Essay : Devil’s Advocate – the MG ZT 260 and Rover 75 V8

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Craig Cheetham

Introducing the first in a new series, AROnline’s Editor takes a sideways look at some of the cars we love to love and asks if they were, indeed, all they were cracked up to be…

When MG met Mustang - ZT 260 was powered by a Ford 4.6-litre V8
When MG met Mustang – ZT 260 was powered by a Ford 4.6-litre V8

From the outset, I want to make it clear this new feature isn’t an attempt at MG-Rover/BL-bashing. I’ve owned and loved enough of our cars to consider such a thing tiresome and pointless.

Irreverence, though, has its place – and there are enough ups and downs and trials and tribulations of the company that eventually died as MG Rover for even the most ardent enthusiast to recognise that not every decision made was a good one. Indeed, there were some pretty stupid ones – without them, MGR may well still be here.

And to my mind, the decision to shoehorn an American 4.6-litre Ford V8 under the bonnet of the Rover 75 isn’t up there with the greatest…

The luxury-oriented 75 V8 and the lairy MG ZT 260 twins were announced at the 2002 Geneva Motor Show and were met with quite a bit of interest. Rear-wheel-drive, with a modest sounding but beautifully effective 260 bhp on tap, there was every reason to be quite charmed by the pairing. Indeed, I was lucky enough to drive both of them when they were new – a 75 V8 which I drove out the gates of Longbridge to a photo shoot in the Lickey Hills about a month before the official on sale date, a pre-production ZT-T and a brace of ZT 260s in which I spent a couple of weeks on road tests, one a Tourer, the other a saloon.

ZT260V82

At the time, I loved them. Indeed, I waxed lyrical about them in the pages of Auto Express (if you feel the need, the original review is at this link). Like so many of us, I guess, the simple fact is that I wanted to believe.

Retrospectively, though, the decision to introduce the V8 engine into the 75 was one of corporate stupidity, of, perhaps, the highest order. While Longbridge’s engineering team were busily adapting the 75 bodyshell to accommodate a rear-wheel-drive set-up, developing a drivetrain, new suspension, bespoke exhaust components, type approvals, body strengthening – none of it simple – the company’s mainstream models were beginning their journey to hell in a handcart.

75v82

In 2002, it wasn’t yet as obvious as it soon would be. The marketing masterstroke that was to take the ageing 25 and 45 models and revitalise them in the form of the MG Z-Cars, complemented by the unarguably impressive 75-based ZT, had seen an upsurge in interest, as well as orders, and while profitability was still a huge question mark, MG Rover and the Phoenix consortium were doing a lot better than many had expected – at least from a customer-facing perspective.

Within the corridors of power, it’s highly likely that the writing was already pencilled on the wall. Looked at with 20:20 hindsight, there’s no possible way that giving the V8 project the green light was a sensible idea. At the time, though, MG Rover was all about performance, with a presence in Touring Cars, rallying and a huge amount of marketing weight behind the revitalised MG badge, through which the company was reaching younger buyers. Rover, by comparison, had gone stale – from its 1990s heyday, it had developed a fuddy-duddy image made worse by the stewardship of BMW, which was cautious of juxtaposing its own brand values with those of Rover at its most aspirational.

That debate is for a different day, though. Here, we’re asking the question why, and under what pretence of sensibility, could MG Rover have gone ahead with a complete re-engineering programme for an expensive, low-volume, tax-inefficient niche model when the rest of the range was living on borrowed time? Surely the money could have been better invested in quality improvements, making the interiors of the 25 and 45 more akin to the quality, luxurious feeling of Rovers of yore? Would the cross-range cost-cutting of 2003’s Project Drive have had to take place if the V8 development money hadn’t been burned on a white elephant? After all, only 900 V8s were ever made, all expensively finished by hand. Months later, Rover was trying to plug the gap left by the ancient 100 models by importing substandard CityRovers from India. Suddenly, somewhere, the sums start not to add up.

