Predating the Rover Streetwise. by over a decade, the Metro-based Scout could have given Rover an early foothold in the emerging soft-roader market, but it was not to be.
We take a look at this interesting project, and ask whether it was another missed opportunity for the Rover Group.
But is it Street wise?
IN these times of increasing political belligerance towards off-roaders and SUVs, buyers are being pressured to look for a more eco-friendly alternative… the rash of soft-roaders that have hit the market in recent times – as epitomised by the Rover Streetwise – have convinced manufacturers that there’s a genuine case to produce cars with hunky styling and a beefed-up driving position, but without all the baggage of a four wheel drive transmission system.
Although we’d never claim that the Rover Scout project was the pre-cursor of the breed, or that it was a particular trailblazer – that’s left to the Matra-Simca Rancho – but there are some very interesting questions raised by the tall-riding project. The story of the Scout is an interesting one, and well worth clarifying – and thanks to Jim Ragless, former Manager of the Styling, Engineering and Program Management activities at Automotive Development Consultants (ADC), we’ve been able to piece together a little more about this fascinating museum piece.
If you’ve never heard of ADC, then that’s understandable, as many of its projects have not seen the light of day, as it has worked with many companies during prototype development build. In fact, ADC was one of the consultancy firms involved in the initial stages of the MGF programme. Jim Ragless explained: “ADC was actually part of the remnants of the Vauxhall Engineering department after GM had moved all car engineering to Germany and then closed down Bedford.”
The Scout came about when ADC In 1991, and Rover had no part in its original conception of this fascinating range of six Metro-based multi-purpose vehicles. Called the Scout project, all six versions used the same basic bodystyle, based on the five-door Metro, but with a more upright tailgate and correspondingly larger (and taller) rear side window.
Jim Ragless recalled: “Rover did not commission the Scout, it was conceived and built by ADC as a showcase of our concept, design and build capabilities for the Automotive Engineering show at NEC. The original idea was a possible evolution of the Metro range with more space, more utility and easier entry-exit to the back seats.”
However, the soft-roader theme came later. Jim continued: “Somewhere along the way the idea of active lifestyle and mini-utility vehicle styling cues came in too. We showed it with cycle racks and mountain bikes and a fitted picnic set in the back. In some ways maybe it was one forerunner of the mini-SUVs and small people carriers.”
Rover’s involvement was fleeting and brief. “Rover was interested enough in what we were thinking about to provide the donor car,” Jim said. Not enough to pursue the project, though.
The fate of the car after that was interesting too. “After the NEC show Ford also borrowed it for a while to examine, and I think they used it in a customer clinic…” It now resides in the Lower Stondon car museum.
The Scout family…
|La Petite Famille||Aimed at the young family, and featured a bike rack, removable seats and integrated child seats.|
|Sunrider||For the sporty types, and was designed to carry surfing/windsurfing/skiing and other sporting equipment.|
|Country||Targetting the green-welly set, with large mud-flaps and a dirty-boot storage area.|
|Metropolis||For city dwellers, with car-phone and anti-scuff wheel trims.|
|Specialist||Aimed at photographers, with off-road capability (increased ride height, not 4wd) and secure storage areas.|
|La Femme||Apparently tailored for women drivers (and yes, this was the 1990s, not the 1970s), with power steering, breakdown phone, large mirrors on the sun visors, hair dryer(!), and a parking ticket holder(!!)|
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.