 75 which I might have considered would have been one with the Bavarian diesel engine. There are just too many K-Series horror stories.

    They are an elegant car and, for those not in the know, easily mistaken for Jaguars. True, the styling is a bit retro, but this was to appease the Bavarian overlords just as Jaguar had to in the early 2000s with their American management (see X/S-TYPEs).

    Every big car goes through Banger Valley: New – Used – Cheap – Banger – Rare – Classic. Rover 600s are now traversing the Banger-Rare boundary, 800s would probably be at the Rare stage now while SD1s are definitely Classic. I speak as a Japanese banger owner.

    It is a fear though that HGFs will kill off most of the petrol examples in the same way that rust killed off Alfa Romeos and Lancias once they reached the cheap/banger stage.

    Hopefully, enough BMW specialists exist to keep the diesels alive and a few V8s will find their way to collectors.

  25. Stewart says:

    @Paul T
    The SD1 and 800 both sold in big numbers, so I would guess they had mass market appeal. The 800, in particular, was the best selling car in its class for a fair time, outselling both the Ford Granada and Vauxhall Senator. Sadly, by the time the 75 was launched, the world had fallen for the myth that German is the only choice in that segment – a myth BMW was unlikely to challenge.

  26. Stewart says:

    That would be a shame because the petrol versions of the Rover 75 are rather nicer cars than the BMW-engined diesels.

  27. Rob C Rob C says:

    I have owned two 75s over the years and have to say that the old addage of once bitten, twice shy rings true.

    My first 75 was a nice V plate CDT Conny SE which had had a new clutch, slave and master cylinder but which still died of clutch failure in Torquay less than 6,000 miles after the owner had forked out for the replacement. Thankfully, a bleed of the system allowed me to get the clutch working again and it lasted a few months longer before I heard it had failed again.

    I had a similar experience with my second 75 although, in that case, the slave had gone completely. I put this down to poor quality plastic being used and the clips holding it together failing allowing the seal to blow and dumping the tiny amount of clutch fluid in the system into the bell housing. Those who have taken the top off the master cylinder will know just how little fluid is in the system, the resevoir being filled with a large rubber ‘cap’.

    The other major thing not mentioned is the KV6’s inlet system and the cost of a cambelt swap! The valves and motors are a common weak point and a replacement manifold costs up to £600 for a new one – that, when added to the cost of replacing the cambelt as well, can easily cost as much as just buying another 75!

    It’s a pity because issues such as these let down an otherwise good car. I always found them to be comfortable, capable cruisers and well refined.

    However, IF (yes, that’s a big one) I ever had another 75, then it would be a choice of a CDTi auto or, dare I say it, a 1.8 auto! Yes, I know it’s the poor old K-Series, but, with a decent head gasket on it, it’s easy to work on and is easily fixed if the dreaded HG does go. The bonus of being an auto means there’s no clutch to fail – even if the Jatco box does have its own issues, they are somewhat less than the chocolate clutch system’s.

    Had Rover fitted an alloy slave as per Vauxhall, then I think clutch issues wouldn’t be the problem they are.

    Unfortunately, the 75 is now at the stage when several repairs are now outweighing replacement costs. Who would put a complete clutch system in when you can pick up a top spec Conny SE with T&T for less than £700?

  28. Mikey C says:

    Craig MGR :
    A Rover with mass market appeal? Surely the R8 was a Rover with mass market appeal?

    I think the R40′s retro styling helped to keep it fresh and distinctive. Had the car been a fairly conservative contemporary design it would have become bland and forgettable, which is what happened to the 600.

    I think the launch advert, which you can see on YouTube, sums up the 75′s legacy quite well… “It’s far better to provoke a reaction than none at all.”

    Personally, I think the 600 still looks smart. It’s worth noting that the 600 outsold the 75 too (even including the ZT).

  29. Ian says:

    Reitzle was, to the best of my recollection, only interested in Land Rover, particularly Range Rover, not Longbridge, and from what was written in the motoring press the two men didn’t get along.

    Just imagine that if Pischetsrieder hadn’t been a distant relative of Issigonis or hadn’t been able to steer BMW into taking over Rover Group then Rover Group might still be around today. 40% owned by Honda?

