Essay : Dear Santa…
Okay, so a journalist’s salary isn’t much to write home about… but you can’t complain. But if a lottery win came this way, there would be a very, very BL flavoured Christmas this year…
Keith Adams ponders the upcoming festive season and picks seven of his favourites from the BMC>MG stable that he’ll buy if his lucky numbers came up…
The thinking man’s Mini Cooper
The Austin/Morris 1100 range was one of those cars that hit a sweet spot in the market place… it was exactly the right car at the right time, and unsurprisingly, everybody wanted one. The notion that the British were conservative car buyers was well and truly turned on its head by this car – and for very good reason. However, when adding this car to my fantasy Christmas list, commercial niceties are no consideration (you’ll work that out soon enough) – it’s all about style and dynamics. With a 1275 under the bonnet, and Hydrolastic on all four corners, the 1300GT is a fantastic drive – which also happens to look good.
The good news is that this fine package isn’t going to requite a lottery win to end up on your drive – the finest of examples could be yours for under £2000, and you’ll get a perfectly usable, if shabby, GT for around £1000. Most ADO16 aficionados tend to look down on the GT for being a later, more rust-prone, car – but for me, the bold colours and ever so 1970s detailing, make this the ultimate ADO16 for me…
Rover 75 V8
Sticking two fingers up at the establishment
When the Rover 75 first appeared in 1998, few doubted its beauty and ability – but many wondered just how long its shelf life would be when it was styled in such an obviously retro way. But, a decade on, and as the car gets prepared for a European re-launch under new Chinese overlords, there are few who would have thought – even in their wildest nightmares – that it would end this way. However events panned out, there’s no doubting that the finest version of the lot – the most charismatic, for sure – is the magnificent V8 powered version… an automotive Frankenstein, perhaps, but one that warms the heart every time you turn the key.
With so few examples produced, the 75 V8 is already a classic – and not just because of its rarity. The story of its development has more twists and turns than a good James Herbert book, and unlike your average European luxobarge, here is one that you’ll run into the chief chassis engineer or the chap who put together the marketing plan… at your local MG Rover flavoured club meeting. It’s not so much a car, as an ownership experience…
Range Rover CSK
Three doors to heaven
Without doubt, the Range Rover is the classiest and most capable vehicle of its type – and clearly it’s the only off-roader you’d ever consider to be a nice piece of styling. Not bad for a motor that was hammered together in three short years, styled by an engineer, and only then tidied up by the lead stylist. The original three-door Range is the most desirable of the lot for me – but despite the undoubted purity of a hose-clean interior, I like the luxuries associated with a Vogue spec model. And that’s why the CSK special edition of 1990 is the one for me – as it combines the three-door body with all those luxury refinements, and finished in a fabulous shade of black.
There weren’t many CSKs made though – and nice ones fetch a real premium. So, getting one on my (mud) drive for Christmas will involve me having a particularly good year – and unlike your common or garden thrashed 1980s Vogue, it’s more than likely that my Christmas CSK will have been cherished by its previous loving owner. It’s hard not to love something so purposeful, useful and beautiful. Especially with a nice 4.6 under the bonnet…
Allegro with a little more Allegro
I think it’s fair to say that the Allegro is a car that divides opinions more readily than a Marmite sandwich – you either hate it, or just find the prospect hillariously funny. I fall into the latter category – sometimes I can see an Allegro that genuinely excites me… but most of the time, I just get all melancholy wondering at what might have been had they replaced the ADO16 properly. However, whenever I do get struck with Allegro-love, there’s little that can be done about it… other than to buy one. And the best of the lot has to be the curiously sexy Innocenti Regent – the Allegro’s Italian kissing cousin, which remained in production for less than two years.
