News : June 2006

Rimmer Bros pull off the deal of the decade for SD1 enthusiasts…

KEITH ADAMS, originally featured in Classic Car Weekly

THE UK’s largest supplier of Triumph and classic Rover parts, Rimmer Bros, has secured a groundbreaking deal to supply genuine SD1 parts – the company has bought an enormous consignment of parts and assembly facilities from the former Standard Motor Products factory in India, and owners are already feeling the benefit.

Because of the purchase, Rimmer Bros is now guaranteeing the supply of original Rover SD1 parts for at least the next 20 years – something that’s almost unprecedented in the classic car movement.

For many people, the news that the Rover SD1 was produced in India between in 1985 and 1988 will come as a surprise to many – probably because the car, which was known as a Standard 2000, failed spectacularly on its home market.

Building them in India

THE reason for the SD1’s Eighties rebirth came down to a change in Indian car making legislation – something that was controlled tightly by the government up to that point. In 1981, Standard Motor Products of India approached Austin Rover about the possibility of producing one of its cars, to bolster its ageing range.

A deal was hammered out in March 1984, which involved supplying 12,000 sets of SD1 body panels to the Indian operation. Production rates were anticipated at 4000 per year, which would have seen the car produced until 1988 before a new deal would need to be agreed between the UK and India.

When the Standard 2000 was launched in April 1985, there were only eight million cars on India’s roads, but sales were beginning to take off in a big way. However, the Standard 2000 was designed to sit at the top of this market, and its price of £12,000 ensured its exclusivity. However, its sheer expense, and the lack of power delivered by its ancient Standard Vanguard based engine, which wasn’t up to the task of hauling the SD1 body, meant that sales didn’t take off at all.

In the end, far fewer than 12,000 were built before production ceased in 1988, and Standard Motor Products ended up exporting a number of SD1 panels back to the UK for Unipart to sell.

However, that didn’t account for all the parts shipped out to India, and as it transpired, most ended up being stockpiled in the redundant factory, largely untouched until local businessmen came up with the idea of offering the stock to Rimmer Bros.

What’s on offer

GRAHAM Rimmer, the founder of the Rimmer Bros business and one of the people instrumental in the deal with Standard Motor Products is justifiably proud of what the company has achieved. He said: “My brother, Bill, masterminded the deal with Standard originally. We had received a number of emails and calls from India last year, bringing the factory and its contents to our attention.

“There were plenty of middlemen out there offering parts, production facilities and other SD1 related items, but it was difficult to know who to trust. In the end, Bill took it all to task and unravelled the situation. He went out to the factory and did a deal for the parts consignment in person – and I then went out and crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s, and brought them back”.

The parts have been shipped back to the UK in huge containers, and because of the sheer quantities involved, it will take several months for them all to be catalogued and made available to customers.

However, to ease the current short supply of certain critical parts, Rimmers air-freighted a small consignment of hard to find parts in advance, and these are already for sale. The company has promised further stocks of the items listed will be available in a few months time – but back orders will be accepted for any of the items Rimmers have listed, and will be shipped at the agreed price when available.

Finding out more

GRAHAM said: “Once we’d been alerted to the supply of parts available in India, we needed to find out more, before flying out. The only place on the Internet where I could find any information was on this website – and it was certainly a factor in making the deal happen as smoothly as it did.

The deal is certainly significant for Rover SD1 owners, and although there’s going to be a wait before the majority of the stock is put up for sale, they will certainly be worth waiting for…

For more information about Rimmer Bros, and to access its online stock list, click on, www.rimmerbros.co.uk – or telephone the parts hotline on, 01522 568000.


Freelander 2 breaks cover

KEITH ADAMS

NEXT month’s British International Motor Show will see the unveiling of the all-new Land Rover Freelander 2 – and demonstrates the furious pace of development at Gaydon, as it’s the fourth new model to be launched by company in as many years…

Prices will be considerably higher than the outgoing model reflecting the move upmarket for the Freelander model range – and the anticipated start point will be £20,000 rising to £30,000 for the plushest versions. Although the Freelander 2 is based on a stretched version of the Ford Focus/Mazda 3/Volvo S40 platform, the biggest news for potential curomers is the dropping of the three-door versions, and four-cylinder petrol-powered models.

The Volvo I6 powered petrol version will only be available with an automatic transmission, reflecting the sector’s rapid move towards diesel power. The diesel versions are now powered by the familiar 160bhp PSA HDI 2.2-litre engines, dropping all links with the outgoing BMW- and Rover-powered models.

The petrol engine develops 229bhp and 234lb/ft of torque, which is delivered at 3200rpm. That results in sprightly performance – claimed acceleration to 60mph is 8.4seconds with a top speed of 124mph. Fuel consumption of 25.2mpg isn’t bad considering a 1700kg kerb weight.

