Blog : Rover 75 V8 – the modern classic?

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

Rover 75 V8

I still vividly remember the 2004 Geneva Motor Show. The extent of MG Rover’s troubles following the November 2003 expose about ‘irregularities’ in its directors’ pay packets had yet to become too widespread, and there was still a degree of optimism for the company’s future. At the show, the wraps came off the much-anticipated Rover 75 V8, the sister car of last autumn’s impressive MG ZT 260 V8. And finally – we had our 21st century Rover Vitesse.

Critics at the show were quietly impressed by the visual transformation the more aggressive front bumper and full-depth grille afforded the car far more motorway presence, while the new 19in wheels (on the show car only, sadly – 18s for production) and slightly nose-down suspension settings toughened up the previously vanilla 75 considerably. But it’s what was under the bonnet that really set this car apart from its six-cylinder and four-pot cousins…

The reason for MG Rover’s decision to fit a Yank V8 into its biggest saloon? In 2000, MG Rover wasn’t entirely confident about its future engine supply, as Powertrain was not included in the original terms of the BMW sell-off of parts of the Rover Group to the Phoenix Four. And left them scouting for options for the HPD version of the 75 that was then-currently in development. And that led to the decision to develop the car for a crate version of Ford’s two-valve Mustang V8. As it happened, six months after the original deal, BMW handed Powertrain over to Phoenix, and KV6 supplies were secure. But the V8 plan continued…

Rover 75 V8

The 4.6-litre V8’s fitment into the 75/ZT wasn’t a straightforward affair. Converting the 75 to RWD, and mating the Ford’s electronics into the Rover’s BMW-era control systems wasn’t the work of a moment, and initially the development programme was entrusted to Prodrive in Oxfordshire. But for reasons that have yet to come to light, Prodrive’s time spent managing the project wasn’t successful, running over time and budget.

The project was then brought back in-house, with the ever-resourceful engineering team based in the Flight Shed in Longbridge turning the unfinished V8 into the excellent-handling production car we were left with. We know the stories, too – an engineer climbing under a strapped-down prototype while the back tyres are lit-up – in order to work out how to tame axle tramp. But that’s what you do when working within a miniscule budget – this was true Dunkirk spirit.

I’ve driven several Rover 75 and MG ZT V8s, and loved every one of them. There’s an interesting combination of 75 usability and friendliness, a wonderful bass-heavy soundtrack, and lazy, torque-laden power delivery. My most vivid memory would be driving ex-Phoenix director Nick Stephenson’s supercharged V8 ZT-T – 385bhp, silly supercharger whine, and the ability to drink a tank of fuel in 180 miles. Wonderful.

I also played with an ex-Longbridge development Rover 75 V8 for a week-long jaunt and loved this, too. Being a Rover, married to an autobox (as apposed to a Tremec five-speeder), and running on gentler suspension settings, it really suited me – and would probably make a superior day-to-day proposition five years on. Assuming you’re not driving it every day, and you can talk a classic insurer to underwrite your fun.

In reality, this engine/transmission package turns the 75 into a bit of a dinosaur (256bhp from 4.6-litres, for goodness sake), with an average fuel return of less than 20mpg. But as a high-days classic car you can use occasionally and for special occasions, this excessive thirst isn’t as much problem as it might be, if you’re clocking up 2000 instead of 20,000 miles a year. But like all classic cars – you buy with your heart and not your head, and this interesting car certainly manages to tug the heart-strings.

A quick scout at examples for sale brings up a number of cars for around £6000-8000. One that caught my eye was this example (pictured) on Pistonheads, on sale in Scotland, for £6995. The seller’s made the interesting offer to include free delivery, a new MoT, 12 months’ tax, and a full tank of fuel, which goes beyond the usual vendor’s service. It has just under 30,000 miles on the clock, and has clearly been loved by its last owner. Would its Cat D status put me off? Perhaps…

But there are so many positives that I am considering making an investment! The thing is – is now the time to buy?

