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Blogs : October 2005

31 October 2005

Cheap as chips


I’M FEELING a bit like David Dickenson at the minute (no I’m not painted orange with camp glasses and a buffont) but I’ve been thinking about the motoring Bargain Hunt. It is possible to get a superb car (as Kevin has managed with his Rover 420) that is literally ‘Cheap as chips’.

With all the doom and gloom out there about MG Rover’s sad demise, it is easy for the majority of car buyers to forget some of the fantastic work the company has done over the last 10 to 15 years.

Whatever your budget from £100-£15,000, it’s possible to buy something adorning either a Viking or Octagon for 50 per cent (on average) cheaper than its contemporaries from other manufacturers.

The beauty about buying a used Rover or MG now, is someone else has already paid for all the big depreciation the car will experience, so all you have to do is hand over the small amount of cash, turn the key and drive away comfortable in the knowledge that your 75 2.5V6 Connoisseur SE, for example, has cost under £6k, while the fellow over the road has just spent £8k on a Mondeo 2.0 Ghia of the same age!

You just can’t put a price on that feeling.

So, don’t be worried because there are plenty of new parts available, plenty of used parts in the breakers, and plenty of grossly undervalued MG Rovers everywhere, get spending!

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25 October 2005

Rover for a pony


I DIDN’T intend to buy anything on my recent visit to my local car auction, as I was there with my brother-in-law. He was looking for something for around £3000, and I was there to help. Anyway, as the evening wore on, cars came and went and we were just about to call it a night, when in came a Rover 400 in tahiti blue, which I’d seen it in the yard but didn’t take much notice of. Anyway the auctioneer gave the description as a 1997 R-registered 420Si saloon, with 2 previous owners, 103,000 miles on the clock, no history and six weeks’ MOT and tax. As it was a T-Series car, I knew I wouldn’t have to worry too much about blown head gaskets. Bidding started at £50 and I thought, ‘ooh, that’s cheap enough’, and so I started bidding – until my final bid of £110 was enough for the hammer to fall. It was mine.

Once I had the keys it was time to find out what I had let myself in for; a broken drivers seat backrest, heater inoperative, passenger side door mirror was missing, two wheel trims were missing and there was a big dent in the front offside wing, that was about it. Driving the car home trying to sit upright in the broken seat revealed squeaky rear brakes (drowned out by turning up the radio!) but other than that, no problems.

The next day a proper inspection showed that this car had obviously been stood for some time – the cobwebs in the engine bay were a giveaway, and it needed a coolant flush and oil and filter change which was done, but it was evident that the timing belt had recently been changed (genuine Rover) as had the pulley belts. This car also had ABS, air conditioning and electric windows all round.

The inoperative heater blower was caused by the wires to the missing passenger door mirror being stuffed in a hole and shorting out the system as they’re on the same circuit as the heater, this was sorted and the heater then worked, a replacement mirror was sourced form a local breaker for £10. The squeaking brakes were sorted by replacing the rear brake pads, and the driver’s backrest was welded back together.

I took it in for an MOT and it passed with flying colours; this Rover now has 13 months MOT! I replaced the front wing with an identical colour one from a breaker which took all of half an hour and the car is now looking as good as new – so good, in fact, that I’ve decided to use it as my daily driver, as I have sold my 820 Vitesse Coupe.

I am very impressed with the way this Rover drives as I’ve always thought that the HH-R was always a bit of a duffer – which the 1.4 engined cars are – but the 136bhp 2.0 T-Series engine is very good in naturally aspirated form, performance can be best described as rousing – praise indeed after me being used to 200bhp on tap, and the exhaust has a nice rasp to it. The gearbox is smooth and precise and there’s no whine like you get with the overstressed 820 Vitesse ‘box. The ride errs on comfort rather than handling but this is no bad thing and the steering, to me, feels a lot meatier than the 800 Vitesse rack. Odd.

I’ve added a set of alloy wheels add a bit of sportiness to the car, and I may even go mad and put a set of MG ZS seats inside, but, as it stands, this Rover now owes me £320, less if I hadn’t bothered with the alloy wheels. You have to admit this is cheap, quality motoring. And to put it into perspective the car that went through the auction immediately before this Rover 420 was a decidedly average 1995 M reg Ford Fiesta that sold for a whopping £750! I know which I’d rather have. It’ll do until I find an MG ZS.