    Rover Group certainly lost focus when bought by BMW as it had been trying to establish itself as a British BMW.

    Pischetsrieder went on to lead VW… perhaps Austin Rover should have been sold to Volkswagen… Would it then have become what Seat is today?

  30. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    You might be referring to Walter Hasselkuss, who was Rover’s (BMW-installed) boss by then. However, it was Pischetsrieder who made the speech.


  31. Craig MGR says:

    “Personally, I think the 600 still looks smart. It’s worth noting that the 600 outsold the 75 too… ”

    There is no denying that, it’s like a well cut suit.

  32. Dave says:

    I’m an American and so have never seen a 75 in the metal. That said, I followed the entire arc of its life online and in occasional magazine articles.

    At the time of its launch, it was seen as a likely import within a year, but we all know what happened there. I thought it was dignified and handsome and certainly deserved better than it got. There were far too many unloved fleet 75s and that really harms a public’s memory of the car.

    Anyway, as for the future perception, I felt that the V8 model was a classic before the last one was even built. I realise that it’s not really representative of most 75s, but it was such a great successor to the SD1 Vitesse and American-powered English cars in general that it’d be a shame for any ever to be scrapped.

    How Many Left? shows only high double-digits of V8 75s remaining with perhaps another 300 or so MGs. The MG got the attention, but I’d consider the total package of a Rover-branded one to be better.

  33. Will says:

    Hi, Stewart. I agree it is a shame. They are silky revving engines from what I have experienced driving friends’ K-Series’d 100s and 200s, but I fear that the petrol K-Series-engined 75s may have an attrition rate through Banger Valley similar to rotary-engined Citroen GSs and NSUs!

  34. Richard says:

    @Keith Adams
    Hasselkuss! That’s the boy! I stand corrected.

  35. Richard says:

    There was a very good BBC series called When Rover met BMW which, if I remember correctly, was initially about Rover launching the 200 and it was supposed to show what went on in the lead up to the launch. However, the story changed in the middle of the shoot when the takeover happened.

    Suddenly there were BMW executives everywhere (including Reitzle), most of whom could barely hide their disbelief at what they saw or explain what they were doing there. I just don’t think BMW knew what to do with Rover.

    Would Honda have kept a stake in Rover? Maybe, maybe not. Didn’t VW want to buy MG at some stage or other?

  36. Zeuss101 says:

    I completely disagree with most of the predictions in this article. True, a 75 is difficult to run on a shoestring, but its still slightly prestige image (just ask anyone who doesn’t know anything about cars what they think of it) and the fact it does have a large amount of grandad appeal to it has meant that the 75 has largely escaped the clutches of those who have been steadily running 200/400/600s into the ground.

    I reckon this probably gives the 75 one of the best chances of survival of the later MGR cars because it has such a strong following amongst enthusiasts and is pretty much already seen as a classic by many.

  37. David Knowles says:

    @Keith Adams
    That’s right. I was there and have it all on tape!

  38. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    @Rob C
    I think the 1.8-litre, while potentially susceptible to HGF, is probably the best option if you want to own a 75 and run it on a reasonable budget.

    Our V6 2.0-litre, as mentioned above, cost us buttons in two years but, with all the associated maintenance costs of the KV6, it was possibly open wallet surgery waiting to happen.

    One day…

  39. Vavavoom says:

    I have recently purchased an ’03 75 1.8 with a new HG and timing belt – it had only done 50k and cost a grand… I’m hoping to get 18 months from it, just for the experience. I am worried, though because I need my car for work and, if it let’s me down, I’m f****d. It will be scrapped if there’s a huge billl for repairs!

    I know that I should have bought a small Japanese reliabilty box and wish I could. However, I have the heritage disease and can never resist a Rover!

  40. Derek Smith says:

    I find it strange that Rover 75s are regarded as problem cars. I bought my Wedgwood Blue 1.8 new in December 2003 and NOTHING has gone wrong with it yet, not even a light bulb! That has never happened to me with any other car.

    My car has, of course, had new tyres in addition to a windscreen replacement and new filters have been fitted at the annual service but, basically, it is as it came out of Longbridge and still looks as good as new.

