Blog : RDX60 ten years on

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

RDX60 as shown to the dealers in December 2002
RDX60 as shown to the dealers in November 2003

A recent visit to Longbridge saw me set eyes upon the RDX60 for the first time ever and I have to say that it evoked mixed emotions in me. For sure, more than anything else, it represents the embodiment of all those shattered dreams in May 2005 when MG Rover went into administration…

The idea was sound enough – to build a new mid-sized hatchback based on the underpinnings of the Rover 75 and replace the ageing Rover 45 and MG ZS, breathing new life into the Longbridge built company. The whole story has already been told on AROnline but, suffice to say that many factors scuppered the car’s chances and it remained as far from production as other favoured BMC>MG prototypes, such as the Austin AR6 and Rover P8.

However, although Peter Stevens once said that this RDX60 was far from the favoured proposal, somehow it looks contemporary and fresh now – I can’t help but look at it through weary eyes, sore from the continual missed opportunities our favourite car company was capable of producing.

What are your thoughts? Do you like RDX60? Do you think it looks like a winner?

Oh, and just one thing – if you’re wondering why the SD1’s here, so was I. Dear MG, any chance of selling it to me?

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

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.
Keith Adams

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34 Comments

  1. Keith, according to the DVLA, that SD1 2300 has not held a tax disc since 1 November 1990 so what’s the story?

  2. RDX60 looks not too dissimilar to a Vauxhall Signum of the same period but what is that red sports car next to the Rover TCV?

    What are MG Motor UK going to do with these prototypes?

    I’m sure that, if Gaydon isn’t interested, Coventry Transport Museum (CTM) would snap their hands off for them. They are very interested in a broad spectrum of transport-related history throughout the ages from the very early bicycles to the Thrust SCC as well as looking at the industrial impact on the region and the people connected with it. This is right up their street and Coventry is the spiritual home of Rover.

    I think CTM would treat these cars with the attention they deserve – they are a very important part of the history of the dreams and, sadly, the demise of BL/ARG/MGR.

  3. The RDX60’s interior is cheap looking and downright strange – that’s a very Panda-ish binnacle and nothing says ‘Rover’.

    It’s hard to imagine RDX60 making much of an impact in the face of the middle-class private buyer’s favourite Golf, the mighty Focus or, indeed, the distinctive, British-built 2006 Honda Civic.

  4. The RDX60 looks much better as an MG than as a Rover. However, I think that, with a bit of refinement, it could have proved popular.

  5. I think referring to the “those shattered dreams broken by the Phoenix Four in May 2005”, is a tad inaccurate bearing in mind the immense efforts they went to to try and find a collaborative partner.

    Indeed, from an academic prospective, there are many factors which contributed to the collapse of MG Rover Group in April 2005, not just those relating specifically to the actions of the four businessmen who had saved Longbridge from certain closure in May 2000.

    Anyway, as for RDX60, it still leaves me cold when compared to R30 styled by Richard Woolley. Look at the cheapness of the interior trim, the lack of cohesion of the exterior and the neo-brutal lines. Unfortunately, as with the facelifted MGs and Rovers of 2004, it lacks the attention to detail and ‘surprise and delight’ trim features that reinforce the interest and emotional attachment to the design.

    I suppose that, as a battle against the odds, RDX60 should be remembered as a project that managed to get this far, despite the many hurdles it faced along a long and painful journey. A project that is a real testament to the determination of the skilled workforce at Longbridge. However, from a merely visual design perspective, I can’t say it has appeal, regardless of the badge it might have worn. Sorry.

  6. I agree with the sentiments that RDX60 doesn’t show any Rover heritage. Mind you, having said that, neither did the P6 or SD1 at their launch. However, as some others have said on here, it’s the quality that seems lacking.

    Both of my aforementioned examples had unique points over their competition, which RDX60 lacks. It is, to me, merely a concept that aimed to get Chinese investment for a better future which, as we sadly know, failed to materialise.

    I am most intrigued by the prescence of an SD1 – if the new MG was to make a new version, I would have to buy it. Even if it doesn’t work… My 1982 3500 SE hardly ever worked either, but it was such a thing of beauty I was happy to ride my bike while I saved for repairs.

  7. We need to bear in mind that, as a prototype, the quality and design of the RDX60’s interior fittings would be subject to improvement – hard to believe they would have tried to sell that interior on the open market. The exterior looks okay to me, a bit like the latest Astra, Focus, and various Hyundais or Kias. Big and chunky like a cross-over.