Rover 75 V8

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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47 Comments

  1. Great car. Shame the quad headlights & chromed bumpers were lost with the 2004 facelift.

    The more modern headlights might suit my 25 & possibly the ZT but I guess economies of scale came into it in the Project Drive era.

    Love the full depth grille though. I’ve always thought it was an update which went well wit the rest of the car as clearly Roewe also think.

  2. Well Keith, you did find your 1.8 75 a tad slow! I reckon you should go to the other end of the scale and return to 75 ownership.
    I’ve had a couple of 75s following me in the last week and started to miss that unique feel they have.

  3. There is not much to think about. One of 166 ever made. Even if you don’t drive it.

    Park it in the living room.!

    Got one, —- love it.!

  4. 75 V8, a modern classic? – and why not? I still have the 2004 MGR all model catalogue and the images of the 75 range still look great. I always liked that square grille too and you dont see many on the roads.

    I did see a 75 taxi in Whitby with the square grille but don’t think it was a V8.

  5. I had the Chatsworth coloured Press car on loan for five days back in January 2005 and remember thinking then the likelihood that it would become a modern classic. Despite its rather old skool transmission and frightful thirst, I really did get moarnful when the delivery man came to collect it from me. For the first time I got to hear the deep burble of the quad tailpipes as he started it up and drove off.

    I still remember that car and the trips I took it on with much fondness. And, yes, I still want to own one in the future, preferrably a Connoisseur SE saloon with the Sandstone interior, optional 18-inch wheels and finished in either Royal Blue metallic or Chatsworth supertallic. It really did leave a lasting impression on me.

  6. My goodness Keith, just buy the thing!

    Here I am, stuck in Aus with no way of owning one of these wondrous cars I’ve drooled over for years & you question it?

    If the car is any good, I’d be jumping in with both feet & throw in my right arm while I’m at it (ok, that makes driving a tad difficult, but you get the idea).

  7. A classic, yes, even if it was an odd way of spending scarce development money.

    How did the Longitudinal V8 fit so well under the bonnet, when you’d expect the front end to have been designed around the space efficient transverse 4 and V6 engines? Very few modern cars have gone down the same FWD to RWD path, except performance specials like the Escort RS Cosworth. Perhaps Jaguar should have done the same and created a RWD X type!

  8. not sure spending £6995 on a car thats CAT D is actually a good investment. there are other 260 V8s out there that 100% proper cars without. if it was written off it was likely to be more than just the rear wing and bumper, a rear shunt would have possibley affected the floor pan etc aswell

  9. A manufacturer who is making massive profits and enjoying global success can afford to indulge in a project like this. A dying company struggling to pay its Directors pension contributions cant. One of the not so many reasons MGR collapsed 12 months later.

  10. Stewart @13

    The original Triumph 1500 was FWD, but with a longitudinal engine, so presumably the engine arrangement didn’t have to change drastically when the car became RWD. The engine was around the same size too.

    Thinking about it, a BMC equivalent was creating the Austin 3 Litre out of the transverse engined 1800, and in order to fit the longitudinal C series engine in, the 3 Litre has a much longer bonnet, whereas the 75/ZT V8 doesn’t require any change.

  11. @12 The V8 engine & transmission didn’t just drop in, AFAIK, a new bulkhead, transmission tunnel and floor sections were needed to get it to fit.

    FWD -> RWD cars are very few on the ground. In fact, other than the 1300?Dol/Tol and the 75, I can’t think of another for now!

  12. As I recall, the 75/ZT V8s were constructed as normal body in white, then taken off the line for the body shell mods and engine/ transmission installation, then returned to the line for trimming with the normal cars.

    Also, were not the heater and air con systems V8 specific?

  13. I don’t know of many cars that went FWD to RWD or vice versa either
    One fact I do know is the Renault 21/Savanah had Tranverse and Longitudinal FWD layouts

  14. I had a 75 Contemporary SE CDTi Estate with the V8 grille upgrade, I remember turning up at a northern MG club event in 2005 and the guys on the gate nearly wetting themselves thinking I was in a pukka V8!

  15. @28 The HVAC was standard Denso modified by a former employer to clear the transmission tunnel, etc. They had a prototype (incomplete) V8 parked in the factory for some years post receivership that had presumably been forgotten about but it ended up being disposed of for spares.