Both the 75 V8 and ZT 260 received the 2004 facelift, with new split-level grilles
Both the 75 V8 and ZT 260 received the 2004 facelift, with new split-level grilles

 

ZT260V81

Don’t get me wrong. I still, to this day, adore both the 75 V8 and the ZT 260. One of them, at least, is on my automotive bucket list and while my preference is for the 75 (I like a bit of posh), I’d happily take a ZT 260 and its somewhat more raucous character, or even own both so I can make the most of my Jekyll and Hyde days. They’re wonderful cars, and the car nut in me (which is the everyday me) is extremely grateful that they didn’t end up on the cutting room floor.

The ZT 260 cabin wasn't as well finished as the front-wheel-drive models, but was certainly more at home here at Donington Park...
The ZT 260 cabin wasn’t as well finished as the front-wheel-drive models, but was certainly more at home here at Donington Park…

Sure, they’re flawed. The huge gearbox housing that intrudes into the cabin, and the cheaply trimmed way in which MG Rover tried to disguise it (less so on the 75 V8) is the most obvious flaw, the transmission tunnel intrudes into the passenger cell (after all, the bodyshell was designed for front-wheel-drive), the trim is flaky in places and MG Rover never actually supplied any official engine pictures for a very good reason. On early cars, at least, there was no smart cover to the engine bay, and the installation looked a bit Heath-Robinson under the lid (a condition of me borrowing one as a motoring journo was that we agreed not to publish any engine pictures, for example). But I loved them. As did so many other MG Rover fans, and by all accounts most of the people who bought one. They were, of course, great to drive as well.

But really? Hand on heart, was this a good idea or an utterly stupid one? If the aim was to breathe life into the old dog through defying convention, a full re-engineering programme wasn’t the right way to go. Rear-wheel-drive V8 muscle cars were not what the refined European car market was demanding, and MG Rover would have been far better off putting what limited resources it had into making the very best job it could of the cars its dealers were being forced to sell into an increasingly sophisticated and competitive market. Add in the fact that the European economy was, at the time, heading towards the very peak of an economic boom period, and the availability of easy finance, cleverly-crafted finance and leasing deals, credit for almost everyone and a zero deposit, easy terms payment culture and it’s easy to see why MG Rover’s more sophisticated rivals were storming ahead in the sales charts. For a saving of three or four quid a month, would you really have preferred a Rover 45 over a VW Golf or Ford Focus? All credit to you if the answer’s yes – but you’d definitely be in the minority.

Shouldn't MG Rover have been busying themselves trying to find more effective ways of updating and shifting this lot?
Shouldn’t MG Rover have been busying themselves trying to find more effective ways of updating and shifting this lot?

On its own, the Rover 75 V8 programme didn’t kill the company. Indeed, there’s a counter argument that suggests its demise was already inevitable, and maybe MGR’s engineers were just showing the world what they could do before the impending interface between the fan and the excrement, but the fact remains that it was a very curious decision for a company that was on BMW-backed life support at a time when the car market was undergoing massive changes of its own.

In better times, with better funding, the 75 V8 and ZT 260 could have been more relevant, better developed and flagships for MG Rover to be immensely proud of. But these weren’t good times and they weren’t going to get better – and for that reason more than any, they’re nothing more than a footnote in a world of might-have-beens. Wonderful cars, but complete follies. Today, we should celebrate the fact that they’re cracking cars (let’s not take anything away from the engineers here…), but also consider the absurdity with which they came into being.

75v84

 

Craig Cheetham

A serial impulsive car purchaser, Craig has had his name on over 200 V5s over the past 20 years. 10 per cent of those have been either 800s or Austin Allegros, with between 10 and 20 cars usually owned at any one time. Started out as a local newspaper journalist then worked for car mags including Auto Express, Classic Car Weekly and Land Rover Owner. Worked inside the car industry for a decade as an employee of General Motors, now works for a news distribution agency. Home based, which is dangerously convenient for further irrational heap purchases. Lover of all makes of car since childhood, with a particular leaning towards Austin-Rover... Father of three boys, so hoping to spread the car love. Other passions include rugby union, travelling and eating out.