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24 October 2005

Petrol vs Diesel… again


I HAD a perfect demonstration today of why more and more people are turning to diesels at the moment, and why they are becoming the ‘performance’ car of choice for many people…

Stuck behind a VW Golf TDI 2.0 in my Citroen BX 16 Valve, the driver was obviously in a hurry and was pushing his diesel engined hatchback for all it was worth. For the sake of experimentation, I decided to see how well my ageing hot hatchback would compare. He exited a large roundabout near my home, and headed out onto the long uphill stretch of dual carriageway – an ugly black belch from his tailpipe, followed by the the rear end squat, and away he went. I was ready and nailed my 16V…

…and he pulled away.

Sadly, my engine was spinning at something less than the 4500rpm power/torque sweet spot, and as I waited for my all-aluminium high revving PSA engine to spool up, I wondered at how the ride must have been for Mr Golfie ahead of us – quite silent and unstressed, I would imagine. As the road unfolded, I began – slowly – to reel him in. As I chased my 7300rpm cut out, we inched up closer.

But the point – for me – had been proven and I gave up the chase as things began to get illegal. A bog standard diesel repmobile is quicker – well, more useable – and more capable than what was considered a performance hatchback of 15 years ago.

But I return to my original argument from last year – these latest generation common rail TDIs are fearsomely quick now, but are they rewarding for the driver? I know my Upsolute 75 CDT was not on the same planet as some of the latest trick Vee-Dubs, but it was a torquey old slogger, and could punch well above its weight. But all I remember about that car’s performance was that it was amusingly rapid, but never sounded remotely enjoyable. Extracting performance from it was ridiculously easy though, and in the real world, it was quicker than many more fancied cars simply bacause you were in the right gear more often…

But are these things performance cars? Not really… I’d never ride one through their rev rage just for the fun of it. But with a nice high revving petrol engine, this kind of behaviour is no chore whatsoever.

One might argue that it’s great to go fast without all the effort, but where’s the fun in that.

Besides, if you love petrol, and decisively want to put a pesky TDI in its place… buy one with a blower.

I did.

And one final question to all those dervheads out there who endlessly like to tell us their engines fuelled from the black pumps are better than our petrols. If they are so good, would you still buy a diesel if it used the same amount of fuel as a petrol powered car?

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21 October 2005

Fair weather friends


BMW’s involvement with Rover ended in acrimony in 2000 when its board and the Quant family arranged a fire sale and pulled out. Now BMW has acted in a similar fashion with Formula 1 constructor Williams, setting up their own rival team for 2006, with Sauber providing the infrastructure and donor vehicle. On both occasions, BMW complained that although it was sinking time, money and effort into the relevant businesses, it had nothing to show for it.

In Rover’s case, it ran out of patience with continuing losses. With Williams, it ran out of patience with a distinct lack of competitiveness and race victories. The connection? An initial warmth and friendship with both organisations quickly turned sour — Sir Frank Williams was not on speaking terms with his engine supplier by the end of the 2005 F1 season, and BMW patience was sorely tried by their six — admittedly largely hands off — years in charge of Rover. Does this reflect a lack of understanding of the British psyche? Or are BMW just not people centred?

I think I can spot a trend here, with BMWs expectations too high on both occasions. We are all guilty of being impatient for results, but contrast the German companies’ behaviour with that of Honda. The Japanese are obviously prepared to wait for results. In fact, if it hadn’t been for BMWs approach to British Aerospace in 1994 offering to take Rover off their hands, the British manufacturer would probably still be in business, supported by Honda.

And look what has happened to the BAR Formula 1 team. Honda has shown infinite patience, pressing on this season with what was, towards the end of the year, an uncompetitive car. They built up their holding in the team to the 40 per cent mark and then bought out owners British American Tobacco. Okay, so it was probably its long-term plan, but surely that is the point — unlike BMW, the Japanese concern had a long-term plan.

