Blogs : March 2007

30 March

Differences – subtle but important


MG 7 interior – woody charm…

By KEITH ADAMS

YOU’VE pored over the pictures, and read all you can read in the news pages and on the forums… but at long last, the much anticipated head-to-head fight between Nanjing and Shanghai is about to take place in the car market, with two ostensibly similar motors. As you can read in the Roewe 750 development story, the conception of these rival cars couldn’t have been more different – and their coming together will be fascinating as a result.

But there are differences – in a nutshell, the MG is based on the existing tooling taken from Longbridge – and therefore is almost identical to the British car, barring a few minor changes – and the Roewe is based on brand new production equipment drawn up from the planned 2006MY Rover 75/MG ZT facelift. There are plenty of styling differences, especially inside – and I hope you can see that in the pictures (above and below). The question remains – which car will be more capable on the road, and most importantly for us enthusiasts, will either feel like the car it has evolved from?

The MG intrigues me, because Nanjing is pushing the heritage car for all it is worth – does that mean, I could get into one of its 7-Series saloons, and feel straight at home (being a former Rover 75 owner), or will it look, smell and feel like a different proposition? The Roewe, I expect, will feel familiar, but evolved, because of where it has come from – but does that mean it’s an exclusive look at the Rover-that-never-was, or has it been tinkered with enough to have lost that Longbridge DNA?

The prospect is certainly intriguing – and the cars may be more different that we had been expecting. Oh, and if NAC or Roewe wants a British journalist to go out to China and compare the two cars back to back, then drop me a line – I’m keen to visit China!

Regarding the interior styling, which do you reckon is more successful? MG’s traditional approach, or Roewe’s more contemporary scheme? Please drop us a line, and tell us what you think…


Roewe 750 interior – light and airy

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29 March

MINI – keeping Brits in work…

By KEITH ADAMS

SHOULD the concept of car nationality be consigned to the wheelie-bin of history? It’s a question I asked myself yesterday, as I drove the 200-mile circuit from my place around, what people in BMW marketing call, the MINI-Triangle. Essentially, engines for the car come from the Hams Hall factory, while the body panels are pressed in Swindon – before they all get married in Oxford.

To BMC>Rover aficionados like me, it’s good to see some of the last vestiges of this once-great empire being put to such good use – because although it was styled in Germany by a man called Gert, the MINI is very much a British effort. In fact, although there’s barely any Rover DNA left in the R56 Cooper S that I drove, its local content is far higher than the former R50 generation, as the new engines aren’t shipped in from Brazil anymore…

So with that in mind, I – once again – found myself wondering about nationality. We have MGs made (or soon to be) in China, and MINIs made here – and yet, there are too many vocal ‘enthusiasts’ in the scene who are quick to pour scorn on the Oxford-built car, while hailing NAC-MG as the heroic saviours of the British motor industry. Yes, building the MG TF in Longbridge will be a very good thing (but please, let’s get the quality and price right), but surely a Nanjing-built 7-Series saloon doesn’t qualify as British at all?

And I guess that’s the point – who really cares anymore? The car industry is so global that really what we have are marque values – their nationality has become increasingly irrelevant. Still, tell that to all those redundant ex-MGR workers…

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Feedback:

I THINK like you I am very tired of the anti-MINI posts on this site’s forums.

I don’t understand it, I accept that it has many faults as a design, but it all so has many attributes the two key ones being it sells at a profit and employs British people, so we should celebrate it and point out that it could have done for Rover what the Panda and Grande Punto are doing for Fiat.

GRAHAM ARISS


27 March

The MG 7 microsite

By PAUL GUINNESS

AN exciting week, it seems, with the relaunch of MG as a Chinese brand. So I couldn’t resist a quick look at the microsite for the MG7 (nee ZT).

Nanjing MG has wisely decided to look to the past when promoting the 7 – a good move, as this is one of the few Chinese-owned brands with any kind of a ‘proper’ heritage. However, they do seem to have got rather mixed up over exactly what their marque’s past is…

Nanjing seems to have got rather mixed up
over exactly what its marque’s past is…

Click on the ‘Moods’ (?) section of the microsite and you’ll be treated to images of the Rover P4, P5B and 75 before finally being shown the original MG ZT and the ‘new’ MG 7. Not sure what the current owners of the Rover brand, Ford, will think about this.

