Blog : Rover 75 – Dream or nightmare?

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Warren Loveridge, New Zealand

Warren's Rover 75 - an all-night drive across New Zealand was a great introduction
Warren's Rover 75 - an all-night drive across New Zealand was a great introduction

What’s with the Rover 75? It has plagued my dreams for years. Those sweeping lines, that unparalleled interior, the element of tragedy about what must surely be one of the best saloons the British have ever built. I’ve gazed at them admiringly ever since they first appeared. I sat in them at the local Rover dealer, drinking in the atmosphere and weeping over the price tag.

Twelve years later, the local market is peppered with shabby grey-import 2.0 V6 Classics from Japan. You can buy a ropey Rover and a whole bunch of heartache for beer money. As a mortgaged father on a modest salary, I don’t have much, but I do have beer money and perhaps enough left over to avoid a dodgy import. The auction sites beckon, much to my wife’s distress.

Much to my own distress I find that a low-mileage NZ-new 75 with a good history still attracts a lot more than beer money. I’ll stick to my ancient V8, I think. But there’s one car that keeps drawing my attention. A Cowley-built Connoisseur 2.5 auto, black with a burgundy interior. A very good price. But 171,000 kms, oh dear. Mind you, the photos look great. Good service history, cambelt and water pump replaced recently. Still, it’s a long way away, in the North Island, and I’m in the South. What should I do? I fire a few questions at net-based 75 fanatics. Sounds like a good car. I talk to the owner. Showroom condition, inside and out, he says. The temptation is awful!

The next bit is history, as they say. Friday sees me on a plane to go and buy a car I’ve never seen off a man I’ve never met. I’m picked up by his missus and taken to their home, where in their garage I spot my quarry. A shiny, clean Rover 75. Looks alright. Showroom condition? Well, there was always going to be a bit of hyperbole involved there, but it certainly is in good shape for a 12 year old car that’s seen more than 100,000 miles pass under its wheels. The old boy and I talk business, I hand over money, sign the ownership papers, and within minutes I’m on my way south to catch a ferry.

Here’s a funny thing. I’ve only ever had a very brief drive of a 75. Now I have nearly 700 kms to decide whether I actually like the car, and I’ve passed the point  of no return. I own it now, for better or for worse. How does it feel? I can’t decide. I’m in somebody else’s car and it smells funny. I feel oddly out-of-place. But an hour later I’m starting to settle into the Rover rhythm. The engine pulls strongly and cleanly, and sounds great. The gearbox shifts almost imperceptibly. The car feels amazingly tight, and rides beautifully. The suspension is silent. No rattles or clunks. Great stuff. After years of new company cars I’m not used to high-mileage vehicles, and I’d lost sleep over that 171,000 kms. You have to understand, I’m not the most adventurous of men, and I’m now several steps out of my comfort zone. But as darkness envelopes the Rover, the interior lights up in a warm orange glow and I’m feeling OK.

I pull up at a gas station. ‘Nice car,’ says the attendant when I go in to pay. That puts a spring in my step. We sweep on into the night, and then we’re crossing Cook Strait, the Rover safe in the belly of the ferry while I doze away a couple of hours on a sofa up top. When we reach the other side it’s past 11pm and not worth stopping. I’m keen to get home to my own warm bed. Another top-up for the long, service station-free stretch down the lonely east coast of the South Island and I’m surprised to discover that despite the foot-down dash for the ferry, both the computer and my own calculations agree that the Rover has sipped a mere 8.3 litres per 100kms travelled. That’s roughly 33.5 mpg in the old currency. Not bad for an old pudding basin on wheels!

Heading south I have no ferry to catch, the roads are reasonably straight, and there’s no other traffic, so I slip into cruise control, stretch back and listen to talkback, the only radio station I can find in this lonely part of the country. The Rover and I roll through the night, the engine growling and the wind shusshing around us. It’s very quiet in the cabin, and the ride is superlative. No wonder this car won awards. 4 hours later we reach home, the embattled city of Christchurch. I top up again and discover that on this leg, despite hills and twisty bits, the Rover has managed 7.3l/100kms, or something better than 38 mpg! I walk in the door at 3.30 am after the best long-distance ride I think I’ve had in any car, ever.