BMW’s Formula 1 decision-making is obviously governed by a desire to overtake natural rivals Mercedes-Benz, who has been successful with McLaren. It must be hugely embarrassing for the Munich company to find that Stuttgart rivals Mercedes-Benz have enjoyed success this season. Despite investing heavily with Williams (taking the unusual step of putting their name first, so that the cars were badged BMW.WilliamsF1) the team has had an extremely average season. Even the undoubted talents of drivers Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia have failed to change things for the better.

Of course, 2006 could be a fabulous year for the new BMW team, but I doubt if there are enough weeks between now and next March to turn Sauber around. But if they don’t start winning in 2007, who can they blame this time.

The pressure is on.


Mike Goy’s item on BMW is another example of us whingeing Brits always looking for a scapegoat for our own incompetence!

BMW was almost brought to its knees by Rover. The mistake they made was trusting Rover’s hopeless and incompetent management to get on with it, with only a light touch on the tiller whilst they threw money at them.

By the time BMW realised what was happening it was all too late. That and unfavourable exchange rates made Rover’s position within the BMW group completely untenable.

In criticising BMW for ditching Rover, lets not forget they are still employing thousands of British Workers in valuable high skill jobs at Cowley making Minis and at Hamms Hall making 4 cylinder petrol engines for BMW’s produced in Germany. They continue to plough millions of pounds into the British Motor industry. That hardly makes them a bogey man in my eyes.

As for Williams, if they aren’t able to win races season after season why shouldn’t BMW make other arrangements rather than continuing to sign blank cheques to Frank Williams…

Get real!


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20 October 2005

Apalled that Land Rover has forgotten Rover


EVER been to the Land Rover website?

Well, visit Land Rover

And now try and find any information about Rover. The Jaguar website is very comprehensive about its past, even through the BL years. Yet Land Rover doesn’t make any connections with Rover, BL or Rover Group.

Talk about a stab in the back.

You would be suprised how many people now think that Land Rover hasn’t had anything to do with Rover.

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19 October 2005

Sorry all…


APOLOGIES to everyone who has emailed me in the past couple of weeks or so. Due to an increase in workload, and the sudden and unexpected need to go into hospital, I’ve not been able to answer the usual barrage of queries I receive…

So, the next few days look like busy ones, as I plough into my correspondence, and get in touch to all those who have taken the time to email me. As always, the commitment and enthusiasm shown by the readers of this site continues to impress, without which I reckon the site would be a shadow of what it is today.

Keep writing in, and keep in touch!

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18 October 2005

Land Rover, Jaguar and MINI


NOW the dust has settled, and Rover is firmly in the past, the remaining ‘BL’ brands, Jaguar, Land Rover and MINI, are left to carry the torch. Of course they retain many design and engineering personnel from the old BMC/BL/Austin Rover Group/BMW days, but these people’s thoughts and actions will continue to be watered down as the years pass, and PAG decision making takes over.

Incidentally, didn’t Ford want to buy Austin Rover (as it was then) back in 1986? They say that everything comes to he who waits.

Now the dust has settled, and Rover is
firmly in the past, the remaining ‘BL’
brands, Jaguar, Land Rover and MINI,
are left to carry the torch…

Ford has made a bit of a pig’s ear so far with Jaguar. It amounts to little more than BMW ‘light’ but without any recognisably distinctive features (such as exclusively rear wheel driven platforms or a single front end style). But the Land Rover brand looks like going from strength to strength. The Range Rover Sport shows imagination and flair, and the Discovery has that ‘hewn from solid’ look that sets it apart from other off-road manufacturer’s vehicles.

MINI remains a triumph of style over substance. The spirit of Sir Alec Issigonis no longer resides at BMW Oxford. At least the Cooper and Cooper S names will remain. BMW was never going to make a space efficient vehicle in the spirit of the 1959 original, but their superior marketing skills have ensured that MINI has made it to worldwide brand status. A status that no BL vehicle, apart from the (inherited) original Land Rover, ever achieved.

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17 October 2005

All change…


TWO new additions to the fleet at Towers, and as you can see from the accompanying pictures, neither are from the BMC>Rover stable. It’s not as if I decided to pick up something non-Rover, but it just kinda happened…

Now normally, I wouldn’t bore you with the details of a bunch of funny foreign cars, but in the case of my two new additions, there are very real links to our beloved company. The first – as you can see – is an ageing Saab. There’s nothing significant in that, and as a driver’s machine it isn’t the sharpened tool you’d think it is. Compared with my old 800 Vitesse Sport, the steering is a little woolly, and the handling is not quite where you’d expect it to be for a car with lowered suspension and stiffened Koni damping.