However, I suspect that it’ll take more than a lottery win to find a Regent in my Christmas stocking this (or any) year. You see, even our Italian readers haven’t seen these cars in the wild for years, and the chances of ever coming across one recede with the passage of time. That doesn’t stop me dreaming – I know there’s one out there, and if anything can unearth one, it’s me on a mission with a bulging sack of Christmas booty…
Rover 827 Vitesse
These days, the Rover 800 series has earned itself a reputation for being just a little bit iffy… if it’s not poor build quality people are bemoaning, it’s the flaky electrics. Either way, that doesn’t stop me loving the earliest XX-style Rover 800s. There’s something about their post-modern 1980s-optimism that I can’t help but admire, and the razor sharp edges cock a snoot at the blobby alternative from Ford. I would have picked an 825 Sterling had it not been for the fact that the Vitesse is so much nicer to drive, and that early high compression 2.7-litre V6 is a sublime lump of Honda joy. Besides, a manual gearbox is the best way to exploit it…
The joy of choosing an 827 Vitesse these days is that even the best examples won’t break the bank – and you’ll now turn heads wherever you go. Let’s also not forget the pleasure you’ll get from thrashing that V6 – the tops speed is over 130mph, and you’ll crack 60mph in 7.6seconds. More than enough to keep your average rep in his 320d honest on your post-Christmas commute. Think of it as a more cerebral Vitesse than the SD1.
Thanks to the joys of the Internet, the charms of the Leyland P76 are far more widely known than they were when the car was new. Back in 1973 when it first appeared on the Australian market (the same week the Allegro was launched in the UK) the P76 received little international press, even though it was the first Leyland-badged car to go on sale for a very long time. Developed for Australia by Australians, the P76 made good use of BL heritage – and that would eventually show in the car’s lack of dependability in service.
Today, it’s a fine monument to what might have been – a Michelotti styled Rover V8 powered executive that looks good today in a way that few of its contemporaries do – as they all seemed to be based on other cars, be it from the USA or Europe. I’ve never driven a P76, but I can imagine what it’s like – and there’s no way I’ll be waiting until Boxing Day to give that mighty 4.4-litre a damned good work-out.
Rover 214 GSi
Rover’s perfect pitch
Martine McCutcheon sung about her ‘Perfect Moment’ a few years ago, and the nation swooned. Rover was in a very similar position at the end of the 1980s – thanks to the arrival of one car, the Rover R8. Priced at a premium, but with engineering underpinning it that rivals could only dream about, it seemed as though – thanks in part to Honda – as if, finally, our company was facing a bright future. However, just like EastEnders’ Tiffany, things unstiched all to quickly for Rover. Today, the R8’s seen as a bit of a banger, and who’d actually have one?
Well, I’d certainly not say no to one on my fantasy Christmas list. Make it K-Series powered, paint it BRG-over-Tempest Grey and deliver it to me in mint condition, and I would be a very happy man indeed. The only two options I’d want would be power steering and ABS, and so equipped, my R8 would keep me more than happy for many years to come. Be honest, when was the last time you saw an early R8 in good condition? So, now’s the time to save one…
MG ZS 180
Sow’s ear to silk purse…
Back in 2002, I drove an MG ZS 180 for the very first time – and to say that I was surprised is a massive understatement. You see, just three years earlier, I’d ‘enjoyed’ life behind the wheel of a T-registered company 416Si, and soon came to the conclusion that this was one of the worst new cars I was ever likely to come across. It’s hard to shake off an impression like that when presented with something new that looks so similar. V6 engine or not. But after only a few miles behind the wheel of this rocket-sled Zed, I was converted…
That KV6, allied with chassis settings of rare deftness combined to gift us with a hot hatchback of surprising ability – and one that clearly demonstrated the excellence of the engineering team at Longbridge, unfettered by outside influences. There are plenty to choose from at the moment, and more than enough standard ones (these cars don’t need modification) to pick a really peachy one to keep me amused on those cold winter mornings…
Triumph 2500 Mk2
Smoothly does it…
In the great P6 vs 2000 debate, I definitely fall on the Triumph side of the argument. It’s not as if Rover’s bruiser isn’t an elegant design, but for me, there’s something indefinably ‘right’ about how Triumph’s flagship looks. Even today, I reckon it stacks up well – and that straight-six rear wheel drive package has a very familiar feel today. Also, I’m a sucker for the Mk2 Innsbruck version, which suitably beefs up the original design, giving it a confident, move-over-mate style that works so well on the motorway. Perhaps that’s why plod loved them so much…
Luckily, there are plenty to choose from – Triumph is the UK’s favourite classic car marque, and good examples of the 2500 litter the classifieds. That means that here’s a Christmas present that I won’t have to scour the ends of the Earth to find. But ubiquity is relative, and it’s not as if you’ll run into another one on the road any time soon. The same can’t be said for the MGB, but that’s another story, and certainly not one for this page.
