By 31 January 2005 0 Comments Read More →

Blogs : January 2005

31 Jan 2005

I have a dream…

By PHOENIX

THERE’S nothing more annoying than when you wake up from a dream, when no matter how hard you try you just can’t remember it all. All morning I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember this dream I had last night, this is as far as I’ve got.

The dream started of normally enough, I was applying for a job as a shelf stacker at my local Co-Op (hey, it’s normal for me) but then it all goes a bit weird. Somehow, the job agency got my application confused and I ended up going to an interview at MG Rover! To my surprise John Towers himself met me at the reception of Longbridge. He looked a little surprised too, but was very friendly towards me and laughed when I told him I was already till trained.

After a brief chat, he showed me round the production line and then took me to the design studio. There he showed me the viewing area where he introduced me to none other that Peter Stevens, all the MG and Rover concepts were on display and some of them looked really amazing. A Rover 75-sized saloon really stood out.

Then things really got interesting, Peter Stevens showed me to another viewing room (I don’t recall what happened to John Towers), but this one had not MG or Rovers but, Austins in it!

Pointing at a sort of rugged-looking supermini sized car Peter Stevens said “this one will replace the Cityrover, we’re developing it with TATA and that hatchback next to it, well that’s based on the 45 platform, might get hybrid power.”

Walking along I saw more cars, all with Austin badges. I can’t remember so well but I’m sure one of them looked really similar to the SsangYong Rexton.

The only other Austin I can properly remember was a sort of MPV/SUV thing, I asked Peter Stevens about it when we reached his office and he said something about Sonalika? We talked in his office for what seemed like hours, a starting pay of £50k was mentioned…

…at the very moment my alarm clock went off.

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28 Jan 2005

A real question mark

By JAMES NICHOLL

THIS is not going to be a negative piece on MGR, though it may at times seem that way. But, I have been thinking about where Land Rover sits today in comparison. They have a new RR Sport, a revised RR, a new Disco and by all accounts, a new Freelander not far behind. I think a first class job has been done, even if Ford are not always happy, and certainly a much better job than Jaguar.

When you look at MGR since the split, the true state of affairs at Longbridge becomes very clear. Unless the Chinese deal happens and happens soon, I do feel the end will be in sight. Not only because they may run out of cash, though that may happen, but simply because there will be no products to sell, which customers will want. Think about what has happened over the last few years and it is easy to trace why.

While no one would say the business had a perfect start position, it was not all bad. There was no debt, a free stock of cars and a huge chunk of money from BMW. They ‘Zed’ cars were developed quickly and the 75 Tourer launched. I thnk a fair amout of the work on these cars was done in the BMW days under cover (Certainly, the Zeds were developed in coal bunkers out of earshot of BMW, but the Tourer was a full in-house BMW-era product – KJA) but it was encouraging to see the MG brand developed.

Unfortunately the strategy went off course at this point. The first mistake was offering the MG versions of just about every Rover variation. As a direct result, Rover became the non sporting-brand and ultimately not as desirable, and its image of an old person’s car was reinforced. So, if you didnt like the brand values of MG, you went elsewhere.

A second major problem, and this may have started with the 25 launch in the previous era, was the cost cutting measures applied to the cars. The 25 interior became very cheap and nasty and the specs lower than its rivals. While the ZR 105 sold well to the young drivers looking for something insurable but still sporty, the 25 began to die. However, the management sat back and watched all of this happen to the Rover brand and concentrated their efforts on the V8 and SV. Indeed, they pursued the error and began to destroy the 75, ruining the well executed initial design along with declining build quality.

The errors then began to abound. The RD/X60 was stopped, as the cash suffered due to the reducing sales – an incredible error, given how important it is to secure the long term future for MG Rover. Management distracted themselves pursuing numerous deals to save the company.

Another disaster for the Rover brand followed – the ill-fated CityRover. Some have tried to be generous with this car, but the words of my local dealer sum it up: “we don’t want to see one again”. I think, above all, this began to illustrate for me how the management didn’t understand the market, and what the Rover brand had meant in the past, and how all their actions had devalued it .

The end result of all these errors was reducing sales and thus cashflow.

The RD/X60 was stopped, as the cash suffered
due to the reducing sales – an incredible
error, given how important it is to secure
the long term future for MG Rover.

 

The facelifts came, the first sign that someone could see the disaster approaching, and the 25 and 45 got better quality interiors again, and really worthwhile improvements, but its seems all to late. The customer has not heard of the improvements, and isn’t all that interested anyway. The 75/ZT didn’t benefit much from the facelift (I bought an ’04 model ZT) apart from receiving an ill-fitting front bumper that no one in Longbridge seems to care about sorting.

I bought a black one, which hides the problem a bit, but really, this is not good enough on a £20k car!

Then as sales decline further, so does cash, and soon everything that can be sold, is disposed of to raise money, which sends out a negative message further hurting sales. We approach the end of 2004 and Mr Towers announces a done deal with SAIC solving all the problems. Except SAIC immediately seems to doubt that.

The marketeers do some reseach into the Rover brand and find customers want cars like the R8. So, out come GL, GS and GX models – with leather… A desperate move, I think…

So where does it go from here? Could SAIC walk off with the IP rights to the K series and 75 and say thank you very much? I sincerely hope not, but the rumours are not encouraging, as Mr Towers’ January deal faded. The next Eight weeks will, I believe, tell us the fate of MGR once and for all.

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27 Jan 2005

What’s £100m between friends?

By KEITH ADAMS

SO IT seems a number of Financial Times journalists have been getting themselves all fired up over the thought the government might actually be preparing to hand over some cash to MG Rover…

The story seems to centre on the rumour doing the rounds that in order to get SAIC and MG Rover in bed together and intertwined in the union of joint-venture-dom, the government is considering throwing a £100m sweetner into the pot. Why, the FT states, should MG Rover or SAIC receive such amounts of money when there are so many concerns over MG Rover in general?

For one, I am baffled at the negativity of the press. They won’t let go over the size of the ‘fab four’s’ pension and annual salary, and at any opportunity, they seem to take delight in kicking the poor old Longbridge based company right in the knackers. We all know MG Rover and SAIC are negotiating hard, and that there is a large contingent of Chinese management in Longbridge on an almost daily basis at the moment… so why not give them a break and let it sign the bloody deal?

Fleet Street – why not give MG Rover a
break and let it sign the bloody deal
With SAIC?

Every negative press report in one of the ‘quality’ dailies is bound to send shockwaves reverberating back to Shanghai, and the last thing the cautious Chinese want right now is a bunch of British hacks rocking the boat, making things unpleasant. Anyone would think Fleet Street want MG Rover closed and over 5,000 people directly employed by the company on the dole.

As for the £100m… what’s the big deal? What’s that compared with the spend on Iraq? Exactly.

