Blog : My day on MG Rover’s Motor Show stand

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Rover 75 V8

Going through some of my old photos, I found these interesting shots. They were taken on MG Rover’s stand at the NEC on 27 May 2004, and represent the great and the good of its line-up. How little did we know…

In 2004, the British International Motor Show had changed dates from its traditional October slot, to the end of May. The rationale for the move was to try and get the UK’s struggling event into its own slot in the calendar and stop competing with France and Japan for headlines in the motoring press, by running within weeks of them.

It’s interesting looking back at the motor show for other reasons than the plethora of new car launches – of which, there weren’t many major ones. It seemed that, in 2004, the UK was still seen as bit of a backwater in manufacturing terms and the news was dominated at the time by MG Rover’s ongoing death struggles. It all seemed rather desperate, despite Land Rover moving into the next phase of its renaissance with the recent launch of the Discovery 3.

However, in 2004, my main reason for being there, and having managed to bag a press pass (even thought I was still an IT network analyst at the time), was to cover the show – with focus on MG Rover – for the AROnline website (or www.austin-rover.co.uk as it was known back then). May 2004 was an interesting time for MG Rover, mainly because the arrival of the facelifted 25 and 45 had taken longer than we had hoped, and sales were sliding following the news the previous November that the Phoenix Four had pocketed some of the largest salaries (via their pensions) in the UK automotive business. The CityRover’s launch had also been stymied by the poor publicity it had received at the hands of Top Gear – so morale at Longbridge was not at its best.

Still, to me, the MG Rover stand looked like a good place to hang out. All of the models on show were either new, or had been revised, and outwardly, the company was playing up its confidence in these new cars. Rod Ramsay gave a little speech, which sold MG Rover, and sold it hard, while the motor showgoers flocked to see the XPower SV-R, a car which MG Rover failed to market as well as it could have.

As for the 25 and 45, it was clear, even to me with my pro-MGR agenda at the show, were dead in the water. They might have looked a little less creaky, thanks to their facelifts, but buyers had already moved on. And yet – the MG ZR and ZS were still loved, and were greeted favourably. Not bad for a few badges, different paint and trim treatments and uprated chassis set-ups. So, it was all good, yes? Well, no.

Within a year, MG Rover was over. The money had run out and a lifesaving deal with the Chinese – despite being tantalisingly close – never happened.

Rover 45 facelift
Rover 45 facelift’s rear end looked pretty good to me in 2004

MG Xpower SV
MG XPower SV-R was cruelly undersold by its maker

Rover 75 limousine
Rover 75 limousine offered lounging room for less

Rover 45 dashboard
New dashboard for the 45 looked good, but switchgear and quality were letdowns

MG ZR XPower
MG ZR XPower was a concept, but it should have been a production model

Rover 75 limousine (2)

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

4 Comments

  1. I had a fantastic 2 weeks at the show as the outdoor taster test drive was manned by us engineers and in the duration of the show, we did over 2500 test drives around that mile circuit in the car park with 4 cars. Subaru did 2800 with 6 cars. None of our cars broke down where as all the others did, Subaru, Vauxhall, Hyundai and so on and we towed them off. We even started doing timed laps when everyone went home! The perception of MG Rover was as you said Keith but once we got people in the cars and they realised we weren’t “rent-a-mob” and we were the guys and gals responsible for the design, development and manufacture of the cars, we couldn’t get people out of the cars and once again, engineers helped boost the sales of the cars! Loved my time outside with people, but alas, the marketers sold us short and the world had it in for us, but do you know what? I loved every second being there, fighting against the odds and making a difference!!!

  2. I too was there. For the 1st week. Press day included.
    At the time I was the production and maintenance manager of the 25 / ZR line in the body shop. (Body in white) We sold quite a few cars. I even sold one to one of the maintenance guys working at the NEC. We, as a company were lagging behind in development. I was involved with selection of the companies to build the 25 / 45 replacement, RDX 50? From memory. TRV pulled out, and we had no money to progress with the production, even though the line was built and concreted in the BIW plant.
    Manic times. Good times, and bad times.
    I was there at the close, and it was hard telling my lads that they no longer had a job. Some had been there for 30 + years.
    We all have now moved on, but none of us will forget working there, such an experience, and so many tales to tell….

  3. I, too, went on Press Day and remember the sense of optimism that was running through the veins of everyone on the stand.

    The array of cars was certainly interesting and I remember with amusement how I unintentionally panicked one of the sales staff when I looked at the numbered plaque for the MG TF 80th Anniversary LE I was sat in and let out a gasp of surprise that it was the first one. The poor lady came rushing over thinking I had found something wrong with the car!

    Like you, Keith, I was pleasantly surprised with the facelifts of the MG ZR and ZS but felt that the same commitment to product enhancement was not evident with the Rover 25 and 45 (although at least the Streetwise looked better with much darker finish bumpers and wheel arch treatments). The Rover 75 V8 was certainly lovely and I also had a yearning to find a chauffeur to transport me around in that Black Olive Rover 75 Limousine.

    Kevin Jones, MG Rover Group’s PR and Brand Communications Manager, also arranged for me to meet Gareth Edwards OBE and interview him about his association with Rover products in both his professional and personal life – he drove a Rover 75 for his work commitments while his wife had a Streetwise.

    A great event and I genuinely felt that MG Rover Group had put everything into getting across their efforts to keep the appeal of the models up-to-date, even if this ultimately did not result in a reversal in the decline of sales.

    The fact I spent most of my time and supply of 35mm film on MG Rover Group’s stand says how appealing it all was over some of the bigger stars of Motor Show Live!2004.

    • Quote: “…also arranged for me to meet Gareth Edwards OBE and interview him about his association with Rover products in both his professional and personal life – he drove a Rover 75 for his work commitments while his wife had a Streetwise.”

      Oops, that should have read as Jonathan Edwards OBE!

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