What started as a ‘what could we do?’ musing turned into a unique event on Sunday, 28 August when 30 Rover 200 Coupés arrived at the UTAC Millbrook Proving Ground, Bedfordshire for a celebration of a 30-year-old record-breaking run by a team from Rover Group.
The musing, on the Austin Rover/Rover Group alumni’s LinkedIn page, got very exciting when an ex-Rover employee now working at UTAC asked ‘Would you like to come back?’
Of course, we would!
To recap, in 1992, a team of volunteers from Rover Group, including drivers, engineers and logistics experts, took two near-standard, ex-prototype cars to Millbrook and broke 37 UK Land Speed Records, 36 of which still stand today.
The first attempt had to be aborted due to driveshaft problems, but the team returned a month later and ran through a foggy night to break all the records they were aiming at. These included 156.00mph for the flying 5km distance and 138.43mph for the 24 hours, from a standing start. They covered 3,322 miles in that time, which was further than the winning Le Mans car that year.
30 years later, what better way to celebrate the anniversary would there be but to return to the site where the records were broken with the road cars that the record-breaking publicity promoted?
The two clubs that look after the Rover 200 Coupé, the Rover 200 & 400 Owners Club and the Rover Coupé Owners Club, got together with UTAC Millbrook and some of the original Tomcat Affair organisers and came up with the plan to celebrate the cars, the owners, the original team and the records broken. Contact was made with the owner of the original yellow car who was excited to be able to stretch the car’s legs again. Unfortunately, the red car was sold to one of the Tomcat Affair’s sponsors after the event and subsequently disappeared.
The plan came to fruition with owners arriving at Millbrook on a bright Sunday morning hoping for something rather special. There was a great mix of road cars present, from a K-reg launch car all the way through to late registered S-reg and T-reg cars.
There was a predominance of Turbos, but all engines from D-Series to K-Series were present and in a great array of colours too. After the original car, one of the cars to attract most attention was a Turkish-registered Turbo car-and-trailer-combo that the owner, Mert Özgün (below), had driven to the UK in April for the annual Pride of Longbridge event and had been persuaded to leave here, then fly home and return for this event.
The event was also attended by a dozen ex-Rover Group staff, members of the ‘Tomcat Affair’ team in 1992, who were able to take passenger rides in the road cars and talk about what had happened 30 years ago with the owners.
A proper reunion
After a talk from Steve Carter, ex-Rover Chief Engineer, covering the original event and then a briefing from Peter Stoker, UTAC Chief Engineer on the ‘dos and don’ts’ of driving on a proving ground, we were on our way into the high security track. The original car, owned for the last 20 years by Peter Collins and recommissioned for the event, led us onto the 2-mile high-speed bowl.
We were able to circulate the bowl at UK motorway speeds for several laps and then arrange ourselves in staggered lines across all 5 lanes for photographs from trackside and from the bridge. As the speed slowed, we were able to look around and the view of Coupés in front, behind, left and right was amazing!
We were then taken to the Hill Route for 2 laps of this famous track. This is where Bond rolled his Aston Martin in Casino Royale and, more recently, the Haribo cops stopped for their chat, but we were too busy enjoying the drive to spot exactly where they were filmed. There were points on the route where you couldn’t see any part of the road without a Coupé on it.
All too quickly it was over and we returned to the car park. The resulting conversation was on another level with everyone buzzing about what they’d just been able to do.
The question on everyone’s lips was ‘When can we do that again?’ Let’s see…
- The Rover 200 & 400 and the Rover Coupé Owners Clubs would like to thank all the staff at UTAC Millbrook for making this fantastic day possible and also Turkish company Etisan for sponsoring the event. As a result of ticket and T-shirt sales, the clubs will shortly be making a donation to BEN, the charity for employees in the automotive industry.
- Opinion : RD1 early Design photos come to light - 27 October 2023
- Events : The Tomcat Affair reunion proves to be a great success - 1 September 2022
- I was there : Working for Rover’s Medium Cars Division - 27 August 2022