46 Comments

  1. “C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre” ! I too liked the look of these cars; a chap round the corner had the MG 260 and very nice it was. I almost decided to buy the ROver V8 until commonsense told me it would be no good as an everyday car with that fuel consumption.

    I thought when they came out, and still think it – why on earth did they let the K-series head gasket issue go on and on and on and on, whilst basically wasting development money on these cars knowing they would only sell in penny packets ? The K-series was their main engine for all the cars, yet it was never sorted out fully until they were virtually bankrupt. I am sure the K-series HGF issue was what wrecked the company. Everybody you speak to about MG Rover mentions it. Eventually word gets fully round, the internet forums tell people to beware of them, and sales collapse.

  2. Yes, it has to be said that the money would have been better spent on improving the volume cars. Likewise, a more realistic and beneficial flagship would have been a 75 Coupe and not the MG X Power SV. Also, why was the MG TF GT not brought to market?

    Still, I suppose the aim was to attract investors….

    • Yes they were intended to attract investors.

      However, the Rover 75 Coupe was not a realistic proposition unless another partner could be found to directlyinvest in it. After all, by 2005 the Rover 75 was seven years (although still highly competitive and competent). Launching the 75 Coupe would not have occurred until 2007 at the earliest and would have required at least sixty percent new body pressings. For a halo model sales would have been quite low in relation to the saloon and Tourer. Compare this with the R17 800 Series, only five percent of total production was ever represented by the Coupe version. Assuming that a similar figure would have been represented by the 75 Coupe, it was not a commercially viable proposition for a model that, at best, might have had four years of production (assuming the 75 had been replaced by 2011).

      A beautiful car that would have been a stunning proposition, although the finances were never there to support it.

  3. Maybe it was all about attracting investors, but with the limited money they had to develop the V8 into the 75, how could that money have been spent elsewhere? Would it have been enough and would it have made a difference to the eventual outcome that we all know today?

  4. The argument that if they’d done this instead of that and might have survived is an interesting one, but in the end it’s kind of irrelevant. Even if MGR had played their cards differently, it’s unlikely that they would have survived the huge recession that hit just a couple of years later.

    The decision to ditch the fruitful relationship with Honda and go with the rather clueless BMW killed the company. After that happened there was really no going back.

  5. Dave Dawson hit the nail on the head.

    Developed as nothing more than a “portfolio filler” to woo foreign investors into the company in the same idea as the MG-SV. Saying that, the preview doccuments that came passed my eyes spoke of some truly mouthwatering ZT & ZT-T versions with the V8

    Even John Towers spoke the truth when he so much as said that Rover were NOTHING without a collaborating partner for future business.

    To out back some of the kudos into the 25 / 45 models would have been fruitless – mainly because no amount of polishing could bring a shine to the basic old old model platform.

    From a showroom numbers point of view, only the Z range and the 75 held their own from 2002 onwards.

    • Quote: “From a showroom numbers point of view, only the Z range and the 75 held their own from 2002 onwards.”

      Maybe true, particularly for the home market, but looking at the MG Rover Group data supplied by the SMMT, if you compare like-for-like production of the Rover and MG variants for 2002, 2003 and 2004 (2002 being the first full year of MG Z production and 2004 the last full year for all models’ production), the Rover models consistently outsold their MG counterparts. Only in late 2004 did the MG ZR become the company’s best selling model.

      Sales of the MG ZS in the 2002-2004 period were particularly disappointing when compared to the Rover 45, while the MG ZT did little better in relation to the Rover 75.

    • “To out back some of the kudos into the 25 / 45 models would have been fruitless – mainly because no amount of polishing could bring a shine to the basic old model platform.”

      Yeah, see your point, Mike. Any funds re-directed to the 25/45 would not have been enough to make any significant difference. The 45 in particular was just too outdated.