...And my ultimate Christmas present to me?
Rover 3500 SD1 Series One
No surprise there, then…
Seeing as we’re not going to see a Rover SD1 shaped ARCoTY this time around, I thought it only reasonable to flag it up as my ultimate Christmas present instead. I’m sure I’m not the only person who reads this site who yearns for a minty fresh SD1 in their life, and when you take a look at its all-round excellence and undeniable style, it’s easy to see why. With V8 power and a hatchback, it’s also eminently usable today, although some may baulk at quenching its above average thirst. Me, I’ll chose the manual version and waft along with the flow… do that and 25mpg is not beyond expectations.
Having said that, I am quite lucky in that my ultimate Christmas present is heading my way via Poland – it’s just that it’ll be a few months late. You’re in luck though – although I’m sorted out, there’s still a goodly supply of early cars to choose from, and you’re going to be very well supplied with parts thanks to specialists such as Rimmer Bros. Never has so much glamour seemed so sensible.
Merry Christmas everyone…
|Have your say…|
Please let us know your thoughts…
PLEASE can you fix it for me to have a Metro 6R4? It might not fit in my stocking, but it’ll sure as hell make me grin every time I see it perched beside the Christmas tree. All menacing ducts and towering wings. Was there ever a more bonkers supermini hailing from the Midlands? Or any factory anywhere, come to think of it? The sheer madness of a Metro that’s gone to the gym – and taken rather more steroids than is sensible – makes me smile every time I see one.
The blistered bodywork retains just enough Metro silhouette to remind me of its workaday roots, yet the V6 engine and four-wheel drive system were anything but suited to trips to Sainsburys. This is a fascinating car with provenance (F1 engineer Patrick Head had a hand in its development) whose motorsport career ended prematurely as the mad ‘n’ bad Group B era wound to a close.
And to think they cost a good £40,000 nowadays… For a Metro that will sprint to 60mph in just three seconds!
TIM POLLARD, Associate Editor, CAR Magazine
THERE are so many Austin Rover machines I’d like, many for their appealing degrees of hopelessness, but these are the two I’m thinking about at the moment:
This the Allegro made to look a little more sexy (dare such a word be placed in the same sentence as ‘Allegro’?) with its special wheels, grille and detailing. It got a racier dashboard, a round steering wheel and twin carbs for the 1300, making the best of a troubled job, and was doubtless better built too. I want one because I think it looks better, because of its wonderful obscurity and because it was probably the best finished Allegro ever. I fear that none remain, though I do hunt them on ebay Italy occasionally.
Triumph TR7 fhc
This is a car whose wild styling seems to be looking more acceptable this century than last. I’m as fascinated by that abruptly cut roofline as I was in 1975 when the 7 came out, and it’s an early fixed head coupe – though not a four-speed – that I lightly hanker after. I sat in one the other day, and was amazed at how well its ergonomics stood up today, even if the quality of switchgear falls short.
The ultimate fantasy:
A recreation of a 1976 all-marques BL showroom, fully stocked with the best (or least bad) example of every model, with a few special imports like the Regent and P76 besides. Greedy, but… wow.
RICHARD BREMNER, Editor 5th Gear Website
THANKS, Santa. I’d go for a twin plenum SD1 Vitesse. I still remember a passenger ride from Oxford to Cambridge in one, including the moment when – second gear out of a roundabout – the instantaneous fuel consumption figure dropped to 0.2 mpg. Might need a private oilfield, too.
That said, I just saw a bright yellow 1.3 Marina in Classic Car Weekly and suffered a distinct want-it twinge. No idea why, utter madness.
