Mark McGrady is MG Rover through-and-through and has owned an enviable collection of some of the marque’s finest cars. This Rover 75 Tourer is very special, and a real credit to him.
Read on to find out the interesting story of ‘Marmite’, his ex-air ambulance Tourer.
Words and photography: Mark McGrady
MG Rover struck up a partnership with the Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance Service as its chosen charity. The deal, which was done in January 2005, included three Rover 75 Tourers being donated as rapid response vehicles and two Rover 75 saloons as press and fund-raising vehicles – a further car was to be donated as a raffle prize.
The rapid response Tourers, all of which were Rover Contemporary SE trim diesel autos, were painted in MG Trophy Yellow to match the colour of the air ambulance helicopter. All three Tourers were built on Tuesday, 5 April 2005 – two exiting the line at 10.23 and 10.27 and the third just over two hours later at 12.46.
As we all know, 7 April saw the plant run out of parts, with the company going into administration on 8 April, with final closure on the fifteenth of that month. These three cars, built 48 hours before the lines stopped, were now parked next to each other at Longbridge as company assets.
Events weren’t going to get in the way
To fulfil the agreement the four Directors, John Towers, John Edwards, Peter Beale and Nick Stephenson, purchased two of the cars at a personal cost of £50,000. Two were chosen and registered as BX05 XCE, (the last of the three built and now B9 HJM) and BX05 XCF (the first built). The second-built car went into the system and was later sold by SMC Slough in October 2005.
BX05 XCE and BX05 XCF were handed over to the charity at an event at Coombe Abbey by John Towers in person. BX05 XCE was used by the Air Ambulance Service as a rapid response vehicle for local emergencies or at times when the air ambulance couldn’t be deployed; when researching the car’s history, the air ambulance crew remembered it very fondly and supplied some photos and history of it’s time in their service.
The car came out of service and ended up in the hands of a well-known Rover 75 & MG ZT Owners Club member who is renowned for collecting the rarer models of the 75 and ZT(T). At this time, in 2011, we were on our second 75 Tourer, which had been a natural progression from the four R8 Tourers we had owned previously, and I’d been looking for a low mileage Trophy Yellow MG ZTT, which was a quite rare model in its own right.
Coming up for sale at the right time
The custodian of ‘Marmite’ wanted to reduce his fleet and put this and another of his cars up for sale, with the one that sold first securing the second car’s future with him, and it was at this point that Marmite gained a bit of attention in various MGR forums, as very little was known about these vehicles’ existence. I had a few conversations with the owner, but was a little put off by its history as a service vehicle so resisted pursuing the car. Shortly afterwards, I was away in Italy with work when my wife and boss, realising the significance of the car, bought it on my behalf and it was my Christmas present in 2011.
Once Marmite was in our hands, we started researching the history by contacting the Air Ambulance Service, who were extremely helpful. The bodywork showed signs of its previous life, with some ghosting of stickers still evident, exterior ariels and unfortunately quite a lot of filler in the premium bumper where the blue lights had been removed. (Have you seen the price of replacement premium bumpers?!!) The windows had been tinted to hide all the interior equipment and for privacy, with two ovals left in the rear glass, again for the blue lights to shine through.
The rear light units have extra holes cut into the reverse light sections, for strobe lights and it was at this point we decided to try and retain as much of these details as possible as a nod back to its past. The biggest change we made to the car was adding our number plate and having cruise control enabled via T4, as you’d expect. The interior was removed and lots of spare wiring removed for safety, as some wires were still ‘live’ as a result of the various bits of kit fitted for its former life.
We purchased the car at 50,000 miles and used it as our main vehicle, taking my daughter all over the country to play wheelchair basketball and, in September 2015, it was retired as the main car in the fleet with 100,000 miles. It currently has an easy life and is only used for MGR shows and events plus the odd run out to keep it in use.
All three Trophy Yellow 75 Tourers are still in use and, after XCF was involved in an accident, its new owner thankfully rebuilt it back to how it should be. Any photos of the car within Longbridge or Coombe Abbey would be greatly appreciated.
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Gallery: Mark McGrady’s Rover 75 Tourer