Later, in the cold hard light of an autumn morning, I’m feeling a little less sure of things. I take stock of my purchase, and here’s the bad:

  • A number of scratches and scrapes I hadn’t noticed upon first viewing.
  • The front bumper has its fair share of stone chips.
  • The headlights are starting to glaze over.
  • A couple of patches on the alloy wheels where the lacquer is failing.
  • Boot and side badges are clouded.
  • The key fob has been mutilated by some incompetent, probably rendering it unrepairable.
  • The driver’s seat base is starting to show signs of wear in the pleats – the leather is a bit stretched and the stitching is starting to pull.
  • There is some discolouration of the lacquer around the clock and air vents (I thought these dashes were real wood – it feels like plastic to me!)
  • The rear blind won’t work.
  • The trip computer screen is suffering from vertical striping, although it is still readable.
  • The right rear door won’t unlock with the central locking.
  • The driver’s seatbelt has rubbed through the felt on the door pillar.

And so on. I won’t bore you with the finer details. But here’s the rub. I’m slightly mad. Possibly quite insane. Definitely obsessive. I’ve spent many years and much money obsessing over details on my ancient 3500 and it’s still only part way to where I’d like it, although I’m constantly told how beautiful it looks. I’m seized with a sudden panic and an insane desire to obliterate the 75’s imperfections, erase any evidence of its 12 years and 100,000-plus miles! This is where I have to get real. I don’t need this car. I only bought it because I really, really, really wanted to own a 75. It won’t be for every day use, the company car is for that. The wife won’t drive it. It’s going to join the 3500 in the garage where I can obsess over its details and spend lots of money.  But I’m a mortgaged father on a modest salary, and there’s retirement to save for. Don’t think for a moment that I will give up my V8! But the fact is one of these cars is bad enough, and two is just plain Keith Adams crazy. I’m starting to regret my rashness. In the grey morning light the 75 actually scares me a little. But it is beautiful. Look at those sweeping lines, that unparalleled interior…

Maybe I’ll just enjoy it for a while and then pass it on. It was a cheap car, so even if I lose a bit of money, it will still represent low-cost dream fulfillment. I will tick the box and, after years of reading AROnline, finally join the in-crowd. ‘I owned a 75,’ I will say. ‘Lovely car.’

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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50 Comments

  1. Warren, if you work through the jobs needed slowly and surely you will grow to love it more (I hope!) Good luck anyway. It does still look good.

  2. Keep it Warren – almost makes me want to get one (though I’d like an estate for practical reasons) to join Minty – my 44 year old P5B saloon 🙂

  3. With regards to your rear blind, get someone to press the button and listen to see if the motor is whirring. If it is, get the other person to press the button again and give the blind a good pull, it should free it eventually. These blinds need regular working otherwise they seize up.

  4. Welcome to the world of R40 ownership. I’m on my 3rd with no sign of the love affair ending.

    Your car looks to be an early Cowley built example: black sills, bullet mirrors, torpedo badges. If it is then the dash is definitely walnut, not plastic. The clouding will be due to the use of silicone based cleaners, give it a good clean with bome beeswax furnitiure polish and it may recover. The cracking C post and bootlid badges is common too.

    Enjoy the car

  5. The best MGR vehicle, and possibly the best Rover since the P6…
    Everything else this side of a Jag feels cheap and just not [i]special[/i] after one.

  6. Fantastic car and, based on my driving a year or two back in NZ probably the ideal car for the roads out there (the 1.8 would have been way too slow!)

    I love my Jag but the old 75 I had was a wonderful car and is a future classic. A real Rover? Absolutely.

    If you need anything sending from the UK let me know.

  7. Greetings from Scotland!
    Keep it and also join the free 75/ZT technical forum -a more helpful and knowledgeable bunch you will not find.

  8. This so like my recent experiences, I too purchased a cheap 75 2.0 V6 Conniseur and had the mad idea that despite it being off the road for two years, also being sold as salvage, scrap or spares. All it would need would be an MOT and I’d tax it and drive it back to Coventry from Bournemouth, alas this wasn’t too be it failed on a few minor issues and three quite a big spring like issues, three broken springs. So alas she’s being transported back on a trailer on Monday, I have got the springs and will arrange for them to be fiited next week then with a replacement front indicator, working number plate lights and a new front number plate she should be ok for an MOT. One good point my rear blind works 🙂

  9. Thank you men!

    Now, MGFmad, you must realise that I ALREADY have an ideal project car, and the project is 16 years in and still no sign of ending!

    AndrewP, stand by because your extremely kind offer will almost certainly be taken up at some point.

    I’m really not sure at this point, but there is a plan being hatched courtesy of a friend who is very interested in the car. It might be the best of both worlds…

  10. Definitely keep it! I have two cars, both useless for anything more than looking at really, so you’re doing much better with the 75. And with your V8 (a P6, I presume?), you have the first & last of the modern Rover executive expresses.

