Blog: The one I never wanted to write…

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

I KNOW Rover was only a small player in the automotive world, but for me, it is a lot darker today than it has been for a long time. The death of Rover is something perhaps we knew was inevitable the moment it came out that the Chinese had bought Intellectual Property rights for several of Rover’s mainstay products without having committed itself to a joint venture.

Perhaps, it was really inevitable when BMW pulled out and sold Rover to the Phoenix Consortium…

Or maybe following the government’s refusal to allow Ford to buy Austin-Rover in 1986…

Maybe you could even say, the seeds were sown in 1968, when Harold Wilson and Anthony Wedgewood-Benn seduced Lord Stokes into allowing Leyland to take over BMH…

The list is a long one, but the truth is whatever it was that killed Rover, it no longer matters – the damage is done, the marque is dead, and the UK now has no locally owned car manufacturer bigger than London Taxis International. As I have said before, we’re not looking to pin the blame on anyone here, because to do so would be futile, when the real issue is the future of the 6000 or so workers, 5000 of whom will be receiving their P45s through the post tomorrow morning. Conjuring up conspiracy theories about Towers, Pischetsrieder, Thatcher, Robinson, and Benn won’t get these guys their jobs back.

Besides, we’ll make sure the documents, data and pictures – the very core of the company’s history will be saved for posterity, for it is these that will determine the motives of those who led the company in the darkest of days.

blogstheendIt’s a sad end to a great company – one, that in its heyday was respected the world over, and produced great executive cars, which struck fear into the hearts of all the opposition. Look at the P6, the P5 and (perhaps) the SD1, and tell me even today, these are not great cars. The Rover 75 was a brave attempt to get back some of that bulldog spirit that defined these cars, but ultimately it was a victim of circumstance and not of its own inabilities… Such a shame.

I have been suffering with this for the last week – it has felt like I was losing a best friend, and there was nothing I could do, except stand by and helplessly watch from the touchlines…

Yesterday, I actually visited Longbridge and went to the Product Development Centre to Interview Rob Oldaker, Tony Spillane and Andy Smith. We talked about the past – and I could see in these men’s faces that they enjoyed some great times at Longbridge – they relayed the blue-sky thinking that led to some wonderful creations. For three hours, the weight of what was happening to them was lifted, and it was as though we had returned to an earlier, golden age…

When the interview broke up, we exchanged business cards and a few pleasantries, and not once, did you get the feeling the company was about to implode. As I walked through the corridors of the PDC, I somehow felt it was coming to an end – and that was brought home when I looked in the design office and saw a sea of computer VDUs – all but a couple switched off – and not a sign of life. I think it was then that I knew for sure…

Walking out of Longbridge, my colleague (who served at Longbridge for many, many years), was close to tears. He knew, too.

So, I became Longbridge’s last ever visitor on a full-working day. It may sound like an accolade, but right now, I’d do anything for it not to be the case.

That’s why I’ll be at Longbridge on Sunday, expressing my feelings – to some, the factory may just be a building, but to me, it symbolises so much more. And its closure signifies a lot about the deep and painful changes this country is going through.

RIP Longbridge. RIP Rover.

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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