Blog : Living the dream

Steven Ward

Exactly a decade ago this week, I had the opportunity to live out a childhood dream; that is to buy a brand new car at an International motor show.  Naturally, the car came from our dear old MG-Rover Group and the show was Birmingham’s Motor Fair.

The location was of course in the NEC and fortunately MGR had made a triumphant return to the domestic motorshow scene having boycotted it previously following the acrimonious split with the dastardly BMW Group.

The stand that year was buzzing; the MG Zed range in Monogram, the V8 concepts in X10 and R40 flavours and the stunning and scarcely believable MG SV Supercar (yes, you can have 900bhp), the trendsetting but much mocked Streetwise and the underrated CityRover.

There was a little sandwich board advertising generous discounts on certain cars held in group stock which were built but unregistered.  I met my old chum ‘Sir’ Bob Carter, then Field Engineer for UK and Ireland.  He’d taken orders for 3 SVs that day such was the demand and excitement for the carbonfibre car.

We were taken upstairs above the stand and sat at a table where we were wined and dined.  We placed an order for a Rover 75 Tourer in a 1.8 manual Club SE format flavoured in Wedgewood Blue.  The V6 was too proliferate for the motor in-law and the surprisingly good Turbo’d version wasn’t yet available.  What about the diesel you say?  Wash your mouth out…

We were handed a bespoke Tourer brochure and told that our nearest dealer would be in touch.  Sure enough Stour Valley in Stourbridge contacted us and after a little bit on confusion (they had no idea of the deals being offered by Rover on the NEC stand) we got our Tourer, VK52 RYR.

We were given 22% discount and 2 or 3 years free servicing from memory, there may have been a finance deal on offer too, but didn’t need ‘chucky’.  While no Montego in terms of space or style, it was an exceptionally nice car both inside and out.  The delightful quality of the thing is what I remember most.

Those trading-up from a R8 ‘Tracer’ Tourer would have been impressed with the water-tightness of the tailgate and the sense of solidity. The only disappointing aspect of the car was the little K-series lack of verve and the inverse-tardis of the load-space, but they were more than fine for our requirements.

This being an early Tourer, the dreadful (but necessary) effects of Project Drive hadn’t been wrought.  The door mirrors were of the ‘Bullet’ style, the boot floor had the trick double-well stowage facility with gas struts holding the compartment lids up when opened. I think they illuminated too?  A spare wheel with a tool kit was also in there, remember those?

It served the family faultlessly for 5 years.  The car lost none of its stately style or quality in that time and it was always to treat to ride in.  It was a car which instilled a sense of pride and well-being to all those who came into contact with it.

For my In-Laws it represented a return to Longbridge.  Despite living in the shadow of the plant, they’d long since fell out with its products.  The last cars to grace the Wentworth Road driveway were a company Allegro (of the blue flashing light variety), a Marina and a TR7.  After that it was Japanese all the way, except for a Korean Marina (surprisingly well regarded).

Sadly the days when you could waltz up to your home gown car company and order an affordable and faintly exciting car are long since gone and I pity the children of today.  You cannot even place a small deposit down with Morgan any more, safe in the knowledge they’ll not come knocking for another 10 years.   Even Peter Wheeler (RIP) was always a good ‘spot’ looking after his stand long after the Press had left.  He once half-joking tried to cadge a lift to Le Mans from me!

For that reason, all those glitzy international motor shows I attend for AROnline will never live up to the days when CAR magazine had a stand and Reliant were promising a new sports car for pocket money.  Whatever happened to all those MG SV orders?  Well the spec of the car and the delivery dates changed so much most of the pre-launch orders were lost.  Never mind, eh?

Keith Adams


  1. I had a brand new 1.8 Classic SE tourer in dark blue in March 2002. I loved it. Really lovely car. 46,000 miles in 18 months. Still missed and much better quality materials than my current 2004 75 CDTi saloon. The tourer did break down once…in France…engine management got a headache. AE02 JWX, I hope you are still out there somewhere and doing ok!
    The new XF sportbrake is something I now hanker after, but I will have to wait a few years for the prices to drop!!

  2. Did the 1.8 T come out slightly later in the year than the Motor Show in 2002 as I thought that the smart money would have been on that engine choice?

    Not as brisk as the 2.5 V6 but faster than the 2.0 six & more economical than both.

    However I don’t think the head gasket woes had finally been sorted by 2002 so perhaps forced induction would have been a bit too much.

  3. “The stand that year was buzzing; the MG Zed range in Monogram, the V8 concepts in X10 and R40 flavours and the stunning and scarcely believable MG SV Supercar (yes, you can have 900bhp), the trendsetting but much mocked Streetwise and the underrated CityRover.”

    I hate to be pedantic but in 2002 the V8 powered MG ZT and ZT-T had not been formally announced (this honour came in September 2003), the Streetwise had not been conceived yet and the CityRover was formally unveiled in July 2003. These particular cars were actually on display at the 2004 British Motor Show.

    From memory, the 1.8T engine’s announcement came about a month before the 2002 Motor Show.

  4. I bought 2 new Tourers, both CDTi’s: A ZT-T and 75 Contemporary SE auto.

    The ZT-T looked the business but the clutch finally did for my left ankle, hence the auto. Why the 75? The Contemporary SE trim seemed to combine the best of 75 and ZT. The seats were heasted leather ZT items and almost set on fire once! The car’s now done 100,000 miles with a mate, so still going strong.

  5. Yes Stephen… those were the “Halcyon Days”. Your R75 Tourer sounded nice and it must have felt good getting it brand new. I had a ZS 1.8 which I presume was the same 117ps output as your car. Pretty good performer in the ZS but I suspect less so in the bigger Rover.

    Having said that, it isnt compulsory to drive with one’s foot to the floor all the time! A smooth comfortable ride would make up for outright performance.

  6. “While no Montego in terms of space or style, it was an exceptionally nice car both inside and out. The delightful quality of the thing is what I remember.”

    A very true analogy bonny lad… give me a Henley blue Montego 1.6 Clubman Estate over a 75 Contemporary SE Tourer anyday.

    (rubs eyes and reaches for pot of pills)

  7. Well this is exactly it Mike. While at the Paris Salon I was chatting to a team of Jaguar engineers and they claimed the benchmark for the XF estate was the Montego. Furthermore, they are hoping for a Design Council London award for it. Sadly, I think they’ve missed their target by a long way.

  8. The first 75 I sat in was a Tourer – it was a fairly grubby used example but I couldn’t believe the comfort and set about finding my own 75.

    As a matter of interest, when did the effects of Project Drive first ‘kick in’? – I’m comparing my 75 with the slightly older ZR which I now own instead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.