Blogs : November 2004

29 Nov 2004

Jack Daniels, RIP

WE have lost another important figure in BL’s history. After a two-year battle against cancer, Jack Daniels passed away on Saturday evening. We remember him as the engineering genius, who managed to translate Sir Alec Issigonis’ blue sky sketches into mechanical reality.

Without him, it is likely the Minor, Mini, 1100, 1800 and Maxi would not have ended up being the engineering masterpieces that they were. As he said on more than one occasion, “I am the man who’s the 90 per cent perspiration behind Alec Issigonis’ 10 per cent inspiration”. From what we know, this is a most perceptive summary of this clever man’s engineering skills. Issigonis once said: “He is the best draughtsman in the country”…

Tonight, our thoughts are with Jack’s family.

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28 Nov 2004

Going, going… gone?

(Picture: courtesy AutoExpress)

CLASSIC car ownership isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… Well, that’s my slant on things anyway. I’m one of the old school, who firmly believes that a car should be used, and not simply become a garage ornament.

And with my Rover SD1, that is most certainly the case, given how well it drives, and how you can jump in this car and use it on a day-to-day basis. Sadly, due to my busy life, I am simply not in a position to use the SD1 as it should be – and with a heavy heart, have concluded that it simply has to go. Chatting to my friend Chris Smith (he of Gilbern fame), we came to the conclusion that our love of cars sometimes has us making the most irrational purposes – and one such thing has to be the classic car.

And he should know – as he’s just sold a Lancia Stratos and a Maserati, which in his words, had become – garage ornaments.

I thought about that for a moment, and I have to say that I fall into that same category – I mean, who else would by a Talbot Tagora for goodness sake? In the case of my SD1, it most certainly hasn’t been a waste of time – as I had always wanted one of these Series one cars from the first time I clapped eyes on one, back in 1976. And the promise of those pure and uncorrupted lines has been realised in the driving.

The old girl has to go, and I’d prefer
to see it go to a good home…

It steers, corners and handles beautifully, and it sounds a million pounds, thanks to that rumbly, charismatic V8 engine. It’s also eminently practical. No name dropping here, but TOP GEAR’s very own Richard Hammond said after driving my car: “You really could use this every day.”

So, if I love it so much, why have I decided to sell it? Quite simply because it’s become a garage ornament, and owning such a thing goes against my own beliefs on what one should get out of classic ownership. In a nutshell, it doesn’t get used in my household, and I would like to pass it on to one that will.

If you fancy owning a remarkably original 1978 SD1, (68,000 miles on the clock, 10 months MoT, lots of new mechanical bits and pieces, etc., etc…) which has been driven by its designer, Spen King (as some speed, I might add), tested in TOP GEAR (and driven by James May and Richard Hammond, and leaned on by Jeremy Clarkson), as well as featuring in the pages of AutoExpress (driven by Craig Cheetham around the Rockingham oval) and Classic Car Weekly, then drop me a line.

The old girl has to go, and the first person to offer me £2000 in crisp, clean banknotes, can take it home and start a new love affair…

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26 Nov 2004

Rumours, rumours…


(Note: These are merely the opinions gathered by our blogger, rather than hard, solid fact… it is, however a good summation of everything that’s doing the rounds on all the various user forums out there – ED)

THIS is my first blog, so I want to make it a good one. On this website and other forums there’s a lot of speculation as to the future model line up of MG Rovers’ – some is well informed but most is pure speculation. So I figured it would be a good idea to lay down a comprehensive list, pooling all the information I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reading (I couldn’t afford to bring a TV to university!).

1) In 18 months time the RD60 will come out, this will be larger than the 45 and be based on the 75 platform.

2) A development of the RD60 platform will be a rear wheel drive modern-day MG B and will come out within a year of the RD60; it may have a folding roof like the SLK. There will also be an Austin-Healey convertible based on the same platform but this will be ‘something special”!

3) 9 months after the RD60 a new small car will be launched, despite what many people have speculated it will not be based on the RD60 platform (this is imposable as it’s based on the 75 is too big!). It will be designed and developed by Pininfarina using their double-face concept (Rover nearly bought the car Pininfarina was developing with Matra back in 2001 but they couldn’t agree on the production numbers). Variants of this car replace the lower end of the 45’s market section, the 25, the Streetwise and a version will replace the MG TF.

4) A year after this the replacement for the 75 will come out, this will be developed from the RD60 although will be a much larger rear wheel drive car (why do you think they spent so much money developing the RWD 75 V8?) and will probably come in two distinct sizes covering the BMW 5 and 7 series sections of the markets.

5) All these cars will be built at Longbridge with the possible exception of the Pininfarina small cars which, depending on how things turn out maybe built at the old FSO plant in Poland. The lower labor cost in Poland will mean these smaller cars will be priced very competitively. The other reason why MG Rover DO need the FSO plant is that currently have to buy all their body panels from BMW (who kept control of Rover’s pressing facilities) but the FSO plant has its own pressing factory.

These five points are ones which I am reasonably sure about and they all seem to get mentioned regularly in a number of sources, the next couple of points I am not so sure about. And would really appreciate some feed back.

1) The deal to replace the CityRover with a joint Rover/TATA is still on (MG Rover being able to develop their own cars was a key point in the SAIC deal). The car will ether be slotted in a class smaller that the Pininfarina cars, like the currant relationship between the Cityrover and the 25. Or it will be branded Austin or Morris and be soled as a value car like Kia or Dacia .

2) The restriction on Rovers not being able to make 4×4 ended this summer (according to some sources), and Rover already has two, four wheel drive ‘crossover” vehicles ready to be signed of based on the 75 and 45 platforms (possibly using hybrid power, remember the MG TF 200HPD?)

3) Rover has already started developing ‘Roverised” versions of the SsangYong Rexton, which will be built in Korea alongside the current Rexton, and they will also do the same to the new baby 4×4, SsangYong are developing.

4) MG Rover still want to make a Porsche beating car like the original X80 concept, however due to spiralling costs they had to settle for the SV (which seems a bit harsh seeing as it is with out doubt a stunning car!) and will eventually develop the SV into a much more ‘complete car”.

Well that’s all I know, although I’m sure by tomorrow there will be a new piece of news which will throw all of this out the window. But as you can see within four years MG Rover will not only of replaced all their existing cars but entered a large number of new car sectors! And hopefully be able to give me a job when I finish University!


