Coupe de grace
Hot on the heels of the MG EX-E, the Rover CCV (Coupé Concept Vehicle) made its debut at the Geneva motor show of 1986. Unlike the MG, which there was absolutely no intention of putting into production, the Rover CCV acted as a toe-in-the-water exercise to preview the styling of the Rover 800 and sound out potential buyers of the coupe version.
As it was, the CCV was an extremely handsome car and it adopted the running theme in all Austin Rover projects of the time – slim headlights that bracketed a slit-like grille. The interior was also mocked-up for his prototype and boasted solid state instrumentation and a dashboard mounted CD player (very novel back in 1986).
The styling was credited to Roy Axe and was judged an unqualified success. Many US dealers took on Sterling franchises on the strength of the CCV – and it proves a bitter disappointment that it never actually became a production reality. The concept was investigated seriously by the company, but a lack of commitment to it by the management backed up by disappointing sales of the Sterling in the USA meant that it was continually put back.
Roy Axe tells the story of the CCV
The ice was broken (the previous year, with the EX-E) and there was little opposition to the idea of another show car for the following year. This time there was more focus on the subject as the Rover 800 was well along the path to production and plans were forming to re-enter the USA market.
For the USA a two door coupe would have been much preferable to the four door but plans and funds available did not support this as the two door coupe would have had appeal mainly in the USA and volumes would be restricted. There were better places to use the limited use available or so it was judged.
The idea of a two door coupe show car, however, had good support and so we started out on this project for the Turin show of 1985. Essentially the same design teams were used but with some changes where the original EXE people were involved in other things.
The design office set the parameters and I felt that the coupe should pick up the character of the 800 in terms of basic form and character lines but without the restrictions on dimensions and other regulatory limitations imposed on the 800 due to its commonality with the Honda Legend. The extra form at front and rear and the more shapely sides greatly enhanced the 800 based lines.
Of course, with a show car designers are also spared the restrictions of current production technology and cost considerations and so I also felt the car should reflect some of the character of the MGEXE in terms of the all transparent roof. In this case the roof was not as radical as the EXE due to the proportions and end use considerations of a coupe but the idea worked well.
The design came together effortlessly around these guide lines and the final result, both interior and exterior, were very much to everyone’s satisfaction. As with the EXE, the final result just looked right and it sailed through the approval process that cleared it for exhibition at the show.
Again the reaction can be read in the publications of the day which were all most complimentary. To get that reaction in Italy was a particular pleasure.
Regrettably, this was the last of the show cars as the years immediately following had the design office fully occupied with the production programmes of the new product plan.
This is not to say that designs were not explored that could have been the subject of show vehicles and a number of models were built but there just was not the emphasis to do this in the climate of new production model introductions.