Stephen Wright is a proper die-hard MG Rover fan, and has been a reader of AROnline since 2005 – so it’s apt that he’s earned his Car of the Month title with honours.
His Rover 75 Tourer has been with him since 2007, and has seen a fair bit of action along the way. It’s not the only ‘firm’ car in Stephen’s collection, but ‘Starbug 2’ is certainly the best known!
Words and photography: Stephen Wright
Prior to 2005, we had a number of cars with a Longbridge connection but, at the time, we hadn’t set out to be followers of cars made there. In about mid-2005, we were in a position to get another car to replace our Daewoo Lanos, which we might otherwise have kept for a lot longer. My first choice at the time could have been a Rover 75 – however, Bev, my wife, thought it was too big…
We ended up getting a Rover 45, which we had for two to three years. However, in about 2007-08, we looked again at getting a 75. I was leaning towards getting a Tourer, and Bev finally agreed. So, from a small backwater garage in Kenilworth we picked up a Rover 75 Tourer Club SE CDTi in silver.
At first we were undecided about what name to call it. But, after a few names, we reverted back to ‘Starbug 2’, which comes from my forum name across many car forums including AROnline. Technically, the 75 should be ‘Starbug 3’, as the Rover 45 before was called Starbug 2 and an R8 before had been called Starbug. But hey…
What we found on the 75 Tourer
Over the years, we have covered well over 100,000 miles, and I found some very odd things previous owners had done with the car. There are some interesting wiring bodges – due to it towing a caravan I was unaware of. When I removed the bumper looking into fitting reversing sensors, I found the crash bar was missing – which, on a Rover 75, is a straight swap to a towing version. And yes, they hadn’t replaced that when they took the towbar off, meaning I had no crash bar in the bumper!
Also, a previous owner had swapped the wheels. It has 17-inch wheels from a base-model facelift MG ZT. Not my first choice, but they are wheels on it – and, after all these years, it wouldn’t be the same car. They give the car character.
I later discovered from the Rover 75 & MG ZT Owners Club via the VIN number, that this is one of the last Mk1s prior to the 2004 facelift, which occurred approximately 200 cars later. Most 04 registrations tend to be the facelift model so mine’s pretty unusual. The car was first registered somewhere near Bury St Edmonds. It seems to have spent most of its life in the Bristol/Midsomers area.
What we’ve upgraded along the way
Since getting the car, some Project Drive items have been replaced. For example, at one car meet, a bloke re-fitted the bolt head covers on the seat belt mountings. I re-fitted the driver’s grab handle. At another car meet I won in a raffle a voucher to get something from a place in Scotland – so I chose a real wooden dash, which was posted to me. This I had fitted at another car meet.
Due to the fact the mirror covers had a few scrapes on them; I managed to get hold of some proper chrome mirror covers. I have also fitted a piece of string to the tailgate, to enable the wife to close it, as she is not very tall.
We replaced the original radio due to me being given the wrong code after maintenance which required the battery to be disconnected. So, then we got an ex-demo sat-nav/radio combination which worked for many years, but then had to be replaced due to the screen failing. Its replacement now has also started to fail.
What’s gone wrong?
Since getting the car we have replaced both rear springs twice, but the front are the same. We have had two clutches, various bits of the exhaust, an engine mount, rear subframe, the fuel pump mounted on the engine and normal wear and tear items.
At the time of buying the car, my intention was to get a higher-powered model rather than the 116bhp version. Since getting the car, it has mostly been maintained by Austin Garages Limited, which is a well-known MG Rover specialist. Nick Bonthrone, the company’s owner, originally worked at a main dealer and also looks after my wife’s MGF.
Over the years we’ve had work done to the paintwork and to areas beneath the car to keep the car in a good condition. The car has had the front indicators from a Cowley car fitted, due to one getting cracked, which are noticeable due to a white band across the bottom which Longbridge cars do not have.
Also from the same Cowley donor car I had the ABS ring hub fitted on my car’s driver’s side wheel which had got damaged, which also deals with the speedo, hence needing it replaced. The car has covered approximately 165,000 miles, mostly without issues, even the broken springs weren’t noticed until Austin Garages spotted them.
And what about the events?
Many years ago we became involved with Club 75, a European Rover 75/MG ZT club. So, on our first trip into mainland Europe in the Rover 75, we jumped in the deep end, got a ferry to Holland and then to the far east of Germany by the Czech Republic border. An epic journey of about 10 hours including breaks along the way.
Using the Autobahn was a highlight of the trip and we able to let rip with the speeds and not worry about limits. Alas in the diesel the speed isn’t that high but I managed to do 125mph and possibly had a few miles left as I hadn’t quite hit the rev limiter. Certainly, driving on the Autobahn in the 75, the car took it in its stride and never once showed any unhappiness at going at over 100mph for long periods.
Where possible we were doing mostly 100mph and the temperature gauge never moved. I understand on the diesel it tends to over-cool anyway, as Rover fitted one-size-fits-all radiators on the diesels. However, the only thing we did notice was the fuel gauge did tend to move a lot quicker than normal… Overall, in about a week we did around 1400 miles, not including ferries and did around 40mpg, which considering a lot of high speed driving, isn’t bad.
Since that trip to eastern Germany we have also been to south east Holland and the Black Forest area of Germany for Club 75 holiday meets. In the UK ,we have done events with Club 75 and we have also done many car events all over the UK with various clubs. It was certainly a highlight when we went to Northern Ireland to meet via Facebook, members of the Classic Rover Club (NI), where were made very welcome and we joined them in a big car meet not far from Belfast, with well over a thousand cars.
The following day they invited us to a small car meet at a garden centre which was celebrating 75 years. Our car was guest of honour being a ‘75’ and took pride of place in a photo shoot with the owner. So, certainly with the 75, we have travelled far, met with people from across Europe, seen and done things we never would have and we are still trying to keep our car collection to have a Longbridge connection, currently having the 75 and an MGF.
We did have an MG3 but traded it in for an MG ZS (SUV), which we bought to help keep the MGF and 75 going as long as possible – not wanting to mothball the older cars, just to keep the excess miles off.
We hope we have many more happy motoring adventures in our Rover 75, Starbug 2.