SAIC Motor : MGR’s surviving test cars are finally sent to the crusher

Nigel Garton

It seems that the final MG Rover test and development cars have been sent to the crusher by SAIC Motor after being allowed to languish at Longbridge for over five years.

The cars, which signalled the hard work undertaken at the factory on upcoming programmes, were destroyed as they were no longer required by the company – and, as prototypes, they were also considered unfit for public consumption even though a number of earlier prototypes had been sold by MG Rover’s Administrators, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

All the cars were located in a make shift yard between CAB 1 and the Kremlin (International Head Quarters) and, according to one source, the cars were the last of the old MG Rover era vehicles from around the site as NAC, SAIC Motor’s predecessors, had two or three ‘clearouts’ before this one.

The collection was mainly made up of development V8 ZTs, late EU4 emissions cars and G-Series/Fiat-powered diesel cars. However, there were also some of NAC’s own TFs and other MG Rover vehicles in there. According to our photographer, these cars featured some interesting developments not fitted to standard factory cars.

‘I noticed some of the ZTs with Front Parking Sensors, DVD players / TV Screens in the back on the Front Headrests and a new style of gear gaiter, possibly due to a new gearbox,’ he said. ‘There was also an MGR-built TF with a leather covered dashboard.’

All of the cars shown in the images below have now been destroyed – can we, then, truly say this is the end of an era?

Posted in: AROnline News, MG Rover
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.

62 Comments on "SAIC Motor : MGR’s surviving test cars are finally sent to the crusher"

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  1. Rover 75 V8 e Rover 75 Limousine | 13 December 2012
  1. Richard says:

    What a harsh thing to do – SAIC Motor could have put them up for public auction to see if there was any public interest first. Sad, but it’s finally the end of an era exactly five years later.

  2. Ryan says:

    EVEN THE V8 LWB 75 !!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  3. Ayd says:

    Why not sell them, even for parts? The money raised from an auction could have gone to a local charity and raised awareness of SAIC Motor’s future plans. The auction could have been combined with a club meet and a family fun day -not a sign of innovative thinking. What a shame…

  4. Doive says:

    I’m sure Gaydon could have found space for one or two of these. I wonder were they even offered?

  5. David says:

    An absolute travesty that these cars have gone. With the right indemnity cover, these cars could have been handed over to responsible bodies for long-term preservation etc., rather than for public consumption.

    The LWB Rover 75 V8 would have been a fitting addition to the collection of Rovers at the Heritage Motor Centre – the last Rover with V8 power, rear-wheel drive and a special long-wheelbase body.

    This really does reinforce my view, based on previous sentiments, about the wrongful act by NAC of rebadging the one-off Rover 75 Coupe as an MG – NAC/SAIC does not give a jot about the heritage of Longbridge or Rover Cars.

    Perhaps now is the right time to hand the Rover 75 Coupe (and please put the rightful badges back on it) and 5 millionth Rover (a 75) over to a responsible body such as the Heritage Motor Centre so that they can be preserved for the long-term benefit of the nation and, particularly, enthusiasts such as myself who have a genuine affection for and understanding of the heritage of Rover Cars?

  6. Dr Bobby Love says:

    Gutted…. Just Gutted.

  7. BajanDave says:

    These cars should have been preserved given their significance.

  8. Adrian says:

    The cars will be gutted once they get to the scrapyard…

  9. Mark Payne says:

    Just to let you know the 75 and ZT Club bought a pre-production 75 1.8 Classic from SAIC Motor last year – I believe it was kept with all these now destroyed cars .

    The plan, when funds allow, is to restore it back to original condition and specification as, when bought, it was a mishmash of 75 and ZT parts .

  10. Andrew says:

    It really pains me to even think about it.

  11. Ian says:

    Interestingly, pic number 7, which is billed as a ZT V8 development car, is nothing of the sort. It is actually an MG ZT-T 4×4 development mule, using the underpinnings of the Land Rover Freelander.

  12. Peter says:

    Why couldn’t they have stripped the cars and sold the parts cheap to the public? Such a waste of money sending them to the crusher. It’s a damn shame!!

  13. John says:

    From the sounds of things, every single vehicle in that yard was a unique part of MG Rover’s heritage and, in that respect, priceless even though not everyone would appreciate them now.