Whoever has been advising Nanjing MG would surely have been better off focusing on such classic MG saloons as the Y-Type, the Z-series Magnettes and so on. At least these were MGs. Not Rovers.

Let’s hope they don’t make the same mistakes when MG is relaunched in the UK this summer. Heritage can be a major asset, but at least make sure you use the right one..!

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Feedback:

I DON’T think Ford will be bothered about NAC using Rovers as the basis of its heritage; the Blue Oval has already let SAIC get away with it. The Chinese marketing blurb actually says the Roewe name a modern progression of the Rover name, with pictures of the Solihull cars and everything…

TOM CORNISH


23 March

Hitting MINI in the solar plexus?

By KEITH ADAMS

UNVEILED yesterday, the new Fiat 500 is certainly an interesting motorcar. Conceived at a time when retro design was on its way out, the new small car emerges from the Torinese motor company at a time when it appears to be going through a good old fashioned product-led recovery. Five years ago, industry pundits had written off the company, assuming that it would either disappear up its own backside, or fall into the hands of General Motors.

Fast forward five years, and Fiat is one of the industry’s hottest tickets, and General Motors is in deep trouble.

Anyway, less of that – because the Fiat 500’s introduction sees the arrival of the first credible retro rival to the MINI since its launch in 2000, and we reckon it has just what it takes to give the Anglo-German car a bloody good kicking. Unlike Volkswagen’s pastiche Beetle, and the bijou Chrysler PT Cruiser, the new car manages to combine the incredible cuteness of the classic original with contemporary detailing. In short, it’s good-looking in the extreme – inside and out. And although the R50 MINI of 2000 passed muster in the styling department, we reckon the me-too styling of its replacement, the R56, might well prove to be a serious handicap on the market once the 500 hits the showrooms.

…we reckon it has just what it takes to
give the Anglo-German MINI a bloody
good kicking…

There’s another issue MINI will seriously have to contend with – price. Yes, the MINI is considered a premium product, but at £11,595 for a basic One packing 95bhp, and coming with very few extras (such as air conditioning), it suddenly begins to look expensive compared with the 500, which industry analysts reckon could have a starting price of £8000 (although rising sharply if you dip into the options list, MINI style).

Okay, the MINI will probably remain dynamically at the head of its class, with the Panda-based Fiat unlikely to trouble it, but if cars are bought on looks and price alone, the company has a sure fire winner on its hands. There are also some intriguing engine options on the horizon for the Fiat if AutoExpress magazine is to be believed, including a 900cc two-cylinder option with over 100bhp, and a fire-breathing 180bhp Abarth option.

This really sounds like our kind of car – and MINI really should be worried.

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Feedback:

JUST had to agree with your comments on the new Fiat 500, in my opinion I think its a better concept then MINI, for the reasons you stated Price, looks etc but also I think on size.

New MINI is far to big and yet is still impractical tiny boot and rear seats, the new 500 is apparently not much bigger than the Ford KA which is one of the smallest new cars you can buy. So it looks like the new 500 will be true to the original a small nippy city car you can park nearly anywhere I say good luck to it.

GRANT PARKER

THE new FIAT looks very cute, but we in the UK will probably only be getting the more expensive versions and missing out on the essential stripped-back, lighter ones.

I shall stick with a KIA PIcanto I think, though the new price has crept up since we bought our daughter her car in January 2005 for March delivery. Fast forward two years, and our Picanto has done nearly 42,000 miles. It has a quality-feel interior, has five doors, a 1100 cc engine that can be worked hard, and does 47 mpg. Longest journey so far is 150 miles both ways, though I believe that I could do my regular trip to Cumbria and back, 300 miles each way if needs be.

DAVID HAYWARD

THE 500 does look a nice little car. I was interested by the commentry on current health of Fiat and its relative positions, now and previously, to GM. I seem to remember very similar comments about Chrysler a few years ago (GM takeover, Product led recovery, etc) and then Daimler Benz came in and spoilt it all!

DUNCAN GOUGH


22 March

A classic

By KEITH ADAMS

I CHALLENGE anyone who enjoys this website to watch this and not shed a tear for times gone by. Class abounds as Patrick Macnee sees off villanous pursuers who – spookily – drive cars produced by rival manufacturers…

Driving a pre-production press SD1, Macnee certainly put the car through its paces… and one is left wondering if car manufacturers can release such fantastic publicity films today.