MIKE DUFF, Features Editor Autocar magazine
HOW very nice of Keith to bestow a lottery win on me in time for Christmas. Obviously I would invest in some of our motor industry’s greatest hits and misses. I do have room in the garage for a Mini Clubman, the proper one without the offset, offside door and marginal load space. No I want a 1977 one with really marginal boot space, but with almost limo like rear legroom by comparison. It would be finished in chocolate brown with Wood and Pickett bumper bars and the registration number TME 677S. Mostly though I want a 1978 Daimler Sovereign.
Yet again I know the exact registration number WMP 107T, because it also belonged to my dad. I looked after it for a few years and even standing still it cost a small fortune. Eventually it had to go, just to make some room. I miss King George (mad, bad and dangerous to own), but I didn’t realise how much until I drove the very last Series 3 courtesy of the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Museum. That had only covered 1800 miles but suffered a fuel leak, which caused instant nausea.
Even so I loved it and it brought back wonderful memories, even if they were often punctuated by catastrophic breakdowns. These truly were the worst built Daimlers ever, but hopefully someone else will have sorted it all out by now, One person’s Xmas may be slightly spoilt by its reappearance is Mrs R who thought she’d seen the back of it forever. However, if I couldn’t get my dad’s old Daimler back I’ll settle for a coupe’. I’ll even tell Mrs R that it’s smaller than dad’s old one, yet it will have the same cool ‘70s vinyl barnet. Brilliant.
JAMES RUPPERT, Mr Bangernomics himself!
MY BL Wish List…
I already have three of my Wish List cars, a 1977 Dolly Sprint, a Sterling 827, and a 1981 TR7 Sprint. I like the symmetry of having Triumph’s best sports sedan and best sports car with the same engine.
But there are at least five more BL/MGR cars that I must owe before I hang up my driving gloves.
They would be:
An MG TF with VVC, perhaps one of the last 2005 models.
A 1985 Rover SD1 Twin Plenum
A 1995 Range Rover Classic LWB
A Rover 75
A Mk 2 Rover 827 Vitesse 5-door
A Triumph 2.5pi saloon
A Triumph TR5
Of those cars, only the 1995 Range Rover was ever offered in the USA. Is it any wonder that Rover died? If the company wouldn’t offer its best vehicles in the world’s biggest market, it was never going to prosper. Perhaps Rover’s new Indian owners will see fit to rebuild the brand and relaunch it in the USA.
RICHARD TRUETT, Reporter, Automotive News
AS a child, I had lots of hopes and dreams, mainly involving Austin Rover and with the advent of adventure days, I would love to have had the opportunity to be able to have a ‘driver’s day out’ in a selection of the great cars, or so I thought at the time. My wish list of cars I would love to drive or be driven in includes…
Rover P5B – My idea of ultimate luxury. If the queen and numerous Prime Ministers can be swayed by these, then I am just in awe of them, the design, the sound of the V8, the leather and the wood…
Range Rover – Just to be able to see a very early one these days is a major achievement, but for me to be able to sit, drive or be driven in one would be a great Christmas gift.
Rover 75 V8 / MG ZT V8 – I keep debating whether to get one, but then I remember my ZS only does seven miles a day, so in that it would be a gallon of fuel… But considering the way the company was going, to be able to turn the front wheel drive car into rear wheel drive, and produce this awesome car make me want to get one…
Austin 1300 GT – ADO16s seem to give me something of a turn when I see one; they are great little cars, and the GT turns the great little car into a great little hot hatch.
Austin Maxi 1750 – Don’t ask, the Maxi also gave me a thrill when I saw it, and it was the only one on my wish list I ever managed to drive. My uncle had one before a TWOCer decided to take it and smash it up. I would love the opportunity to try another just to bring back memories of those days.
Rover 100 – For those in the know, I owned a couple of these, and I miss them. I had a 1997 Knightsbridge and a 1998 Ascot, and I found them to be extremely comfortable, very cheap to own and run. If they were still being made today, it would definately be there somewhere near the top.
Others I would love to try, just to see what all the hype is about are the Allegro, (was it really that bad?), the Marina, (was it really that bad?), but the one car that i had always wanted to own, drive or be driven in was….
