AROnline takes a look back at some of the memorable automotive blunders in more recent times, both our own and from rival makes.
Sometimes, an automotive manufacturer drops a proverbial clanger by introducing a model in haste or born of misguided advice. Ever since its formation in 1968, British Leyland never failed to be in the news for all the wrong reasons, and industry insiders claimed that BL did in fact, inspire the BBC to create the Generation Game such was the level of utter chaos and comedic management. Hit the fast forward button on the old Ferguson Videostar to the mid 1990s, and surely lessons had been learned, or at least better quality or engineering would be present within the now German-owned Rover Group?
Well, you would certainly think so and in fact there was some evidence of class winning vehicles pouring from the plants. Discovery 2 was a runaway success along with the MGF, and both deservedly so, and the other cars in the portfolio range were also a reality partly thanks to BMW pushing the green button so to speak. The close alliance with Honda came to a shuddering halt around this time and the D-series units found in 200- or 400-series became deleted, but what of the superb 2.7-litre Honda unit fitted in the Rover 800 – so fondly admired by the dealers, Police forces and owners all over the UK?
Well Honda, not only hiked up the cost of supplying the engine, but also by the mid-’90s announced they would be deleting it. And to cap it off, BMW was getting tired of making royalty payments to the Japanese former-partner. It was a stunning engine which ran wonderfully well, along with the reliability you would expect of a Japanese V6.
Rover had to embark on an engineering exercise to create its own replacement engine of a similar size eventually settling on a 2.5-litre design. This all new, all-alloy, quad-cam 24-valver was bang up to date in both design and manufacturing techniques, while also managing to look good under the bonnet. Offering 177bhp through a manual or automatic gearbox – so had Rover found its bite?
At the heart of the 825, the new – engine called the KV6 – looked absolutely fantastic compared to the outgoing Honda plant. There was no messy wiring or tubes which spoiled the canvas after lifting the bonnet for a peep. In fact, nothing was really on show with everything hidden by a crafted high quality plastic acoustic engine cover.
The KV6 featured quad camshafts, ultra lightweight castings, a trick inlet manifold featuring a variable intake system and a timing belt good for a staggering 90,000 miles. This stunning engine offered better torque, lower emissions, better fuel consumption and less weight – so in theory, the new engine roundly trounced the Honda unit – or did it?
Sadly, it was not to be. The engines were built on a pilot production line which was virtually a bespoke hand made system. Some of the castings were of really poor quality, and in some cases, the liner protrusion was all to cock causing all manner of faults including liner failure, head gaskets blowing, piston slap and high oil consumption. Some engines even failed before the car was delivered to the customer – so high was its mortality rate. But by far, the biggest issue was our old friend, the head gasket – a former workshop manager for a large group of Rover dealers recently said to me “for every 100 KV6 engines they made – 103 came back faulty”
Some comparisons must be made with the Triumph Stag two generations back in the bad old British Leyland era, The KV6 was a truly beautiful engine to listen to and drive when they were on song. Smooth and as effortless as listening to The Carpenters, yet alive and aggressive like The Jam when required. Considering BMW was supposed to be in charge at this time, it seems criminal with hindsight that the engine was placed into production seemingly long before it had proved itself. Rover honoured the warranty claims against these engines which very often required a whole new power unit fitting – this lead to some truly horrific costs in both money and lost custom.
The engine eventually found its true home in the Rover 75/MG ZT, and by the time the 75 was launched, revised castings, vastly improved quality control and a fully automated production line meant Rover pretty much had the engine sorted. Today, the KV6 is still held in high regard by many drivers and contrary to rumours, a well serviced and cared for 2.5 KV6 will run on for very high mileage with no fuss – just a kind of hush!