This blog may contain some speculation and the author may have added one plus one and made three, but overall it does have a ring of truth. The use of the RD/X60 platform as a starting point for future development across the range makes a great deal of sense. Let’s just hope the platform is good enough, as the Rover 75 — albeit well sorted — is a product of the mid-nineties.

Well done Phoenix and good luck MGR!


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25 Nov 2004

Chinese Takeaway


IT will be interesting to see what happens now. MG Rover have the design and development talent to produce a top quality range of motorcars, and SAIC have the money to make it all possible. On the face of it, a dream team. Can they really build a rival organisation to the VWs and Renaults of this world? The history of mergers/takeovers amongst British car manufacturers is not a happy one. I’m not trying to sow seeds of doubt — just being realistic.

The Rootes Group
Perhaps the closest comparison, with a failing UK manufacturer being propped up and financially supported by a much larger organisation (Chrysler) trying to make inroads into the European car market. It went pear shaped during the 1970s and only now, 30 years later, are Chrysler successfully back into Europe with Daimler-Benz as their saviour.

Standard Triumph
Almost a reverse takeover, as Triumph backed into Standard and became the dominant partner during the 1960s. Standard soon vanished without trace.

Okay, so the Germans are now in charge and Bentley is on the way back courtesy of VW. But for the last 50 years, Bentley cars (with the exception of some beautiful coach built variants and the Continental) were just badge engineered Rolls-Royces.

There is no reason on earth why Lotus could not have become the British Ferrari. Engineering excellence, innovative design, a wonderful driving experience and a loyal customer base — it’s just that they have been passed from pillar to post for 30 years and have never really got started. Bags of promise, but little to show for it. Come on Proton.

Enough said.

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24 Nov 2004

Mad marque mixup..?

NOW that SAIC has made its global ambitions clear, it has started down the path of global acquisitions. Recently it picked up a 49 per cent stake in Korea’s SsangYong – the company responsible for the hideous Musso – so, before long (assuming the deal gets inked), MGR and SsangYong will be bed fellows with SAIC…

Rumours are already circulating, stating that MG Rover has several of the company’s new SUV, the Rexton, on evaluation with a view to Anglicizing it and selling it here in the UK as one of its own products. A similar deal to the CityRover/TATA Indica deal.

Obviously, if the company was to market it, the Rover name cannot be attached to it, so people supposedly in the know are hinting the new MGR SUV could, in fact, be marketed as an MG.

In response to this assertation, we say that if MG Rover wishes to trash MG’s image, and fly in the face of the marque’s impeccable 80-year heritage, then go ahead, but otherwise:


I think in the long run, your MG customers will think you very, very much…


I believe that this current downhill trend began way back when the Rover Metro was launched, and hoped that the CityRover would be the nadir. Sadly, it would appear that worse is still possible. Given the uncertainty surrounding the exact deal with SAIC, the rumour mill is going to be busy. I just hope that the SAIC deal turns out the right way, and Rover doesn’t become to SsangYong, what Chevrolet is to Daewoo.

MGR has to decide what it’s future range will look like, and more importantly identify their customers. The last few years have been challenging, but it is becoming clear that there is no game plan beyond sticking V8s into 75s, endless revamps of tired models, and the worst possible form of badge engineering. Isn’t ironic after years of sending BL offcasts to India, that MGR are now importing Indian cars to badge as Rovers.

An MG Rexton will be bad enough, but probably no worse than an MG farina, or Montego. But a Rover Rexton or Chairman is a completely different entity, and will mark beginning of the end of the marque.


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23 Nov 2004

MGR/SAIC Musings

IT is fair to say the SAIC/MG Rover story hit the press a little sooner than anticipated, thanks to some over-imaginative reporting over at The Independent, but here it is: MG Rover is once again airing its smalls in public. But this time, things are different – John Towers is actually out and about and fielding questions from a hostile media – he’s made apprearances on Central News, Sky, ITN and BBC – and each time he has said what amounts to the same thing: MG Rover and SAIC are forming a joint venture company (as yet unnamed), which the Chinese will have the majority control of, and between them, the new company will produce jointly designed cars in China and Britain.

Fundamentally it’s a great plan, and although MG Rover will not confirm the £1bn investment by the Chinese, it is not dismissing the figure either. Certainly some money has already head in our direction, but how much, we do not know for sure – it’s probably a down payment, similar to that received from Brilliance China for the preliminary work carried out at Longbridge.

One thing that is slightly worrying,
though, and that is SAIC’s version
of current events is somewhat
different to MGR’s.

But what does SAIC get for its £1bn investment? MG Rover states that it gets access to state of the art design and research facilities, and Longbridge’s expertise at new car development. This is what John Towers said loud and clear this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (after answering the same tired old questions about pensions, and correcting interviewer Caroline Quinn over her assertion that SAIC is taking over MGR) – MG Rover would give the Chinese the chance to develop cars, which would be competitive in export markets.

But hang on one second – we know that MG Rover can develop other people’s cars to the point of absolute perfection (the MG ZS180 – a case of turning a pig’s ear into a silk purse if ever there was one), but when did it build and design an entirely new volume car from scratch? Off the top of my head, that would be the Maestro/Montego – and that took place in the late Seventies. Every car since has either been co-developed with Honda or MGR has had outside help. The Rover 75 is a case in point – it is a great car in an engineering sense, but as we all know, that thoroughness is down in no small part to BMW. How much help the Germans gave is open to debate – some would say purely financial, others would say it goes much deeper than that. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

So when the British start designing new cars for the joint venture company, it will be taking the technical lead – and this is new ground for MG Rover, I suspect. I hope it works out…

One thing that is slightly worrying, though, and that is SAIC’s version of current events is somewhat different to MGR’s.

“We don’t have any timetable at the moment,” said, Xue Hao, a spokesman at state-owned Shanghai Auto, and he added: “The information provided by Rover might be their own opinion.”

Let’s hope MGR’s PR isn’t getting ahead of itself – the last thing we want is the spectre of another Brilliance China style pull-out. Mind you, John Towers himself said this morning: “We wouldn’t be talking about this deal if it wasn’t going ahead”…


Great Deal – Terrible Deal

Great Deal – A large cash injection, MGR engineering complete range of cars, 30% of the new Joint Venture in a high growth market, a future beyond 2005…

Terrible Deal – If what has been reported is true, MGR has signed away the rights to all Powertrain products, all current the MG & Rover product range, and presumably all research and engineering of new products. Prior to the final agreement with SAIC, I must add. It has already sold the factory it operates from, the redundant land, the parts business… in fact, the MG Rover corporate cupboard is bare.