Enjoy…

Thanks to Paul Guinness for bringing this one to our attention, and thanks to YouTube for hosting it!

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Feedback:

I WELL remember the Patrick Macnee/SD1 chase film. This was one of Alan Zafer’s projects filmed mainly for the dealer launch, and if I remember right, he was visible in some of the shots, wearing a conspicuous sheepskin coat.

Patrick Macnee did something similar, if not quite so dramatic for the launch of Sterling in USA.

Finding a version of that might be difficult…

IAN ELLIOTT

THAT was fascinating! I’d hazard a guess that the location at the beginning of the film was Crackington Haven in North Cornwall, and the subsequent filming in some of the old quarry roads not far away from there. It certainly looks a bit like Alan Zafer near the end of the film, saying ‘let’s do it again tomorrow!’.

I’d also hazard a guess that this was intended as a prelude to the association between the ‘New Avengers’ and BL products (remember Purdey and her MGB and TR7, Steed with his Jaguar XJ-C and so on?). Heady days indeed!

DAVID KNOWLES

PARTS of the commercial were used in ‘The New Avengers’ episode The Lion and the Unicorn.

Forum member, ‘Patrick’.

A TRULY wonderful BL publicity film for the SD1. I had a look at Crackington Haven on maps and Flashearth, but the sizeable rocky island in the film isn’t shown, and the road layout looks a bit different.

South of Boscastle though is Trebarwith Strand, which looks more likely as just off the coast is Gull Rock.

Also of interest is the car itself. LOK698P doesn’t come up in DVLA records, but other LOK series plates were used in publicity and magazine reviews (also LOExxxP series plates). The car is the same colour and automatic as used by Steed in the New Avengers – MOC229P.

CHRIS POWELL


21 March

The Rover name…

By KEITH ADAMS

ONCE again, I found myself wondering whether the Rover name has any kind of future in the motor industry. Okay, so Ford now owns the rights, and the clever money is on the company burying the name forever in order to protect the Land Rover name – but to what end? Why would an influx of Chinese SAICs bearing the Viking Longship really dent the image of the Rangie and Disco? Probably not…

So would we want a Ford resurrection of the name? Of course we would – bearing in mind that Solihull is the traditonal home of the marque (and not Longbridge) and most of the Land Rover design and engineering teams worked on Rover road cars, why shouldn’t there be a return of the name? Okay, so the image is a negative one at the moment, but just think of the possibilities offered to Land Rover through using this marque name to get a footing against the German opposition.

After all, SUV sales may be reasonably buoyant and the moment, but the misguided political pressure against them is mounting, and going 2WD may well prove to be a customer-friendly escape route for Land Rover. For Ford’s Premier Auto Group (PAG), it could work, too – the Jaguar X-TYPE isn’t likely to be replaced by another conventional 3-Series rival in 2010, but more likely a SUV/Crossover vehicle… so instead of badging it a Jaguar, why not call it a Rover, and hang it off the Land Rover marque?

Designed by top notch car guys like Gerry McGovern, David Saddington or Richard Woolley, it would not only be a funky affair, but it would have real heritage, too. You know it makes sense, PAG…

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Feedback:

NOW that Ford owns the Rover name, and are looking to expand the Land Rover range to include soft roaders to keep the green lobby happy, why don’t they nip over to China have a word with SAIC do a deal to import the new revised Roewe to the UK with Rover badges on it and sell it at a very competative price through the Land Rover dealerships, and look for more compatable product from SAIC to add to it?

JOHN MORRIS


19 March

All change…


(Picture: Keith Adams)

By KEITH ADAMS

IF you don’t fancy the idea of driving heaps for the rest of your life – here’s a tip for you. When selling a car, don’t put the throwaway line at the end of your description, “…will take an interesting P/X.”

After reaching the end of my tether with with the electronic foibles of my Rover 800 Coupe, I decided to sell it. If I’m being honest, there’s no real place for it in my life at the moment, thanks to a ballistic tuned Saab 9000 and a Rover SD1 that will be coming home from Poland in the next few months.

