Concepts and prototypes : Rover 800 LWB (1986)

There have been plenty of stretched Rover 800s sold, but did you know that the factory developed one?

The long… and short of it

In 1984, Rover and Jaguar parted company in a Government-backed privatisation. It left Rover with a real dilemma – to surrender the director’s car market, or try and go head-to-head with its former stablemate. Given that the Rover 800 was well in development by the time the time of the break-up, it seemed unlikely that the joint-Honda XX programme would be suitable for a stretch upmarket.

However, as it happened, the Canley Design Team penned a long-wheelbase version of the upcoming saloon. With a 15in stretch of its wheelbase, it would have offered interior room that would have shamed the upcoming Jaguar XJ40, although the road manners of the lengthy saloon would have been very much in the shadow of Browns Lane’s excellent new saloon. As can be seen from the images taken at Canley, the LWB 800 made it to full-scale clay model stage and, even as late as late-1984, CAR magazine spoke in terms of the XX being launched with two wheelbases.

In the end, the project was dropped, leaving the top of the range to the standard wheelbase Sterling model, which at its (delayed) launch in July 1986, weighed in at £19,250, almost exactly the same price as the 2.9-litre XJ40.

Interestingly, the Coleman-Milne Vanden Plas limousine looked almost identical to this car, leading to speculation that this car was developed from factory drawings. Given the four-light glass-house of both cars, it’s easy to see why many people have come to that conclusion. Certainly, the Coleman-Milne was sold with Rover’s blessing.

If you know more about the project, please get in touch…

Rover 800 LWB

Keith Adams


  1. I like the idea even though it never reached fruition. Might have done well in the Limo/Funeral car business in a past era.

  2. This is quite a handsome looking saloon, with the chunkier, more upright looking rear piller giving it an air of prestige over the standard saloon.

    That said, the two-bar grille arrangement does look fussy.

  3. Proportions do look good – may have been a better bet for the Sterling, in th USA, put up against the Volvo’s of the day.

  4. Seeing as a lot of R800’s ended up as Mayoral transport even Royalty had them, the LWB would have made sense. But would it have sold in enough numbers to warrant factory production?
    Perhaps it was best left to the aftermarket converters.

  5. Wonder if a whole range of cars using the 800 theme, with the hatchback as the basic offer, the saloon belong to an estate version , and this long wheelbase car offering V6 Honda and V8 Rover could establish Rover as a real alternative to BMW,Jaguar and co.

    After all, Rover could had the maximum of versions using essentialy just one platform. If you add an sporty hatchback of the AR17 project as the basic Rover offer, and maybe using the saloon as a top of range for Austin, maybe this two brands would be still with us.

  6. Interesting that the Gang of Four-era Rover brought out a 75 lwb -they must have thought it worthwhile, althought “thinking” is a questionnable phrase here!

  7. @ Mike Bushell:

    The Rover 75 Vanden Plas (later called Limousine when it was built at Longbridge) was designed during the BMW ownership era and was considered when the R40 project itself was in its design and development stages.

    @ Rodrigo:

    Hatchbacks tended to have a more affordable image than saloon bodystyles back in the 1980s and 1990s, so putting the Austin badge on the saloon would have placed it as being more upmarket than the Rover marque.

    Accommodating the Rover V8 engine into the 800 Series, in practise, would have been a very expensive and challenging procedure given that the 800 Series was a collaborative venture for a front-wheel drive platform with an engine bay large enough to accommodate a V6 engine.

    The money involved in such a transition would have possibly made putting the then all-new replacement for the Metro into production more attractive, in comparison.

  8. With the low bonnet line i doubt the V8 would have fitted. Then you’d have to butcher the tunnel and fit a rear axle to make it worthwhile.

    on another note, who owns the Vanden Plas name these days? We saw it on Austin’s the 80’s and the Rover 75 LWB, but Jaguar also used it for their high end models in some markets.

  9. Oddly enough I saw one of the old Granada limo versions the other day on the back of a transporter and almost got sideswiped by a white Granada III on the same day.

  10. I remember being on lateshift October 1993 in the final preparation building at Cowley, in came a stretched 800 Saloon, at least 24″ longer with a section between the doors. It was armour plated had bullet proof glass, seperated passenger area with it’s own air con units in the boot, topped off with a PA system and spot lights! All powered by the Honda V6… I think it went to the far east.

    From memory at least 20 R17 Saloons were part built and sent to conversion specialists to become stretch Limos and 20 R18 Fastbacks were built less the trim from the B pillar back and became Hearses (I have only ever seen one on the road.)

  11. Back in mid 90s when I was a postman in the lake district, there was a black chauffeur driven lwb 800 parked in a customer’s drive, an old chap was getting into it and I said hello. Found out later he was Callaghan ex PM, visiting family.

  12. Very elegant, the solid C pillar gives the windowline an air of solidity, as well as Rolls-style privacy to the rear seat occupants.

    Would look great with the post-facelift bonnet and grille.

  13. I own a Coleman-Milne Mk3 Granada hearse, and it came with the strange double chrome strips on it’s grille…

  14. This is the car the electric back seats would have been ideal for. You really could used them to stretch out for a quick snooze.

  15. We had a black 1989 Sterling Long Wheelbase in the early 90’s and I remember it did have the individual, powered rear seats. It was an interesting car since despite it being the pre 91 facelift model it did have the new front end. And it wasn’t simply the stick on 400series chrome grill that was quite a comman add on at the time, but the entire bonnet, grill and front bumper from the facelift model. It actually worked very well.

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