If it were up to me, I’d re-nationalize MG Rover, throw some real money at it and get some world beating cars wearing the Longship and Octagon onto the market. It doesn’t have to be Ryder and Red Robbo all over again, you know. After all, they did it to Railtrack…

One can dream, one can dream…

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26 Jan 2005

What’s that car?

By KEITH ADAMS

I’VE BEEN transferring a lot of my old video tapes to DVD recently, and reminded myself of this little beauty a found on the recently released BMIHT video starring the Rover SD1. I like to think I’ve seen most published pictures starring BL products, but the above image was so fascinating when I first clapped eyes on it, I let out a little gleeful whoop.

Demonstrating the modernity of the SD1, and the technology that went into its development, the Leyland Cars promotional film proudly demonstrated its telemetric computer running away as a test pilot flung a lightly disguised up the Stelvio pass. The fact that the computer was as large as a medium sized filing cabinet and took up most of the back seat is neither here nor there – it looked good in 1976.

Demonstrating the company’s wind tunnel (I’m guessing it was actually the facility at the Motor Industry Research Association) was this little gem. On the video, you get to see a little more than this – but not much more – and it does seem a little bit smaller than an SD1. I began to think SD2 – but it’s not too similar to the SD2 we know and love, and took with us to Peterborough last year. Also, would Leyland really want to reveal a glimpse of a future model programmes on a film promoting a new car?

So, what is it? If you have any idea, we’d love to hear from you…

***

Below, is another one for our readers. Can anyone identify this designer, and the cars he’s working on?

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Feedback:

I’m idling away my time here, so I put the registration of the mystery car into the AA data check and it came up with:

MAKE: Other British makes
MODEL: Other

So that’s that cleared up then.

Re. the other picture, I think it’s André Previn working on early concept sketches for the Aston Martin Vantage Zagato. Yes, I know it was almost ten years too early but he was very forward thinking that Previn.

Mind you, if he was supposed to be employed by Rover at the time, doing cheeky jobs for Italian design houses is probably what got him sacked, forcing a return to the professional piano playing circuit and on to an hilarious appearance on the Morecambe & Wise Show.

RICHARD PORTER


25 Jan 2005

What if?

By KEITH ADAMS

WE ALL know the MINI is a big, bloated cynically conceived, BMW engineered pastiche of a groundbreaking original, don’t we? Of course we do. But I sometimes wonder how things would have been if by some miracle, John Towers had negotiated his way into MG Rover keeping the car for itself back in 2000?

What got me thinking was something quite insignificant really – its key.

Down the local curry shop in Peterborough, I sat next to a pleasant media-type lady, who – obviously – owns a MINI. She said she loves Minis in general, having started off her motoring career behind the wheel of an original, but now, having moved to a company car, it seemed the obvious way to go. I couldn’t disagree really – although I rate the MG ZR pretty highly, it’s not really the sort of car Mini lovers really go for, is it?

BMW may have had much influence over the
MINI design, but at heart, it’s
still a Rover…

Anyway, when she was about to leave with her boyfriend, she chucked her keys on the table… Lo-and-behold – the MINI key is identical to the Rover 75 key. Reminding me of the two cars’ shared Anglo-German DNA, I recalled yet again, how you can see in so many small details – the mirrors, the door handles, the interior design, similar use of chrome exterior detailing – these cars are products of the same company. Park a Silver MINI next to a similarly coloured (pre-fecelift) Rover 75, and the similarities are brought into sharp relief…

BMW may have had much influence over the MINI design, but to quote a rather naff advertising tag-line, above all, it’s a Rover.

However, would it have been the success it has been, had MG Rover been responsible for marketing it? Undoubtedly, Longbridge build quality would have been more than a match for Cowley’s, but would MINI buyers find MG Rover dealerships nice places to visit? And would they be turned on by the advertising? Would there have been any advertising?

Interesting questions, don’t you think?

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24 Jan 2005

Ah, but it’s not original, is it?

By KEVIN DAVIS

OF ALL the Princess wedges that are still on the road, every one is as original, specification wise, as it left the factory. The Princess never was, and will never be regarded as a sports saloon. When I first saw this Snapdragon yellow Princess, the first thing that crossed my mind was that it looked sporty.

After I acquired it, I wanted to make my yellow Princess a bit more special than any of the others that are still on the road, after all, the colour instantly shouts that this is no ordinary Princess, so I thought why not back it up with a few accessories to enhance the car without going over the top. Obviously the first obstacle is making the car look sporty, when the Princess is anything but. The first thing was to add a set of alloy wheels, preferably period, which kick off a cars looks dramatically if chosen carefully.

Luckily the Princess was originally available with a nice set of multi spoke alloys; so keeping the period look is no problem. A couple of well-placed Leyland Special Tuning (ST) stickers in black to complement the original style twin coachline, do enough to show the cars sporting intentions.

In the end, though, I thought what the
hell, it’s my car, and I’ll do what I
want to do with it…

Engine wise, I decided to fit a pair of twin SU carbs to the 2-litre O-Series engine. Twin carbs were available on the later Ambassador so upgrading was no problem. The performance difference may not be immediately noticeable, but mid-range acceleration is markedly improved.

Then there’s the interior. Adding a Maxi HL sports steering wheel and a rev-counter hint at more sportiness. And the latest addition to the car is a set of Recaro sports seats from a Rover 800 Vitesse. I agonised over whether to add these, as they are the only non-period addition to the car. Fellow Princess enthusiasts (with the odd exception) were against the idea, saying that it takes away too much of its originality. In the end, though, I thought what the hell, it’s my car, and I’ll do what I want to do with it.

As the original seats, although good, are getting a bit tired, I decided that it was the way to go. I have to say that I am extremely pleased with the results and it took surprisingly little work to fit the Recaro’s. I suppose the final word will come from other Princess owners reactions, but the uniqueness of my wedge makes all worth while and as long as I’m happy, that’s all that matters. If I worried about what other people thought, hell I wouldn’t own a Wedge at all!!

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Kevin runs the excellent leylandprincess website.


21 Jan 2005

Time to say goodbye…?

By KEITH ADAMS

DON’T get me wrong – the Jaguar X-Type is a likeable enough car, and one which along with the Rover 75 adds a little bit of Englishness to a market sector dominated by German badge-wagens.

However, the X-Type was always something of an experiment for Jaguar. It has been pitched into a part of the car market previously unknown to Jaguar – the middle management sector. This is the place where the 3-Series, A4 and C-Class are king, and to muscle in, you’re going to have to come up with a pretty impressive USP. In Jaguar’s (or should I say Ford’s) case, the X-Type had everything going for it – a prestige badge, four wheel drive and a patina of post-modern retro that is a genuine alternative to the contemporary style of the Germans.