So, I placed the Coupe on the website’s forum – and was greeted with very little interest. After a few days, I was approached by Les Hedaux – one of the competitors on the Staples2Naples event in 2004 and 2005. He was also the guy who ended up buying the car we took in 2004 – a very spirited Rover 216GTi 16V.

So, after a couple of message exchanges, and one ‘phone call, a deal was struck – involving him leaving me the GTi, and driving off in my Coupe. He seemed happy – and was realistic about its faults – and so was I. Not because I still have one car too many, but because a whole host of happy memories come flooding back every time I look out onto my drive, and see the little car there. Recalling overtaking cars on Alpine passes – three and four at a time – or maxxing it out on the Autobahn at an indicated 140mph, as well as the general excitement of my first banger rally, brought a big smile to my face today.

Yep, the one thing that really impressed me about that car was just how much abuse it withstood on that trip down to Naples – and how it seemed to smile right back, and beg for more. It seemed the perfect chariot for scorching down to Italy. Two-and-a-half years on, that verve seems undiminished (well, apart from the noisy diff bearings), and it still looks just like it did when I handed the keys over to Les in October 2004.

It’s strange going back to a car that played a big part in your life, and which you’ve not seen for a considerable length of time. I almost feel like I should give it a thorough going over, and restore it back to its former glory… how illogical must that sound!

Nurse, pass the drugs…

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Feedback:

REGARDING the return of the GTi to Adams Towers, my 214SLi is still in sterling service in Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire, and I hear about it every time I speak to my friend up there (her builder bought it on the spot as we returned home from the second half of our honeymoon in 2002). I often wonder what condition it is in, and having been left immaculate when sold, I often think I would like to buy it back if it comes up for sale. Same with H376 AMT, the 416GTi currently under your custodianship. As my 75 doesn’t fit in the garage, I need to fill it with something, and the summer is coming and that means project time!

I can’t agree with you more regarding the memories of a car once you get it back. I often saw my 87 Fiesta 1.6D trotting around the local streets as I had sold it to the sister of a friend of mine. It doesn’t matter what the car is, it’s the memories that it holds for you that are important.

When I get into my 75 on a sunny day, it always – without fail – reminds me of the day I collected it from British Car Auctions back in September 2006, as the new car smell was prevalent in the heat (although being a shade over two years old it only had 9000 miles on the clock).

I hope the 216 provides many happy hours of entertainment again!

DYLAN JONES


15 March

The S-V8


(Picture: Keith Adams)

By TOM CORNISH

IT’S easy to get lost in this websites many pages, with tales of bad decisions, bad timing, bad sales, and strikes, all leading up to MG-R going into administration in 2005. Let us not forget, however, there is other British auto industry, unfortunately a lot of it seems to have all gone the same way! A few small companies have got it right it would seem, Noble, Caterham, Westfield and Morgan for example, and others are doing well under there new owners, like Lotus. But in recent years TVR, Rover, MG and LDV have all gone to foreign hands. Whatever the reason is it seems it is very hard for Car Manufacturers to get it right in Britain, and just another story of this is the Jensen SV-8.

It started when the car debuted in 1998 at the Motor Show, it awed people with is design and prestigious name. The cars best trick was that it featured high quality components, yet was hand built and sold for a sensible price. The car looked well put together, there was nothing you could fault with it. It just looked right, and it exuded class, the SV-8 looked as if you could be paying far more than £40,000 for the privilege of owning it. Not only did it look good, it went good, a 4.6 litre V8 Mustang Cobra engine threw the car from 0-60 in less than five seconds. This all sounded very good, and orders flooded in, they had to close to order books at 300, so as not to keep people waiting too long.

The Jensen was without a doubt a fine car, a tribute to British engineering. The car would come like a flat pack piece of Ikea furniture to the factory, where the workers would merely fit the pieces together; they expected to fulfil the 300 orders within the first year.

The car was put into production in 2001, but only 20 were made at the original factory. There was a large flaw in the companies plan, they had not accounted for any problems that might arise putting the car together. It turned out that there were problems, parts didn’t fit right, changes had to be made, but the money just wasn’t there, and 20 cars later the company went into administration.

A further few models would be assembled later on by a different company; there are now 32 Jensen SV-8’s in existence (assuming none have been written of), and the Jensen name has fallen out of service once again. Those who have played the Playstation 2 game, The Getaway, will note the rosy view of Jensens future portrayed, with SV-8s to be found driving all over London, sadly it did not happen.