    I also have that feeling, shared with other 75 owners, that I am driving round in something better than the rest of the world has to put up with. I am planning to keep it at least another eight years. Perhaps it will be a rare classic by then…

  41. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    @Paul T
    Why not the diesel? There will not be the same risk of HGF. I ask because I’m genuinely interested and looking for one.

  42. Glenn Aylett says:

    The diesel uses a BMW engine which has no head gasket issues.

  43. Vavavoom says:

    @Derek Smith
    Oh, Rover 75s will be classics alright. I wish I had the space to store a couple somewhere and mothball them – just like my Dad should have done when P5s, P6s and SD1s were as cheap as chips back in the day…

    Surely, the V8s must already have classic status? We’ll all by sighing when we’re reading Practical Classics on the loo in 2035!

  44. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    @Jonathan Carling
    My opinion was based on the assumption that a shoestring budget will include DIY repairs.

    A diesel may be more reliable, but not many people have got the skills and the precision tools needed to properly repair a diesel engine IF something does go wrong. They may be good, but nothing is perfect.

    The 1.8 K-Series is an engine that a fairly competent DIYer can work on and maintain fairly easily.

  45. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    @Paul T
    Thanks Paul. I’m intending to sell my VW diesel because the bills are getting expensive!

  46. Will says:

    VW owning MG…

    VW currently position Seat as their ‘sporty’ marque. Their aim was for that marque to be an Alfa Romeo competitor. However, if that was the VW Group’s intention then, in my opinion, they have failed massively.

    Seat’s range currently comprises a rebodied Polo, a rebodied Golf, medium and big MPVs and a secondhand Audi.
    The VW Group’s problem is that it has too many marques so ‘premium’ sport-saloons and coupes become Audis, sub-premium coupes and sport-saloons become VW, budget sports variants are Skoda vRS-badged (and the Skoda Coupe Concept).

    However, if Honda had taken over Rover properly that would have been an intriguing prospect with, perhaps, a Jazz/Civic-based 25, extended Civic/Accord-based 45, a Legend-based 75, a 4×4 platform and an MPV.

    The previous generation Civics and Accords were highly rated and, while the current Legend was killed off early in the UK, with a Rover badge it may have worked as the spiritual successor to the 800.

    I own a US-built, captive-import Accord Coupe and would like to hope that the cushioning suspension and cream leather interior were a result of Honda learning a trick or two from their experience of working with Rover.

  47. Richard says:

    I think there were some discussions with VW (or discussions about having discussions!)in 2000/01 – this was after MG Rover failed to get back into bed with Honda – regarding some sort of deal. I think VW wanted extra capacity for Skoda (and so was interested in Longbridge) while MG Rover wanted some sort of deal that would lead to new product.

    I’m not sure Honda would have ever taken over Rover. Weren’t they a little cool on the whole relationship by the time BMW hoved into sight? Japanese companies generally seem to prefer establishing their own companies rather than taking over existing concerns.

    Back in the 1980s, when BL was state-owned, Lord Young (the then DTI secretary) wanted to dispose of BL by selling it to another manufacturer. His preferred option was to sell to Nissan with whom the Thatcher-led Government had a good relationship (they’d just lured them to Sunderland).

    However, Lord Young knew that was politically impossible and, as Nissan were not interested anyway, he ended up talking to GM instead. There was a hell of a row in Parliament so the GM option was dropped and, eventually, British Aerospace were persuaded to become the new owners.

  48. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    The discussions in the mid-1980s would have resulted in Leyland Truck and Bus and Land Rover being sold to GM, Jaguar becoming independent (which did happen) and Austin-Rover being sold to either Ford or VW.

    The row was all about losing a national asset to foreign ownership and, as you say, BAe’s proposals were welcomed wholeheartedly. It’s open to speculation now, of course, whether things might have turned out better under Ford, GM or VW!

  49. Kev Davis says:

    I recently took the advice of no one and bought a 2005 MG ZT 1.8+ Turbo with only 33,000 miles. I have been nothing but impressed with it – the ride, the handling, the refinement and the performance.

    The car has ticked all the boxes for me and it has impressed some friends too – as it has an MG badge, they don’t associate it with the Rover 75. I am disappointed with the look of the half vinyl seats, though!

