Another Friday which means another four motor auctions to cast my critical, bargain-hunting eye over. Buying cars at auction has been very hard graft this year – in fact, the hardest I’ve ever known. The effects of Scrappage, an economy in recession and the promise of tens of thousands of public sector jobs being cast to the four winds have severely hampered the prospecting abilities of traders like myself. Still, we drag ourselves out and look to find something worth buying to turn a modest profit on. I’d not had a good day so far – everything sensible I’d looked at was damaged, faulty or just plain expensive.
That’s why I slipped into default mode: Rover hunting. These days, you see, you need to hunt them out as they’re getting rarer by the week. Time and travel know no bounds when you’ve got a faulty mind which still rates Rovers as stock worthy of retail. For today, I’d discounted one venue whilst looking at the compiled list over breakfast, which just meant three hectic visits to fit in buying, gossip, tea and bacon sandwiches.
A race down the A19 to look at a late Rover 25 diesel was my first stop. 55-plated, GLi spec, very low miles (25k) but with only one service stamp. Finished in silver and in a three-door body shell, it wasn’t looking terrific, five-doors are what’s really required. Oddly, it had leather (with rear centre armrest), but no air-con (still, there was a slide ‘n’ tilt). The fog lamp surrounds were present in the bumper (unusual as they’re pretty rubbish), but no fogs. Sadly, it also had and a generally shabby demeanour. The rear wiper and roof aerial had been snapped off and there was corrosion where the ill-fitting body panels met.
Never mind, I’d still have a go. However, something odd struck me – it had a centre console which was unlike anything I’d seen before. I got in the car and had a good go at it. It was definitely factory tough, but almost certainly a prototype injection moulded item. Where on earth had this come from? Maybe it had been found in the factory to finish the car after Phoenix had called it a day? Who knows?
Sadly, I never got a chance to photograph it or even sketch it. The car was unlocked, started and driven into the ‘ring. With my professional head on, ensuring mechanical integrity was more important than recording trim variations for posterity – I hope you can understand that. Anyway, the car made a staggering amount of money and so I was out of the bidding sharpish. Not to worry, there were more auctions to attend, so I headed North West to get onto the A1(M) for another sale and a better cafeteria.
Rover 75s really are that bit special and, for an enthusiast, the right car is a delight to behold. I’ve just sold my Audi A4 Avant out of boredom. This 75 is already making my life brighter…
The first gem I’d open my Black Book for here was an 05/05 Rover 45 GSi saloon finished in the final incarnation of that BL favourite: Champagne Beige. Black leather, turbine alloys, 72k and a few service stamps. It would never set anyone’s heart alight, but it had potential to shine and impress the traditional Rover buyer. The head gasket was showing the first signs of HGF by depositing a few bits of mayo in the header tank.
The tow bar would have to be removed and I’d got a spare sound blanket for the bonnet. This would have to be far, far behind book to make a business case for it. I was outbid by a private man and lost the car for £50. Not to worry, the 45 is the least desirable of stock for the most part and that colour was doing nobody any favours. Then, over a cup of tea, my mobile rang.
It was Gav from another auction house. ‘Steven, you’ve got to come to today’s sale.’ ‘Why’s that then Gav?’ I sounded cynical to wind him up – he knows I’m good to make the place look busy for the Internet cameras. Anyway, he continued ‘We’ve got a Rover coming in with your name on’. ‘Have you really Gav?’ I asked. I usually get a bit weary at this point because the auctioneer knows I’m up for most MG Rovers and I’ve got to ensure I don’t get ‘run’ for the privilege of my affliction.
Anyway, the conversation concluded with Gav saying ‘It’s a proper old thing and I’m putting it near the start of the sale, so you’re going to have to get here sharpish’. ‘It had better be good Gav, it’s POETS Day you know?’ I finished my tea, kicked a few more tyres and headed out of this particular sale.