    However, what about in 30 years? Just think in the 1950s and 60s Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes were being scrapped but today these aircraft are now worth millions. They are also part of the country’s heritage just as these MG Rover cars are.

    How much more of the heritage of these great brands will be destroyed before we enthusiasts decide to do something about it? I have seen pictures of an RDX60 prototype inside Longbridge and I believe it is still there.

    What about getting the enthusiasts from all the clubs and websites to lobby SAIC to donate the car to the British Motor Heritage Centre at Gaydon as that vehicle may well be the only surviving example of the car that could have saved MG Rover?

    Any thoughts?

  14. Simon Woodward says:

    @John
    Talking of Hurricanes, here in Brum there were lots of rumours about spares for Merlin engines still in the plant when the asset strippers went in after MG Rover went bust. True or false?

    Anyway, as for the prototypes, don’t forget Gaydon/Ford chucked out a load of AR/Triumph etc prototypes for auction a couple of years ago like a Stag-engined 2000 etc. This was a great opportunity for other collections and it’s a shame that same couldn’t have happened in this case.

  15. Tim Nevinson says:

    To be fair to the company (whether we feel inclined to be or not), keeping prototypes is very much the exception rather than the norm. The great majority from most manufacturers are scrapped – certainly selling them in whole or in part is very much frowned upon.

    For tax, safety, profiteering and liability reasons, it falls into the far too hard basket for large corporations these days.

  16. Tony says:

    Tim Nevinson :
    To be fair to the company (whether we feel inclined to be or not), keeping prototypes is very much the exception rather than the norm. The great majority from most manufacturers are scrapped – certainly selling them in whole or in part is very much frowned upon.

    For tax, safety, profiteering and liability reasons, it falls into the far too hard basket for large corporations these days.

    Sad, but true. Still a terrible shame…

  17. John says:

    @Simon Woodward
    I don’t know about Merlin engine parts but I would think they would be in the tunnels under the Flight Shed if they exist. However, the Flight Shed is not being used at the moment so I would think that it could be the next building to be demolished. I hope not as the heritage of that building is second to none!

  18. Andrew Elphick says:

    Just standard manufacturer practice. Yes, a few unusual things in there and a lot of bog standard things too. These things happened from the Austin 7 onwards. Think of the LR Llamas, the RR-based taxi, the ADO88, etc.

  19. Pete says:

    I’ll give you £150 for a fully-dressed G-Series.

  20. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    This shouldn’t amount to standard practice – the company’s dead and these were historic artifacts that should have been preserved as part of its heritage.

    There was no disadvantage to MGR in preserving them (whereas other companies scrap prototypes so that rivals don’t see them) because MGR is no more. How sad that we can’t go and view them at Gaydon or somewhere.

  21. Andrew Elphick says:

    Very true Jonathan.

    Do we know there is no evidence remaining? The G-Series lives on in the Indian Jeep thing though?

  22. Lord Sward says:

    That’s a nice Sherpa Convoy chassis cab in the middle of those cars.

    Anyway, with regard to the cars themselves, they should have been auctioned off with the VIN plates and sold for parts only. It’s hard enough getting parts for some of these cars as it is without the wanton waste shown here. I’m sure Rimmers or B&G would have given a fair price and helped preserve what’s left in doing so.

  23. Kevin says:

    People must realize that most of these cars were not complete and had been raided for parts and, as such, were not in a position to be sold as there were no records of what the cars had done (i.e test work) or what the pedigree of components fitted was.

    However, if every car had records and its condition had been maintained, then maybe some could have been passed to museums but you can not treat individual cars differently and so they had to be destroyed to ensure parts/cars did not end up in the wrong hands.

  24. Mike C says:

    It’s sad that they were all scrapped, rather than used for parts, but you can hardly blame SAIC…

    However, while they were the last developments by MGR, they’re hardly important in the overall story of the British Car Industry – Gaydon would have 1000s of cars if every development hack was kept.

  25. Dave says:

    Well, as an American, I have to feel bad about BX54OPL. Perhaps that would’ve been the car that could’ve let Rover return to the US market and, in so doing, profitability. I do believe that car would’ve sold well here in V8 LWB form. The V8 75 represents the most appealing late model Rover that MGR had to offer.

  26. David says:

    Which one is the LWB Rover 75 V8? The dark blue limo one at the bottom? Is that the same as the one Tony Blair had?

