Events : Preview – Rover 200 (R8) Birthday Celebration at Gaydon

Mike Humble

The Rover (R8) 200 right from launch proved to be a massive hit for the company.
The Rover (R8) 200 series is 25 years young in 2014 – celebrate its birthday at the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon next month!

To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the launch of the Rover R8, the Rover 200 & 400 Owners Club, in conjunction with the Heritage Motor Centre’s Events Team, have organised an event that will allow current owners to display their vehicles and enable Austin Rover, Rover Group and Honda employees to share their memories of an extraordinary project.

The event is to be held on 21 September 2014 at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon, Warwickshire as part of the venue’s Autumn Classic Day and is expected to host a large collection of R8s. The cars will be arranged in ‘year-of-build’ order to demonstrate the evolution of the range over time. A special, sectioned 5-door Motor Show vehicle will be on display as will some of the race cars. There will be a Concourse d’Elegance covering both standard and modified cars. Judges will use both their sense of perspective and sense of humour when judging the entrants.

The Rover 200 was launched to the world on 11 October 1989. It doesn’t seem as if this could now be 25 years ago. The car, codenamed R8 by Rover and YY (and later EJ) by Honda, proved to be a very significant vehicle in terms of Rover Group’s quality image and profitability. Over the next 9 years, it provided the sales backbone of the business – selling over 1.3 million vehicles and spawning 6 Rover- and 2 Honda- derivatives, long before VW ‘re- invented’ Platform Engineering. The vehicles were the result of the closest cooperation between Austin Rover Group and Honda Motors, with Austin Rover Engineers working with Honda Engineers in Japan to design the vehicle and then returning to the UK to put the project into volume production.

The multi award winning K series (part of a £250 million investment at Longbridge, was showcased in the R8.
The multi award winning K series – part of a £250 million investment at Longbridge, was showcased in the R8.

The 5-door 200 was first to market and was immediately recognised as a ‘cut above’ the competition, in terms of driving experience and quality. The Rover 214 won ‘What Car?” 1990 Car of the Year award. Both quality and standard equipment were high and a long list of options, many of them usually associated with luxury cars such as ABS and air conditioning, was available. The 4-door 400 followed soon afterwards with similar Honda Concerto models being sold in Europe.

Rover continued separate developments, quickly launching a 3-door and adding diesel engines to the range. Both Cabriolet and Coupe derivatives were launched in 1992 and as part of the launch preparations, a dedicated group of Rover employees prepared two special 220 Turbo Coupes which broke 37 UK Land Speed Records at the Millbrook test centre in September 1992 – the majority of these records still stand, including the 24 hour average speed record of 138.43mph. Both the 3-door and Coupe models had their own Rover Sport race-series that ran for several years. The final derivative launch was the svelte Tourer, a 5-door estate.

All vehicles were produced at Rover’s Longbridge plant in Birmingham before the hatchbacks and saloons were replaced by the slightly smaller ‘R3’ Rover 200 and the slightly larger ‘HHR’ Rover 400 in 1994/5. The Cabriolets, Coupes and Tourers received an update to the new ‘R3’ facia and power units and an interior and exterior colour and trim refresh in 1995. They continued in production until 1998.

The R8 platform was exceptional engineering value. A range of stylish hatchbacks, saloons, estates and Coupe's were born from one exceptionally well developed Honda-Rover partnership.
The R8 platform was exceptional engineering value. A range of stylish hatchbacks, saloons, estates, Coupe’s and even a pretty cabriolet were born from what many regard as being the pinnacle of the Austin Rover / Honda partnership.

But you don’t have to be an R8 owner to attend, the Heritage Centre and museum at Gaydon is a terrific day out for any fan of British motoring. A mouthwatering collection of exhibits and prototypes are on public display with plenty to do and see. Its a great day out and very much family orientated with kids and grown ups equally catered for – there’s even a cinema and automotive themed shop for that all important on the day souvenir.

Get up where you belong to the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon on 21 September – we’ll see you there!

Mike Humble


  1. Sounds like a great event in store. The R8 looked good then and still does now (always had a classier image than Escorts & Astra’s). I always thought the Tourer was a useful addition to the range – didn’t realise it stayed in production until 1998.

    Like Mike says… those 25 years have passed so quickly!

  2. Just watched it again, maybe the name on the loco gave him the idea of where to abduct her to,as he’s heading in that direction!!!

  3. Thousands of R8s are still running now, which is a tribute to the quality of the car. This was the first of the privately run Rover Group’s new cars and was so popular there was a waiting list for it.

  4. had my jreg 3dr 216 gti 7yrs now on 125k.its still spot on.shame rover and honda are not still one.prob the best car we they made.

  5. it has been said the R8 was the best car rover made in build quality terms, the under seal was a half inch thick in places, i think the P5 build quality was probably better tho??? i dont know as i have an SD1 so very different era…

  6. At launch the R8 was a really high quality car, but one which fell prey to accountants meddling- being cheapened with every update.
    The early ‘collar-shift’ (reverse engagement) cars were fantastic.

  7. Far and away the best car ever to roll out of Longbridge, not just technically or in terms of build quality – but packaged, marketed and targeted properly. Why Rover threw this Golden Goose away after only 5 years for the flawed R3 and HHR is anybody’s guess. Perhaps they pined for the old days of distressed selling cars that nobody understood or wanted.

  8. Paul, comment 8, well said.

    They were great cars and it makes me sad and nostalgic to see the launch material and TV advert.

    Rover really looked strong at this point and Longbridge was turning out a real quality product at last.

    The 1400 K series in this application was rightly argued to be a better engine than the 1600 Honda version. It was more advanced, lighter, stiffer, smoother, more frugal offered better performance in terms of low range and mid range torque. It was also solid and reliable.

    As we know, they then “re-engineered” it into larger capacities and at the same time, altered some production processes; back to normal BL practice now, make a complete arse of it and created the shockingly fragile HGF plagued engine the entire world now sees as the Rover K series.

    Very, very sad.

  9. The Gaydon website shows a Wedgefest (TR7’s) that day. Let’s see who gets the bigger turnout.
    Does one have to buy a special ticket – or alternatively, get a discount on the regular price?

    • Ken, It’s free to enter the site for these events – you only pay an entry fee for the museum if you want to go in. And that’s reduced to a fiver if you come in a classis car apparently – not too sure how they check though….

  10. Just got back from Istanbul – saw a Red R8 in fairly nice condition at some traffic lights next to the Galata bridge. It had a Turkish license plate starting 34 like most vehicles in Istanbul.

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