    Oh, and I went for the 1.8 lump as it is reasonably simple, easy to work on as well as being economical and, with the turbo, it has plenty of go!

  50. Tim_Burgess Tim Burgess says:

    Well, as one of those who REALLY loves the 75, it saddens me to agree with most of what Keith says.

    However, I reckon that the 1.8-litre K-Series version really is probably the best bet after the diesel – I’ve had one of each – mainly due to the oily bits being shared with MGF and TF. The F and TF are supported by the largest one-make car club in the world and so I imagine that mechanical parts will be available for a very long time.

    The 1.8-litre K-Series’ comparative fuel economy next to the KV6’s will help too.

  51. Richard says:

    @Jonathan Carling
    The BAe deal was, of course, a stitch up designed to get British Leyland off the Government’s books and into private ownership. It was a shame that, despite all the talk of synergy between the two companies, BAe had no real vision for Rover. All they did was warehouse Rover until a buyer came along.

  52. David Dawson says:

    I’m not so sure. The 75 has so much more long-term appeal than the 600 series. The 600, although desirable in its day, no longer appeals to me that much, unless it is a top draw, higher spec example.

    However, I still find that most of the 75s I see are desirable – including my own!!
    This greater long-term appeal gives the model a greater chance of being regarded as a classic and will encourage more people to spend money on them and preserve them.

    I know I’ve spent money on mine and stuck with it when perhaps I would have give up on a 618.

    Anyway, I aim to keep my 75 off death row for as long as possible!!

  53. David Dawson says:

    Well, it’s been a damn good day. My 75 has today sailed through its MoT with not a penny to spend over and above the test fee and not a single “advisory” either.

    It is the first MoT I’ve put the car through as the dealer sorted the last one just before I bought the car. However, having lost all faith in the bloke, I was pleased to put it through an MoT myself. The fact she has passed with flying colours seems to justify all the other cash I’ve spent – head gasket, cambelt etc etc. Tonight, I feel even happier with the car. Long live the 75 (and ZT, ZT-T of course)!!!

    Anyway, the point is this: my MoT experience today is a positive indicator to the 75’s durability and longevity. My car is 7.5 years old and I suspect I am its first truely dedicated owner – there were six (6!) before me.

  54. KenS Ken Strachan says:

    There were some good reasons for the launch being delayed. The V6s had fuel pipes moulded into the plastic intake manifold which leaked. At one stage, Cowley was full of V6-engined cars with notices taped to their steering wheels saying DO NOT START ENGINE in very large letters. The large and rather flat door panels reverberated horribly until Freudenberg were called in to glue mass dampers onto them.

    I have always thought of the Tourer as a delightfully old-fashioned car – like an updated Humber Super Snipe – quite illogically, as the 75 had a deep rear window, whereas the Snipe’s was more like a letter box. There was a 75 estate body on top of a scrap pile at Longbridge before the launch – it could be clearly seen from passing trains – so much for keeping the design under wraps.

  55. Phil Raby says:

    Dull rear lights? I’ve always found their styling rather satisfying. Great cars, I miss my ZT190.

  56. David 3500 says:

    The Rover 75 is a delightful car – I have enjoyed driving numerous examples of them over the years, ranging from the V6 to the V8.

    My current situation means that I am not in a position to buy one at the moment, but one day I will. Even now, 12 years after the 75 first went on sale, I still stop and admire examples being driven along majestically – particularly the prefacelift cars.

    My ideal purchase will likely be a Connoisseur SE saloon finished in Royal Blue with a Sandstone interior and featuring either the 2.5-litre V6 or V8 engine for those occasional trips out when the roads are quieter and can be enjoyed more.

  57. David 3500 says:

    Keith Adams :

    You might be referring to Walter Hasselkuss, who was Rover’s (BMW-installed) boss by then. However, it was Pischetsrieder who made the speech.


    You are right about this – I was there and Pischetsreider did indeed unveil the Rover 75 at the 1998 British International Motor Show. Both Herrs Pischetsreider and Hasselkus left the BMW Group in early 1999 as a result of a rather ‘intense’ boardroom meeting, which was approximately three months before the 75 officially went on sale.

