AR18/R16 : the missing Rover
Back in 1988, when Rover was getting down to the business of devising a replacement for the XX-Series 800, there were still questions over financing the project. It was clear that, under BAe’s control, Rover wasn’t going to be getting the development resources that it had under Government ownership and the Design Department was now under strict financial control.
When Roy Axe’s team designed the original XX, it had been lifed for a production run of around five years, with the intention of it then being replaced by all-new model. Without a decent budget, an all-new model was going to be out of the question – so various facelift schemes were devised. The cheapest of the lot – the R17 – used the existing car’s passenger doors (see the Rover 800 development story to see why that ended up being a false economy); but Axe put Richard Hamblin’s team in charge of producing an alternative project.
Initially known as AR18, the design brief was to produce a four-door saloon and two-door coupe. The cars would sit on the 800’s underpinnings, which were still competitive at the time – and the 700-Series tag was considered for the car, giving Rover the opportunity to produce a range-topper on the 800LWB floorpan (which had yet to be cancelled at that point).
By 1988, the project had been renamed R16 and ran alongside the R17 programme but, as our exclusive images clearly show, R16 really did move Rover forward in terms of design – especially as this car was mooted for a late-1990 launch. However, as it transpired, BAe wouldn’t invest enough to allow Rover to move forward with this concept and stuck with the R17…
We’ll leave it to you to decide whether that was a good move or not.