Before I go off on how these Saabs drive like a sedated shopping trolley, I’ll rebush the suspension and anti-roll bars, and then take stock.

However, I do keep coming back to the engine. Basically, it’s an inline slant-four and to all those Triumph aficionados out there, it will have an air of familiarity about it. That’s because it was designed by Triumph and Ricardo for Saab, who at the time, was looking for a suitable engine for its upcoming 99 range. The design was interesting, efficient and light, and unsurprisingly, Triumph decided that the design was too good not to use for itself – and a few years after its introduction in Saab form, a Triumph version of the slant-four duly found its way under the bonnet of the Dolomite.

Could you imagine a range of sporting
Rovers and Triumphs powered by
engines as good as the Saab

Looking at where the Saab engine is today (and the engine found in my Aero is still in production in the new 9-5 model) one can only wonder at what has been achieved by a process of continual development. Within BL, it was decided that it wasn’t any use for the slant-four outside of the Dolomite and TR7, and by as early as 1975, the company concluded it should be superceded by the forthcoming O-Series engine.

Interestingly, that engine was developed over time, and in its final incarnation, produced a very healthy 200bhp in turbocharged form under the bonnet of the 800, 600, 400 and 200 Turbos. Was it as good as the contemporary Saab engine? No comment.

So, could BL have developed the Dolomite/TR7 Slant-four engine as effectively as Saab did? Probably.

I say this, because there’s very little wrong with the T16, and given that it was very, very loosely based on the B-Series engine, one comes to the conclusion the company could perform miracles on engines. Imagine, therefore, if the starting point had been the Slant-Four – where would that be now? Could you imagine a range of sporting Rovers and Triumphs powered by engines as good as the Saab Turbos? One only has to look at the Swedish to see what could have been achieved…

I mentioned two cars. The second is a Bertone (nee Fiat) X1/9, and it is on long term loan from austin-rover co-designer and contributor, Declan Berridge who couldn’t bear to see it unused any longer. Again, there is a link with BL here – although it’s vague and contrived – and more precisely, it’s a link with MG.

You see, it’s a mid-engined sports car, priced to appeal to the masses, and using many off the shelf components from the company’s saloon parts bin. Sound familiar? Well, had MG been given the development funds it so richly deserved during the late Sixties and early Seventies, we could well have ended up with a mid-engined Midget and MGB replacement. Take a look at the ADO70 and ADO21 – had these made it onto the market, then the X1/9 wouldn’t have been seen as a pioneering design, but as a me-too MG clone.

The people who call it the ‘Italian TR7’ today would actually be calling it the ‘Italian MGD’ or some such…

Such a shame – and once again we have two more instances of what might have been had things been different…



I read with interest your comments on the SAAB and the Slant 4. Last night I added a comment to the Scenarios (1968 and I am…..) about what might have been if Leyland had developed the relationship with SAAB and what was to become SAAB Scania.

1969 the two companies had similar issues.

Small premium car manufacturers
Truck & Bus Manufacturers
Both outside the Common Market

Also the RAF were looking with great envy at the SAAB Viggen, given a longer range (partly through its originally intended Rolls Royce Engine) it would have provided a much needed replacement for the Lightning and certainly would have been a much better solution than the Jaguar.

A UK/Sweden tie up could have launched Leyland into the Aerospace industry, possible taking ownership of Rolls Royce after its collapse in 1971.

Another great if only…


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14 October 2005

No longer a Rover man…


FOR the first time in a very long time, I sit here typing away at my computer – and I feel as though I am in uncharted territories. Not sure why I should be, but I guess when something familiar, safe and sound is taken away from you, life takes on a slightly different slant…

But that’s where I’m at right now. You see, as of tomorrow night, there will not be a single BMC>Rover car in my fleet.

