Car of the Month : March 2004

March sees another Rover 75 make Car of the Month, but given that the owner, Leslie Button, also owns a rather nice Rover P6, it only seemed fair to feature both cars…

The 75 and P6 together; evolution exemplified. It is almost as it the 800 and SD1 never happened!

For sure, when the 75 was launched, it was considered to be on the retro side of contemporary, but at the same time it was nice to see a new car from a company that appeared to be proud to call upon its heritage. The 75 certainly divides opinions: overly retro or timelessly elegant? What Leslie Button has done in photographing his two cars side-by-side like this, is to show how the Rover 75 appears to have been styled as an evolution of the P4/P5/P6 bloodline, whilst perhaps ignoring the SD1 and 800.

That is not to say that the SD1 and 800 don’t have merits: after all, during the 1980s, Ford’s head of exterior design, Uwe Bahnssen, was proud to have a large scale model of an SD1 on his desk… The 800 also has its adherents: the XX had a clean, crisp 1980s look to it, whilst the R17 re-introduced the chrome grille to the Rover range. But the 75’s stylist, Richard Woolley’s brief was to create a car that was both contemporary and contained that Rover heritage. He succeeded…

Leslie loves both cars, and it is only right that we should leave the final comparative analysis to him:


“It is a 2.0 V6 classic SE. I purchased it at the beginning of June 2003 secondhand from an MG Rover dealer (Pinewood at Caterham, Surrey), trading in my Rover 618 Si. It is a Damson Red 2001 model, and was built at Longbridge by MG Rover (as opposed to Cowley by a BMW controlled Rover Group).”

“The towbar was fitted by the dealer when I purchased it; I am a Scout Leader and use the tow bar when I take my Troop away (on average, 10 times a year). Our Scout group’s box trailer is used and along with the burden of personal kit and equipment for upto twenty children, plus leaders on board, the Rover managed to handle this with ease.”

“I have had fitted a CD multichanger into the glove box – a Sony unit that is compatable with the built in radio head unit; meaning that the steering wheel controls work the CD player as well – A brilliant investment (£200 incl fitting)”.

“The car is super-smooth to drive; It will accelerate very well when pushed, but the car is at it’s best when you just go with the flow when driving – letting the cossetting nature of the car come to the fore. Smooth, slow and careful gearchanges allow the car to waft you and your passengers along. The only down-side of this particular car is that, being a Classic SE, the rear seats do not fold down.”

Left: Rover P6 interior offered wood cappings, individually tailored bucket seats and a snug environment. Right: Rover 75 interior offered wood cappings, individually tailored bucket seats and a snug environment.

ROVER 3500-S

The two multi-cylinder Rovers together.

“I purchased this in 1994 – having been looking semi-seriously for 6 months or so. Initially looking for a 2000 or a 2200, an article in “Classic and Sportscar” reviewing a 3500-S made me look for a V8 manual instead.”

“When the car was purchased, I had it inspected by a Rover dealer to check it was okay and the sills were fine then. What I didn’t know was that the outer sills were fine, but were welded over a rusty set, which were welded over a rusty set whcih was welded over a rusty set. 2 years later, it failed it’s MOT when the inevitable rust -through occurred.”

“I bit the bullet and had a restoration undertaken by a local car restorer (BBW coachworks in Woking – “little Vince” to those that know him). All rust in the car was cut out and replaced with new metal. No problems in the last eight-and-a-half years!”

“The engine is superb – pulling wonderfully and sounding orgasmic. The car never fails to get looks as I drive past”.

“The gearbox is a bit notchy, not really liking fast changes. Slow, precise gear changes are what this car likes”.

“The torque is phenominal though. It will sit happily, flowing along at just over 20 mph in top gear (4th) and put your foot down and it willl accellarate to licence loosing speeds with ease and no gear change. When you are overtaken by boy racers in their clock-work peugeot GTIs, they don’t realize just what they have overtaken – the look on their faces as you then overtake them and they hear the sound of the engine is a feeling you never forget”.

Which car is best

“Difficult question – the cars have so much in common. They are definitely of the same heritage, share the same gene-pool (if one exists with motor cars). For everyday transport – the 75 without a doubt. But on a hot, sunny day – it is now difficult to choose. The P6 is the more enjoyable and certainly the one I am more proud to own. But the P6 does not have air conditioning, so if it is too hot, that now tends to win just for the comfort factor of sitting in a fridge when it is 90 degrees-plus!”

Keith Adams
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1 Comment

  1. This does make me wonder why in the name of all that’s holy did Rover look to the old P5 when trying to capture heritage for its crucial compact exec – The car that would chase sales from thrusting 3 series/A4 driving execs, but was synonymous with Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher! – Instead they could have followed the bloodline of the P6, a real trend setter, the original compact executive with a style that would have translated well with contemporary design themes and slotted right into its intended market. The British Motor industry is the same as everything else British, Faced with a right way to do something or a wrong way its pretty inevitable what route will be taken!

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