All they ‘own’ is 30% of a business based in China, a company majority-owned by the Communist government, in a state-managed country notorious for violating all known business ethics (Intellectual property rights, copyright laws). The cash is not popped in MGR’s bank account for it to do with as it wishes, but into the JV company. And the JV is majority owned by SAIC, which controls the board and the direction of the company.

MG Rover may not have been taken over, but only because it has nothing left to sell. This JV deal is looking like a fabulously creative way of not paying back BMW on the ‘if-you’re-sold-we-get-our-£550m-back’ clause. Maybe I am in cynic mode, but something is not right. It’s all too convenient: MG Rover concept cars one day, JT out on the PR offensive the next. Fishy.

MG Rover in a its prior incarnations has managed to tenaciously survive, but always at a detriment to its size, market share and its next generation of products. I am sure MG Rover can survive but I hope it ends up being more than just a factory assembling Chinese products for the UK market in the way that the Rootes Group survived through bolting together French designed and engineered products.

Sum up: 30% happy 70% sad.

“OldChap”, forums

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22 Nov 2004

How much licence for Rover?


So the Metro finally expired in 1997, BMW stole the Mini and the Triumph name, Rover’s brand values have shrunk to nothing, Ford bought Land Rover, Jaguar went many years ago…

How will the £1 billion be spent and can Rover’s brand values he recovered? Obviously the most pressing need is to replace the 45 and 25 with the (already partially developed) RD/X60. But beyond that, could MGR resurrect and update their BMW rejected proposal for a new small car (CityRover/Rover 15) and pursuade the Chinese to fund it? Could they spirit Dr Alex Moulton away from Toyota and design a new fluid suspension, a kind of 2006 Hydragas? Or have they painted themselves into a corner with the current, Indian sourced CityRover. I wonder how TATA view their collaboration with the Chinese.

MGR will need something a little different. If all they produce ends up being a ‘me too’ version of the Focus or Astra, I suspect buyers will stay away in droves, still preferring the Ford or Vauxhall option. On the other hand, if they are seen to be too radical, buyers might still not trust them. Those decimated brand values again. A middle course — not too radical and not too conservative, yet retaining some points of difference with the competition — would seem to be a sensible option.

There is an uphill struggle ahead:

CityRover: Needs an immediate overhaul to improve quality
Rover 45: New model needed as soon as possible
Rover 25: New model needed as soon as possible
Rover 75: No more than two years left in this model’s life
MG TF: 10 years old next year

And when you look at the competition, the bar is set rather high. 40 years ago, BMC were operating against mediocre opposition. Now, the products coming out of France, Germany and Japan look frighteningly good.

It’s a big ask, that’s for sure. Fingers crossed, let’s hope they make it this time. Talk about the last chance saloon…

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21 Nov 2004

Chinese Whispers


So the shocking news is out at long last, the Chinese are snapping up the last vestige of the British volume car industry. The only battle that now remains is to is keep the doomsayers from insufferable smugness, drunk with their glasses half empty. But this is more than a lifeline to MG Rover; this raises them up and catapults them to the frontline of the industry.

Firstly let’s look at what this partnership comprises. The facile view is that MG Rover is the dog that had its day, SAIC is the brash new predator ready to devour all it desires. In reality this deal is the best of all possible worlds. The two need each other, quite desperately. SAIC may well make over four times as many cars as MG Rover and be the largest producer in China, but their models are licensed from either VW or GM. They make handsome profits in the process, granted, but if they are to achieve their ambition of being the sixth largest producer in the world they need their own designs.

Currently they have about 400 engineers, barely enough in this industry to deal with mid-life updates. MG Rover, on the other hand, have risible levels of production but can design world class products with remarkable efficiency. And most important of all, they are independent. SAIC could of course buy designs from, say, Volvo, but how would Ford react to that? Or GM to a deal with Subaru? All the other world class manufacturers are either part of a larger group or are planning to enter China themselves. Mitsubishi would be another excellent candidate in the short term, but once they have climbed out of their current quagmire they will want to be competing head on with SAIC. Only MG Rover has the design capability, the freedom to do a deal and output capacity low enough to neutralise them as a future threat.

With MG Rover and SAIC dovetailing so neatly the wonder is that the Chinese should feel any need to own the British company at all, they could just have them as engineering partners. Moreover, one would think that for a billion pounds they would be buying a lot more than a mere 70 per cent of MG Rover. We cannot even attribute this to the value of the new products since they are little more than proposals at this stage.

Make no mistake, MG Rover is more
than saved, it is leapfrogging to
the head of the pack.

Much more likely is that the two companies are pooling their resources in a separate joint venture company, where MG Rover put in the know-how and SAIC the cash. It costs about a billion to do a complete new car these days and this would explain the rumoured Chinese investment. It also explains the near third share MG Rover will retain, courtesy of their technical input. It is hardly likely that SAIC will want to take responsibility for Longbridge at this stage.

We can speculate that the plan will go forward in the following way. The Chinese will do most of the funding, though not all, and get MG Rover to sign over leading edge designs in a very short time frame. These cars are likely to be saloons, but MG Rover will do variants of their own such as hatchbacks and for the price of adapting an existing design rather than a new vehicle from the ground up.

The full line-up is said to be three models plus a sports car, which is MG Rover’s current range. Of course SAIC now own Ssangyong so that may change things; it might allow MG Rover to get round its contractual restrictions and re-enter the 4WD business. First, though, will be the 45 replacement in 2006 that we have waited so long for. Interestingly, there is a claim of a supermini a mere nine months later and one can only wonder where that will come from. The fact that Longbridge will continue with output of 200,000 or so suggests the Chinese are happy for it to continue as an independent concern serving the local regional market, perhaps in partnership with a factory in Poland.

This is not the first time we have seen this kind of deal. Rootes Group was bankrolled for years by the highly lucrative Hillman Hunter/Paykan assembly contract in Iran, and that too was a remarkably stable and long-term complementary relationship between two independent companies. However, the MG Rover/SAIC deal is several degrees of magnitude greater. MG Rover in the UK will continue to cruise along, rarely troubling the top ten sales lists but apparently defying gravity with a range of decent cars made at surprisingly low volumes.