Rover SD1 V8 Vitesse – Well what can I say; sex on wheels, the stuff dreams are made of. The look of this car, even today all those years after it came out, the sound of that V8 growling, the Ferrariesque looks to the front, when we went on the Champagne trip recently we stopped at a car museum, and apparently according to my passenger, my eyes nearly popped out knocking my glasses off my face when we pulled into the car park and there at the top with a few other old ladies, was an SD1…
This car is my ultimate dream, even the nighmare it could be would be a dream.
I THINK I’ve been good this year. I’ve bought a Rover, if that helps. And I’ve still got it too. Surely that must qualify me for one of the following? If you can’t fit it down the chimney, just leave it in the driveway. I’ll leave the brandy out there for you in anticipation.
MG Maestro Turbo
Logic dictates it’ll fall to bits on me, but there’s something about a Maestro that’ll hit sixty in 6.6 seconds that can’t fail to make me giggle. If I can’t keep it, just let me have a day in it, so that I can go and find a BMW or two to walk all over.
This one would make me very happy indeed, Santa, but I’d have to be picky and ask for a late 4.0 Sovereign. Yes, yes, I know the late ones weren’t really Leyland-built, but please see if you can’t fit one into my stocking anyway.
Rover SD1 Vitesse Twin Plenum
Possibly at the top of every boy’s Christmas list, I know, me old bearded beauty, but I want one too. There’s a tatty old one down the road from me that you could save! There’s still time for a very hasty resto job before the 25th comes around!
Now, I’m fully aware that if it’s got the original engine in it, the likelihood is it’ll get a bit hot under the collar, but surely you must agree that the sound the Stag makes is genuinely epic? No? Oh well, I suppose reindeer are a little more tranquil…
MG ZT-T 260
It’s a tough one to find, of course, but if you could find one, I’d be your friend for life. Or something. Erm, anyway, yeah, the big estate with V8 grunt can’t fail to appeal!
Nobody seems to like the Clubman, Santa, but I believe that while it lacks the charm of the original, it’s still rather a good-looking little car, especially in GT form. In yellow or mustard, please, Santa, with a black roof and the black stripes.
Triumph Dolomite Sprint
Actually, Santa, you can forego all of the above (well, everything except the SD1) if you’ll just bring me one of these. Possibly one of the finest-looking products to come out of BL in the ’70s, save perhaps for the SD1, and its rorty little engine and classic interior make it the perfect BL performance classic.
Give my regards to Rudolph et al…
Series 1 XJ Daimler V8 4.5 SWB: A car that was built in the early days of the XJ’s development but killed by William Lyons as he didn’t like V8s and it worked so well it cast a large shadow of doubt on the V12. I did fit a Majestic engine to an S1 2.8 (PBX994J where are you now?) would loved to have seen the real thing though.
Rover S1 SD1 3500 5 Speed: Oh, I have one… but it currently has an airfix kit for an engine… Never driven it, Wanted one since I was six and saw the original add for it in the Sunday supplements while trying to avoid being sent outside to ‘enjoy the sun’ Will it run in 2008? Should I try and buy shares in Rimmers?
Triumph Stag, with a 2.5 Daimler V8: same power from smaller engine, and fewer problems, probably weighs much the same as the OHC unit! And another option BL would have had at the time.
Rover P6BS: Might have a go and try and build one myself one day, as from the reports, it was built mostly from the ‘parts bin’ so may be possible! But I think that will take a very very very very long time! (would be a P9 but that would take even longer)
Rover T-4 Gas turbine car: I often wonder about this one, as the structure is P6, and I believe the engine was a modified stationary rover Gas Turbine, so would it be possible? Suspect the gearbox would kill the project assuming the engine could be found. Regardless I doubt the whine would sound as good as a well set up V8! But it would run on anything that will burn!
Rover 800 XX Sterling 5 speed: Rocking horse manure – had one of these as well! Gave it away
Mk1 MG Metro Turbo. Just want one, okay?
MG Montego Turbo: I think these are nearly rarer than the Maestro version now!
Rover 800 Coupe: T16 turbo or C27a. Lovely car… would like a turbo one day.
Daimler DS 420: totally impractical, but if I ever need a people carrier this will be it! Far nicer than any Espace.