Exterior design is a fusion of the outgoing car, and the current Discovery – and although rather conservative, it will appeal to its targeted buyers, as it possesses an element of class missing from the opposition such as the Toyota RAV4. Design continuity comes down to the familiar selection of stylists still working at Gaydon: Jerry McGovern, Geoff Upex, David Saddington, Richard Woolley…


Other British show debuts

The British Motor Show also marks debut of special Jaguar and MINI

Jaguar’s new supercharged XKR sports car will make its global debut here in the UK at the British International Motor Show, to be held at the ExCeL Centre in London’s Docklands. The XKR will be unveiled at a press conference on the Jaguar stand on Tuesday 18 July.

“We are thrilled that the XKR will make its global debut at Jaguar’s home show,” commented Jaguar’s UK Managing Director Geoff Cousins.

“Following the resounding success of the XK since it went on sale earlier this year, we are confident that the much awaited XKR will continue to build on the momentum the car has generated for our dealers.”

Along with the new Jaguar, it will be the first chance for British enthusiasts to see the MINI Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit – a car which has proved extremely popular with customers, selling out before it even hit these shores.

The MINI Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP Kit was announced in October 2005, and only 444 UK customers were given the chance to own one from July 2006. We’ll be bringing you driving impressions in the next couple of months…

MINI will present the first MINI GP – numbered 0001 on the roof – at the 2006 British International Motor Show in just over a month at London’s Docklands.

For more information about the British International Motor Show, visit the website.


Ricardo out testing again

KEITH ADAMS


Taped up 75 appears to be a long(er) wheelbase SAC528. Note the re-jigged rear lamp clusters and what appears to be a subtlely altered number plate surround and bootlid pressing, (Picture: WorldCarFans.com)

SAIC’s prototype Rover 75, the SAC528 appears to have been enjoying an outing at the Nurburgring recently, and although some commentators have been surprised by the need for disguise on this car, there do appear to be a number of bodywork changes around the rear end which may need hiding.

When he saw the images, former MG Rover homologation engineer, Nic Fasci commented: “Interesting front end on the car. The grille looks slightly different to the facelifted cars we did. That could be a tweaked front bumper. As for the back end, new bumper, new boot lid (as the Chinese wanted it in for their version) and new tail lamps with what look like boomerang LED stop lamps.”

Nic added: “The Chinese didn’t like the sloping back of the current 75 so their version was to have a higher waist line at the back and a higher boot. The monoside has obviously been re-tooled as has the boot to raise the profile of the rear end. Not a cheap exercise in the slightest.”

As an aside, testing on a public day at the famed track is not unknown to MG Rover engineers. Nic recalled: “We did a fair amount of cars at the ‘Ring, the Zed cars did some work there and also the ZT260 was honed around there.” So it would seem that Ricardo’s engineers are going back to what they know with SAC528.

The British consultancy Ricardo 2010 has been working closely with SAIC both in the UK and China on the productionisation of its new Rover – and currently a team of 150 former MG Rover engineers are working on the car and its production start-up, still slated for later this year…

For the original photos and article, click here.


Check out the length of the rear window. (Picture: WorldCarFans.com)


Russians in talks to take over LDV

BBC Online


LDV’s latest product, the Maxus has not been the success its makers had hoped…

The British van company LDV is in talks about being sold off to Russian automotive group Gaz. LDV is one of a few remaining UK-owned motor manufacturers and employs about 800 workers at its Birmingham plant.

The van-maker, formerly Leyland DAF, was acquired by a group of shareholders in December 2005. The talks between LDV and Gaz, the second biggest auto firm in Russia, are at a preliminary stage, the two parties said in a joint statement. The statement said there was no certainty that discussions would lead to an agreement.

Gaz is controlled by Moscow-based oligarch, Oleg Deripaska. LDV manufactures panel vans and minibuses. It was set up in 1993 through a management buyout from truck maker Leyland DAF, which is now defunct. It produces more than 13,000 vehicles a year at its Washwood Heath factory in Birmingham, close to the M6 motorway.

A former insider told austin-rover.co.uk: “LDV was interested in selling vans through the MGR network in Europe, and needed dealer expansion for the forthcoming Maxus (I went along to Washwood Heath to look at prototypes and to discuss the LDV plans for the new model).

“At that time we were already assessing an arrangement with Gaz to sell their Transit lookalike van range (remember Concordski, then this was Transitski). It would go through the UK and European MGR network. Two vans were supplied to MGR for assessment, and as I recall one went to MGR in Spain.

