SPENT the day with Dr Alex Moulton and one topic of conversation was the Rover 75. Little did he know, but I had brought along my trusty turbodiesel, and given his curiosity about the car, offering him a drive in it seemed to be the obvious thing to do. With relish he accepted my invitation…
Although Moulton is now 84-years old, he is still trim and fit, and that spark of enthusiasm about cars still burns brightly. When he walked over to my car, he seemed ever so keen to drive it, even after I warned him it ran on fuel from the filthy black pump.
Once underway, I could see how the mind of an engineering genius works. Even before we were out of his courtyard, he had concluded the body shell was commendably stiff. How many people would be able to tell by driving a few feet?
There’s a road, which runs from Moulton’s home in Bradford-on-Avon to Melksham which he, ‘knows every pebble of’, and which he has used to test every one of his (and rivals’) cars on – he quipped that, ‘if they ever resurface this road I am lost’. Once he found his feet in the car, he picked up speed, describing just what it is that makes the 75 so special. He said: ‘one commendable quality of this car is its supreme body rigidity – it allows the suspension set-up to be tightly tuned. A soft ride can be achieved, whilst maintaining impressive body control’. All this within a mile of leaving his home!
Even before we were out of his courtyard,
Alex Moulton had concluded the bodyshell
of the Rover 75 was commendably stiff.
How many people would be able to
tell by driving a few feet?
It did get us thinking – and we were soon discussing that old chestnut of why manufacturers are moving away from providing absolute ride comfort in favour of track performance. Alex was clear in his beliefs: ‘it’s all down to marketing, and what the media is telling us we should expect from our cars’. And he has a very valid point – Our best loved car TV programme, TOP GEAR, seems to now be obsessed by test track lap times. He added, ‘it’s a uniquely modern phenomenon, this move towards violent cars.’
By the time he had reached Melksham, Moulton was seriously impressed with the 75. ‘It is really rather good, and because damping technology is so good these days, cars like this really wouldn’t see the benefit of interconnection’. He also couldn’t see the point of the stiffer MG versions when the original is so relaxing: ‘they wouldn’t be any faster, would they?’
When I told him you could buy a new one for little more than £15,000, he was more than a little surprised.
On the return leg, Moulton sat in the back, and I chauffeured him – for once, very conscious of my own driving, striving to take it as smoothly as possible. Luckily, the Rover flattered me. I asked him if the 75 is in the same league as his Citroen XM, and the answer surprised me. ‘Oh this is better – insulation from road noise is phenomenal, and although it’s noisier in the back than the front, it is still very good indeed. Only at really high speeds would the Citroen have an advantage…’
So there you have it – the Rover 75 is blessed with good suspension, and now it has the approval of the great man himself.
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.