It lives on: MGR’s secret Rover facelift
The farce that was the arrival of the 2004 facelifts of the/ , and will probably haunt anyone who worked at MG Rover for years to come. If you don’t remember it, then cast your minds back – MGR fans were eagerly anticipating the arrival of the new cars, the company had been struggling to get them out, and after flogging away behind the scenes, managed to ready the cars for introduction. A date was set, embargoes were created, and fans with an appetite for the new were on tenterhooks… and then, three days before the official announcement, Rover’s own advertising in the London Evening Standard and Daily Mirror, revealed the new cars in their grainy monochrome glory. Oh dear.
The idea of freshening up these rapidly ageing cars was a sound one – and on the whole, the way they ended up looking was a step in the right direction. For the 75, the facelift was necessary, as it was still Longbridge’s star car, its prize possession, and although sales had been on the slide since the end of 2003, when the, it was still very much a force within its sector of the UK market.
The 2004 front-end styling was controversial, though. The majority of models received a fairly low-key restyle, which played down the Rover’s heritage by shrinking the grille, and upping the plastic content. It might have looked sleeker, but few 75 fans preferred it. However, the‘s more imposing full-depth affair – although initially harder to stomach – was judged to be more successful and fitting of the marque.
But this facelift was always meant to be a halfway house to the more thorough re-engineering job being done on the 75, which was due to bear fruit in 2006. The main thrust of the 2006 model was to see the replacement of BMW’s M47 turbodiesel in favour of Powertrain’s impressive, which had started out unpromisingly in testing, but which had emerged as a fitting common rail-fuelled replacement. There were to be many other improvements, too, but the external styling was to receive a much more thorough going over, as these images clearly show.
According to a couple of sources, this car was to also incorporate a 103mm stretch in the wheelbase to improve rear room as well as improve the already impressive chassis settings. New door pressings were being developed to meet this need, although according to Lee Mitchell, this was never in his design brief. What we do also know about this car is that a revised interior was being developed, and the dashboard had been previewed in the 2004 Rover 75 Coupe proposal. It was this car that became the basis of the Roewe 750.
The favoured proposal, and the one which was approved for production was what was known within the company as the ‘interim heavy 75 facelift for 2006’. Although it doesn’t look it in these renderings, Mitchell stated that the new car would have used new sheet metal from the A-pillar forward. He said: ‘It was scarily like the Jaguar XF, and this is going back six years ago before that car was even a sketch!’
Certainly, there’s a resemblance around the headlamps and in the grille shape that’s hard to ignore, and according to Lee, it was rendered to full-size in clay, and it looked a real step forward.
A more radical idea by Lee for this facelift (below) was sadly overlooked, but elements of this more muscular style would go into the early renderings for this car’s planned 2010 replacement…