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.
But 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 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…
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.