  6. An interesting & thought-provoking feature, I look forward to reading more like this in the future.
    I’ve always wondered why (in my opinion) MG Rover wasted so much money in these cars & the MG X-Power SV when it could/should have been spent doing far more useful work elsewhere. If it really was for ‘Portfoloio Strengthining’ to impress potential investors, then I’m absolutely gob-smacked that what I would expect to be serious and successful businessmen could be hoodwinked by such an obviously shallow plan.*
    (*This is in no way a criticism of anyone who says that was the reason for these models, it genuinely is my own opinion!)

  7. As a car fan, I’m glad these exist. Big reasonably affordable V8 saloons are now a rarity, sadly.
    Part of me is frustrated that they created them though, along with the SV folly, given the cost cutting with, and sheer age of, the volume models.

    Would the money have been better spent on RDX60?
    The 2 box shape was becoming fashionable for C segment hatches, the raised height and SUV-style arches of the TCV would’ve been right for the market.

    Or, were Rover looking at the big picture?
    They knew that China was the next big thing in the business, where the big saloon car is key. Obviously the aim was a partnership, not the eventual takeover.
    Alternatively, a move back to the US market? V8 saloon, coupe, sports car?

  8. Rationally MG Rover would have been better off using the money to bring RDX60 to production, sort out the K-Series engine’s problems and give the green light to the Coupe variants of the 75 / ZT and MG TF (latter featuring KV6 and K-Series Turbo units) instead of producing less relevant models like the 75 / ZT V8 and XPower SV.

    Personally would have probably given a final update to the aging ZS / 45 by adding the 150-160 hp 1.8 Turbo to the MG ZS to bridge the gap between the ZS 120 and ZS 180 as well as added the 160 hp 2.5 V6 to the Rover 45 (the latter with both manual and auto gearboxes) prior to both being replaced by RDX60, maybe also fit the 150 hp 1.8 Turbo to the Rover 25 or MG ZR (in uprated 180 hp form) as a limited-run model.

    MG Rover may not survive beyond 2008 in such a scenario (as opposed to 2005 in real-life) though maybe somehow they will get bought by Tata Motors together with Jaguar Land Rover that came into being at roughly the same period in real-life.

  9. I think that by producing these V8 models MG/Rover reminded the world that they once made great, beefy motors that the upper echelons of society once enjoyed!

    I agree that money would have been better spent fixing some long-annoying problems with other power units or trying to create fitting replacement for the 100 Series cars but maybe those in the know knew things were going to come to an end so thought they’d flex their muscles and go out with a bang…!!!

    One thing that MG/Rover could (and should!) have done would have been to take a leaf out of Nissans book (they did this with the 240z/Fairlady) and sell restored P5B’s and MGB’s in their own showrooms to broaden appeal and show everyone that greatness was in their blood…! Just a thought…

  10. An obvious way to prioritise the dregs of the remaining development budget as the company heads into oblivion. Spend millions converting a front wheel drive European car to RWD with an ancient US V8 that should have been pensioned off for boat anchor duty years ago. Then form a very short queue for those likely to buy it at a thumping great loss. Good job the pension fund was well stuffed by then chaps.

  11. Speed/power obsessed directors and engineers who couldn’t give a stuff about bread and butter cars that pay the overheads, hence no 45 tourer/estate for example. A 75 coupe would have been a white elephant like most predecessors, eg XJ5.3C and 800 (even if they are collectable today!).

    • Within months of buying the Rover Cars business from BMW Group, in May 2000, the directors of the renamed MG Rover Group did approach Honda to enquire whether they would be prepared to allow Longbridge a licence to produce an estate/Tourer version of the Rover 45. Particularly given that the Honda Civic Aerodeck had recently ended production. However, Honda was not interested in entering into any discussions with its former partner…

  12. The cost of the conversion probably was a drop in the ocean so, I don’t think it was a detriment. What should have happened is all ZTs ought to have been RWD after this, a supercharged KV6 would have probably matched the 260 but retained euro relevance, and if reskinned around 2006, could really have gone for BMWs jugular.