  27. Ayd says:

    It’s a shame that SAIC Motor doesn’t embrace new business techniques of involving and sharing info such as this with the small but dedicated fanbase. The BBC did it with Doctor Who to great success and the rise of Apple is testament to the technique of creating and growing from a fanbase.

    MG is in a prime position to use this idea to grow the brand. Sadly, though, they seem to be stuck with the 20th Century faceless big business approach which will make it so much harder for them to compete.

  28. David 3500 says:

    @John
    Sounds like a good idea, although I would also want to see the 75 Coupe and 5 millionth Rover, together with production records for Rover Cars and MG Rover Group-built vehicles passed over to the same hands as well.

    SAIC Motor has no idea about keeping strong, productive relations with enthusiasts and some of their actions (as well as those of NAC) will have no doubt alienated potential future customers.

  29. Hilton Davis says:

    I agree at least some of these cars should have been saved and donated to the British Motor Heritage Centre. They looked perfectly serviceable to me and the like of which we won’t see again… sad.

  30. Phil says:

    Well, this just confirms again that the Chinese have no clue about British culture and the value we put on our heritage. Hence no one is interested in their cars or success!

  31. Paul says:

    … so now we know some of the exciting developments MGR had in the pipeline before the Administrators were called in – parking sensors!

  32. Rich says:

    Anyone spot the red Mazda MX5 lurking up at the back by the fence, with no bonnet, front wings or hood?

  33. Simon Woodward says:

    I’ve heard loads about these ‘catacombs’ – they’re where the prototypes were stored and provided some rich pickings for Gaydon when it first opened.

    I love these stories and I would love to know more about, for instance, the prototype XK engine left in a ‘Browns Lane’ broom cupboard for 40 years and the fully equipped underground WW2 hospital that the developers found under the old Alvis factory. I’ve also heard that part of the roof at LR’s Load Lane site still has its camouflage paint on it.

  34. Andrew Elphick says:

    Simon, any links to the Alvis tale please?

  35. Shep says:

    I’m surprised at how clean they looked in the pictures. Had they been stored undercover until it was decided to dispose of them?

  36. Simon Woodward says:

    @Andrew Elphick
    During the war Alvis built a fully equipped bomb proof underground hospital under the factory. It wasn’t used and was mothballed and forgotten.

    However, in the late 80’s/early 90’s developers building the Alvis Retail Park found it but sealed it back up and carried on building and I was led to believe it’s still there. I got the information from one of the staff in the excellent (high praise coming from a Brummie) Coventry Transport Museum, which is well worth a visit and is FREE. I will try and find out some more information Andrew.

    Incidentally, for those of you who have not been to the Coventry Transport Museum then you should. There is an excellent display of Coventry made cars, motorbikes, bicycles and buses etc., a reproduced Hillman Avenger production line and both the Thrust Land Speed Record cars. There is also a nifty Coventry Blitz display and lots of reproduced work shops. It’s located in the centre of Coventry and not to far away from the revamped Birmingham Bike Museum which, since its tragic fire, seems to have got even better. Simon.

  37. David 3500 says:

    Chris Lane :
    I’m so pleased that I was able to see and bring you pictures of the 75 V8 Limo in 2005. Sadly, with this OUTRAGEOUS act of destruction of British heritage, Rover is now dead for me – so very sad. I would have campaigned for the rescue of the V8 Limo to the very end. Long live NAC not…

    Very, very sad.

    Chris.

    I, for one, am glad you let us see those pictures as this is/was a very interesting and special Rover. The Rover 75 V8 Limousine really should have been saved.

    However, for me, it’s now about continuing to remember and enjoy the Rover marque and its many models built over 100 years. MG just doesn’t command the same level of affection.

  38. Chris Lane says:

    I’m so pleased that I was able to see and bring you pictures of the 75 V8 Limo in 2005. Sadly, with this OUTRAGEOUS act of destruction of British heritage, Rover is now dead for me – so very sad. I would have campaigned for the rescue of the V8 Limo to the very end. Long live NAC not…

    Very, very sad.

    Chris.

  39. StevieB says:

    @Chris Lane @David 3500
    Thanks for the memories. Sorry to disagree Chris – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. MG is the marque for me, but both will be sorely missed.