On the bright side we now have Aston-Martin in British hands, let us hope that the old British car producing bad luck does not affect them, as this article on the Car website points out

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13 March

What was I saying…?

By KEITH ADAMS

IN one of my blogs last week, I mentioned about how I would never lose sight of the fact that there are some very nice perks in my day job… well today, there was one of those moments, when I thought to myself, ‘this beats fixing servers and printers for a living’…

Having road test duties for Jaguar World Monthly magazine means that I get to drive some very nice cars – and not all of them have a leaping cat badge adorning the boot lid. We’d lined an XK-R for road test, and the Editor, Matt Skelton, asked me to come up with a suitable rival – which after some discussion, turned out to be a Porsche 911. After being very nice to the Porsche Press Office, we were offered a Carrera 2S for the week… and on this crisp and sunny spring morning, a shining example in silver turned up at my doorstep.

It was definitely a pinch-me-I’m dreaming moment.

Although, I’ve driven a few very fast cars now – including such delights at a 450bhp BMW 760Li up the strip at Santa Pod, and an Aston Martin DB9 around Rockingham – the Porsche experience is interesting because I finally get to see what all the guys at Car, Autocar and Evo have been getting so excited about for the past few years.

As soon as the delivery driver left, I jumped in and had a play, and today I began exploring its capabilities on my favourite local car test route, the B660… and even now, as I sit typing at sometime north of 1.00am, I’m itching to get out and have a drive on empty roads, wondering whether I’d be derelict in my duties if I didn’t meet Matt in the XK-R tomorrow evening near Snowdonia, but instead jumped on the Euro Tunnel, and do a quick continent-shrinking mission. Of course, I won’t, and if anyone here wants to know what the 911 is like from a real world perspective (as opposed to the glossy magazine’s ivory tower view), then I’ll happily tell them in the website’s road test section.

You never know, I might even prefer the Jaguar XK-R – a car I’ve heard from (more fortunate) colleagues is inspirational to drive.

But do you know what the strangest thing is – as I was driving this beautifully evolved piece of German engineering this afternoon, I caught up with a mint-and-boxed 1990 Rover 214Si in BRG-over-Grey… and wished I was in it. I guess you’ll never take the Rover out of me.

See you next week!

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9 March

Never judge a book…

By KEITH ADAMS

I WASN’T holding out much hope for this one. I was asked to come up with a rival for the MINI Cooper we’ve (Modern MINI magazine) got on loan at the moment, and although I came up with a few fine suggestions, I was overruled by the ‘management’ who suggested I should get myself a Mitsubishi Colt CZT, and try that for size.

To say that I was sceptical would be understating the situation somewhat. I’ve tried the mechanically similar Smart For Four in the past, and came away thinking murderous thoughts – I mean, what was the Colt all about, given that it was little more than a For Four with all the individuality taken out. Still, management’s management, and there’s no arguing with that – so a call was a made, and a press car delivered to my doorstep (yes, this job has many perks, and it’s one I’ll never lose sight of, I promise).

Anyway, to cut a long story short, after over a week living with this car, my eyes have been well and truly opened. Okay, it has flaws, and its engine really sounds quite unpleasant when extended, but other than that, it’s a real hoot to drive. Performance is class leading (it costs £12,999 and does 0-60mph in just over 7 seconds), and the handling is surprisingly exciting. Steering is nice and quick, and well-weighted, too… so in all, it’s definitely a car worth considering.

…you should never, ever, ever rule out
a car from contention without
trying it first.

But of course, how many people will bother? There are far more obvious choices out there – and some with far more illustrious names.

And that got me thinking about the MG Maestro back in the 1980s – a car suffering from a similar image by-pass. Yes, it was an MG (wow!), but the fuddy-duddy styling and that oh-so practical five door body actually disguised one of the finest driving hot hatches of its era. Okay, I’m not declaring the CZT as a potential hot hatch king, but at the same time, it’s good enough to clearly demonstrate that you should never, ever, ever rule out a car from contention without trying it first.

Pre-conceived ideas are a very dangerous thing – and it’s probably another one of those many contributing factors that saw the end of MG Rover as we knew it back in 2005. I wonder how many potential shopping lists the MG ZS180 (or indeed Maestro a generation before) was dropped off on any other grounds than actually getting in and driving the thing?