Sales haven’t been great, though – and the Jaguar X-Type is struggling in the market place. Many buyers perceived this car as a re-bodied Mondeo (the two cars do share a great deal of hardware), and although it offered four-wheel-drive, the driving experience was not as special as it could have been. And because it hasn’t been seen as a ‘special’ car, there are elements of the media saying it is diluting all that Jaguar stands for.

Certainly, it’s a lack of ‘specialness’ in the X-Type’s DNA, which harms its chances, and devalues the Jaguar name.

Because the X-Type hasn’t been seen as a
‘special’ car, there are elements of the
media saying it is diluting all that
Jaguar stands for.

But the business plan behind the car was a sound one when Ford thought it up. It realised there was a dwindling number of punters out there for a full-sized family car that didn’t offer a pretige badge. User-Choosers were moving away from their Vauxhalls and Fords and ‘up’ into BMWs and Audis. For Ford to prosper in Europe, it needed to offer a classier alternative to the Mondeo – and that meant building a smaller Jaguar.

All well and good, but after the X-Type project was kicked off, Ford bought up Volvo, and found itself with the perfect middle-class car. The Swedish marque offers rock solid brand values – and unlike Jaguar, has a long history of building mid-market executive cars…

So, Jaguar is in trouble – a £610m loss last year is worrying to say the least – but it is not irreversible. It is one of the most respected names in the motoring world, and has a long a glorious competition heritage to call upon. What it doesn’t have is a tradition of building underachieving cars for aspirational photocopier salesmen. Is it not time to admit the experiment was a failure, and to return to what Jaguar does best – building super saloons and coupes?

The XJ is a world beater (even if the retro-style could well hamper it), the S-Type has been developed into a great car too (if you can get past the styling), and next year’s XK promises to be a fabulous car (assuming peoople don’t start thinking of Jaguar Coupes as slightly inferior Aston-Martins). Leave it at that, and return the big cat to its traditional hunting ground, and its future should be safe…

If Ford must have a classy Mondeo to sell, let’s put Volvo badges on it, eh…

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Feedback:

I STRONGLY disagree.

The X-Type is a fine first attempt. OK there may have been no small Jaguar before it, but does that really matter? Things could be improved for the next generation with a more radical approach. The X-Type was a new product in a new market sector, and Jaguar took the safe option, in order not to scare the traditionalist.

They have now tested the water, and know what people what from there small Jaguar, so the Mk2 version should be more of a hit. Of course, Jaguar missed the point of it all by not having an M3 rival, which the Mk2 must address from the start. Leaving this area of the market uncovered would be a mistake – an effective performance model would provide a ‘halo effect’ for the rest of the rest.

Even if the X-type had been spot on, would this have pleased the traditionalists? NO. Because it is still a small car. Would it have tempted BMW drivers out of their beloved BMWs? NO. Because it’s not German, nor does it have a BMW badge. It will take time for people with £25,000 to spend, to realise that German cars are not all they are cracked up to be.

If Jaguar pulled the plug on the X-Type, it would be a sad day. Some might not agree, but people who buy small BMWs, move on to bigger cars from the same manufacturer.

Jaguar needs young buyers, so when they get older they buy the ‘Big Cats’.

My closing words: ‘develop new markets or die’…

PIERS TWEEDIE


I HAVE to say, as the owner of a late 2004 X-Type 2.0D, I am more than impressed by the car. It has the Aura of ‘Jaguar’ about it.

I am extremely impressed with it, and visited the Jaguar factory at Browns Lane a couple of weeks before the announcement that car production there would be ceasing. Employees there were very chatty and kind – and on enquiring about the fate of the ‘Big Cat’, they told us in no uncertain terms XJ and the XK sales have plummeted around the world.

The S-Type is, in my opinion, not the prettiest car on the roads, but I believe its looks have hampered sales, to a degree. The X-Type, on the other hand, is a pretty car, and does everything asked of it. It is a true Jaguar, and as the tradition of Jaguars show, a sporty heritage, and luxury do go together.

And the X-Type has all of that, and more.

ANDY HAMES


20 Jan 2005

The forgotten Rover

By KEITH ADAMS

LET US pause a second and consider the Rover 600.

Why do I mention this? Well, it seems to us here, the Rover 600 has entered into that no-mans land of being a car that time forgot. I know for a fact it has plenty of fans, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to have generated the cultish following of other models in the Rover range.

And it’s an interesting phenonemon, not least because there are plenty of reasons why the 600 should be given wider recognition than it has. Perhaps the faults of the other models are part of their more widely accepted wider appeal.

For instance, the Rover 800 has something of a following with those who like a big, luxurious car, but don’t want to pay a lot for the privilege of owning one. You can pick them up for pennies, and yet – on the whole – they offer a very pleasant driving experience for those on a budget. The 200/400 models, also have a pretty strong following these days – thanks, in no small part to the performance of the turbocharged models, and a pleasingly classy, compact nature, which again, can be picked up for very little money.

The 600 seems to be neither one thing or the other – you can’t buy them for peanuts – and so, the hard-up won’t buy them. And, of course, it is only right, the 600 has a relatively strong (for a Rover) resale value – because it still stands up today, and is a very dependable package (surely more reliable than the 200/400 and 800).

The styling of the 600 has stood the test
of time far better than the 200/400 or
800, and it still looks pretty
contemporary today…

It’s shame the 600 isn’t lauded by more people than it has been – because in many ways, it represented more of Rover hopes and ambitions than any other car it produced at the time. The real stand-out quality about the 600 is its styling of the 600, which – if anything – has stood the test of time far better than the 200/400 or 800, and it still looks contemporary today.

It’s a wonderfully resolved design and has an underlying classiness that the 800 never managed to achieve in any form, apart from the Coupe. It has a range of engines heavily biased towards Honda’s back catalogue, meaning no camshaft oil seal leaks or head gasket problems. And the only version in the range, which did use an in-house petrol engine was the vivdly quick 620Ti – and that looked just like any other 600. Not great if you wanted people to know your car packed 200PS.

If the 600 did have a problem, it was this – Richard Woolley’s styling was so successful, one inevitably came away from driving it disappointed – because its looks promised something more special. This wasn’t the case with the 620Ti, but that magic was never passed down to the rest of the range.

But why the 600 should be living in obscurity these days is still something of a mystery. Perhaps because it was so good, played against it… certainly compared with the 200/400 and 800, it’s an anodyne driving experience, but does that make it any less of a car?

Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the 600…

…after all, it’s the prototype 75.

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Feedback:

ENJOYED the blog about the 600 Series very much, and pretty much agreed with every word.

The 600 is the best Rover I never owned. I did, however, have the pleasure of hiring one for a week, while on business in Ireland in 1999. A 620 SLi in British Racing Green metallic, it was a class act in every department. So good, it won a British Design Council award shortly after it was launched.