Not sure how it came to this, but whatever did happen to allow me to arrive at this situation, it happened quickly. I can still remember, only a couple of years ago, laughing along with my good friend Dale, as we stood in my driveway and admired my trio of British Racing Green Rovers. It was safe, it was predictable, but most of all, it was me. Yes, I was Keith Adams, Mr Austin-Rover, and if it was Monday, it must be time to drive a metallic green Rover of some description.

But time passed, and one by one, my cars moved on… and somehow, they were replaced by products of other countries.

And yesterday, I bade farewell to my Rover 75. After long discussions with my bank manager, I decided to cave in to the wishes of my boss, and sell him my car. He needed something good (and economical) to drive, and I needed some cash. A deal was done – and now, he’s happy, and I’m Rover-less. Well, not entirely. I do still have Nigel the Vanden Plas Allegro, but all being well, this will be going to a very happy new owner tomorrow afternoon…

So, what then? Will I be in the wilderness? Will Mr Austin-Rover cease to be? Of course not. I love cars, and most of all, I love British Leyland and Rover. Nothing changes that, even if I decided to exchange my 75 for something distinctively foreign…

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13 October 2005

For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer…


NO, I’VE not been re-considering my marriage vows (someone once quipped that marriage isn’t a word, it’s a sentence) but I have just re-entered the Rover family after a gap of five or so years, so far without a hitch.

Twenty-odd years ago, and I was a British Leyland devotee. My first car, DGB 125D, was a white Mini boasting red rally stripes over the roof and wide wheels with Dunlop snow tyres. Bought for £125 out of the Liverpool Echo, I was as pleased as punch.

Then came NTC 231K, an 1100 mark three, an ex company car, followed by TEC 856N, a Dolomite 1850 whose head went (long with my bank balance) before I temporarily deserted the cause and bought a Simca 1100 S. A word of advice to anyone even faintly considering a Simca 1100 Special – do join the AA or RAC and do invest in a hairdryer and extension lead… they both come in really handy to warm up the carb. on cold winter’s mornings.

Then came marriage and MUK 618X, a Metro 1.0L followed by a Mini Clubman (we had our first child and needed some cash) another desertion to Escorts and Vivas and then a few Audis before we came into some money and a brief flirtation with a J-registered Rover 414SLi, a part-ex from our local Rover dealer which after three months developed a leaking head and helped haemorrhage my bank account. I’m still knocking myself that I didn’t buy the Rover 216 with slipping clutch that was on offer too, but she who must be obeyed liked the look of the 414 rather than the 216.

University beckoned for the eldest of my three daughters and we dropped on a Renault 9 which lasted a year and then a Citroen ZX which lasted two before I met a Rover 75 CDTi by accident driving home from work in early September. An enforced trawl through the local rag to see if there were any decent Rover 600s going cheap was a success, and an ex Rover management car was too good to miss at an advertised £700, and with £500 cash the deal was sealed.

So far, so good. It’s had a proper service by Trevor my trusty ex-Rover mechanic of thirty years standing and apart from non operational air con it’s proved a reliable and well equipped car which is returning around 35mpg. Insurance is surprisingly reasonable; parts are plentiful and not too exorbitant and to date, my renewed love affair with Rover is almost all sweetness and light, although I’m still waiting for the service bill…

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12 October 2005

Midsomer misery


IT’S ENOUGH to make you commit murder – a Midsomer murder no less.

Did anyone clock the big difference on Sunday night’s programme? One clue – it had to do with DCI Barnaby’s wheels…

Someone on the production team obviously couldn’t give a (Leer) dammer about continuity.

Last week, John Nettles – a Triumph and Rover man through and through if ‘Bergerac’ and ‘Midsomer murders’ is anything to go by – was seen in his 2004 75. Nothing new there then.

Now that – and everything else from the MGR stable – has been replaced in one fell swoop by assorted cars from Ford and its PAG stable – in this case a Jaguar X-type for DCI Barnaby and assorted Focus hatchbacks for the ordinary rozzers.

Talk about kick a company when it’s down.

‘Midsomer murders’ was – and is – watched by millions and was the perfect vehicle (no pun intended) for the Rover range. It was a publicity opportunity to die for, so to speak… and now it’s died a death of its own.

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11 October 2005

What makes a modern classic?