I swung by the garage and said to my boss, ‘do you fancy a 75?’ He looked a bit nonplussed. ‘Diesel?’ he enquired barely looking up from his Daily Telegraph. ‘Nope, Petrol,’ I said confidently. ‘Petrol V6 actually’. He looked up and twisted his face. ‘Not Really,’ he said. He was of course right. They’re bloody hard work to shift as you’ve got to get the right man in to buy it and that takes time.
A ‘no’ though, is never really a ‘no’ where a Rover is concerned and when the sun is shining. I headed back out to the last sale of the day. I met a known Trader in the reception as I picked up a catalogue ‘There’s a Rover in there for you,’ he said. ‘So I hear,’ I replied. This was good news, it was obviously in fine fettle and one of the biggest buyers was giving way to me already, which meant others would hopefully follow suit, if I did indeed want it.
There it was in the hall, the third car of the sale. The 02/02 Rover 75 saloon finished in Metallic Copperleaf Red powered by the 2.5KV6 coupled to the JATCO auto. Built to Connoisseur SE specification which means cream leather, climate, alloys, chrome mirror caps, electric windows and mirrors, CD auto-changer in the glovebox, LowLine Alpine ICE, heated and electrically adjustable seats with rear pockets, multi-function trip computer, this was really the top-of-the-tree R40.
Moreover, in addition to the standard kit, this car had the Driver Intelligence Pack which gave you an auto dipping rear view mirror, (surprisingly handy), reverse sensors (essential) and cruise control (useful for Average Speed ‘Scameras’). The car had covered just over 34,000 miles by one private owner. The service book was a treasure trove. The supplying dealer had serviced the car no less that eight times over the course of its privileged life according to the stamps.
What’s more, the car was taxed and tested right though until the summer – a genuinely good bonus. Gav was right to ‘phone me and so I dipped my toe into the sale. After a small amount of lacklustre bidding (I think the back wall had bid twice, along with the Fire Extinguisher), the car was knocked down to me as ‘provisional’. The supplying dealer would have to be contacted to see what they wanted to do as their reserve was not achieved by me. 90 minutes later, I got a nod and wink to say the car was mine. The game was afoot.
I raced back to the garage to get the cheque book and took off back down to the auction to get my latest bit of stock (I bought other cars that sale, but who cares?). I got the car back and poured through the details. The car had just been subjected to a cherished plate transfer. The plate which had been removed was worth, in my opinion, the thick end of £35k. When your initials are followed by the number ‘1’ how would you value it?
The car had a detachable swan neck tow-bar (again another expensive Genuine Rover option) and this tallied with a parking permit for the Yachting Club. This car was oozing proper Old Money. The car was beautifully presented, the paint was smooth and glassy suggesting it has been garaged all of its life, the pale leather is unmarked throughout, the tyres had good quality rubber on them with deep tread all round. Mud-flaps all round reinforce the image of a conscientious owner and the piece de resistance – the remote controlled rear window sun-blind that was lifted straight from the BMW 7 Series.
I decided there and then it was my new ‘smoker’ and I wafted home the long way. I can see why Rover were so proud of the R40, it seems more Jaguar that Jaguar achieved with anything this side of a XJ and feels so, so strong and smooth. I’m going to run this car and take it to the Pride of Longbridge – unless it sells. This particular example is largely free from the worst excesses of Project Drive too – for example, the bonnet catch appears through the grille to ease opening the bonnet.
My advice to you is this: if you’re thinking of buying a Rover or MG to cherish, get your skates on. Their ever worsening residuals mean they are falling into hands of owners who, well how do I phrase this politely, may appreciate them, but cannot cherish them to their needs.
Insurance companies are writing them off for the slightest scratch which isn’t helping the situation unless you like hoarding parts. My advice, then, is threefold. Start looking, pay the right price, but don’t don’t go out on a financial limb for the right car for reasons mentioned above. They really are that bit special and, for an enthusiast, the right car is a delight to behold. I’ve just sold my Audi A4 Avant out of boredom. This 75 is already making my life brighter…
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.