Over in China there will be Rovers everywhere, production pushing a million or so within a decade, over three million by 2020. BMW, by the way, are struggling to have production capacity in China up to 50,000 a year in two years time. Such are the merits of that deal with Brilliance China. Make no mistake, MG Rover is more than saved, they are leapfrogging to the head of the pack.


I feel as though a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Good luck to them all, and at this point I couldn’t care less if the collective pension fund of the Phoenix Four is more money than I will ever be able to shake a stick at. What a marvellous opportunity to leapfrog the queue. I am just hoping and praying — please don’t mess it up this time guys.


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20 Nov 2004

Oh, the other concept car!

ASHAMED as I am to admit it, we’re a little underwhelmed by the MG GT Concept here at It’s not as if we don’t think it’ll go into production (because its chances are probably higher than those of the 75 Coupé), and the thought of a 200PS KV6 engine in that light, mid-engined chassis is rather exciting. No, the reason we’re underwhelmed is that we have to wonder what chances it has on the marketplace when it looks so similar to the MG TF, a car that has been around for quite some time now.

As we all know, customers want new cars, and because this car has close visual links with a car that has been around since 2001, there could be a lack of buyer excitement. Which, as we say, is a shame, because no doubt, it would be a scorching car to drive.

The MG GT Concept has been around for
a little while, actually, and was on
display at Matra when the Pininfarina
was presenting its case to MG Rover
following its takeover of
the French company.

The MG GT Concept has been around for a little while, actually, and was on display at Matra when the Pininfarina was presenting its case to MG Rover following its takeover of the French company. And there must be a few people inside Longbridge wondering whether the GT would follow the Lotus Exige (a useful seller) or BMW Z Coupe (not a massive success) precedent if and when it hits the market. Revealing it for the 80th birthday celebration means they must be hoping the former…

The KV6 installation is an interesting development, and one that calls on the heritage of the original MGF. Why is this? Because its existence has come about thanks to the specialist car scene – which is something that MGR has been keeping a close eye on.

So, out of the two concepts, this one is more likely to make production – and even then, probably without the KV6 powerpack – which is a shame. So, why can’t we get more excited about it? I guess that’s a matter of style…

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19 Nov 2004

Another PR Blunder…

AUTOEXPRESS and AUTOCAR are the UK’s most important weekly car magazines (apart from Classic Car Weekly, of course), commanding between them a circulation of around 200,000 copies per week. Both have given MG Rover varying levels of editorial support in the last couple of years, but one thing that I am sure of – both publications have writers working for them who desperately want to see the company succeed.

Out of the two, it has to be said that AutoExpress has been the more supportive, offering front page coverage of the 45 and 75 facelifts (where Autocar tended to bury the events somewhere at the base of page three or four). In return, it has enjoyed a good working relationship with MGR; one which saw AutoExpress often getting exclusive first drives of some of the new models. One thing is for sure, there is a lot of goodwill for MG Rover at AutoExpress, and it seemed to be a two way street.

Autocar has been a little more sporadic in its support – once or twice, the magazine’s obvious frustration at the lack of progress at Longbridge has manifested itself on its pages, and although this honesty should be applauded, once or twice, savage (and not always justified) attacks were launched at Longbridge from Teddington.

So you have to say that AutoExpress was MG Rover’s friend.

So the Wednesday news stands had two
weekly car magazines, but only one of
them contained details of MG Rover’s
new cars. In other words, 100,000
readers had been frozen out, and a
massive amount of publicity
was squandered.

Which is why I’m baffled at this week’s coverage of the concept launches. Take a look at this week’s covers, and you’ll see what I mean. Autocar is plastered with MG Rover, whereas the only Rover badged cars on the cover of AutoExpress are those that took place in the Legends feature.

Understandably, this is a great scoop for Autocar, and the magazine’s award ceremony was an inspired choice of venue to reveal the concept cars (many industry big-wigs were there). But news of the launch only began to slip out on Monday afternoon – after AutoExpress had gone to press. In other words, MG Rover had chosen to launch its new concepts without letting its best friend (in magazine terms) into the loop.

So the Wednesday news stands had two weekly car magazines, but only one of them contained details of MG Rover’s new cars. In other words, 100,000 readers had been frozen out, and a massive amount of publicity was squandered. I imagine that a lot of goodwill has probably been lost, as well. It will be interesting to see how much coverage the 75 Coupé and MG GT Concept make it into next week’s AutoExpress – certainly there will be no front page, something that would have been guaranteed had MG Rover sent the pictures into AutoExpress. A bit of a home goal, if you ask me.

Is this a sign that Daniel Ward is moving things in a different direction?

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18 Nov 2004

Coupé déjà vu


Rover pulls a Rabbit from the hat and announces the Rover 75 Coupé, something that thought would never happen – and then suddenly there it is, in the steel! This totally exciting and unexpected news is somewhat different to the launch of the Rover 800 Coupé in 1992. It was well reported that Rover were working on a big Coupé version of the 800 in the early 90’s with Rover going so far as to show a Richard Woolley penned sketch of the forthcoming car in a 1991 press release.

The gestation of the 75 Coupé, though, is very similar to the 800. As the 75 is now approaching its sixth birthday, the 800 range was six years old when the Coupé was announced, the difference being that the 800 Coupé was (to quote AUTOCAR) a four week lash up, whilst the 75 Coupé was slapped together in six weeks. So Rover boldly treads a well-worn path, launching new versions of cars that, in modern-day automotive terms, should be being replaced.

But, there’s no denying the 75 Coupé is a very good looking car and we can only keep our fingers crossed that Rover goes ahead with production. Only this time, they need to get the marketing right by offering the 75 Coupé in various trim and engine sizes for people with different budgets and not making the tragic decision of a £30,000, one size fits all, take it or leave it of the original 1992 Rover 800 Coupé.

And please, no MG ZT Coupé version, eh.


From what MG Rover has said, the liklihood of this car making it into the showrooms is pretty slim, as much as it pains me to say. It’s a gorgeous looking car, and although it could be argued that MG Rover has little to gain from its introduction, it would have even less to lose – Rover’s image is on the floor right now, and a flagship like this could well cast a halo over the rest of the range…

Agreed with Kevin on the MG ZT-C idea… I mean, if MGR was going to badge-engineer everything, where’s Rover’s wood and leather lined version of the SV?