To me, the 600 (along with the last-of-the-line R8 400s and the 800 Coupé) represents the high water mark of the Rover Group, and remains a potent reminder of what Rover came to be prior to the Munich occupation. With the 600 Rover’s revival was complete. They were once again a respected maker of quality motorcars, able to credibly rival anything their future invaders were making. As with so many of the other regrettable decisions made during those dark days, one can easily imagine why Munich exterminated the model so swiftly and unemotionally.

The 600 was also the true spiritual successor to the Rover 2000 in many respects, much more so than the 75. It was the perfect latter day P6.

Short-lived, yes. Forgotten, never.

“SEAMASTER”


JUST read the Rover 600 blog. It is indeed a forgotten car and I often wonder where they’ve all gone!

One thing that came to my mind as soon as I had read it, is the numerous stories about the Rover-BMW breakup in the German press at the time, in which strong hints were dropped that in fact it was the 600 that convinced BMW of Rover’s abilities. So impressed had they been by its quality and how the lacklustre Honda Accord had been transformed that they decided it was a good company to buy…

Well, they’re rumours that were never confirmed, but I can certainly see the truth in them.

MATTHIAS JOST


19 Jan 2005

No question… the XJ-S leads the pack…

By MICHAEL WYNN-WILLIAMS

PERHAPS it is time for us to reassess the Jaguar XJ-S. It has always suffered in comparison with the classic E-type as if it was somehow complicit in that cars much lamented demise. These days Ford, under the pseudonym of Jaguar, love to fly the heritage flag and point out the classic Jag styling cues of the new cars. As they plunder their museum for old ideas and throw together the latest pastiche, the poor old XJ-S is elbowed to one side.

No one should ever doubt the impact that the E-type had at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show, but it owed nothing to the preceding XK150. The point is that the car was not only whimperingly beautiful, it was utterly new. It was also race-bred, and the only logical successor to it was the still-born XJ13. Sadly, the XJ13’s racing debut was fatally delayed and the mid-engine sports car derivate never evolved. Instead the V12 engine went into the E-type as it became bloated with middle-age spread. It is an inconvenient fact, but by the early Seventies, the E-Type was far out of fashion and the final examples lingered unsold long after production ended.

The XJ-S was never intended as the E-type’s successor, but it also had a huge impact on the motoring world at the time of its launch in 1975. This was the last truly new Jaguar, the last time the company took a step into the future rather than back into the museum. Of course we all acknowledge that it was a great car, if you ignore the flying buttresses, the single headlights, or whatever else we fondly think held it back from immortality. But think on this: it remains the biggest selling sports car Jaguar have ever made.

Alright, so it took a couple of decades to get there, but it reached its peak level of sales a full fourteen years after it was introduced. If this had been any other manufacturer it would have been on its third generation by then. Not only that, this car was so fundamentally brilliant it then formed the basis of the car that saved Aston Martin, the DB7 of 1993, and then its own successor, the XK8 of 1996. Jaguar had tried to repeat the impact of the iconic E-type, giving it the same open-mouth gape and launching it in Geneva, but in spirit and hardware it was XJ-S.

This was the last truly new Jaguar, the
last time the company took a step
into the future rather than
back into the museum.

From then on it has seemed that Jaguar is too terrified to step out of its own shadow. The latest XJ saloon is a technical marvel but looks like the original with an oversized boot. The S-Type looks like, well, an S-Type and by the time they got to the X-Type they had either run out of icons or tracing paper, so they welded a cut-and-shut job with the other two saloons.

It might even have worked, if they had chosen the right decade. Of course the originals were fabulously beautiful, but to someone who grew up in the Seventies, they also look old. We grew up seeing rusty old Mark IIs and E-Types, we lusted after the new metal. The new kids on the block were BMW and for those of us who dreamed of owning one we now have reached the time of life where we can indulge ourselves. We are not much interested in warmed over versions of William Lyons’ classics. New stylist, Ian Callum, has promised to banish the retro obsession but his ALC concept is no leap forward.

AUTOCAR described one of its most radical features being the headlights, because they wrap round the front a bit.

Good grief, is that it?

In no way am I calling for a rehash of the XJ-S but it should be restored to its proper place in history. When it was nearly killed off in the early 80s many commentators felt pretty smug. Then it came back with a little more fuel economy and a whole lot more reliability and suddenly it was the car it should have always been.

It even has that Jaguar soul, an animal grace that transcends the metal. There is no need to make excuses: this car is 100% Jaguar and the last of the breed.

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18 Jan 2005

The best car in the world?

By KEITH ADAMS

BACK in the Seventies, a hot topic of conversation was ‘what is the best car in the world?’

In school playgrounds across the country, Top Trumps playing children would argue the case for Mercedes-Benz (with the 450SEL 6.9) or Rolls-Royce (with the Silver Shadow), or pehaps even a bevvy of Italian exotica with names as exotic and unpronouncable as ‘Khamsin’, ‘Countach’ or ‘Ghibli’. In the end, most recognised that it was too personal a subject to answer objectively, and an agree-to-differ scenario ensued. Either that, or you’d have a scrap…

Pity, then, poor old Jaguar. In the darkest of decades, few people gave its products a second glance – once the E-type dropped out of production, the XJ-S came along, and most people decided they either couldn’t live with its challenging looks or its voracious appetite for four-star fuel. Its image was also lower than it should have been, with many people seeing it as a BL product, tarring it with the same brush reserved for the Allegro and Marina.

Leyland didn’t do Jaguar any favours either, by lumping the great marque in with the rest of the range – leaving many people with the distinct impression the XJ-S was a sister product of the Longbridge-Cowley pairing.

Be that as it may, this perception did the XJ-S a massive disservice – the truth was the XJ-S was had a very strong claim to the ‘best car in the world’ title. Its V12 engine is an absolutely magnificent creation – offering instant power at any point in the rev range, oodles of velvety smooth refinement, and a turbine-like roar on demand. OK, it drinks like an Iberian Supertanker, but it is a price worth paying for such effortless performance. The nearest comparison to an XJ-S being floored from rest I can think of is that of a Boeing 737 going for take-off… there seems to be a limitless, seemless, rush of power – it doesn’t tail off or peak… it just keeps pushing and pushing. Remarkable.

The nearest comparison to an XJ-S being
floored from rest I can think of is that
of a Boeing 737 going for take-off…

The suspension is almost as amazing, too. Supple, limousine-like ride is coupled with low-roll cornering and high levels of grip. In a way, it can be hustled like a dirty great Lotus Elan, as long as you never lose sight of its weight… slow in, fast out is a strategy which will always serve you well in an XJ-S. The steering? Let’s gloss over that for now.

With such a wide range of abilities, why is it, then, that more people didn’t hail this car as the towering achievement that it was? Putting aside the BL baggage it carried, I can only assume it was too cheap for its own good. Like all Jaguars before it, the XJ-S came with a bargain basement price – putting it at a level slightly above the top of the range Granadas of the day, and a long way away from its opposition. And being such a status conscious end of the market – a keen baseline was the last thing potential owners wanted.

