This subtly stretched 800 Sterling revived a name which had recently been abandoned by the Rover Group.
IN 1988, Rover seriously considered marketing a factory-approved stretched Rover 800, but the plan was dropped when sales projections indicated that it would not be a particularly profitable venture. However, Coleman Milne took a different view, prompted in part by the announcement that production of the Daimler DS420 limousine was to be wound down, and introduced this 800 Sterling-based “Rover Vanden Plas”.
Unlike its CM stablemate, the Montego-based Warwick, which had grown by some 2½ft in the course of its conversion, the Vanden Plas had a relatively modest 12in added to its rear doors, reflecting the fact that the car was intended as transport for business executives and VIPs, as opposed to being aimed at the funeral trade.
In designing the conversion, the company reverted to a more traditional, four-light profile, with the resulting broader rear pillars affording an extra degree of privacy for the rear seat occupants. The extra rear legroom allowed its privileged occupants to take full advantage of the electrically adjustable rear seats, carried over from the Sterling. The interior was further uprated with revised door trims in stiched leather, supplemented by extra burr walnut trim panels for the front ashtray and rear floor console (borrowed from the US-market Sterling saloon).
Carrying out the work was no mean feat, with the process taking Coleman Milne’s workforce anything from 12 to 16 weeks to complete. As with their other conversion work, the donor car was mounted into a specially-constructed sliding jig and carefully disected; the two halves were then moved apart and new metalwork is welded in to fill the gap and restore the car’s structural integrity. A large chunk of the time spent was devoted to ensuring that the conversion was finished to a high standard, removing any evidence of the work that might otherwise offend the eye. However, the quality of this work was more than skin-deep: the inherent strength of the finished article was amply demonstrated when one of these cars suffered a heavy rear-end collision in an accident on a fog-bound motorway. As can be seen from the accompanying photograph, the rear crumple-zones did their intended job, absorbing the impact and leaving the passenger cell virtually undamaged – and Coleman Milne’s welding work very much intact.
What sets this particular conversion apart from most is the fact that the extra length added to the wheelbase is integrated extremely successfully. And of course, the concept was revived in 2002 when Rover distributed a long-wheelbase Vanden Plas version of the 75, although this time the conversion was carried out by S. MacNeillie & Son Ltd.
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.