    In terms of the ZT260, it may have seemed a performance bargain and I would still love one.. Objectively though, despite massive potential that so many owners have realised, it’s a car that is comfortably beaten in performance by the 3.0 X-type and mpg and even further ahead would be a BMW 330 (sorry guys, don’t worry, I’m not about to buy one either), and the 75 version with 4 speed box just becomes irrelevant, and sorry to say this but the latter pair are the more thoroughly engineered cars through design verification processes rather than outsourcing and low volume clauses. Equally as a used prospect, an S-type R or equivalent Germans are cars developed to be what they are, and despite the same kinds of mpg and economy, the Jag develops 400bhp and performance is another league.

    But I have to say, I still want a 260, and would be prepared to sell body parts. Any takers? I’ve owned ‘better’ cars, objectively speaking, and driven and worked on greater still, but nothing would make me happier than the MG. It’s just such a shame they didn’t use the RWD chassis to greater effect with relevant engines. I’d probably own one myself still. And Plato couldn’t moan (justifiably) about the advantage the 1 Series had over his Triple Eight MG6 this year

  13. They drew attention to the company in a way that another makeover of the 25 interior never would have done. They did attract investors too: after all, SAIC came pretty close to investing didn’t it? They showed what the company could do, from an engineering perspective. The strategy didn’t work out, but what else could they have done?

  14. I had the joy of driving the Chatsworth coloured Rover 75 V8 press car in January 2005 and it really was a pleasurable car to drive and have parked on my drive for five days. As Craig says, the interior certainly looked well finished and more welcoming that the MG ZT 260. I particularly like the Premium front grille design and the machine-finished Vortex alloy wheels.

    I really missed it after the delivery driver came to collect it. As I stood by the rear of the car I heard the wonderful burble from its quad exhausts as he fired it up and drove off. The thunderstorm had gone and life suddenly seemed rather too serene. Apart from the old-skool automatic transmission and healthy thirst for unleaded, it had everything I could ever want on a luxury saloon, and more.

    I still have the Rover 75 V8 near the top of my wish list should my fortunes ever change for the better. If I bought one it would definitely be for keeps.

    The cost of developing these rear-wheel drive cars did go over budget, but even if the directors had channelled the money into either promoting its existing front-wheel drive cars better, particularly the Rover marque, or working more with enhancing them, it would not have been enough to have saved MG Rover Group. Nor would it have been enough to have put the RDX60 into production, which needed hundreds of millions of pounds, not tens of millions to see the production green light.

  15. It’s all very sad, what with the ‘could have beens’ etc., My Uncle lost his job in 2005 along with many, many others and I don’t think he’s ever got over it really; as it was the only company I think he ever worked for.

    We can all look back and try to see where it all went wrong, or what they should have done to turn things around. These remaining cars are a fine example of what Rover could do and are an example of British engineering at it’s best. I hope in the future the Viking ship will once more rise from the ashes, along with their contemporary brands such as Triumph etc. and we once more, as a Country, produce things instead of banking and service industries…

  16. I’ve been giving the MGR years much thought over night. Overall, under the circumstances, I think they did bloody well –