    Worst case is one needs a repair. So what? You have a company car, so it doesn’t matter if one is out of action for a short period. Just leave it in the garage until funds allow. This way you will always have one Rover to enjoy at least.

    And I’d love to hear more about running a 75 down under. Being in Aus, I’m very tempted to get one in a couple of years…a 75 is on my bucket list. So your experience of a 75 away from the confines of Blighty is very welcome. Keep us updated, but don’t sell!

  11. Did you ever had a chance to drive a ZT? I’m suprised that many people still go for the 75 2,5 when the ZT 190 is so much more rewarding to drive. It also looks far more capable (at least to my eyes) and is everything BMW didn’t want their British cars to be, ie fun and youthful.

  12. Hey youre right about the dashboard, pretty sure the earlier ones were wood, and the later ones not(cost down job). But…the R75 is a nice car perhaps nicer than the S-type, ive been tempted myself. I AM surprised you couldnt find a good 75 in Ch Ch, everytime I see a really nice DiscoII for sale it seems to be in Ch Ch. All the best, great artcile, alex in new plymouth.

  13. I own a 1.8T 75 and have to say it is certainly more Jag like than the S class (one of which I sometime arl next to in the work car park just to confirm this opinion)The only downer is it being front wheel drive Sorry but if it was rear wheel drive it would be the final piece of the puzzle. For some reason the V8 version just doesn’t appeal.

    What is your project car?

  14. As it happened, Alex, there was only one good 75 for sale in Christchurch, and he wanted way too much for it, in the grand scheme of things.

  15. Well Warren,
    I’ve always had second thoughts after getting every car or van I ever bought.
    I think this is normal, and as you get your head around all the imperfections you find, you will begin to realise that it’s ok after all.
    When the list is broken down and you start to chip away at it, you start to feel the initial satisfaction once more.
    Nothing on your list sounded drastic, but minor.
    Your blog style writing is very good, I think we’ll all enjoy your updates on this car’s story.

  16. Nice 75!

    Looks great in black, most examples round here are gold or that shade of green.

    I am needing a diesel soon, there are a few 2.0 CDTs about. I know the 2.5 was a BMW engine, what is the origin of the 2.0 CDT?

  17. Will M – as many will no doubt tell you, the V6, as were all the petrol engines, is a Rover unit. The diesel engine is the BMW engine in slightly de-tuned state. It is not without it’s own problems though if you read the BMW forums. Though I haven’t heard of any complaints from them fitted to Rovers.

  18. Keep and enjoy! @22 pump in tank/bulkhead fuel pump/airflow meter troubles plague the BMW diesel in the 75,and they creep on you slowly! 1)check pump in saddle tank 2) and bulkhead pump(next to battery)for flow and pressure min of 30 psi

  19. To Ianto – the 75 was a ROVER product, with little input from BMW. The project was very advanced when BMW purchased Rover. The car, styled by Peter Stevens shows what could have been f only BMW and many others before hadnt miss managed Rover so spectacularly. Oh and working in the fleet industry of 50 000 fleets, BMW are one of the least reliable products on the market – great marketing crap products when you look under the skin. I could go into detail In fact the 75s major problems are all BMW input related – clutch slave/master cylinders, springs, to name a few. I run a 75 as I am now a consultant, it was cheap, reliable and for a 2 litre petrol with a heavy body returns 30-40mpg on runs. If only the company had been in better management since the BMC/Leyland merger.

  20. Know exactly what you mean.

    I’ve had my ZT190 V6 since 2006 (and had 3 before that) and now have 110,000miles up with no major problems and it’s as tight as a drum (as ZT’s were meant to be). It’s a great drivers car with great attitude inside and out.

    I can’t part with it, so much so, that when I finally changed earlier this year, my daughter has the ZT so I can still have it around.

    It was so spot-on right, it always generate interest (mostly positive) and there is no true successor even from other manufacturers

  21. I will one day be joining the ranks of Rover 75 ownership as I absolutely adore them; I really can’t think of another modern luxury saloon I would rather be seen behind the wheel of. In my eyes, not even a Jaguar makes it onto my shortlist.

    Trouble is, if I buy one, then it will have to be the one that I intend to keep long term, even if something with even lower mileage came along. That inevitably means a pre-2004 2.5 Connoisseur SE saloon finished in Royal Blue pearlescent with a Sandstone leather interior and sporting 17-inch Meteor alloys.

    I have driven numerous examples of the 75 and ZT in the past and even though people of my age range go misty-eyed at the thought of driving something German, I will happily be enjoying individuality, Rover style.