BEFORE rehearsing my own views on the subject, let me digress with some comments from our Antipodean friends.

The Australians have never been known as being backwards in coming forwards. Definitely not a nation of wallflowers, they tend to speak first before putting their mouth in gear.

Some us of like that forthrightness, and nowhere is it more evident than in the Australian motoring press. It’s produced some of the world’s finest motoring writers – for anyone who read ‘Car’ back in the Seventies and Eighties (Mel Nichols and Steve Cropley were two of my favourites) you’ll know what I mean.

One particularly acerbic comment was delivered in pommie bashing style by a writer who was not entirely convinced by the Rover Sterling, pondering if in twenty years time, enthusiasts would still be polishing the interior wood and buffing up the leather trim. He was obviously NOT convinced by the car’s transition from Legend to Sterling.

It got me thinking about future classics from the current MGR range – ironically, it was only after a conversation with a Toyota dealer in Preston I started mulling over the subject.

He had just broken a punter’s heart by making him a derisory offer on his 2004 Rover 75 Tourer… I asked him if he thought the car might be a future classic and he surprised my by saying that in a few years, it may well be.

Contrast that with any number of today’s Toyotas which will in a few years time be gone and forgotten. Would anyone seriously suggest that an Avensis, modern Corolla, or even a Yaris will raise a few heartbeats in enthusiasts of the future? Thought not. You could say the same about a host of today’s Hondas, Suzukis, Mazdas, Nissans, although some mid Eighties Japanese models are a different kettle of fish, and I reckon well worth saving. – I’m thinking of an early Celica, Corolla twin cam, Charade GTti, Bluebird SSS, Crown convertible and Land Cruiser.

MGs and Rovers though? No contest!

At the bargain basement prices now it’s well worth investing in a ZT V8 (fuel crisis, what fuel crisis?) ZT diesel, Rover 75 long wheelbase and if you can find one, an example of the ultra rare ZT 220S, several of which which were auctioned off in June in Australia. Then there are original MGFs which were kept fresh with various special editions and of course the ultimate MG, the SV.

My own favourite? An unmolested ex press fleet ZS 180 mark one with some road test provenance and choice extras to help the car keep its value.

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10 October 2005

Wedgie shaped?


IT SEEMS hard to believe that some thirty years after the design of the Princess/Ambassador series, we still have to come across it and pose ourselves the inevitable question: was the Princess ahead of its time?

I am definitely sure of it. One can now look back and think, ‘where were the minds of European car buyers at the time?’, and, ‘Why the heck didn’t it fulfill the goals set out for it?’

It’s an easy answer: when such a distintictively designed vehicle hits the market in the Seventies, European buyers were still not used to the “Focus I” effect (love or hate it, but gotta have it), and went out and bought more conventional cars instead. With the Princess, one does not only look at a car – one contemplates an alternatively-designed vehicle; a car which easily turned out to be a trend-setter.

Watching the television programme ‘Yes, Minister’ the other day made me realise that after all these years, I still see it as a different kind of motoring, a vehicle that cuts it so well, that you would expect to see today alongside the Focus or Mégane – and rightly believe: “Not the car for Mr. Average!”

Now think about the philosophy that led to the design of the Citroen XM…

And why French government executives loved it so much! More important than trendsetters, these two cars are in a class of their own.

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7 October 2005

The CityRover is back – but with nary a bang nor a whimper


FOR the past few months, I’ve been on a quest to discover what happened to the 300 CityRovers, which were landed at Portbury Docks, near Bristol, just as MGR crashed.

It has taken various e-mails to head of Tata marketing in the UK, Capital Bank’s PR man in Edinburgh, and a number of the remaining MGR dealers, but on Friday morning at about 10.30 my quest ended at Windsor’s of Wallasey, Cheshire.

I popped into the showroom and spotted an 04 model… nothing strange there; there are lots of them about. The cheapest I have seen so far on eBay for just over a grand. (The same price, incidentally would have bought you a V-plate high mile 75 Connoisseur V6 with almost every bell and whistle.)

“I’m looking for a new CityRover”, I told the salesmen who promptly walked me over to a metallic blue Style model.

“One just here for you, Sir. £4995 on the road”, he added, proudly.