    1. Getting the 75 production line shifted to Longbrbridge; getting the 75 Tourer into production; the MGTF; the initial rise in sales
    2. The search for a partner. A partner was essential if the range was to be fully replaced. The Phoenix Four certainly cast a wide net in this respect. A partner would have been even more difficult to find if they had just soldiered on with a slightly more revised range of Rover 25, 45, 75. The MG X Power SV, the V8 75 & ZT attracted attention, advertised abilities, showed that the beast was still alive.
    3. There is much debate as to whether limited funds should have been more directed to revising 25 & 45. Really though, what more could have been done? As Francis Brett once said the Zeds were a “master stroke”. Could 25, 45 sales have been boosted more in any other way? The Streetwise was very clever. They even explored the possibility of a 45 Tourer as pointed out above. I also think the 2003 facelifts were very effective – modern dashboards and less retro faces (this may have worked on a modern car but was making 25, 45 look even older). Personally, I rather liked the 2003 Rover 45. However, by this time it wasn’t just that it was dated – this whole style, type of family car had ceased to be. It was by then either tall Focus style, small MPV or SUV.
    4. The emphasis on MG was a great move. Had BMW pushed the retro Rover bit too far? It certainly needed a modern design to work well, otherwise it just emphasised the age of the cars. A 75 looked great, but a 45 5dr in the wrong colour just looked blue rinse!!
    5. They did very well in getting so far with RDX60. What a stroke of bad luck that TWR went under.

    So, overall MGR did well against huge odds. It could still be with us, or lasted longer, had TWR not gone under or the market not shifted so much, so soon towards MPV, SUV.

    • Some good thoughts here which highlight an accurate appraisal of the efforts of many people working for MG Rover Group and its associate companies at many levels.

  17. V8 and Rover, just meant to go together!
    I see one of these some days on my commute to work, a pearl greeny / bluey / purple flip paint colour (was this a factory colour?) I turn the stereo off and open the window to hear its v8 growl as it exits a roundabout – nice!
    The PSNI ran several of them as unmarked traffic cars in a strange brown hue as well, an interesting and unexpected way to get caught speeding.

  18. Really in 2000, Rover should have slimmed down, axed the 25 and 45 models, and concentrated on the 75, which was their best product, and developed a new MG sports car. The 75 V8, while an interesting car and a hooligan in a business suit, was a vanity project that diverted resources from the main products, which by then were ailing, and suffering from cost cutting.
    Indeed should Rover have continued as a smaller company with Land Rover at the top and MG Rover producing the 75, ZT and a renewed MGF. This new company would probably be around today due to the success of Land Rover and also the 75, and its successors, would have had access to a home grown V8.

    • Hear, hear !
      Plus a no-quibble head gasket replacement (instead of denying there was a problem, but at the same time building “special” engines for the Freelander !)

    • The Alchemy bid led by Jon Moulton would have slashed the numbers employed and concentrated on the MG range with a view to making the company Porsche like in size. The 25, 45 and 75 lines would have been sold off.

      That’s another interesting ‘might have been.’

      There wouldn’t have been any Zs or the 75 estate. Would this Alchemy MG have employed any more than SAIC employ today? Would Alchemy MG have survived the 2007 downturn?

  19. What if – but Rover could easily have gone under in the early 30s so there would have been none of the P cars, Triumph might have done better with their 2000 / 2500.

    Rover engineers were probably very keen to produce the V8 – there must have been thought of when will the bubble burst and this will look good on the CV – adapting a FWD car to RWD.

  20. I always liked the 75 V8 with its full depth square grille, perhaps better than the MG ZT facelift. True, in hindsight, V8 versions of these cars probably didn’t warrant going into production but they were still great. I think Rover wanted to get back to offering a V8 after the heady days of the SD1.

    But times had changed and buyers habits too – we know the rest (sadly). Having owned both a R45 & ZS, I’m still pleased I stuck with MGRover that long.

  21. @ Hilton D, they could have offered a V8 when Land Rover was part of the company, instead of waiting to launch one when MG Rover was clearly dying, and at the same time launching the laughable City Rover( an Indian supermini with a Rover badge). As I’ve said a slimmed down MG Land Rover, with only the 75, MG TF and Land Rovers in production, would have made more sense in 2000 than battling on with a range that was becoming outdated and unpopular. Also Solihull could have returned as the home of Rover, with Longbridge sold off, generating large profits for the company to spend on new models.

    • That was never an option as BMW was looking to maximise its return, so sold the most viable business Land Rover to the highest bidder. It saw the potential in the Mini it had overseen development of, but there was little interest in Rover Cars. Except from Alchemy and Phoenix.