They were fools, of course – and those who did plump for the XJ-S were treated to a very, very fine car.

So, was BL producing the best car in the world during the Seventies? Yes, as long as you’re comfortable with the notion Jaguar was a BL car.

We are here. What about the Jaguar community?

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Feedback:

The XJ-S is in my opinion only the second best car in the world of the Seventies; the best was not far removed though, it being the XJ12. All the good points of the XJ-S, but better looking and with a much nicer interior, and negligible loss of performance. Both would drink Oliver Reed under the table though.

The only thing wrong with the appearance of the XJ-S was that it came after the E-type, had it been built by anyone else it would have been seen as a stylish modern design. However folowing the E-type was never going to be easy, Jaguar made the right decision by not even trying and building somthing completely different. Once the memories of the E-type had died down the XJ-S came good, had the shape really been that bad I doubt greatly this could have happened.

STEWART WELLER


17 Jan 2005

Can you have too much of a good thing?

By KEITH ADAMS

POWER is a wonderful thing to have, be it in your career, at your fingertips, or at a flex of your right foot…

How many times have you been stuck behind a slow moving Rover 800/Caravan combo on a long uphill stretch of single carriageway road and thought to yourself, ‘shall I or shan’t I pass?’ More often than not, discretion has got in the way, and you’ve decided to wait, safe in the knowledge that you’re going to get to where your going regardless.

In a Rover 75 Turbo diesel, these moments happen rather a lot, and a very relaxed attitude to motoring soon ensues. You bimble along at your own pace, content to watch the world go by… knowing you’ll get there eventually. However nice this may be, there are times you want to get somewhere in a hurry – and at times like this, there is no substitute for raw power…

I got a taste of this myself the other night when I had a play in a friend’s Subaru Impreza WRX around our local backroads. No ordinary Scooby was this, though – it had been on a trip to the rolling road, and had picked up a couple of grand’s worth of chipping, exhaust and suspension mods, with the end result being a hike in the maximum power output to a cool 335bhp.

How many times have you been stuck behind a
slow moving Rover 800/Caravan combo on a
long uphill stretch of single carriageway
road and thought to yourself, ‘shall I or
shan’t I pass?’

If there have been times I’ve thought a Rover 800 Vitesse or Citroen BX 16V was fast, then I was labouring under a very sad misapprehension. They are merely, ‘nippy’, and this Japanese hotshot is now my new benchmark what what actually constitutes ‘quick’. This level of acceleration re-defines your own ideas about stopping, cornering and overtaking. Quite simply, time and distance are compressed with the WRX, and in my eyes at least, that makes this a very safe car indeed.

Pulling out of a sideroad? No need to wait for a big gap – a car can be almost upon you, and you can still pull out in front of it, give it a dollop of throttle, turn the wheel, and BLAM – you’re in the traffic flow. No drama, no fuss, no braking from the car you’re pulling out in front of. Who says cars like these aren’t safe? Not me, that’s for sure.

So, the question remains – can all this power be too much? It has to be said, driving a car like this takes up great demands of your concentration – not so much keeping it in check, because it grips and brakes better than your ‘cooking’ car – in terms of keeping the speeds down to sensible levels on UK roads. I don’t mean give-and-take A- and B-roads, as traffic around you keeps you honest, but on country lanes and deserted byways. 100mph feels like 50mph – 120mph feels like 60mph – you get the idea. And although you’re in control and feel calm at the wheel when pressing on, there’s always those around that may not be…

So, yes, a car like this is potentially a VERY good thing in terms of active safety, while there are low powered cars around you, the speed differentials involved make it a slightly worrying proposition.

The obvious answer is to get rid of all the slow cars off our roads – without these, we can all get on with living our lives. Safely and enjoyably…

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14 Jan 2005

You are what you smell…

By KEITH ADAMS

WHAT’S the first thing you notice when you get into a car for the very first time? Is it the colour of the trim, the style of the dashboard? Nope, I guarantee the first thing that hits you whenever you get inside a car is the smell…

I hear it a lot from classic car enthusiasts – and notice it myself time and time again. Be it the smell of vinyl and plastic combined with petrochemical grade velour you get in a lightly used Princess, or the leathery smell of old camera cases in a Jaguar XJ6 Series One, every car seems to have an interior odour as unique as its exterior style.

Whether this is by luck or judgement is anyone’s guess in historical terms – I know that there is little out there that can compare to the smell of a warm XJ-S’s interior on a summer’s day – the connolly leather coupled with the BL-grade plastics makes for a heady aroma. The smell seems to encapsulate all we love about BL with an added dash of class – call it ‘BL-Plus’ for the management class. And, let’s face it, that’s what an XJ-S was when it was launched back in 1975.

The ‘new Rover’ aroma may not have been overly
pleasant at first whiff, but it grew on you –
and along with the door close sound engineered
to emulate the slamming of a freezer door, it
gave the car a real character all of its own.

Today’s cars are an altogether more anodyne lot – but it’s still there if you look for it. Rovers since about 1989 (the R8 seems to mark the point it began) seem to have shed the petrochemical BL smell in favour of something a lot more rubbery. Not sure if it is an improvement or not, but at least the distictive odour of ‘new Rover’ seemed to last longer into each car’s life – into middle-age in most cases… So maybe that was the plan – ‘Longbridge Rubber’ was the scent of 1989, but if you were lucky you’d still smell it in 1999.

The ‘new Rover’ aroma may not have been overly pleasant at first whiff, but it grew on you – and along with the door closing sound, engineered to emulate the slamming of a freezer door, it gave the car a real character all of its own.

Nowadays it seems to be slipping away from MG Rover – the smell, which permeated all non-leather Rovers now seems to be limited to the 25 and 45. The CityRover and 75 have their own – unique – smells…

So what Rover engineers at Longbridge now need to do is formulate a new scent, bottle it, and ensure it is rolled out across the range.

The 75 V8 has a nice whiff to it… wood and leather with a hint of hot tyre rubber is a winner in my eyes… and is probably one of the reasons it wormed its way into my affections so easily. Aston Martin’s aroma is pretty intoxicating stuff too… and not a hint of ‘Blue Oval Plastic’ is to be found anywhere near an Aston’s interior (unlike the Eighties and Nineties Astons, which at times smelled, as well as looked like the Ford Scorpio). If someone at Gaydon (Aston’s home now) could bottle the some ‘Eau de DB9’ for a friend a Longbridge, MG Rover might win a few more sales.

After all, if a 25 smelled as good as a DB9 (instead of smelling like hot rubber and cheap plastic), you’d immediately have a positive impression of the car…

Follow your nose, I say.

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13 Jan 2005

An American Fantasy?