  58. Andrew says:

    I’ve had my Rover 75 1.8-litre since 2005 when it was 2.5 years old. All that the car has cost me since then, apart from the HGF which coincided with the big 60k service (cambelts etc.) is petrol money. Certainly, the Rover 75 1.8-litre is a car which suits the amateur DIY driver on a tight budget.

  59. David Dawson says:

    I think that many people now see the 75 as desirable who maybe weren’t quite so keen during its (UK) production life. Actually, having brought the 75 more to my dad’s attention (he drives a nearly new Golf), I today detected a fraction of envy!!

    Oh, and yes, I am obsessed!!

  60. Robert Fairclough says:

    I remember my father, who was a Fleet Manager, having a sneak first drive in a 75 1.8-litre and then later servicing them in his retirement and saying how awful they were.

    Indeed, having experience of a 75 1.8-litre as well as Audi A4s and Volkswagen Passats of a similar vintage, the 75 was pretty outclassed. Dad bought himself a Flame Red MG-ZT-T as a retirement gift and only then did the 75 really come alive to enthusiasts and turn the tables on the higher spec A4 Quattros and Passat V6s – excepting, perhaps, the Passat W8 which really felt something special.

    I remember also we had to specifically find a red MG ZT as he always wanted a red SD1 Vitesse. We had many SD1s but never a Vitesse. Sadly, when my father passed away, the ZT-T had to go but the family has fond memories of it.

  61. KenS Ken Strachan says:

    GDEC wasn’t a particularly happy group – I remember being told that every single engineer on the team had applied to work at Jaguar, due to the better salaries and job security on offer there.

    However, although Bernd Pischetsreider pretty much destroyed Rover’s brand equity in his speech, doing some £100m-£150m damage in my estimation, he did a small favour to the 75 by discouraging over-supply. Sales could have fallen off rapidly if we had seen too many on the roads too soon but, as it was, the 75 sold steadily, as an alternative to trendier cars.

  62. I’m not entirely sure the Rover 75 is an endangered species – if you have a look at the How Many Left? website, there are some very interesting statistics on the Rover 75.

    Interestingly, in the case of many of the models, the vehicles aren’t being retired very quickly (if at all), suggesting that they are owned by more conservative drivers. This would also suggest that the Rover 75 was a chosen vehicle rather than just a company purchase.

    Compare the statistics against those for another model which is no longer in production and you will see that they tail off quite dramatically over time. Not so with the Rover 75 – it’s staying pretty constant over the years.

  63. didierz65 didier ziane says:

    I miss my 75 in all aspects but for the engine(1,8L) I’ve replaced her by an S-Type, and sure the 3L with manual g’box is powerfull, I think my Porsche 944 S2 would trail behind, but the cabin in my Sport spec isn’t a match on the Connoisseur I had, just indicate a turn and that nasty plasticy stalk is more mundeno than Jaguar!!! Even my older Volvo S80 felt posher in that aspect. Still, it’s true that a HGF will cost £250, brakes and clutch aren’t cheap, but I enjoyed every mile of my touring holiday in France last year, the 75 seats and suspension are so comfy, 36 mpg is commandable for a big car as well, if only I had bought a diesl or V6(2.5) the 1,8 is a bit underpowered at times when the car is fully ladden. Who knows, the 75 still is on top of my list, although an X-type 3l isn’t far behind…

  64. Dave W. Classic SE says:

    I despair at the attitude of those who know little about the mechanical aspects of vehicles and automatically assume that owning a German French or Italian vehicle as opposed to a British-made example,such as the Rover 75 or MG ZT/ZTT is inferior.The fact,as I see it,is that this opinion is derived from them listening to people who brainwash them into thinking that German engineering is better (it’s not) French and Italian styling is better,(it’s not)and it is the sheeplike following of hearsay which has led some people to think the worst of British engineering and styling.
    After owning a Rover 75 Classic SE for seven years and having the usual HGF of the 1.8 K series engine (due to a foreign imported Head Gasket) a broken rear spring (found at MOT time and a BMW part!) These are the only problems I have had,plus the Airbag warning light connection. Not enough to put me off this luxurious vehicle and want any other.