I couldn’t agree more — an MG version would be a tragic mistake. I am sure that MGR has no intention of producing a ‘Zed’ CityRover (heaven forbid), so please keep this car as a 75, not a ZTC. And make sure it gets into production — double quick. It’s time we had a new Rover to remind everyone what the brand is supposed to represent. A kind of sub £30,000 Bentley.


First of all, it has to be recognised that the concept is great and the execution is quite pleasing. However, the fact that Rover has trotted out another big coupé late in the life of the saloon on which it is based must not be ignored. It may be a great car, and with the V8, it stands every chance, but it is and always will be an old car. There is absolutely no point in Rover wasting further resource on building this car. However, a complete revision of the front and rear would create in effect a completely new car, and provide Rover with an opportunity to launch a range topper with a unique brand values. Forget calling it a 75, a new coupe with V8 power can only really have one name – V8 Coupe. Ditch the plastic dash, a simpler more contemporary veneered dash would be a welcome improvement, and the rest of the cabin should be trimmed in Connolly leather. And please do not build an MG version. Whether we Rover petrolheads like to admit it or not, MG has a limited shelf life, and nothing short of a new TF or Midget can keep it alive.

Go on Rover, build us a new car even if it is based on the 75 underpinnngs!


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17 Nov 2004

The mystery of the Jaguar test drive…


We all want a Jaguar. Admit it, even those of us who don’t want a Jaguar actually, secretly do because then we’d be the sort of person who’s got a Jaguar. Now, I’ve got an interesting confession; I’ve never driven a Jaguar. Hang on, I’ve never even been in a Jaguar. But I’ve always wanted to ever since Father Christmas bought me a metallic burgundy Corgi XJS in 1978. Last week, almost twenty-six years later I sat in two – a new S-Type and XJ6. Whether or not I actually test-drove them remains a mystery.

First more confessions; I’ve never been on a test drive before and for the context of this story you need to know that I drive a 1977 Princess and a 1980 TR7. They are not new cars as the Jaguar S-Type gleefully pointed out as its doors unlocked without me having to put the key in. I got in and sat in the cockpit. I was expecting space but there was none. I was hemmed in, surrounded by leather, wood and masses and masses of plastic. By comparison the Princess is like a glass house from the Eden Project.

I have driven my dad’s Rover 75 – I expected something more from the S-Type but it seemed like less. It certainly didn’t feel any bigger and the internal styling looked like a miss-matched Audi spare parts bin compared to the elegant and thought-through 75 (especially the dials). It was an automatic gearbox. My left hand felt around – no hand-brake, “It’s automatic” said my co-pilot. The car moved off in silence, seemingly all by itself. After ten minutes we were back. I know I’d had my hands on the steering wheel all that time but now I can’t be sure if the car steered itself around our pre-arranged route. Perhaps we were on some giant Scalextric circuit. Was there any need for me to have been there at all? Next up was the XJ6.

Whoops we were doing 90mph and I
hadn’t noticed. There had been
about as much acceleration as when
Captain Kirk said “Warp speed”

I got in and turned the ignition. Suddenly the seat started re-arranging itself and I was being squashed up against the steering wheel like some victim of Christine. “The seat’s automatic” said my fellow passenger. We were off again. Whoops we were doing 90mph and I hadn’t noticed. There had been about as much acceleration as when Captain Kirk said “Warp speed” (they didn’t even bother with seat-belts.) I would have loved to have said that the car purred or growled as we pulled up back to roadshow-style trailer, but it didn’t. It didn’t make any discernible sound of any kind. “This is what you need if you’re driving to the South of France” said my helmsman. Well perhaps, but that’s not the sort of thing I do every day.

Do I still want a Jaguar? Well perhaps an XK120 – but for now I’ll keep my pretend £40k or whatever it is. I can get a much more economical thrill from my Princess and TR7 – cars I actually have to drive – with clutches, gears, hand-brakes and chokes. When I’m bored of them maybe I’ll try that angry looking MG V8. Perhaps I just want to feel wanted – so I’ll stick to cars that actually need a driver.

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16 Nov 2004

Oh well, another beautiful styling exercise…

Well they managed to keep that one quiet, didn’t they? The twee, retro and slightly pudgy 75 saloon has metamorphosized into a truly stunning Coupé. It took a couple of minutes of staring at the car to get it, but now it’s sunk it, you have to say that it is a very, very handsome car. The roofline is daring, and yet manages to gel with the rest of the car perfectly.

There are elements of Audi in the roofline, Bentley in the overall style, but more than anything else, this car is a perfect representation of the classic, yet modern Rover.

Will it enter production? MG Rover certainly want it to – and with SAIC’s cash around the corner, it looks quite likely now. The Chinese want a classy car to sell at home, and let’s face it – this has class oozing from every beautifully crafted shutline. And what an antedote to the boxier, more industrial German Coupés – this car looks to have everything it needs to succeed. Well, the Rover badge has taken a pounding of late, but a strong and beautiful product like this – with an effective marketing campaign – demand could well be rekindled.

MG Rover – you simply must build this
car – we don’t want CCV style
procrastination… spend some of that
£200m and get it built NOW.

There have been no technical details published as yet – but it really could do some damage in the market so dominated by the BMW 330Ci and Mercedes-Benz CLK320. After all, the BMW 3-Series now outsells the Mondeo and Vectra, so if you want an exclusive Coupé, you now have another choice.

Here are some quotes from people who have already seen it:

“That is one of the most beautiful cars I have ever seen – this is what Rovers should look like”
“It looks gorgeous! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeaase MG Rover make this car, make loads of them.”
“Just seen the pic of the 75 Coupé – Oh My God, beautiful”

MG Rover – you simply must build this car – we don’t want CCV style procrastination… spend some of that £200m and get it built NOW.

Feedback: (Note – there has been a LOT of this, but keep your thoughts rolling in)

What a stunning car. Reminiscent of the “Riley” 75 Coupé featured elsewhere on the site, this looks awesome. This NEEDS to go into production, along with the RD/X60.