  22. Alex, yes, Cashel Cars are still trading! He’s a rogue, the old boy, but he’s managed to stay in business for a very long time now. In fact, I bought my 3500 off him in 1996! He was a grumpy old man even back then.

  23. nice article, Warren. Re-ignited my enthusiasm for having a 75, and tempered it in equal measure!

  24. I’ve had mine 3 months now, its a low mileage 2.5 V6 75, its fantastic, comfortable, quick(180BHP) and I have to say great on the fuel 35mpg on a run. I bought on condition and history, so I got a Cowley built car with 44K on the clock and all the belts changed 12 months before, it cost me a £1000. Its a Club and everything works, the build quality is fantastic and I intend to keep it long term, its your choice but I’d keep it.

  25. Someone mentioned annoying plastic headlights?

    This is a problem shared with a few other cars – notably the Laguna and some Chrysler models around the 90’s-00’s.

    There are two fixes – buy a new light – expensive.

    The other fix – http://www.allpar.com/fix/headlights.html

    I hope it comes in useful. Its a bit of a faff to do but saves a hefty amount of cash and you get exercise into the bargain.

  26. As I’ve written elsewhere on here, I bought my blue Mk I 75 CDTi (one-year old) just after MGR went down in 2005. Absolute bargain!! Apart from a high-pressure fuel pump failure in 2010, it’s given me 80,000 miles of pure driving pleasure since then, including two fantastic trips from England to Sardinia and back. It’s a real head-turner when in Italy, and if it ever dies on me I am sure I will only be able to replace it with another 75. I’ve driven loads of newer cars, and nothing else would do.

  27. So far there’s been a thorough cut and polish, a clean-up of the badges, the number plate lamps are working again, the oil’s been changed, and the remote lock and key are now installed in a brand new fob. I’m yet to go through the stack of receipts left in the glovebox by the previous owner: I’m scared of what I might find…

  28. Nice buy, but, err… Why didn’t you insist to examine the car thoroughly before purchase? It sounds like you could have clipped the asking price by a considerable amount, judging from what you said about minor faults it had.

  29. Well Jezza, it was a long distance purchase and on paper it was the most attractive 75 (to me) on sale in NZ at the time. Bear in mind, they’re not common here, and the majority are tat second hand imports from Japan. I couldn’t physically inspect the car before purchase and at some point I had to make leap of faith. I’m sure many have been through the same experience and can relate. As it happens, I did knock the guy down somewhat, and despite its faults it’s a great car for the money (in terms of NZ second hand prices), especially compared to the kind of Beemer, Audi or (Lord help me) Jaguar the same money could have got me.

    But your point is taken: it’s unlikely that I’ll purchase the same way again. I’m too fussy about my cars, and next time around I’d rather pay more money for an even better example.

    However, I did it! I bought a 75, instead of just dreaming about it, and I have thoroughly enjoyed tootling about in it.

  30. Ive enjoyed your thread and I am also tempted by the 75/ZT brand. It looks like you still have the old girl so well done. These cars are now showing 60k minimum when up for sale but many around 100k plus so these ‘lower’ mileage ones should still have a bit of life in them.

    I’ve got a year before I lose my company car due to a policy change at work and really only need a little thing like a Suzuki Swift but am drawn to these 75/ZT’s (especially diesels) for their style and economy. Worried over their reliability on the daily run to work. My choice looks like cheap and cheerful or plush and problems? Time on my side still for this head or heart decision to be worked through.

  31. Hey Warren, you’re not alone it seems! The wife and myself just bought a 2.0 75. I have been a bit unsure if it was the right idea, but thought, sod it, I wanna try it and if it doesn’t work out, just let her go and move on. Also I agree with the prices they can be had for, they’re real good value for money.

  32. Thanks Warren, I too am tempted to buy a 75, 2004 model but I hear I have to get the one that comes with a Honda engine and parts and to avoid any that has a Rover engine itself.
    However I can’t seem to take my eyes off the car. Someone should advise me please. Is the beauty worth the heart aches if
    any?

  33. @40 The ’75 was developed under the ownership of BMW and there is no Honda content in any of them.

    There are 3 principle engine types. The 1.8 litre 16V 4 cylinder Rover K Series(normally aspirated and then turbocharged from around 2003 on); the Rover K series V6 24 valve, originally available in 2.0 litre (short stroke and not very torquey at low revs) and the super 2.5 litre. The 2.0 litre V6 was largely replaced by the 1.8 turbo in later years.

    Finally, the 2.0 litre 4 cylinder diesel, which was the modern common rail BMW M47R and similar to the 3 series engines in the BMW.