      • BMW never were particularly interested in ‘Rover’ as a brand, or ‘Land Rover’ for that matter. They simply wanted a way of expanding their range below the BMW niche, with a manufacturing site outside of Germany and a compliant workforce. MINI suited that aim well, being an established brand. Longbridge was initially chosen as the home of the project. When issues arose with this choice, BMW rapidly switched to Cowley. They then got rid of Rover/MG asap, and off loaded Solihull to Ford.

  22. We should not forget that only about 50 of the Rover V8s were made as against several hundred of the MGs. I had a close look at a Rover V8 once at a rally at Gaydon, (I had a 75 2.5 V6 Auto at the time, and a lovely car it was too !). Maybe I’ll look out for one in the future. Trouble is I now have 3 cars, and two of them are MGs, (Midget 1500 and a very late Chinese TF)

    • I hope you do not mind me correcting you on Rover 75 V8 production, but the production records confirm that 166 examples were built in total. This was in right-hand and left-hand drive form, saloon and Tourer (16 examples of the latter bodystyles were made), and Connoisseur SE and Contemporary SE trim.

      717 examples of the MG ZT and ZT-Ts were also made.

  23. Adapting the R75/ZT to V8 power was a clever way of showing the world what they could achieve on a shoestring budget – even if MGR had to buy in some of the expertise. It also caused quite a stir at the Longbridge press conference when the project was first announced. (I was there.)

    Using that small amount of money for “updating” the R25/45 ranges wouldn’t have been enough to do anything meaningful. It wouldn’t have generated much positive publicity either.

    The “Italian Adventure” called the MG SV… What if they instead had directed resources spent on that white whale on an extended MG TF range, including that GT version!

  24. The V8 versions of the 75 were initially developed purely as an insurance policy in case the ZT 190 project hadn’t worked. In the event, the ZT 190 did work OK, but by then the V8 was close to being sorted, so the decision was taken to go ahead with it anyway. (Something very similar happened with the MGB GT V8 in 1973 !) As others have said, it was all done on a shoestring, the ZT260 budget wouldn’t have paid for a new volume car fascia moulding, yet alone a totally new model. Likewise, the SV, basically bought from Qvale for peanuts, didn’t make any serious difference to MGR’s budget for new models, because they simply didn’t have one !
    It really was a race against time to find a partner. Shame that SAIC /Nanjing jointly picked up the pieces after 2005 instead of beforehand.

  25. The 75/ZT V8’s would have been quite adequate as demonstrations of engineering capability. The SV was in my experience extremely unreliable. Surely they could have fixed K series HGF for the money spent on the SV, and on the massive LeMans party?

  26. I think MG Rover were very much aware of the financial situation they were in.

    After all, BMW walked away with the gems of the company (BMW 1 Series R45 replacement and new Mini, not to mention the use and sale of Land Rover)

    MG Rover had to start all over again with developing a replacement for the R45 and for sure did not have the money for that. So all you can do is to make sure people see you.

    Those people would have been customers, who all had been missing the Rover V8, since the stopping of production of the good old SD1.

    More importantly those people would have been the companies that were interested to join forces.

    Let’s be honest… The main asset of MG Rover in the early 2000s was the Legacy. As mentioned the MG name was revived successfully and really made a difference in sales. So why not go further in a direction that was successful (Keeping in mind the limited budget available). MG Rover only had a small problem… They did not own their own Rover brand name.

    If only SAIC had supported the idea and not backed out at the last minute… If they could have made a deal with Ford to take over the Rover name then…

    I think then there would have been a good chance to survive, all be it under different ownership.

    So as a conclusion… Given the circumstances the Go for the MG Rover V8’s was not such a bad one at all. It could have worked… And it was all they could really do with their limited financial resources.

  27. The Rover 75 V8 was nothing but an interesting engineering side show to the real priority and in the reckoning would not have made much difference to the final outcome.