“This was the main part of a package proposed by MVI, the Tata and Lada importers. The other bit was selling Tata SUVs and pickups through European MGR dealers. And the man with the MVI plan was Mike Kimberley who is now back at Lotus (see Autocar this week). This was the start of the link with Tata that resulted in MGR talking direct to Tata, and the Indica being sold as the CityRover.

For more information about LDV, click on, www.ldv.com/


U-turn at Longbridge as Nanjing slashes production of sports cars

TIM WEBB, The Independent


Production levels have been set at realistic levels

NANJING, the Chinese company which bought the collapsed MG Rover last year, has more than halved the number of cars it had pledged to make at Longbridge.

The state-owned company now plans to build only around 4000 MG TF sports cars each year at the West Midlands site, a spokeswoman said. Production could be increased if demand for the sports car was high, or cut back even further if sales failed to take off, she said. The company planned to employ 400 people at the site, but only “when we reach a certain level of production”. She could not say what level of production would be needed for all those workers to be employed.

Before MG Rover went into administration last April, 6000 people worked at Longbridge.

Nanjing signed a 33-year extension to the lease on the Longbridge site with the owner, St Modwen, in February. But it inserted an option allowing it to cancel this extension in July. The company will not, as some had feared, exercise this option next month, the spokeswoman said. Nanjing’s commercial director, Wang Yaoping, said in April that it planned to build between 10,000 and 12,000 cars a year at Longbridge, down from the 100,000 a year it had originally predicted when it took over the site. The figure of 10,000 to 12,000 was contingent on receiving at least £10m in British government grants.

Now Nanjing has decided not to apply for government help, resulting in the scaling back of its business plan.

Some union officials are privately sceptical of any production at all going ahead at Longbridge because Nanjing has changed its plans so many times. After the company bought MG Rover, it initially said it wanted to eventually employ 1200 workers to produce 100,000 cars a year.

It has dismantled most of the assembly lines for production of Rover cars and shipped them to China. This has added to suspicions that Nanjing is not interested in producing cars in the UK, where costs are higher.


The political football

JOHN REVILL, Manufacturing Editor, icBirmingham

GLOBAL automotive manufacturers will be able to treat the UK industry like a “political football” after the demise of MG Rover, an industry expert has claimed. The collapse of the Longbridge firm has left the UK without a local champion which can hold the sector together, austin-rover.co.uk’s Industry Editor, Michael Wynn-Williams said.

Even if production is restored in Birmingham by the new owners Nanjing Automobile Corporation, its future could be like Peugeot’s doomed Ryton plant – kept working only as long as it is useful to its overseas masters.

This meant the production operations of Jaguar and Land Rover – both owned by Ford – could be vulnerable in the future.

The conclusions feature in a report written by Mr Wynn- Williams, who works for the automotive research company Trend Tracker. The study, The scale tourniquet and vertical joint ventures: How MG Rover was strangled examines the demise of the firm which collapsed last April.

He said: “The great tragedy of the MG Rover collapse is not simply the loss of employment, but also the destruction of the last integrated volume manufacturer in the UK. This country will continue to be the source of dazzling technical innovation which will feature in cars around the world, but the strategic role in the future of the industry will have been lost.

“Without a local champion holding the British automotive industry together multi-nationals can treat the country like a political football, shifting in functions in and out on a corporate whim. Losing this has lost the British voice in the automotive industry.”

But while production may shift overseas, Mr Wynn- Williams said he thought the engineering and technical development side would remain in the Britain. He added he was pleased that NAC had shown “every intention” of returning some production to Longbridge after winning the “undignified” auction for the company.

But he retained some doubts about the long term future for the plant, saying the NAC plan would consign it to the same status as Peugeot’s Ryton factory in Coventry – which the French carmaker is closing down. Mr Wynn-Williams said: “In other words Longbridge will be kept working for as long as it is useful for the global plan.

“However if Nanjing really wants to make something of the British investment and take on the global giants, then the company should also resuscitate MG Rover’s engineering prowess. Designed in Britain, made in China could be the wake up call the industry needs.”

Mr Wynn-Williams’s study concludes that MG Rover was too small to compete on a global scale. In 2004 its final full year of production, output fell to 108,000 cars compared with 3.1 million at Honda for example. This meant higher production costs per unit and less funding available for research and development.

Mr Wynn-Williams said: “In the automotive industry economies of scale are so huge that it is said that barely six global manufacturers can survive. Hindsight tells us the MG Rover experiment was doomed since this is an industry where big is not enough; only massive will do.

“So oppressive has this morbid view been that in Britain we were blind to what we had. MG Rover had genuine capabilities, and for a brief period there were potential partners who thought so to. If the Government had known that the companies were poised to break the hegemony of the global industry they might have given the support MG Rover deserved and the British automotive industry would have kept its seat at the top table.”