Seven of my favourites from the BMC>MG saga? I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep it to such a low number but, in no particular order, here they are:
Rover 820 (Tickford) Turbo 16v:
I used to own one of these and it even inspired my user-name on the forum here (820Tickford – obviously) and I can honestly say it’s one of the best cars I’ve ever owned, managing to simultaniously live up to and destroy my childhood dreams of it. The car reminded me in so many ways of the legendary Star Wars ship the Millenium Falcon. It creaked, it rattled, it would sometimes stall, it sometimes smelt worryingly of petrol and it once left me stuck on the side of a country lane on a freezing November evening in a cloud of steam George Stephenson would have been proud to produce but still I’m not afraid to admit that I cried a little as another AR regular drove it away and that the memory of it’s hyperdrive-like performance brings a tear to my eye now, almost a year later. A friend and I went out for a drive once with him in my 180bhp Audi A4 Quattro and me in the Tickford. Armed with a two-way radio each what would become a legendary drive started with him asking the question “Are you going to be able to keep up in that?”. I couldn’t resist the temptation for the uber-nerdy Star Wars comparison of my secret weapon: “Hey, she may not look like much but she’s got it where it counts!”.
Needless to say, I kept up. I’d keep up again if someone would buy me one for Christmas.
Rover 216 Vanden Plas EFi:
My first car. Never has a car been so under-estimated by so many for it’s comfort, reliability, economy, performance and ability to create stories shrouded in myth on one of Walsall’s roughest housing estates. Neither has a ninteen year old ever had to pay so much to insure a car he brought from his Grandad. I’d still have it on the road too if it weren’t for that pesky lorry so perhaps with the help of a lottery win I could resurect the old girl. I’ve still got the car (twisted chassis, broken driveshafts, buckled floor and all) if anyone wants to make a donation…
Rover 216 GTi:
I bought one of these once with – un-beknownst to me at the time – either a knackered head gasket or, more likely, a blown piston ring in it’s supposedly un-burstable D16 Honda engine. Despite the cloud of blue smoke that followed me everywhere (nick-named my own personal fragrance: Au-du-Magnatec) and the electric mirror switch that somehow managed to hook just under my knee-cap no matter how I sat I kept it for just long enough to enjoy a truly glorious summer. It looked great, handled well and – despite the problems – went like a rocket. Yes it had low gearing making it a little loud on the motorway but for a tight Shropshire lane it was a brilliant piece of kit and worthy of the advert used for the later 220 GTi “What all GTi’s want to be when they grow up!”. Perhaps Father Christmas’ girlfriend would let him rev the engine to check for smoke (no matter how posh the area) and I could get a good one.
Rover 200 BRM:
Whilst at the Austin Centenery show at Cofton Park, near Longbridge I introduced my girlfriend to the idea of a small hatch with a bright orange grill and a bright red leather interior. So swept up was she in BMC>MG fever that she announced her undying love for the car and that should she ever sell her beloved Austin Metro that this is what she’d want. A week or two later however she’d calmed down somewhat and a little light probing revealed she was no longer over keen on the idea, leading me to buy the disaster of a GTi mentioned above instead. A few years later, however, the constant sub-concious manipulation has worked it magic and she’s interested again! After having driven the length and breadth of the British Isles in search of a good one several times over and being unable to find more than one good one (I don’t care if it’s the first one you’ve looked at – if it’s good, buy it. Before someone else does) I’ve had to put my dreams of that brilliant handling, TorSen inspired grip and revy K-Series on hold until I can afford to drive around looking again!
Obviously this gets a place. If I hadn’t got one then, like the BRM above, I’d be looking for one. How a car so small can fit someone as large as me in (6’3″ and a frame that can only be politely described as “ample”) is a mystery. Nothing else on the road inspires so many smiles from passers by or manages to somehow be such a practical all rounder, capable of performing almost any task from camping trips in the country to jaunts to York with broken footed passengers (I was dunk, okay?) to helping with house moves. I’ll take a 1275GT in dark blue with a body coloured roof and white GT stripes to complement my also very seventies Russet Brown thou’ thank you.
Now let’s hear from you… what would you treat yourself to if you had a very lucky Christmas?