    Stuart’s right – there would not have been the resources to put this into production without external investment. The company was up for sale throughout the Phoenix ‘stewardship’ and almost all designs exhibited at that time were aimed at attracting the attentions of a buyer – hence the MGSV, the land speed record ZT-T, the MG Z-cars etc. The exception was the CityRover, which was a desperate sop to keep the Dealer Network supplied with product.

  8. Stuart Roberts :
    I am most intrigued by the prescence of an SD1 – if the new MG was to make a new version, I would have to buy it.

    Maybe a BINI/ Beetle/Fiat 500 style modern, bloated, exaggerated, ghastly reincarnation of the SD1 would have been the saviour of Rover. A way for MGR to have captured a piece of that godforsaken ‘retro’ market…

  9. Wilko :

    Stuart Roberts :
    I am most intrigued by the prescence of an SD1 – if the new MG was to make a new version, I would have to buy it.

    Maybe a BINI/Beetle/Fiat 500 style modern, bloated, exaggerated, ghastly reincarnation of the SD1 would have been the saviour of Rover. A way for MGR to have captured a piece of that godforsaken ‘retro’ market…

    Sadly, I think not – don’t forget that the 75 was an attempt at a re-booted P5B which, fantastic car that it was, failed to save MGR…

  10. @David 3500
    You’re right – it’s a particularly clumsy, crude and inelegant design (sorry Rover fans) which would have failed to capture the imagination of the buying public and, due to its Vauxhall Signum design cues, would have further confused the MGR image and design language.

    I’m afraid that the frankly odd interior would’ve been no match for the Focus, Astra, Pug 307 or Megane it would’ve been up against…

  11. Hi,

    I always think of the RDX60 when I see the current Subaru Impreza hatch (the ugly one).

    Is there a Peter Stevens link at work there?

  12. I guess that, if the RDX60 HAD come out in 2003 and the company had survived, it would have likely been facelifted around 2007 and we’d all be saying that Ford, Subaru and Vauxhall all looked like MG Rovers.

  13. Well, to be fair, I expect the finished product would not have looked exactly like this. My understanding is that this was a development/first design prototype, hence the cobbled-together interior, clumsy styling etc., etc. A base from which to work from…

    Additionally, there was, at least, a tourer under consideration, too…

    @Wilko
    I agree re the MG/Rover comparison. The Rover grille looks too much like the current Chrysler saloon’s whereas the MG one blends in well with the rest of the car

  14. @Johnos1984
    @Keith B
    Well spotted, Keith – you are right! I have been away from home for a few days and so have only just been able to check my copy of David Knowles’ MGF and TF book – the car concerned is, in fact, the mid-engined, Automotive Development Centre-built PR3 prototype which inspired the MG F.

  15. I always thought the spirit of RDX60 lived on with the Bavarian photocopy-and-add-surface-flaming BMW 1 Series – horrendously packaged and priced, but meant to be a good driving car (though not my cup of tea).

  16. The rear quarter view is very Signum but they look sad with all this dust covering them! They should go to a museum… A bit of TLC never hurts!

    Mind you, even though these are prototypes, the front of the Rover version looks like someone gave up half way through the detailing (not that the MG’s much better…) and it’s the same story inside. That’s not the best way to try and sell your product to another car manufacturer. Still, ahhh, IF…

  17. I think the RDX60 would have done the business if things had worked out differently and it had reached production in MG Rover’s day. It looks like it would have been a practical car. These prototypes would look better with a good clean and suit a Heritage museum.

  18. The RDX60’s tail end is very Audi A3-like and, if it had all gone to plan, the MG model ones would have taken on the A3 Sport models from 2004-on.

    The big German three have, over the years, been making cars too similar to their mass market class rivals e.g. BMW 1 Series/Ford Focus and also expanding into every 4×4/SUV type niche going before Land Rover makes similar moves.

    Yes, BMW got the new MINI and took the rest of R30 development with them to get the 1 Series into production but, if they start making MPV-type cars next, they will have gone a step too far.

  19. @Will101
    BMW are making a 3 Series in 5dr fastback form next year – it’s been on a few websites over the last couple of days – so a BMW MPV could be next!

  20. I guess that it’s all down to the new MG6 to make it work and deliver the goods now it’s in production.

    I have not seen any on the roads up here in Scotland and am, as yet, unaware of who the nearest Dealers selling them are – new Vauxhalls seem to dominate the scene. I still keep an eye out for MGs, though.

    I also remember that GM showed some horrible prototypes and concept cars of their own ten or so years back – some made it into production others didn’t but, in comparison, the RXD60 looks no worse.

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