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8 March

What price class?

By KEITH ADAMS

ONE of the cars above is gracefully styled, it feels special to sit in, and has an engine note that can raise the hairs on the back of your neck at even a cursory blip of the throttle. Oh, and the other’s a Jag.

Before you think that this website’s turning into an anti-Jag hangout, let me just say that although I had some reservations about the engine of the last XJ40 I drove, I still like these cars a great deal. However, parking my soon to be departed 800 Coupe alongside, it did make me wonder how things turned out so badly for Rover… Okay, we all know the answer to that, but I think this picture of two mid-1990s examples of the marque clearly show that Rover had the upper hand in the styling department.

Thankfully, many of the people responsible for the pretty 800 Coupe are now working for PAG – the Ford division that now owns Jaguar and Land Rover. So things aren’t that bad…

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7 March

Nanjing’s Chinese Wall of silence


(Picture: Wikipedia)

By KEITH ADAMS

I RECEIVE a lot of e-mails from MG Rover fans, who will be on the look-out for new cars in the forthcoming months. The typical sort of message comes across something like this – ‘Dear Keith, I love your site, and also love the cars. When will Nanjing be selling these in the UK, and how much will they cost?’

I’d love to be able to tell the site’s correspondents that new MG7s and TF2s will be available from a certain time, will be sold via a UK network of 100 dealers, will come with a five-year warranty, and will cost from £12,000 for the roadster and £16,000 for the saloon. The trouble is that I can’t. Okay, let’s be fair here – the NAC-MG launch from last year was a teaser to show the world that something is happening, but since then, it has been frustrating to see that all the news about the company has been sourced from China, with very little appearing to be done here.

I’ve tried to contact NAC-MG both in Longbridge and in Nanjing for information – answers to simple questions – both on behalf of the website, and MG Enthusiast magazine, and in all instances nothing’s happened. The best reposnse I had from Automotive PR (the agency handling the NAC-MG account) was a ‘contact us again in six months’ regarding an interview with Paul Stowe… and the one time when they contacted me directly regarding finding cars for them, they never responded to my suggestions…

This is a real contrast to the NAC-MG people out in the USA, who can’t do enough.

The good news is that over on mg-rover.org, there has been some positive information flow. Recently Paul Stowe held a webchat on there, where he spoke directly to the marque’s enthusiasts… I suspect this was his own initiative, though, and the stories that have since appeared in the press about NAC-MG have all originated from the transcript of this ‘net event.

So come on NAC-MG. There are a lot of potential buyers out there that need to know NOW that you care and will deliver the product that they want!

And what that means is talking to the media…

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6 March

Max tales

By KEITH ADAMS

IT can now be told – I think the passage of time has eased my conscience now…

Back in 2004, I did a grand tour of France, Italy and Germany in my rather nice 1997 Rover Vitesse Coupe. You might even remember reading about it – when I came back to the UK, I was absolutely raving about the way the car performed while we were away, and although it was loaded with a full-sized tent and passenger and driver, it never once felt sluggish, underpowered, or lacking in chassis sophistication.

For a car so hideously underrated, this was a fine achievement, and proved that it was indeed possible to turn a sow’s ear (i.e., the standard 800’s rather indifferent chassis set-up) into a silk purse.

However, what I didn’t tell you was that on that trip, I decided to try and max the car in a highly illegal manner. It was one of those stupid moments when sense is replaced by adventurousness – and although I knew I shouldn’t, when an almost deserted stretch of arrow straight Autoroute opened up in front of me, I knew that this was the time to do it. I’d always known the Vitesse was reasonably fast – and even within the confines of the UK, effortless acceleration upto the 70mph limit hinted that here was a car that could eat continenets for breakfast.

So on that crisp, clear Easter’s morning, I planted the accelerator to see what the old girl could do. 100mph was reached almost comically easily, and as that became 120mph, it seemed that the linear turbocharged power had not dropped off one bit. Things had become noisier, but ironically, when your concentration is focused to sharply on the road over half a mile ahead, this is carefully filtered out by the single-minded thought process.