  65. David W says:

    The Rover 75 is not retro, just a British styled car in a modern package, just like BMW has its traditional German styling. I think they were trying to make british styling fashionable again. Problem is the British find our styling to be old fashioned and German styling as the one to have on the driveway. Shame as they are missing out on the pure class of the Rover 75, every trip in the Rover 75 is special. Regards the K series engine, other manufacturers have engine problems, just good at resolving them and keeping the customer happy. I wonder if the new retro MINI would have been as successful as it has been if it had a Rover badge on it! BMW are very good at what they do and the British public believe in them – Rover unfortunaately didn’t have the backing of the British public, probably down to the 1970’s!

  66. martin says:

    I have owned my rover 75 tourer cdt since brand new , when ordered in 2002. THIS CAR IS THE BEST CAR I HAVE EVER OWNED.


    This acr is a British panzer tank, indestructable. I still have this car now and very found of it its knocking out 2000 miles per month and still doing it, its never failed an MOT and the garage love to see it come in for its two services a year due to the mileage. The staff call her olde faithful…This car has seen out all the fords which this dealer sells now (ex mg rover)& the staff still love working on the BIG ROVERS.i ALSO OWN ANOTHER ONE, A RARE PRIMROSE YELLOW ROVER 75 FROM THE YEAR 2000. Out of the two Oxford built 2000 & Longbridge built 2002, Longbridge has been the most reliable of the two by far…..LONG LIVE ROVER (WITH WHATS LEFT ON THE BRITISH ROADS). I also know of one dealer left with a brand new stock he has 4 remaining Rover 75/MG Zt cars in the showroom with delivey miles only. I will replace mine with one of these beauties.

  67. Bryan Davis says:

    The 75 will die not through bad engineering but lack of spares.

    The original design and build was among the best – albeit that BMW ensured it would be no competitor for its own vehicles – irritating things like the underpowered turbocharging of the CDT, the use of the unreliable K series for other variants and no split/fold on most rear seats detracted from a great package put together from the BMW parts bin.

    Styling is classic and gives the vehicle a timelessness. Currently its a lot of motor for the money it commands – as long as the clutch doesn’t fail.

  68. Hugh Walker says:

    I have just sold my 75 1.8 Club SE. It has 170000 miles on the clock and drives like a new car. Okay, I changed the engine at 113000 miles after water ingestion wrecked the con rods and it had it’s share of mammoth bills but every penny spent was worth it. I could never afford to run a Bentley, but I didn’t need to. I had a Rover 75. And, dammit, I miss it! I miss the wood, the quiet, the serenity, the comfort. I replaced it with a low mileage ZT. They were set for classic status on the day they were launched and I still have faith in these cars.

  69. Marc Bolan says:

    If you want to own and run a 75 you will need a fat wallet.

  70. Tony says:

    @69, my last two 75s, a 200 CDT and my current CDTi have covered nearly 100,000 miles between them in my hand and over 200,000 in total. 1 new clutch and a solenoid over and above normal servicing costs. Depreciation, I lost £1700 on the CDT and still haver the CDTi so have not lost anything…cheap motoring in anybodies book

  71. francis brett francis brett says:

    @69 Absolutely not correct,at all.

  72. stewart says:

    Of the survifing 75s in 10 years time most will I supect be the 1.8 variant. The CDTs will be long gone, due to a combination of DMF failures, being a cheap source of parts for 520d and 320d BMWs and simply any engine fault will produce a bill larger than the cars value and not being a home repair option. The last issue with the CDT’s will probbly kill off the pre 2001 V6 cars, and a tax disc costing more than the car will kill the post 2001 V6 cars

  73. Will M says:

    Diesels are starting to get taxi’d with small taxi companies, taxi drivers realising that they’re a big comfortable saloon with a diesel engine.
    They’ll run those into the ground.
    I think some V6s might survive, would imagine they would tend to have a demographic similar to pre-XF Jag owners, they wouldn’t fear a servicing bill or a tax disc. Once they pass them on to the banger crowd, thats when the worries start.
    Pre-2001 examples will be both pre-project drive and pre-taxable emissions

    An LPG V6 from before 2001 would be the best of all worlds. 🙂

  74. Richie V says:

    I drive a MG ZT CDTi +135 on a 52 plate and when I bought it, it was cheap (£2k). I spent a small fortune (£1700) on the faults so in all around £3.7k – which was the going rate for a low(ish) mileage one.