  40. EngineerOz says:

    Guys, not strictly true… We have a development TF sitting in our yard (I can’t say who we are) which no-one at Longbridge wants to take responsiblity for. I wonder how many other suppliers have development cars stuck at their premises?

  41. EngineerOz says:

    @Simon Woodward
    I have to agree, Coventry Transport Museum is excellent (and free).

  42. John says:

    @EngineerOz
    How long have you had it? In other words, is it MG Rover or NAC?

  43. Dennis says:

    The main reason manufacturers crush prototypes is for tax purposes -they can reclaim VAT if they do. I think the fact MGR still had so many kicking about shows they were pretty lax in their management.

    Furthermore, while some of these cars ‘look’ serviceable, you can say the same about the Rover 75 Coupe but, if you dig deep into it, most of the thing is made from fibreglass and it was only ever built to ‘look’ serviceable – chances are it would be dangerous to be used as a regular road car.

    Suggesting these cars could have been sold for parts raises the same problem, many of the parts on prototypes are handmade, so they’re not interchangable with production parts with out fettling. Some of the parts might not have been fully tested, so someone drives one of the cars for 1000 miles then the brake calipers sheer off through stress or something, SAIC end up being liable for selling it and if, it happens to be MG-badged, it damages their brand image.

    Gaydon did a clear out a few years ago – basically they had the first and last of every Rover Group model and they only have finite space. I suppose that, in the grand scheme of things, they probably wouldn’t want many of these as they would just take up space which could be better filled with other exhibits. I remember one example they sold off, a cutaway Marina – a great if you like Marinas – but it wasn’t really a technologically special car!

    Regarding Spits and Hurricanes being cut up in the 60’s, well that was sad too, but if they hadn’t been cut up then the surving ones wouldn’t be worth millions today.

    Overall, I think, yes it’s sad to see these go, and I too would have liked a couple, but I can’t blame SAIC for doing it.

    A final point though, these cars have been sitting for 5 years and, even if they’ve been inside somewhere, things like rubber components will have perished, tyres will have flat spotted and other parts corroded and seized. Chances are, if you tried to take one on the road, the brakes would probably barely work and they’d leak all sorts of vital fluids. Where do you get parts to repair them?

  44. Stever says:

    I’m surprised that it has taken 5 years for these to become completely “redundant” – I thought it would have happened much earlier. From a Health and Safety perspective, I think it’s right not to sell them, but I agree about Gaydon or Colleges doing automotive training. Whatever happened to recycling?!

  45. Dennis says:

    They have been recycled…. that’s basically what scrap metal places do. I doubt SAIC ‘gave’ them to a scrap dealer either, scrap metal is worth money.
    I think the LDV dropside is actually one of the site vehicles, on the side of the flight shed there are signs showing designated parking places for a couple of R reg LDV’s, i guess there were used for moving stuff about the factory, engines etc.

  46. David 3500 says:

    @Dennis
    You make some interesting comments. While it would be too risky to sell off many of the prototypes to the general public, there is still a need to consider saving some of them for future generations.

    The Rover 75 Coupe may not be driveable due to how it was built and the fragile nature of some of the materials used but, as a static rather than dynamic exhibit, it has immense ‘show’ value in a musueum and to future generations. The same applies to the Rover 75 V8 Limousine.

    Part of the problem with the Heritage Motor Centre is the use of what space they do have. Exhibits are rarely interchanged, with some cars never being displayed – I have never seen the last Rover SD1 on display in the museum in the twelve years I have been visiting it. Also, when visiting the Heritage Motor Centre last year, I was disappointed to find that the first floor was a large empty area with no exhibits, apart from a quarter of the floorspace being taken up by a dedicated Mini display.

    The clearout of other exhibits by the Heritage Motor Centre seven years ago was highly controversial for the same reason as for the scrapping of the MGR prototypes. What people don’t realise is that the adjacent Gaydon Testing Centre is vast and there is certainly undercover space available to store exhibits not being displayed or loaned to other museums. Trouble is, this was not actively explored and we ultimately saw a lot of historical artifacts being sold off which we may never get the chance to see again.

    Certainly both the Heritage Motor Centre and MG Motor UK Ltd could learn a lot from the attitudes of Saab and Volvo about preserving their important cars and prototypes for current and future generations of enthusiasts to view.

