Ian Merriman has unearthed this gem from the South of France – a pre-production Rover 75 Club. Are there any out there older we wonder?
Words and pictures: Ian Merriman
The oldest of the few?
A lovely car in a lovely setting…
THIS pre-production Rover 75 Club, registration S577 AOX, VIN 001538, was registered 15 February 1999 after being built on 20 January 1999. As early Rover 75s go, this must be the oldest one out there in general circulation. It’s a 2-litre V6 Manual, and comes fitted with a number of unusual extras – sunroof, headlamp washers and traction control (really needed for a 2-litre KV6?)
My car has been at Austin Garages at Burton on Trent. Nick Bonthrone at www.austingarages.co.uk is no strangers to early 75s. He has another one which he is working on and he reckons that every pre-production car has at least three factory fitted extras. On the Rover 75 and MG ZT, forum this car is described as ‘probably’ the youngest of the S-registered pre-production car on the road. We’d certainly love to hear from you if yours is older…
I would like to think that it was one of the cars that featured on the Tower Bridge Launch but I need to check if its got specially tuned horns!
The car came to me with some service History and I so far been unable to make contact with the early owners including one man who lived quite close to Longbridge so I expect he was an employee. My contact with these S-reg 75s was when I bought a LHD 2.5 V6 Connoisseur absolutely loaded with every extra from Hartwells of West Bromwich at around Christmas 2002. My LHD Car had the highline SATNAV and this still showed Seville as a saved destination so I can only presume that it was a Spanish launch car.
To make it more interesting the car still had French Number Plates and a sticker from the Rover Dealer in Nice, France! The car had been UK registered in January 1999 and later French Registered. When it was sold by Hartwells it reverted to its original UK number, S917 XDA. Normally Manufacturers scrap these pre-production cars but at MG Rover they were a further source of revenue.
I believe that when BMW pulled out of Rover Group, the Launch cars were put in store and at three years old and after refurbishment, they were sold off to members of staff and many were sold to Hartwells of West Bromwich. I am trying to find a contemporary Newspaper ad for November/ December 2002 as the cars were listed by registration number and specification. My LHD Car had been fitted with New wheels and tyres plus a new driver’s seat when I got it.
Many of the cars were sold by Hartwells to Europe and I heard of a number of Spanish Villa owners who took them direct to their holiday homes.
The traction control has been fixed together with several minor faults. The car has a new MoT and six months’ Tax, I intend to use it for a while over the summer and then probably to sell it on. (as usual I have too many Rovers – at least three more!)