What is interesting about the RD/X60, is that not only is it similar in some ways to the very successful Megane II, but also of SEAT’s new Toledo (shown this week on Fifth Gear). It clearly shows that Rover have gone the right way with their design, but also that had they had the funds earlier on, this may have been in production around now, competing with the cars already out there. It’s a shame it will be running a catch-up exercise to these two, as it is clearly a great and innovative looking car. Let’s hope the funds come through soon as we can see some new products out on the market.


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15 Nov 2004

Tomorrow’s announcement…

An AutoExpress rendering from 2000, depicting how a 75 based Coupé could look… Tomorrow we’ll see how close they were.

At last! Something positive!

So MGR has finally decided to come out of the closet and unveil a couple of intriguing concepts at today’s annual AUTOCAR awards lunch. According to the 4CAR website, the company has chosen the prestigious award ceremony to unveil two prototypes – Coupé versions of the MG TF and Rover 75. Very much a case of showing off some of the company’s older design concepts, confident in the knowledge that it will soon have the money to bring such cars into production.

The announcement also shows that the company is going on the offensive, showing the world that it has plans to produce something relatively new – hopefully before the RD/X60 is launched in 2006/2007.

We think this is a great move by MGR, showing that it does care about the opinions of enthusiasts, but we still have memories of the CCV and EX-E, and dearly hope that the larger Coupé will actually make it into production – and sooner, rather than later. Another long wait is the last thing we all need right now…

For more news on the prototypes, best tune into the forums at tomorrow. As soon as the cars are revealed, I am sure the forum will have them…

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14 Nov 2004

Fun in a twelve-foot package…

Well, here’s the Adams’ household’s new toy and it has to be said that everything they said about the Alfasud seems to be true. It’s fun and soulful, loves a blast around the B-roads of Britain, and most surprisingly, seems to evoke some smiles from other road users (maybe derision, maybe pity… not sure). Heck, we even get let out of side-roads in this – something that doesn’t happen if I’m in a Rover 75. I know that this is not the sort of car that you would expect to see on but bear with me on this…

You see – the Alfasud is fun, and most importantly, it has opened my eyes to the fact that it is not neccessary to have over 200bhp in order for a car to be enjoyable.

Last week, I sampled the delights of the Rover 75 V8 saloon, as well as being taken for a blast around the Rockingham racing circuit (thanks Oliver Marriage of AutoExpress magazine for that one) in the Aston Martin DB9, and also had a bit of a laugh in the seriously overpowered Vauxhall Monaro. All good fun, and in each instance, a clear demonstration that a multi-cylinder high powered car delivers fun-with-a-capital-F.

So why get in a lather about a 1982 Alfa Romeo with 85bhp and a slightly dodgy gearbox? Well, not because it is fast, that’s for sure. Ultimately, it does not even go around corners that fast, either. I know, because I took it on a bit of a cross country course last night, followed by a Rover Vitesse Sport Coupé, then a 75, and both of the more modern cars annihilated it point to point.

So the ‘Sud is good because it is a
tactile driving experience?
Essentially, yes.

So why rate the Alfa?

I think it comes down to one thing: communication. The Alfa talks to you… you feel the road through the seat of your pants, and the steering (although not as good as an Allegro’s – shock horror) seems to be hard-wired into the road surface. Steering a ‘Sud (compared to any modern car) is akin to running your fingers along the asphalt. You know the road surface intimately, and that means you know what the car is doing – if the rear starts to even deviate 1mm off-line, you’ll know. And that gives you enormous confidence to fling it round country lanes – because you know where the limits lie.

The same goes for the handling – this car really does impress. It does not understeer at all – well, not that I have discovered yet – and serves as a reminder that it is possible to make a front wheel drive car handle neutrally. I guess since the days of this car – and maybe the Peugeot 205GTi that followed it – manufacturers have been dialling more safety into their chassis set-ups, and that inevitably means understeer. Most drivers prefer the safety of understeer to the opposite-lockery of oversteer… and let’s face it, who can blame them.

This lack of communication in modern cars, I guess, comes from the steering, chassis set-up, and tyre choices. A modern family car typically now sits on 17-inch wheels, with ultra low-profile tyres. It means you can go very fast without sliding, but the trade-off is feel. Modern ultra-stiff sidewalls don’t flex, and are combined with numb steering and understeery chassis set-ups. Does that mean that all modern cars are dull to drive? Of course not – the MG ZS is proof positive of this – but this an honorable exception in a world blurred by weight and fuzziness.

So the ‘Sud is good because it is a tactile driving experience? Essentially, yes.

I’m sure the Alfasud is not alone for this – most Seventies family cars would probably be a revelation to drive compared to its modern counterpart (at least in terms of feel). Just that at in the mid-Seventies, the Alfasud was the best in breed… or was it?

If you have an Allegro and wish to prove me wrong in this assertion, I would love to hear from you…


I see you’re enjoying your new toy. Marvellous little car, the ‘Sud, even for all its crab steel and duff electrics. I see yours is the 1.5 version; think about how it pulls along the 850kg car, (and compare it to the Allegro 1.5’s neasy 70bhp) see how smoothly it idles and revs, whilst still turning out a healthy 85HP DIN. Amazing!

A very long ago, I drove an Allegro, but the real BL competitors to the ‘Suds were the 1300GT/MG 1300MKII models, as far as performance goes. I drove an early ‘Sud 1.2TI a while back (when I owned a 33 IE) and it was obvious how far things had progressed – except the fun factor. Perhaps BL or Austin-Rover, should have looked at Alfa and learn how to turn a quality disaster into a decent and reliable car. My former 33 IE ‘92/93, has now done over 170,000kn and has never had engine or gearbox failure, and has only suffered bodily from some minor rust flecks.

Congratulations on your new car and welcome to the Alfisti!

Erik Løye

Reference your latest blog. My brother in law had a green Alfasud 25 years ago (a 1978 ‘ T ‘ plate) and he reckoned that the MG Maestro 2.0 Efi I bought in 1985 was as good in the handling department.

My Dad’s Allegro 1500 handled very well, but it was difficult to judge steering feel with that ridiculous Quartic arrangement. In fact, its all-round road behaviour was surprisingly good, with excellent feel, flat cornering and superb ride quality. And it had a five-speed gearbox. Okay, so I’m biased. In the late 1970s I worked for Sainsbury’s in their display department. All my colleagues had company Ford Fiestas, but I plumped for an Allegro 1100 instead. It was big enough for five, had a superb ride quality and sharp handling, was more refined than the Fiesta, but was desperately, desperately slow. I managed 90 on the M2, but only with a following wind and a downhill section. Pedal to the metal all the way.