  47. Ric says:

    Does this mean that the 75 Coupe and the MG TF GT have gone? Such a shame if they have…

  48. Michael says:

    @David 3500
    The Labour Government should have nationalised MG Rover like France did with Renault back in the 1990s. Look at them today, a really strong brand. The French Goverment still own a 25% stake to this day.

    I believe that, if MG Rover had managed to continue and bring us their new line of cars, they would still be here today.

  49. Michael says:

    @Ryan
    I know that NAC/ SAIC MG used the Rover Limo, which was re-badged as an MG, to travel around the Longbridge site.

  50. Jon T Pierce says:

    What a terrible waste – well done MG Motors – these were the last of MG Rover and what do the chinese do – scrap them you should be ashamed of yourselves as previous comments they should have either have been used as spares, sold, given to Gaydon or another museum – one was previously being suggested at a site on longbridge – seems that idea has gone the same way as MG Rovers prototypes – i will remember this when my Rover 25 gones the same way and buy RENAULT instead. NICE ONE

  51. Michael says:

    @David
    I agree with you completely. Well said!

  52. Michael says:

    @EngineerOz
    Donate it to the British Motor Musuem.

  53. Dennis says:

    Michael :
    @David 3500

    The Labour Government should have nationalised MG Rover like France did with Renault back in the 1990s. Look at them today, a really strong brand. The French Goverment still own a 25% stake to this day.

    I believe that, if MG Rover had managed to continue and bring us their new line of cars, they would still be here today.

    I agree, but we just don’t do nationalisation well in this country. The French seem to have it cracked – look at all their former Government-owned companies EDF, GDF(Suez), Peugeot, Citroen, Renault, France Telecom (Orange), Veolia. France tends to just buy shares in companies then pump cash in as a shareholder investment, rather than fully nationalise them. When they become successful, they keep some shares and reap the dividends.

    Here, all we seem to do is the 1970s thing of churning out any old crap on a budget then adopt the Thatcherite policy of flog everything off ASAP to make taxes look good pre-General Election. I think it needs a whole political attitude change, which I just don’t see happening in the near future.

  54. Andy says:

    If these cars were development models, then why do some of them have tax/MOT that is current? There is a red TF that is still taxed and tested.

  55. Don Stewart says:

    What a shame!!! Here, in Northern Ireland, the MG ‘Z’ range is very popular with good clean examples much in demand. Both my sons own one each, one diesel, one petrol. There was surely a future for MG Rover – the then Government’s handling of the company was surely a national disgrace!!!!!

  56. Dennis says:

    Andy :
    Well, if these cars were development models, then why do some of them have tax/MOT that is current? There is a red TF that is still taxed and tested.

    They would have to be taken on public roads for testing and so they still need tax/MOT. The TF could have been used more recently for testing things on current MG developments – who knows what it could have under the skin? It makes sense to reuse an old redundant one rather than to build a new one for the job.

  57. JJ says:

    Just for information purposes, the Rover 75 LWB “Limo” was not crushed. I live over the road from the factory (or what’s left of it) and have seen the car on the road several times. I even caught it leaving Morrisions the other day! I will snap some pics the next time I see it and send them in.

    There are also a fair few 06 plate cars floating around – they are obviously MG Rover-built so were probably left on site after the collapse and registered by NAC and/SAIC Motor for staff use.

  58. AnnesleyA says:

    JJ, could you email me details? They claim it’s not there…

    aannesley@hotmail.com

    Thanks

  59. JJ says:

    Hey, just to let you know I was able to take some pictures of the Rover 75 Limo today. I passed it in Bromsgrove – it’s got a private plate now: MG02NAC. I will email them to AROnline when I have a chance later.

    Cheers,

    JJ

  60. Hotrodinstraycat says:

    It would appear that there are enough of us feeling the same way. Surely there is something we could all do if we all got together and got media coverage – legally of course.

    Maybe if we all donated some funds we could buy up what remains???

    Is it still breaking the law to own by finding lol

    By hook or by crook something should be done…here i go please don’t lock me up officer I said nothing about a riot honest gov. lol

  61. Ian says:

    JJ

    That limo with MG02 NAC plate on it is a different car sadly. It is a 2.5 V6 Connoisseur SE.

    I remember seeing that same car on one of the pride of Longbridge events where the Chinese guys turned up both at the service station and at what was the Powertrain car park.

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