By ADRIAN PERKINS

GREY import Evos, Imprezas, Skyline GT-Rs and MX-5s?

Remember the cottage industry this created in the UK? Okay, so once their respective manufacturers cottoned on to the fact that there was money to be made from officially importing them themselves, the whole personal/grey import industry pretty much died, but it’s very existence in the first place proved that, enthusiasts will go to great lengths to buy a desirable car, not generally available in their territory.

Now, in a slightly different way, but along the same principle, couldn’t MG Rover sell customer order MGs through a specialist dealership in the US? The country is full of British Car specialists for classics and current marques and models alike, and just as importantly, MG has a massive following amongst Anglophiles and sports car fans, alike.

Firstly, what to offer?

Well the SV is pretty much federalised already (being a Qvale Mangusta underneath) as is it’s US Ford V8. Surely the badge alone would justify to wealthy American enthusiasts, the relatively high price, when compared to say, a Jag XK/XJR. Who else down the golf club, full of Mercedes-Benz SLs, said Jags, and Porsche 911s is going to have an evil looking Brit sports car with a hallowed octagon on the nose? (albeit a silver one, as opposed to the red and black one they remember so fondly).

Then there’s the ZT. Surely BMW must have envisaged the possibility of selling a federalised version one day, and so taken this into account when engineering the 75.

Picture the scene: a 50-60 year old, wealthy businessman. Owned an A, then a B, in the Sixties and Seventies, along with a few Spitfires and TR6s. He’s always liked the idea of British sports cars. Goes to get his cherished Elan or Healey serviced at a Brit sportscar specialist and sees an MG ZT V8 at the garage for sale, with full factory warranty and support at around 55,000 dollars. Impressed? You betcha!

Why would MGR bother? It’s not worth the effort. Or is it?

If they won’t/can’t do it, then some specialist importer in America should, because, once again MG would be in the hearts and minds of so many American enthusiasts, and that can onlybe a good thing!

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12 Jan 2005

Staples2Naples 2005: Looking for volunteers

By KEITH ADAMS

MEET austin-rover’s entry into the 2005 Staples2Naples challenge. After much consideration, and a brief flirtation with the idea of taking a Citroen BX 16V, it looks like we’ll be taking the trusty Rover 420GSi Tourer down to Naples in search of fun.

Why the Tourer? Why not? I’ve decided whatever we take to Naples, we’ll be bringing back to the UK, (wouldn’t that be a better challenge – Staples2Naples2Staples?) and we may as well go with what we know. And before you cry foul in terms of vehicle value, you can go down to any UK car auction and pick something like this up for under £100 any night of the week. Well, that’s what I’m hoping, anyway. It’s not confirmed, of course, but is looking like an increasingly likely bet…

I’ve yet to sort out a team – I’m confirmed as driver one, Alexander is a provisional for driver two, but we seem to be without a third driver. So, we’ll be inviting new team members, once we know exactly what Alexander and Declan are wanting to do. If you fancy joining us, drop me a line. I can guarantee it’ll be a lot of fun, and a review of last year’s event (which we actually nearly won) can be seen elsewhere on the site…

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11 Jan 2005

Spit and polish can work wonders

By KEITH ADAMS

IF I HADN’T seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it. But here we are. For a long time, I thought the ultimate car polish was made by Autoglym – after all, it sponsors the UK Concours championship, and has a number of big name corporate users, such as Aston Martin. For that reason, I have been religiously using its products for some time.

My car washing habits became something of a habit – wash with Autoglym shampoo and wax with Autoglym resin polish. The results have always been impressive – and I always came away from a good session feeling my car was now fully protected from the elements.

On Sunday, I had my eyes opened…

As you may have read yesterday, the Coupe ended up being used as a Guinea pig for Crystal Clean, who needed a car to demonstrate Mothers’ valeting products. I haven’t heard of them, but according to CCW’s Editor, Russ Smith, it is a company well known in the USA, and one with an almost fanatical following in the Hot Rod scene. So when I got there (just in the nick of time – thanks to my Alfa!), I told the valeters, there shouldn’t be much to do, as I look after it with Autoglym.

They seemed dismissive, which wound me up a little, but I let it go, and let them get on with it… I had an Autojumble to browse.

When it was finished, it looked amazing under
the harsh glare of the NEC lights. I had not
seen this car shine so much since the day I
picked it up from John Capon a year – and
20,000 miles – ago.

Some time later, I returned to the stand. They had cleaned the car off and had just finished ‘clay blocking’ it. It looked good – the paintwork seemed shiny and blemish-free, so I assumed they had been busy polishing it. Not a bit of it… Apparently, this process removes all the surface imperfections from the paint, leaving it fresh and completely free for the the wax that was yet to go on.

To cut a long story short, the car was ‘clay blocked’, and then three coatings of three different potions. When it was finished, it looked amazing under the harsh glare of the NEC lights. I had not seen this car shine so much since the day I picked it up from John Capon a year – and 20,000 miles – ago.

Its shininess allowed me remember what made me fall in love with it in the first place. And that makes the task of selling it in the next couple of weeks all the more difficult. I may have already sold it… someone at the show was extremely impressed.

I’ll keep you posted.

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10 Jan 2005

For the sake of a nut…

By KEITH ADAMS

 

SOMETIMES the silliest things can fail on your car…

It may be a fuse, that takes out the radio, or perhaps an electrical component which stops it from starting in the morning. One thing you don’t expect it to be is a silly little nut. In the case of my beloved Alfa, this is what stymied me yesterday morning.

We had a nice day out planned for the ‘Sud – it was to spend the day at the NEC, taking pride of place on the Crystal Clean stand, being valeted as showgoers watched, using Mothers’ products. They had promised me they would make my Alfa look like a “new car”, and I was looking forwards to seeing what they could do with my Harlequin Alfa.

So, off we went – my son and me in the Alfa, happy to buzz up the M6 at 70mph.

Then it happened…

A clonk from the right hand side. The steering goes light. The car turns left. I turn right. Nothing happens… We’re heading towards the barrier now, and life seems to slow down. Looking back now, I can remember the chain of events in frame-by-frame clarity. The realization I’m a passenger, my going for the brake, and pushing for all I’m worth.

The wall coming closer…

Speed is being shed, I’m trying to steer and brake, but I now know with no steering, it is a case of WHEN we’re going to hit the wall. The wall is CLOSE now, and we’re slowing, but it won’t be enough. Then a miracle – a BANG from below, we’re briefly launched into the air, and the car subtlely changes course… And then we stop.

From the warmth of the crew cab, we look back
and see the affected wheel tuck under at a
mad angle when he steers it onto the flatbed.

I get out and survey the damage. And there’s nothing to see. No dents, no smoke and the tyre is in one piece. Obviously the kerbing just before the wall has saved the car from a scrapey incursion into the crash barrier. Amazed at our good fortune, I realize we must have had a big suspension failure, so I call the AA… only a trailer will sort this.