  16. As an owner of a ZT 260 and a 385 all I can say is this is the best car I have ever owned. They are (perhaps surprisingly) solidly built. My 260 is approaching 150,000 miles and is still in really good nick. I have had BMW’s expire at lower miles.
    Cat D is nothing, there has in the past been a perception that you can’t get parts and it was easier for an assessor to write off for minor things like cracked bumpers than think about trying to find a replacement, it wouldn’t put me off.

  17. @25
    so was the truimph 1300, my second car.. great car, would love another one, bought it with a failed clutch, fitted the new one in less than an hour!

  18. @23
    this is not an MG ZT 260, its a Rover V8, and far rarer car. Cat D means nothing when there are only 166 in the first place, and yes it can mean just a scratched bumber and a scraped wing, even on this

  19. I like what the V8 MG/Rover is BUT 260 bhp froma 4.6 V8 is a bit poor really. BMW’s 3.0 straight six petrol was delivering 268nhp!

  20. Hi, thanks for all the encouraging comments. I agree with all of them above, so I am not sure why I am selling the car in the first place, :-). I will not be sorry if it stays, but I’ll also be happy to see someone else cherish it as I did. Keep the comments coming.

    I have attached a link with 75 more pictures for you to see.

  21. As an original and current owner of a 75V8 I can confirm the unique nature of the drive, ride and sheer pleasure I get when out in the car. My own is probably the lowest mileage V8 on the road at 12000 miles I have only covered around 2,500 per ann since buying it new in 2007 and expect to have it as my companion for perpetuety. Oh, by the way comment no 35, the 265 bhp is not the point, it’s the massive torque of the 4.6 which does the business. As carol Shelby (a mustang Cobra specialist) said, “BHP might impress on paper but its inches that win the race” Best wishes to all.

  22. 260 hp is not a lot these days, and quite rightly a bit puny for a 4.6 V8. But it really does not matter as the torque is nice and linear. Whenever you want to go, the car does it.
    That said, I have seen faster, better accelerating 2 liter turbo diesel cars. That is a bit concerning! A Seat Cupra once smoked my car. His car literally smoked, but he was faster, obviously modified, but nevertheless ;-).
    Living at altitude, and the Diesel having a turbo, which largely compensates for that, might be part of the story.

  23. Hey Keith You need one of these!
    I got mt MGZT 260 SE V8 from Longbridge Sales in 2005 It has done about 25000 miles. I have not seen it for 9 months as its in storage! I might get it out in the spring and let Nick at Austins give it a good look over before I start using it.
    I am currently driving an Audi A6 3.0 tdi with Quattro and Tiptronic Auto. Its 233 bhp against the 256 Ford V8
    Probably better engineered than the MG but Fun Factor is about 50%.
    The Rover V8 I think is nowhere as brutish as the ZT V8
    I would not swap my MG for a Rover 75 V8

  24. not the first yank v8 into a rover is it? my sd1 also has a good old gm gear box , yank power all the waaaay/

  25. The 75 in particular has rarity value on its side, and the backstory of how a Ford V8 ended up in a Rover product is interesting. But if I wanted a cheap(ish) British V8 saloon, I’d get a 4.2 Jag S-type for the same (or less) money – these cars are outrageous bargains at the moment.

  26. my rover 75 diesel was allowed into the special public car park at the thornfalcon taunton car meet , so a zt v8 would be in the meet ! a classic car allready !

  27. Just bought one. Took delivery of it 1/12/15. Absolute bargain @ £10k. Its original owner, a private gent in Cheshire, clearly cared for & loved this car. It’s a Connoisseur SE finished in ( still unmarked ) Platinum Gold &
    looks fantastic. Current { & correct } mileage is 17,500. Guess it will spend most of the year in our Garage emerging only on high days & holidays. My everyday transport is a wonderful 75 Tourer CDTI purchased new in 2005 & undoubtably the nicest car I’ve ever had. I’ve learned much from all the comments above. Thanks everyone

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