Rover Special Products was one busy department during the early 1990s, and proof positive is this design sketch from Steve Harper.
As we know, Rover Special Products was a hot-house within the Rover Group, tasked with devising niche vehicles that could bring additional profit and glamour to the company’s model range – without huge financial investment. It was a fruitful little operation, too, with a number of highly successful (both commercial and dynamically) models, such as the Mini Cooper, MGF, MG R-V8, Rover 800 Vitesse Sport, and R8 derivatives, such as the Tomcat, Tex and Tracer…
But RSP had limited resources and personnel, and it was only with the help of outside design contractors such as MGA, ADC and DRA that these vehicles were able to come into production on time and budget. Despite an ageing non-Honda based core model range, that didn’t stop Rover attempting to eke more life out of the Metro, Maestro and Montego. In 1990, RSP contacted MGA to come up with some themes – it was looking to produce ‘lifestyle’ versions of the Maestro, Montego and 800. Given designer Steven Harper’s experience with the company when he worked there during the 1970s and ’80s, he was the perfect man to work on them.
Possibly the most intriguing of his design sketches was that based on the Montego, which would join the range alongside a Maestro-based SUV (that arguably in in a convoluted way became the Land Rover Freelander). With a raised ride height, roof-mounted storage and tailgate mounted spare, it had a whiff of soft-roader about it, even if that market really lay dormant (and had done so since the demise of the Matra Rancho). Given he was responsible for the design of the original LM11 estate almost a decade earlier, this was a refreshing revisiting of the only good-looking Montego derivative.
As it happens, this concept never ended up leaving the drawing board – but it shows just exactly where Stephen Harper was thinking back in 1990 – and how, several years later, he got the idea to fly at Volvo, with the XC70 (below)… seems Britain’s loss was Sweden’s gain.
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.