It was one of those stupid moments when
sense was replaced by adventurousness…

Past 135mph, and that noise you’re not hearing seems to start to ease off – almost as if you’re going so fast the roar of the tyre, engine and wind are being left behind in the hole you’ve just punched in the air.

You know you’re getting near to the absolute maximum when those extra miles are no longer piling on, and you can see the being added – slowly, almost painfully. For the Vitesse, with its 150mph speedometer, that was actually a fair way beyond the final marking – and just at the point it all levelled off, and the entire package was giving its absolute all for me, I felt an almost zen-like calm around me. I’d maxxed our Rover…

And just as quickly, it was time to come down. Lucidity hit me – and the reality of what I’d done meant my right foot immediately backed off. Our speed bled away, and within very little time, I was back at the 130km/h (81mph) national speed limit. Massive pangs of guilt hit me – and at the same time, an unnatural high that comes from the combination of adrenaline, prolonged concentration, and the realisation that I had done something very, very wrong.

It was a moment that lived with me for a long time, and not one I’d care to repeat. Especially as once I returned home, there was a report in the newspaper that over 70 Brits had been done for speeding on that very stretch of Autoroute – that very weekend. Never again…

Since then, I’ve maxxed a few cars (some rather quicker than the Rover, but many more which are a lot slower) – either in Germany or on the race track, and none of them have really had the same impression on me, even though the actual driving sensation each time has been largely similar. I guess the Rover escapade is an experience I can savour for the rest of my life – but at the same time, know full well that I’ll not be repeating in that set of circumstances.

Anyway, we’d like to hear about your experiences of maxxing motors – and the best ones will appear here…

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5 March

Are they having a laugh?

By KEITH ADAMS

IT’S good to see our old friends at Honda doing well in Formula 1, with its two UK based teams – and following Jensen Button’s win at the Hungaroring last year, there was a feeling (before the final pre-season test) that they could do even better in 2007 by challenging for more victories.

They were pretty late unveiling this season’s colour scheme, and after a flurry of rumours about it being ‘green’ we should have been prepared for what transpired. As it happens, when the covers came off the Honda RA-107, there were ripples of shock at a colour scheme (and message) that is trying to push the environmental issue for all it’s worth. As the website that’s supporting this effort, www.myearthdream.com, states on its homepage, “…our car will race to raise awareness of environmental issues and to encourage people everywhere to make a difference to the world around them.”

Fine words, but it begs the question – if Honda is now so keen on improving the environment, why is it competing in Formula 1 at all?

the new RA107 will produce over 50 tonnes
of carbon dioxide over the course of
the Grand Prix season.

You see, if the company really wants to make a difference, why not pull out of F1 and invest the £100m-or-so per year it’s spending in the sport on something more eco-friendly instead? According to Friends of the Earth, the new RA107 will produce over 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the course of the Grand Prix season – and one driver’s emissions in this year’s championship is likely to be around five times more than a Briton emits on average per annum. Formula One cars give off over 2000g of carbon dioxide per mile, which is just under nine times more than the average new road car. Moreover, the travel demands of an F1 season such as freighting, flying and testing considerably contribute to the sport’s negative effect on the environment.

Formula 1 is a great sport, and I’m sure I’ll be following this season with more interest than most in the past 17 years (no more Michael Schumacher, you see), but pushing the environmental message through a sport so profligate seems faintly ludicrous to me. By all means care about the environment, and develop more hybrid cars in response to social pressure – but please don’t harp on about being green through F1.

It sends out mixed messages, because we as enthusiasts enjoy the sport because we can escape from the realities of GATSOs and congestion for a couple of hours every other Sunday… Who needs to be reminded that it’s no green passtime?

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2 March

Having fun in a Jag…

By KEITH ADAMS

I KNOW that every time we broach the subject of Jaguars on this site, there’s generally a deluge of emails from fans of the big cats telling me to stop using the place as a forum for knocking the products of Browns Lane. Well, let me state right now that I do have a soft spot for the company, and have enjoyed some of my finest motoring moments behind the wheel of one old Jag or another, but for me, it’s a bit of a love-hate thing, because as much as they like to make you feel like king of the road, there’s always that moment of sheer frustration when something fails or drops off…

It happened to me yet again yesterday. Driving a late XJ40 4.0S, left me absolutely baffled – not least because it’s probably the least sporting car to be given the ‘Sport’ moniker I’ve ever come across. Sinking down into that leather clad interior, and firing it up, I was amazed once again at how well Jaguar engineers had managed to isolate the engine from the rest of the car – and once underway, just how good a job they’d done of maintaining the legendary ‘magic carpet’ ride along with a chassis that’s capable of generating genuine lateral grip.