“Sorry, that’s an old model. I’m sure the new models will have VDO radio cassette units in, not a Sony”, I said, trying not to sound too much like an anorak.

Unfazed, he asked me to follow him into the rear PDI area where, being polished up was the genuine article, an 05-registered CityRover, Select specification, in black.

Yup, it was the real deal; new instruments, chrome ringed and much better looking, a massive passenger side airbag above the dash, that VDO sound system and a few other touches – including a cross between piano black wood and carbon fibre on a reshaped centre console.

I could have danced a little jig in celebration, but the Blaxalls are not known for too much enthusiasm – well, not for spotting 2005 CityRovers, anyway…

My next quest – the ultra rare 2005 Model Year MG ZT brochure for my collection. Has anybody seen any?

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6 October 2005

Spiritual Custodian of Rover – MGR or LR?

By ‘Rubber Duck’, MG-Rover forums

NATURALLY, the events at Longbridge have been traumatic for the MGR associates and anyone who has worked closely with them over the years.

However, do we really believe the spirit of “Rover” has died?

When we look back at what happened in 2000 (and in some cases before), it is clear that much of the “spirit” of Rover had already passed to MGR’s other former RG affiliates…


Factory for “Rover” for much of this century and factory for Land “Rover” since 1948.


The majority of design, product development and project management staff who were involved in the current Rover range didn’t move to Longbridge – they stayed at Gaydon in 2000 … Richard Woolley, David Saddington, Geoff Upex, Bob Joyce, Peter Morgan, etc, etc.

Following the merger of Land Rover and Jaguar’s product development in 2003, you will find that about 50% of former “Rover” development staff are now involved in Jaguar projects!


Rover Group’s International HQ at Warwick, together with most of the Sales & Marketing staff and other key infrastructure, stayed put thereby keeping their knowledge and skills within Land Rover only. As with product development, those same people are now influencing Jaguar Marketing at the new combined Jaguar/Land Rover S&M offices at Gaydon.


There are numerous other examples. It is true to say that the new Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover Sport have had more involvement from former “Rover” people than anything that has been done at Longbridge post 2000.

The Jaguar X250 (S-Type Replacement) will be the first Jaguar with a significant input from those people. Some might say that this will be more of a “Rover” than anything that Nanjing or SAIC will produce.

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5 October 2005

Waking the dead…


OH I wish my car life was simple. No sooner than I clear my stocks of old nails, then my driveway starts to fill up again.

For a brief moment, our household was down to two cars… can you believe that? Two cars! Anyway, the compliment is creeping up again, and I’m running out of space. There may well be a Vanden Plas ‘Allegro’ going spare very soon. W-Reg, Abingdon built, a 1750cc engine and twin carburettors? How much closer can one get to Allegro perfection than this?

Well, that may well be the case, but I want to get rid of it. By the 15th if possible…

If you can come up with a good reason why you should own it – in less than 100 words – and you can cross my palm with £100, then it could yours. Yes, it’s MoT’d, but not taxed, there’s about 70K on the clock, and it’s the only Allegro I’ve ever driven that can generate torque steer! So, if you fancy a challenge and you’re into pudding shaped cars with flappy picnic tables, this could be your perfect opportunity to own one.

Heck, I might even take some pictures of it tomorrow!

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4 October 2005

Classy Old Hack


ROVER, confusingly, originally offered two versions of the 420GSi, Executive and Sport, and both with the same M16 2.0 engine, but in 1993 the 416GTi was dropped as part of a range rationalisation and the 420GSi Turbo became the top-of-the-range with the 420SLi replacing the Executive. The Rover 400 has always lived in the shadow of its more versatile sister the 200 hatchback and knowing this in 1993, Rover marketed the 400 as slightly more aspirational and upmarket by offering it with a chrome grille for some 12 months before it worked its way down to the 200 series.

My favourite is the 1994 420GSi, which manages to look understated but sporty, and its body colour appliqué around the number plate and wheel spats really set the GSi apart from other models. To me, it’s still a car that looks ‘right’ and the styling has lasted well, though oddly, I think the lowly 414i model does look like a banger now and that’s probably because of the lack of add-ons such as wheel spats and its silly 13” wheels.