    Get yourself one these, yesterday pottering work at about 40mph (following a Hyundai Sonata) I got 51mpg! Blitzing along at (ahem)mph to give the engine a clean – I still get over 40mpg…out of a 10 year old BMW M47 engine.

    I love the look of it, the half leather and alacantara, retro shaped dials, firm footing, solid engineering. It stands out in the car park at work and god how could you not be moved by it’s aggressive stance with all 6 lights blasting out of the front.

    Yes it’s getting a little harder to find parts but one piece of advice – get on the MG Forum website, find a local mechanic who knows them inside out and you will build a love for this car that you could NEVER have for a German/Japanese bland-mobile.

  75. Ken La Siesta Spain says:

    I have a Rover75 LHD 2.0 V6 AUTO 24VALVE QUAD CAM. What a great car .She has a full history from the production line to delivery to Rover Madrid Spain in 2000 then all receipts for services,,ITV’S ONLY 2 bills of sale and 128,000kms on the clock.What a great car I have thourght of trading her in a couple of times but always changed my mind as the the p/ex was ???? even though she is in A1 condition.All belts changed etc,I would think of selling her if she could go to a good home as I 67YRS .….. Ken

  76. Bryan says:

    I have had my 01 CDT saloon for over 4 years and 70+k miles. It’s approaching 200k. I had a new clutch and fitted 4 springs and 2 ball joints. Its also eaten 3 front fuel pumps and 1 replacement naff original tank pump (since beefed up with a later model). Everything works and I get 42 – 49 mpg. It’s one well built car – the springs are under spec’d as was the original tank fuel pump. Otherwise – a belting buy.

  77. Alasdair Mackenzie says:

    I have two Rover 75s and have owned one or more since buying my first 5 weeks after MG Rover crashed (which I admit made me more than a little nervous). My experiences of maintenance and spares availability have been good and both cars, a diesel estate and a V6 saloon have proved very reliable and well screwed together (touch wood). Both on original exhausts, gearboxes and drive trains.

    Bills so far: 2002 Diesel tourer @98k miles – clutch (not due to hydraulic failure, but a worn out plate and it is a big job to do), pads and discs all round, tyres and regular servicing. No other issues – even retains the original fuel pumps, a well known weak point (a French part incidentally).

    2001 V6 saloon @100k miles – road springs due to breakage, thermostat and housing, brake pipes (rust -a common problem on many cars) pads and discs all round, anti roll bar links and bushes (age deterioration), tyres and regular servicing. The next bill is likely to be an exhaust (again due to age). No other issues

    Maybe I just got lucky, twice!

    I admit they can be pricey if they need major attention but shown me any car in that sector and of that era that isn’t.

    You cannot own one and expect to spend milk money on it. If that is your particular oyster, buy a small car, the 75 is not for you.

    One last thing. The BMW M47 diesel also has its little foibles, and isn’t quite the perfect jewel it is often made out to be, particularly in the “detuned” form originally offered by BMW.

  78. Will M says:

    Still look classy. The other half mistook one for a Jag.

  79. Dave F says:

    I have a 75 made in 2003. The only problem I’ve ever had was the clutch! It only has 85,000 on the clock and its an awesome car! It’s just a shame Rover shut when they finally got it right!

  80. ANON says:

    Feel compelled to mention that there is a primrose yellow 75 (2 litre) for sale:

    I’m not in a position to go up to County Durham to view it so no idea how many of the faults outlined above it might have, but they don’t come up very often….

  81. dontbuybluemotion dontbuybluemotion says:

    @80 Thats a strange Colour, never seen one before! Incidentally Bedlington is in Northumbria, a good 45 mins to over an Hour (depending on A1 Traffic) from Durham Centre. Well spotted though !

  82. ANON says:

    I saw a picture of one in the gallery from Longbridge Pride a couple of years ago – with those alloys it looks class, but no way I would get permission to buy it…

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