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 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.
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!