Mike Goy

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12 Nov 2004

Definition of the expression “classic car”.

By Erik Løye

Originally, in the Fifties and Sixties, the expression “Classic Car” was a way to distinguish a post-War car from a pre-War car, which at the time, were widely called Veteran Cars. The expression, it seemed, was then only used to describe an “exclusive” car, small or large, sports or saloon… the rest were just old cars. In the course of time, the expression has got a wider meaning, and now covers any discontinued car model that someone love and cherries.

Therefore, the car models that enthusiasts saw as dull and unimportant, and have survived relatively well, are now collectors’ items. The reasons for this change is the spreading of the so-called “Classic Car” movement. More and more people have old cars as a hobby or, for various reasons, choose to have a Classic as their daily drive. A great deal of nostalgia is involved; “my Auntie used to have one of these and drove it to church every Sunday morning” or “my Grandfather always bought new model xx whenever it was launched and I loved coming along then he collected it from his local dealer”.

Therefore, any discussion on what makes an old car Classic or which new one will make to Classic status is fruitless. They all do if they are around when the replacement model arrives. The only thing to differentiate the status of Classic Cars is their individual value. So the unwanted, impossible-to-sell as new car might – as an old car – have a higher status than the popular car everybody rushed to buy and had a waiting list. Look at some of Jaguar’s models and at some of Ford’s or Vauxhall’s flops, to name just a few.

As a subscriber of Practical Classics, I see that around old cars in Britain, an Industry has established itself and flourishes. Virtually every part for any old model is offered either remanufactured to original pattern or on an exchange basis.

This is perhaps the way that the glorious British Motor Industry has survived.

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11 Nov 2004

MG Rover in 2004 – the German perspective


In my opinion, MGR’s Commercial and PR departments are quite poor at the moment. During the past few months there has been just one small advert for the 75, with nothing at all for the smaller cars or ther MG badged cousins. But what made this advert unsatisfactory was that it did not push the excellence of the product – the advert simply stated that MGR will pay your taxes for you if you purchase the diesel-engined version. German car magazines seem also to have completely forgotten MGR. Okay, there have been several test drives of the ZT 260 V8.

But, who could afford such a car? I can’t, I’m sorry to say.

There have been just short notes in the magazines about the facelifted 25, 45 and 75. There have been no test reports, though – nothing. You couldn’t even see the new dashboards – surely the whole point of the facelifts. Well, MGR Germany now has a new PR manager, Thomas Böhm, and from now on he has promised much more press coverage, which is at least something.

Having said that, there are still no ads for 25 or 45 or Cityrover, which is due to be introduced soon.

Sadly, the adverts and brochures now all seem to focus on one aspect: bargain basement pricing. I have just received brochures for the 25 and 45, and all they do is point at the low price of both cars – on every page. Obviously, there have been no spots for any MG or Rover on German television – too expensive, I think.

I fear that Cityrover will come to Germany and nobody will recognize it (I think this would be a good thing for MGR).

I work for an international media agency and have just read that next year, MGR’s media budget will be handed over to a new agency… (There will be pitches of course, but I hope we will get the business…). So, things can only be better for MGR in Germany.

Sadly, the German adverts and brochures
now all seem to focus on one aspect:
bargain basement pricing…

Well, I still don’t know whether I should agree or disagree about the unfavourable comments about the 75’s retro-styling. I really do like the 75. When I had the chance for a test drive people turned round and looked at it with their mouths open. A friend of mine owns a 75 and all people are deeply impressed because of wood and leather interior.

Well, I know that this is Germany, and I guess it is the equivalent of a German company attempting to sell a stereotypical German retro-car over here (well, what on earth is typical German???) It is exactly the same as MGR selling a stereotypical British retro-car in the UK. I really hope the RD/X60 will appear on the market place in the nick of time, and that it will be a state of the art car, too.

First, I wasn’t really sure about it’s design as depicted in the magazine renderings, but upon reflection, I think that MGR should build it exactly like this!

Leather seats: yes.
Wood: why not…

It looks great in every Audi, Mercedes or BMW, too.

Stereotypes: no, thank you.

Owning a british car in Germany makes a statement already – even without the retro-style.

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10 Nov 2004

The marketing compendium


Surf, Equipe, Impression, Abingdon, Advantage, Italian Job … I’d have to fish out my old Parker’s price guides to tot up all the special editions that have emanated from Austin Rover of yore.

Of course, we know that many special editions are special in that they are the last of a line which need to be shifted fast, or have never sold well anyway and sometimes, very rarely, mark a special occasion.

Well, it got me thinking about some special editions that MGR might contemplate now. They all have to be badged, French style, like the recent MG TF <edition Vintage Racing> so here’s my choices. Perhaps you can think of a few more…

MG SV <Edition Jeremy Clarkson>:
Pretty self explanatory, really

75 Tourer <Edition Archers>:
Harking back to the Ambridge-with-chips theme for the Montego GTI estate, how about the 75 Tourer in a nice shade of green with matching set of wellies and pass to the local fox hunt.

CityRover <Edition Morrisons>:
Buy one, get one free naturally

The latest 75 Limousine <Edition Winston Churchill>:
Incorporating two fingered salute plastic fixit in the rear window, a range of fine cigars and selection of the great orators speeches included (just the thing to tour the Rhineland in).

Another one, which might take off with special marketing in Past Times (for Radio Times readers only) would be the 75 <Edition Shakespeare>. Okay then, dealers in the Stratford-upon-Avon would also be allowed to sell them – special zero per cent deals would ensure they would hathaway (geddit? – ed) of shifting them… Seriously, what about an MG TF <Edition Union Jack>?

If Vauxhall can spec up a VX220, used in a recent press release with the union flag, there must be someone with the gumption to test market an MG TF of the same ilk – or is the company that really PC these days?

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9 Nov 2004

It must be galling to be one of the MGR PR gurus


Well, how would you like it with the world’s press and other experts (many from this site … there’s democracy for you) telling you what to do, how to do it, and why you must do it?