    In the circumstances, the fact that the company survived as a (relative) volume car manufacturer for 5 years was probably MGRs biggest achievement. They were doomed from the start on the “too big to be small, too small to be big” basis. There was the honeymoon period while the existing models were still within their lifespans but replacing these was always going to be difficult – especially the Honda based 400/45 and the Rover designed (but still heavily Honda dependent) 200/25 due to the licencing restrictions.

    As has been said by others, the fact they managed to launch the admittedly production ready 75 Tourer (and move the line from Oxford to Birmingham) and the Zed cars, despite having to re-create the Design & Engineering department from scratch is a significant achievement. The L series diesel was almost production ready as the Euro compliant G series at the end, so this shows that the capability was there, but the investment pounds never were.

    In most cases, a new model is not completely new and is a re-skinned re-hash of what preceded it (Ford are the masters at this). This was not something that MGR were in a position to benefit from. BMW had taken the 55 back to Munich, the Mini had moved to Cowley and the need to break the link with Honda was overpowering.

    Developing a new platform from scratch is ruinously expensive, even from the big boys and MGR were never in that playground. Arguably, the company required a platform to replace both the 25 and most urgently the 45. The money to develop competitive new platforms from scratch was never there. John Towers knew this with his almost immediate announcement that a development partner was to be sought.

    I have read extensively about Volvo’s history and they were well aware that as an smallish independent car company, they were betting the farm every time they launched a new model, the stakes were that high. Had any new Volvo model failed to sell well, it would have killed them.

  28. The sad truth was MG Rover was doomed. BMW did to Rover, what Ford did to Jaguar. They destroyed the brand, gave them an old fart pipe and slipper image. In some ways sensible, young 20 somethings don’t buy big powerful cars, insurance makes that too expensive.

    The problem is older people in their 50’s and up want to pretend they are buying a young person’s car. So if a brand has the whiff of the retirement home about it, then it is in trouble.

    Then came renewed British ownership, oh dear. Brilliant financial engineering, hiving off all the money making bits and assets for the benefit of senior managers, The actual business of making cars was basically a front, kept limping on while the company was asset stripped.

    The whole episode was a disgrace. As for the V8, great fun if you’re a motoring journalists, and others are paying for the fuel. Not so great of you are facing fuel comsuption figures in the teens or singles figures.

  29. There were so few of these, please preserve them. I promise that the second they turn 25, the prices will double and half of them will emigrate to the United States. I’d love to have one in my garage. A leather-lined 4-door Mustang just has to be a ton of fun. This car is one of the reasons why I, as an American, love British cars: you are superb at building a gem around an V8, and I think that the ZT 260 would jump the Americanish Stag and SD1 as my favorite. If only the Rover branded ones weren’t all automatic (also very Americanish).

  30. dave i have a rover sd1 vanden plas v8 had it 25 years i love the american buick gm connection it also has a gm 3 speed auto, wonderful to drive.
    im glad rover made the 75 v8 it was a hark back to rovers gone by but rover and v8s always went so well together!! i would love either model one day to go with my sd1.. i love the auto boxes easy in our stop start traffick.

  31. I know its been a year since the last post but wanted to point out that the R75 & ZTV8’s are going well! So if and when you chaps decide to buy then they will be around. Yes under-developed, perhaps a folly but they thankfully exist and run by enthusiasts. Had one for over ten years now and can not imagine life without it. Believe it or not I still get a smile on my face when on the road…………..and the windows down.

    • Sounds good Tim. As I mentioned previous, I always liked the look of the Rover 75 V8 & ZT260. The facelift grille’s of 2004 still look great now – at least I think so. There is a Rover 75 in my town, with the square grille – strangely wearing a Roewe badge!

  32. I’d never seen a Rover 75 V8 until today I’ve seen a few ZT’s around, there’s a ZT estate trundling round Minehead, but saw this V8 Rover 75 estate in a car park afternoon, I had to give it a double take as I didn’t know there was a Rover version of, the estate were many built?

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