The immaculate 1994 British Racing Green 90,000 mile 420GSi I drove this week probably doesn’t feel as good as it did when it was new but there’s still a feeling of quality there, though the road noise that enters the cabin does come as a bit of a surprise. The engine is as lively and raucous as ever and the gearchange near effortless, the spotless half leather seats are comfortable and supportive and offer a sense of sportiness to the drive. I like it, especially as this one was bought for a ridiculous £200! I can remember considering a one year old 1995 420GSi in Tahiti blue from my Rover dealer for £10,495, and I put a deposit on it but I never went ahead with the deal – I bought a much sportier 220GSi instead.

Of course, the ultra rare GSi Turbo models are the most sought after with allegedly only 500 being built so it’s as rare as an MG Maestro Turbo, but unless you’re a Rover enthusiast, it’s an unknown.

So, will it be a classic Rover? The Turbos will almost definitely be highly prized in years to come, but the standard 420GSi deserves recognition too, and if you can find one in nightfire red then I think you have a very tasty set of wheels.

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3 October 2005

Not the car for Mister Average


SORRY to keep blogging about the Rover 800, in this week’s, AutoExpress a supplement covering all used cars, from A-Z was included. Needless to say, I went straight to the Rover section. There’s the usual plethora of ‘old’, ‘dated’ and ‘not worth considering’ comments tucked in there describing the Rover models. What really incensed me most was the Rover 800 section: It says, ‘avoid the dreadful Rover 800 Coupé’. So why, exactly?

A comment like that shouldn’t be published unless you have the space to substantiate the claim. I haven’t got a problem with anyone slagging off any type of car, provided they have driven it and can provide constructive criticism about it.

AutoExpress says, ‘avoid the dreadful
Rover 800 Coupé’. So why, exactly?

I thought the Rover 800 Coupé was the most desirable of the 800s, and the second hand prices confirm this. So why is it so dreadful it should be avoided?

I think the problem lies with the writer of supplement; he had to put something in there and chose the Coupé as his scapegoat. But then again, will anyone other than Rover enthusiasts ever consider an 800 Coupé? Impressive though they are; they’re not for the faint hearted and it’s probably best owned by people who understand them.

Even so, Ross Pinnock of AutoExpress, who edited the supplement, should give us an explanation – because I don’t think he’s ever even driven an 800, let alone a Coupé, and I’m pretty sure that if he had, he wouldn’t have written that.

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2 October 2005

Back in Britain!


AS YOU may have read elsewhere, Molly the Allegro, Declan, Alexander and me made it to Naples in one piece. Had it not been for Alexander’s calm evaluation of the mechanical situation, it might well have been a bit different. Either way, we made it, and it seems we should all be very pleased with ourselves about the achievement.

You see, Allegros have a reputation for unreliability, and that meant that most people (myself included) came to the conclusion that we’d never make it to Naples. I must admit that the clonking from the front suspension quickly eroded my confidence in the car, but as Alexander quickly concluded, it was nothing serious, and we could put it out of our minds. It seemed he managed it, but it took me a lot longer to do the same…

If you discount this problem, and the water leak, we really did have a trouble-free run, and it is great to report some good news on the Allegro front.

Alexander and Declan’s opinions
on the Allegro are a microcosm
of the British car market back
in 1973…

However, I really didn’t want to bring Molly home, and that meant that Alexander – who really couldn’t stand the idea of us scrapping a perfectly healthy car – took Molly back to Germany, and is now preparing her for sale over there. I hope he manages it, although I have to say, after following him through The Dolomites and The Alps, and seeing him enjoy himself as much as he did, I am a little sad he didn’t decide to keep Molly for himself.

I guess that’s down to one thing – styling. He told me that he enjoyed the drive, but wished it wasn’t quite as ugly as it was.

In a way, his and Declan’s opinion on the Allegro are a microcosm of the British car market back in 1973. They are both enthusiastic ADO16 owners and both had the opportunty to take on Allegro ownership – and yet, both baulked from such an undertaking.

Be that as it may, we all enjoyed the experience, even if it was tense at times, and I’m sure more long distance trips could be in the offing in the future…

Posted in: AROnline Blogs
Keith Adams

About the Author:

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

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