Once the patrol man turns up, it soon becomes obvious, my front suspension is completely wankered. From the warmth of the crew cab, we look back and see the affected wheel tuck under at a mad angle when he steers it onto the flatbed. Ahh well. C’est La Vie and all that…

Undeterred, we get home, I grab the keys to the Vitesse Sport Coupe, and Crystal Clean get their exhibition car for the day, while I bite my nails about the state of my Alfa.

Today, I found out the cause of my incident – the nut that holds the suspension strut to the inner wing has dropped off. My trusted mechanic puts it all back together, and by this afternoon, the Alfasud is good to go once again.

It’s amazing to think how close we came to tragedy, and all for the sake of a silly nut – and I don’t mean the one behind the wheel…

Be careful out there.

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7 Jan 2005

Rover 75 V8 – What’s it all about?

By DAVE HENDERSON

I PONDER a great many things when I drive about in my car. It’s one of those times when you can think whatever the heck you like, have a good discussion with yourself and get away with it, safe in the knowledge that the person in the car next to you thinks you are a moron. Usually the things occupying my thoughts consist of mundane everyday pursuits such as work, jobs needing done on my fleet etc etc. However, recently I saw a Rover 75 in the traffic and my thoughts turned to the Top Gear feature with the 75 V8 and Keith’s wonderful SD1. It left me wondering what MG Rover is hoping to do with this most wonderful of flagships (personally I’d dust off the presses for the series 1 SD1 and just get on with it) as all public mention of it seems to have sunk without a trace.

This leaves me thinking – what exactly are
the 75 V8’s natural competitors?

This rationale must also be applied to market placement. BL were a little shirty when the SD1 surfaced as they feared it would pinch sales from the Jaguar XJ6 but it soon became clear that very different people were buying the car. The SD1 very much carved it’s own market niche, being significantly cheaper than the equivalent foreign opposition. This market niche has been expanded into an entire sector and taken over by the Germans with their high powered 5-series, A6 and E-class, and once again a latter day BL have cut in beneath this lot with a cheaper, more handsome product.

This leaves me thinking – what exactly are the 75 V8’s natural competitors? The aforementioned 5-series et al are a good ten grand more expensive. So offerings from the volume manufacturers then? Vauxhall have their very good (I’m biased) Vectra Gsi and Ford the latest fast Mondeo, but both of these are fairly frantic front drivers, offering none of the relaxed cruising ability of the 75. I’m sure to be corrected, but to my mind there are no other sub-30k V8 rear drive saloons on the market. Top Gear recently tested a Vauxhall Monaro against a Cadillac CTS and a Jag S-Type, three big V8 saloons/coupes all around the 30k mark. Where was the 75 V8? It may have been shown up by some of these cars, but I doubt it. The rear drive conversion is a beautiful piece of engineering and would have humiliated the Cadillac no problems.

MG Rover need to get their act together – if I had built a car such as the V8 I would be standing atop a very high building with a PA system in my hand. Market this car like Richard Porter does in Sniffpetrol.com, not apologising for being a British car company and pleading with the public to buy your cars – make people want one! Lend one to the British GP as a pace car or to the BTCC, product placement like that would bring it to the attention of the public for all the right reasons. If only I had 27 grand more……

Incidentally, I saw a picture of the latest VW Passat today. I think someone has been reading Rover 75 V8 brochures during their teabreak.

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6 Jan 2005

A pleasant surprise

By KEITH ADAMS

HAD a run in a late spec Montego turbo diesel estate the other day and found myself wondering at how Austin-Rover managed to turn the rather ugly (‘Spiky’ as Roy Axe liked to say) saloon into this stylish and desirable workhorse.

In British Racing Green and on ‘Advantage’ alloys, it looked really rather nice – 1992 models had the fuller, deeper front bumper and roofbars, and the overall impression is of a well-developed and (dare I say it in this context?) classy car. But the company has always been pretty good at turning its saloons and hatchbacks into estates – think about which of its models looked better in estate form, and the list comes easy: Morris Marina, BMC Farina Cambridge/Oxford, Rover R8, Rover 75, the list goes on…

Of course, that hasn’t always been the case – and it is also rather easy to think of an ugly BMC>Rover estate car. Ladies and Gentlemen, we call the Allegro to the stand…

Would I have one? You bet I would – you could
fit an R8 in the boot…

Back to the Montego, and other aspects impressed. Its roominess, excellent visibility and chassis competence are taken as read, but it was its willingness that really made me sit up and notice. At the time of its launch, the Perkins Prima engine was cutting edge (for a diesel), featuring direct injection for improved efficiency. One thing it always lacked, though, was refinement…

Having said that, being run around in a 1992 example, with 156,000 miles on the clock was very educational. For one, it was quick – quicker than my 75 CDT on a local hill I test all my cars on, and I have to say the racket it made was no worse than any other diesel I’ve encountered of late. Overall, one has to wonder why these cars have all-but disappeared off the roads, because they have a lot to recommend them…

Would I have one? You bet I would – you could fit an R8 in the boot, and it handles and rides better than the (so called) classy car that replaced it.

Also, unlike the saloon, its looks don’t make me reach for a can of petrol and a match…

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5 Jan 2005

Exciting plans ahead…

By KEITH ADAMS

YOU heard it here first. Thanks to the enterprising people at the Triple ‘M’ Club, it looks like brand new Maestro body shells could well be making a welcome return to the UK.

It is a scheme I have been thinking of myself for a while, and I remembered sometime back mentioning it to the Maestro and Montego Owners’ Club, and getting a non-committal response. Basically what you do, is get a fluent Chinese speaker to get in touch with Etsong on your behalf and order half a dozen brand new body shells. You then get them imported into the UK – not as expensive as you would think – and hey presto – you can freshly re-shell that cherished, but rusty Maestro.

Well it seems I wasn’t the only person to think of this – when I mentioned this to Gareth Kidman, he who runs Triple ‘M’ and owns possibly one of the fastest Maestros out there, said, ‘we’re already making plans…’

…you get new Maestro shells imported into
the UK (not as expensive as you would think)
and hey presto – you can freshly re-shell
that cherished, but rusty Maestro.

The club has access to a shipping company and a fluent Chinese speaker, and it only seems like a matter of time before it happens. All it seems they need, is a commitment from one or two enthusiasts.

But I hear you ask – why new shells?

Simple really – Maestro and Montego body panels are plentiful in the UK at Rover dealers, but shells are no longer available. And as we all know, Maestros are not averse to the odd bit of structural rust. So, instead of welding up what you have, get a new shell, properly treat it before using it, and then stuff all the bits from your existing cars into it.