To read the full white paper, go to Trend Tracker’s website.


Nanjing moving forwards

KEITH ADAMS


Chairman Wang Hao Liang pointing out the future MG factory at Nanjing Pukou to Jiangsu Province Deputy Governor Zhao Ke Chi – the factory in the valley below has been Photoshopped into the image by an imaginative PR department.

ALTHOUGH a timescale for the resumption of production of MGs at Longbridge remains open to debate, plans to start production of the MG ZT in China are racing ahead – with Nanjing Automotive Corporation (NAC) setting itself an ambitious March 2007 production deadline…

NAC is planning on starting serial production at this time, as it will mark the 60th anniversary of the company’s formation – and NAC sees the re-establishment of MG as instrumental in its plan to become a global player.

Currently, NAC’s plan is to build the MG 7Z (nee ZT) in its new factory in China as well as in Longbridge – assuming it can obtain financial assistance with the venture. The company is deadly serious about Chinese production, and is building a new factory to house the production tooling already shipped out of Longbridge. According to one supplier, Nanjing intends to build MG 7Zs at the rate of 85,000 a year – considerably more than Longbridge managed in its final years.

Now that Nanjing has confirmed that MG will be the main brand name for its new venture (rumours that the Austin nameplate was also going to be used seem to have died a death), it intends to make good use of its long and rich history, not to mention its army of fans. NAC intends to play-up the MG nameplate, not only to ensure acceptance in international markets, but also because NAC management is impressed by what the marque stands for.

Nanjing has already confirmed many suppliers in China and the UK are onboard, and continues to try and add more. However a number of suppliers have also signed up with Shanghai Automotive Industries Corporation (SAIC) and its rival efforts in getting its version of the Rover 75 into production. There is a race going on between SAIC and NAC to be the first to get their versions of the Rover 75/MG ZT into production, but it looks like SAIC will beat NAC to the market by at least six months.

Although many doubted NAC’s ability to reach its ambitious production target, the sheer amount of activity in China recently indicates there’s a determination within the company to make it happen. Talking recently about Nanjing’s history, company president Wang Qiu Jing said: “We have lots of resources including those from MG Rover, and we welcome partners.”

The mission statement is a true indicator that production plans continue, but a strategic partner would be desirable in delivering them.

In recent weeks, pre-production activity has stepped up in Nanjing – a deal with the country’s major steel supplier has been signed, and production engineers have been working flat-out to set up production presses. Panels are now being produced in China, although they look familiar enough to indicate that NAC’s design consultancy, Arup, hasn’t gone too far with its facelift for the car.

For MG Fans, the major news was appearance of Wang Yaoping, NAC (UK)’s Legal and Commercial Director, at the recent anniversary rally of enthusiasts at Longbridge. This was definite cause for optimism, just as was his assertion that production would definitely be restarting next year.

Judging by the amount of activity in China, it does indeed look like MG will be making a return in 2007 – whether any of these cars will have been built in Longbridge remains to be seen.


MG ZT and Rover 75 Owners excel themselves

MIKE McCABE


A view from above of the packed meet arena at Beaulieu

A BRIGHT late May Bank Holiday saw cars from Luxembourg, Italy, Belgium, France and Germany join UK based Rover 75 and MG ZT owners for the very successful second meet of the 75 and ZT Owners Club.

A total of 84 lovingly polished cars rolled in for the Rimmer Bros sponsored event representing every model and type from the earliest Cowley built cars right up to the final V8 models.

The National Motor Museum really is a superb venue set as it is in the heart of the New Forest, yet with easy access from the motorway network. Beaulieu staff provided every help and assistance with pre-planning and on the day support.

Museum staff member Brian helped on the day in many ways, and particularly by choosing the winners of the best 75 and best ZT awards with prizes kindly donated by Rimmer Bros. Club members voted for their own Members Award, the winner of which will receive one of the first copies of the new 75 Haynes manual to be launched in August.

We were delighted to welcome The President of the European based Club-Seventyfive, Frank Rosenfeld, to Beaulieu and to present him with an engraved model of the 75 to thank him for the great support shown by his club and European owners.

The 75 and ZT Owners club is going from strength to strength with membership growing rapidly as more and more of the cars come onto the affordable second hand market. The club’s newly launched website provides a host of technical support, club news and information, and the club forums are packed out with both chat and sound advice seemingly on a 24/7 basis.

The next club meet will be held in Yorkshire in September, where we hope to be able to welcome more members from Scotland and the North.

For more information, click on www.75andztclub.com


The three meet prize winners showing off their cars

Posted in: AROnline News
Keith Adams

About the Author:

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

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