However, the car seemed wrong to me – and that was mainly down to an engine that really failed to deliver anything like the power and torque the spec sheet promises. Although it’s quiet – and I guess that’s down to the almost bewitchingly capable NVH absorption qualities of the car – it’s not effortless by any means. You really have to shove the organ-like accelerator pedal to get it to move, then extend it up the rev range, at which point it sounded like a cement mixer. What it really needs under the bonnet is a Rover V8 engine with a decent engine management system – now that would be a nice car.

All in all, very confusing…

But would I have one of these cars? Of course! Like all the cars closest to my heart, it’s severely flawed, and would probably fall to pieces if subjected to the rough and tumble of being used every day. But I’d leave it on the motorway, where I could leave the engine churning away at low revs… and that’s a shame because there’s a great chassis to be exploited there; but would you want to do that when its being dragged around by such a work-shy engine?

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Feedback:

I ALWAYS found the XJ40 and its various facelifts to be a somewhat perplexing car. I like them, I want to like them, sometimes I find myself asking why I like them and other times I find myself desparing at them. I’ve sold a few and driven a few more.

Yet, only this weekend, I’ve scanned the classifieds looking for a potential example to take me and Lady Sward to Monaco for the summer. However, when one considers that in 1980/81 only 13 (that’s THIRTEEN) engineers were working on XJ40, – in rusty outhouses, one can forgive the car for a lot more.

This car is more than mere transport, its more like a symbol of the nation during its times. Like the Metro, God Bless her. It therefore needs to be given a bit more respect than it appears to be due. I for one, am proud, despite it all.

STEVEN WARD

YOUR article about the XJ40 in the ‘blogs’ section raised a smile with me. You should have experienced one of the JaguarSport XJR-40s from the late 1980s early 1990s; and not just the ‘Standard’ XJ-R 40 either!

At the time we at JaguarSport produced some interesting prototypes which developed the ‘XJ40’ in various guises. We had several overbored 4.2lt naturally aspirated cars as well as a 3.6 twin turbo, and a derivation from the 4.2 of a 3.8lt twin turbo (an overbored 3.6!) which hankered back to the classic 3.8 lt engine size of the ‘old XK’ power unit.

We didn’t much care for the 4.0lt engine as it was a bit ‘rough’ compared to the sweeter 3.6 units. The overbored 3.6 twin turbo gave maximum torque at 1900 rpm and maximum power at 5250 rpm (480Nm and 335Kw [450hp]). The engine was reliable after we cured the head gasket sealing problems, which was a blindingly obvious oversight on the part of the original designers! We were originally going to produce a limited edition of 1000 of these saloons – it was, in part, a way of using up excess stock of 3.6 cranks left over at the Radford engine plant. The killer was the Getrag gearbox needed to be a ‘special’ build with shot peened gears to withstand the torque, and the supply of the 94mm forged pistons. The engine management system was the latest 32-bit (in fact the only 32-bit system on the market at the time) Zytek EMS3.

Interesting website, I’ve enjoyed reading some of the articles, and found myself quite moved by the photo of the Triumph Lynx (Mk1) – I’d forgotten how pretty that car was; and just how shaken at Triumph we were at the time of the Mann ‘Bullet’.

MARTIN SMITH


1 March

Am I hearing things?

By KEITH ADAMS


(Pic: China Car Times)

ONCE again, I am hearing voices in the dark… It’s never a good sign, I agree, and in this instance, I hope those hushed tones were telling me porkie pies.

However, they went something like this: NAC-MG may well be selling the new TF2 without discount, and at a price comparable with the opposition. Please tell me this isn’t so – because, yes, I like the MG TF, and I know there are other people who do, too, but in the cold hard reality of the 21st century, and new car over-supply, surely no-one’s going to go for a new one (which they know is built with Chinese parts, by a Chinese company) for the money they would have paid for the genuine article back in 2005?

Every potential owner of the new car (who I have spoken to) is assuming that the TF2 will be sold for bargain basement money – Longbridge build or not…

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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