Now if that sounds silly and overboard for a car at best worth a couple of thousand pounds (and a lot less if you believe the Glass’s Guide), remember that there are now little over 100 Turbos left, and even today, in a climate where these cars are revered for their ability by enthusiasts, badly corroded ones can still get scrapped. Today you can buy new off-the-shelf MGB and Mini bodyshells thanks to British Motor Heritage and no-one bats an eyelid.

So why not the Maestro?

After all, we love them here at Austin-Rover, don’t we?

And the scheme for importing new body shells is a no-brainer – we wish Triple ‘M’ a lot of luck, and hope that they can find enough people who are interested in getting one…

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4 Jan 2005

Rover 75 chassis gains a notable fan…

By KEITH ADAMS

SPENT the day with Dr Alex Moulton and one topic of conversation was the Rover 75. Little did he know, but I had brought along my trusty turbodiesel, and given his curiosity about the car, offering him a drive in it seemed to be the obvious thing to do. With relish he accepted my invitation…

Although Moulton is now 84-years old, he is still trim and fit, and that spark of enthusiasm about cars still burns brightly. When he walked over to my car, he seemed ever so keen to drive it, even after I warned him it ran on fuel from the filthy black pump.

Once underway, I could see how the mind of an engineering genius works. Even before we were out of his courtyard, he had concluded the body shell was commendably stiff. How many people would be able to tell by driving a few feet?

There’s a road, which runs from Moulton’s home in Bradford-on-Avon to Melksham which he, ‘knows every pebble of’, and which he has used to test every one of his (and rivals’) cars on – he quipped that, ‘if they ever resurface this road I am lost’. Once he found his feet in the car, he picked up speed, describing just what it is that makes the 75 so special. He said: ‘one commendable quality of this car is its supreme body rigidity – it allows the suspension set-up to be tightly tuned. A soft ride can be achieved, whilst maintaining impressive body control’. All this within a mile of leaving his home!

Even before we were out of his courtyard,
Alex Moulton had concluded the bodyshell
of the Rover 75 was commendably stiff.
How many people would be able to
tell by driving a few feet?

It did get us thinking – and we were soon discussing that old chestnut of why manufacturers are moving away from providing absolute ride comfort in favour of track performance. Alex was clear in his beliefs: ‘it’s all down to marketing, and what the media is telling us we should expect from our cars’. And he has a very valid point – Our best loved car TV programme, TOP GEAR, seems to now be obsessed by test track lap times. He added, ‘it’s a uniquely modern phenomenon, this move towards violent cars.’

By the time he had reached Melksham, Moulton was seriously impressed with the 75. ‘It is really rather good, and because damping technology is so good these days, cars like this really wouldn’t see the benefit of interconnection’. He also couldn’t see the point of the stiffer MG versions when the original is so relaxing: ‘they wouldn’t be any faster, would they?’

When I told him you could buy a new one for little more than £15,000, he was more than a little surprised.

On the return leg, Moulton sat in the back, and I chauffeured him – for once, very conscious of my own driving, striving to take it as smoothly as possible. Luckily, the Rover flattered me. I asked him if the 75 is in the same league as his Citroen XM, and the answer surprised me. ‘Oh this is better – insulation from road noise is phenomenal, and although it’s noisier in the back than the front, it is still very good indeed. Only at really high speeds would the Citroen have an advantage…’

So there you have it – the Rover 75 is blessed with good suspension, and now it has the approval of the great man himself.

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3 Jan 2005

MG Rover as big as Volkswagen?

By MIKE GOY

FAST FORWARD TEN YEARS

THE Chinese alliance has injected optimism and new money into Longbridge over the past decade, allowing total renewal of tooling, and Rover has a complete and up to date model range for the first time since the mid-eighties. The factory is running at maximum capacity and has a superb record for industrial peace.

The product line up starts with a Rover designed and engineered CityRover, now moving into its third incarnation. The midrange 25 and 45 are also into their third phase. The 55, introduced in 2009, is only months away from a second-generation model. Looking towards the top of the range, the 75 saloon and estate variants are approaching the end of their second model stretch, with totally new vehicles in the pipeline. The top of the range Rover V8 (now with a PowerTrain designed and produced engine) is proving genuine competition for Audi, and variants have been competitive at recent German Touring Car events.

Sports cars? A complete family of Midget, TF and Austin Healey convertibles and coupes are going down a storm in Britain and mainland Europe, in China and, most importantly, in the US, where very aggressive marketing is appealing to the 50 somethings who remember MG and Austin Healey from the first time around.

Starting with the RD/X60 in 2006, MGR engineers have built up a modular family of platform adaptations. Their Longbridge production base is complemented by the huge ex-Daewoo factory in Poland, whilst Pininfarina in Italy takes care of some of the more specialist top end MG and Austin Healey models. Design and development – courtesy of MGR, ProDrive (a future rallying return for MGR?) and Tom Walkinshaw — are still undertaken in this country.

Starting with the RD/X60 in 2006, MGR
engineers have built up a modular
family of platform adaptations.

Production in Shanghai has a capacity of more than two million units each year, whilst Rover’s prospering joint-venture projects – producing off-road vehicles with SsangYong in Korea and small cars with Tata in India – are worth another half a million vehicles annually.

MGR now has representation in the US, Canada, Britain, Ireland and mainland Europe, the Indian subcontinent, China, Southern Asia and Australia, just leaving South America, where DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Fiat, Ford and VW have the market sewn up. Even so, MGR have a team of consultants in the region evaluating sales potential, and will begin exporting very shortly.

Fantasy? Most definitely, but I hope there is also an element of truth.

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1 Jan 2005

Happy New Year

By KEITH ADAMS

JUST a quick note of thanks to everyone, and to hope that 2005 is going to be a better year than 2004.

We have quite a few things to look forward to though, don’t we?

1) MG Rover and SAIC will sign their joint venture in January, and we can finally thinking in terms of there being no doubt over Longbridge’s future.
2) Aggressive selling and advertising will see the Rover and MG marques strengthened in the eyes of car buyers.
3) Some concrete announcement about future product releases.
4) First sight of the RD/X60 in prototype form.
5) Upgraded 75 interior and the unveiling of new engines.
6) MG Rover returning to front line motorsport.
7) More new blood in the PR department.
8) A commitment to produce the MG GT Concept (most likely) or the 75 Coupe.

One thing MG Rover has consistently managed to do in 2004 is surprise us – and although the 2003 figures concerning R&D didn’t look great, there is much going on there now, and it is fair to say it will pull a few more surprises out of the bag now there’s a new feeling of confidence eminating from Longbridge.

Heritage won’t be forgotten though, and although the company’s centre of gravity will be shifting eastwards, there will be plenty of activities celebrating the centenary of production at Longbridge.

We stared into an abyss in 2004 – now it seems – finally – as though things are going to work out for the best…

Posted in: AROnline Blogs
Keith Adams

About the Author:

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

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