    Gear boxes were all Getrag manuals and Jatco autos. Many of the electrics and ancillaries are Bosch/ BMW sourced and there are BMW badges on components all over the car.

    I don’t know if I just got lucky, but I have owned 75s for 9 years and have been delighted with both of ours.

    Choose carefully and you will have a great car, but there is a lot of badly maintained grot out there now and they won’t take well to neglect. They were well screwed together on the whole and mine still look good even though they are 11-12 years old.

  34. ROVER 75 Estate 2001‑2005 – Autotrader
    I have a good ole gal, Rover 75 Con CDTi.

    I have to scrap it, but its too good to go to the bin.. It would make eiother an excerllent running gear if you love your current Rover, or it could be turned around, as the engine is sound.

    PLEASE HELP MY OLE GAL, as I am going to Australia and need to pass her on to a new owner.

    I look forward to your response.

    Regards
    Dil

  35. My 2003 V6 Auto I owned from new and brought over from the UK and is now at nearly 140,000 Miles and still running sweet and giving 33MPG (According to the computer). Lines are still quite sexy for an old girl, the leather and wood bits still look quite good but plastic bits are starting to creak and rattle, lights are fogging over and computer screen is missing pixels which is a shame. The paintwork would be excellent if it wasnt for some kids fondling it after eating fish and chips one night in Queenstown (Grrrrr!).

    Updated the radio to a double-din GSP/MP3/Bluetooth which looks like it was factory fitted and is the best upgrade you can do I think as it now has everything a 2014 car has.

    Reliability has been pretty good, its been around the UK and both Islands in NZ without missing a beat, had the AA out twice, once for a broken radiator and the other for a broken fuel pump, She’s serviced annually, but overdue the cam belt replacement by 30,000 Miles however at $4000+ to get the cam belts serviced I’ll drive her easy and trust to lady luck!

    I’ve only seen one other in Marlborough and I recon I’ll keep her till she drops.

  36. A friend of mine has just bought a Jaguar X-Type 2.0 V6 in base spec which has covered 60,000 miles under one owner. It was while travelling in it last week that it underlined how good the alternative Rover 75 still is. Whereas the Rover feels all composed and cosseting, the Jaguar felt unsettling on corners and the front seats lack the same degree of support in the seat base. That that, the Jaguar still has a nice looking interior, even with cloth on the seats. What really shocked me though was the presence of rust on the wheel arches, which I am told is a common issue with the X Type due to it having poor corrosion protection, especially on the wheel arches and sills.

    It certainly confirmed why I will one day put my own money into buying a Rover 75.

  37. Hello warren,
    just saw your blog. May be able to help with some tips if you still have it.
    Phil.
    09 4229892.

  38. @ Comment 45:

    An update on the X Type. Despite having covered just 61,000 miles, in early February it had to have the rear suspension rebuilt and a new subframe fitted as they were so badly corroded that it became an MOT failure. All this despite having been owned by one careful lady owner from new. The top of the engine also had to receive attention as the fuel injectors were all clogged up because it had “not been driven properly”. The bill from the main Jaguar dealer in Devon was horrifying!

    Yesterday – after a gentle day out – my friend turned into his road and bang! The front suspension on one side had collapsed whereby the driver’s side front wheel was resting against the underside of the front wing. Closer inspection revealed that the shock absorber had broken; thankfully it didn’t happen 10 minutes earlier when it was being driven at 80mph up the M5 motorway. But there will undoubtedly be another sizeable bill to encounter.

    Thankfully I have never heard of this level of failure on a Rover 75. It has definitely re-confirmed why I would consider the Rover 75 over the Jaguar. As for my friend? He wishes he had stuck with a Saab or a Volvo.

  39. @ Will M:

    He has owned a number of Saabs. The newest was a 9-5 high-pressure turbo, followed by a 1990 900 T16S Convertible and more recently a 1993 900 XS (non-turbo special edition of which only 12 examples out of the 200 made were sold in the UK). This latter example he still owns but is reluctant to use it on a daily basis as it has covered just 30,000 miles under one elderly lady owner and is almost Concours in its condition. It is more about his concerns over where he might have to drive it for his work than any doubts about its reliability or solidity.

    The Volvos he has owned included numerous 940s, a V70 Classic and, until he bought the X Type last December, a 1990 240 GL saloon. Despite him finding the 240 rather slow (not helped by the presence of fuel injection which seems to strangle it), I loved driving it because it felt so solid and had no rattles or squeaks. Also the seats are the most comfiest I have ever sat in in any car. It had covered just 71,000 miles when he sold it privately to make way for the Jaguar. A decision he definitely regrets now.

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