Well, for what it’s worth here are my expert opinions on a few MG R related matters that have got me thinking over the past few months

First off, contemporary marketing – not of the latest Rover 75* but something completely different. I’m talking about what is probably the most popular TV programme at the moment – the X factor on Saturday teatime.

It’s a tale of another missed opportunity for MG – after all isn’t the X factor what the marque’s all about? But no, it’s sponsored by (you guessed it) a mobile phone company – the ones whose products change virtually every month.

Instead, we have Rover being promoted
in Death Valley – well, how many more
folk are there left alive
in Midsomer?

Instead, we have Rover being promoted in Death Valley – well, how many more folk are there left alive in Midsomer? (I thought they might at least have Mathew Pinsent driving on set in the recent show with people being murdered at the Midsomer aka Henley rowing regatta) Still, you can bet your bottom dollar it’ll be the only time you will sees a liveried Rover 45 police car anywhere … although I’m told the latest ZS 180’s are being eyed up by forces as covert video enforcement units. Speaking of cop cars, the Met is taking a number of covert Commerce vans which are well specced up with air con, electric windows and the like for police observation work (they’re so rare they’ll stick out a mile) And the Wiltshire force has taken the plunge, buying a CityRover. Knowing the police, they’ll have paid coppers for it (ouch!)

*Why no Rover 75 Anniversary model in the UK? Despite being launched at the Paris Show earlier this year, no news of a UK debut, which is very surprising.

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8 Nov 2004

Why oh why…

…Can’t there be a hard and fast rule about what constitutes a classic or not?

A nice easy formula would be the way forward, but it seems that there are just too many variables to consider.

Obviously, I’ve been thinking this of late, and I really find it difficult to get my head around the “classic” argument. You know the one… what is a classic and what isn’t? After all, there are many cars that I would consider classic, but don’t get near the magazines because they are too new or too humdrum.

Look at the dictionary definition of the word “classic” and you’ll see what I mean.

1a) Serving as a standard of excellence: of recognized value
c) characterized by simple tailored lines in fashion year after year <a classic suit>
2) of or relating to the ancient Greeks and Romans or their culture : CLASSICAL
3a) historically memorable
b) noted because of special literary or historical associations <Paris is the classic refuge of expatriates>

Now, if you take these definitions and try and place your car in there, you will see that it becomes quite difficult. Think about some of our beloved BMC>Rover cars – would we consider the Austin Allegro to be serving as a standard of excellence? Or the Morris Ital as historically memorable? And yet, at the same time, a brand new MG ZT 260 V8 would be considered a classic because it is most defnitely enduring, as well as serving a standard of excellence.

So, it is possible to have a brand new classic car, if you follow this line of thinking. And let’s face it, moving away from the BMC>Rover stable, there are plenty of new cars you would call classic if you go by the book – who on Earth would disagree that the Pagani Zonda is a classic… the same with the MG XPower SV.

a brand new MG ZT 260 V8 would be
considered a classic because it is
most definitely enduring, as well
as serving a standard of excellence

These are exceptional cars, which are full of character, have been created with a singularity of purpose, and loved by an army of fans that transcends their customer bases. However, that leaves the issue of what about the less exotic… I may question the validity of the Allegro or Marina’s case for being classics, but you cannot argue that there are lots of people that cherish theirs, as well as a thriving support industry out there.

But are they classics or merely old?

I’d say old, but I suspect that I would be severely outvoted on that one – and one of the finest qualities you can have as a person is the ability to listen to (and take on board) the opinions of others. So, on that score, our Cortina MkIVs, Cavalier MkIs and Princess 1700s, are most definitely classics, even if two of the three were pretty rotten when they were new.

And that’s the rub – it’s impossible for one person to define what a classic is, and it comes down to individual choice. It does not stop me bristling every time I see the word tagged to something unworthy of the name.

Anyone remember the 1995 Fiesta Classic? Or perhaps the Polo Classic?

I rest my case…

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5 Nov 2004

eBay: the final frontier


I’m a hoarder; I just can’t bring myself to dispose of anything that I’ve completely forgotten I still have in case, one day, I may need it. And exactly why I need a 1991 issue of Autocar with a test of the Nissan Sunny 1.4LS is very questionable. The trouble is, my loft is groaning at the weight of numerous old car magazines and brochures, but that’s not all, as they are fighting a battle for territory with an old interest of mine, Star Trek memorabilia. Yup. I admit it; I was (ok, still am) a fan of the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, though I wasn’t quite the nerdy anorak, uniform-wearing kind (honest!). So I took the advice of William ‘Captain Kirk’ Shatner, and ‘got a life.’

But once I’d got that life, I realised I was left with rather a lot of paraphernalia relating to the show. A few years ago, most of what I have was worth a considerable amount of money, especially material relating to the original series (Kirk, Spock, McCoy), and the only way to get your money was to meet like-minded Trekkers at conventions or gatherings. I never went. But, it’s ok ‘cos ebay is here; I can put everything I’ve got on there and make loads of money. Sorted.

Unfortunately, several thousand other Trek fans who’ve ‘got a life,’ have decided to do the same thing and, consequently, ebay is brimming with memorabilia that I previously thought was as rare as Kirk getting through an episode without getting his shirt ripped open by a very unrealistic monster. Which means that prices have taken a dramatic fall, with some items that once fetched up to £50, now struggling to make 50p. Seriously.

So, where does that leave the car brochures? Well, I do have a considerable collection of BL and MG-Rover material and, thanks to ebay, it’s growing nicely thank you. No rummaging through box loads of old brochures at autojumbles here, just type in what you’re looking for and get bidding in the hope that you are the only person in the world that wants that brochure, and it’ll be yours for 99p.

When I decided to build my Princess website, I was fortunate in that I already had a vast amount of information on the cars, so I didn’t need to go searching, but I’m always looking for something I haven’t got, or think I haven’t got!

And there’s always the odd and unusual stuff that crops up from time to time. Recent purchases include several whopping Rover showroom posters including the 1990 216GTi and 1989 Rover Sterling, which were bought for a measly £2.99 each. Think about that, £2.99 for something that isn’t available anywhere else. I did also buy a 1992 Rover 800 Coupé poster that had never been used, but I had to pay £30.00 for that and to me, it’s worth every penny. And then there’s the limited edition (number 707 of 800) 1988 Rover 827 Vitesse framed print, signed by Royden Axe and Gordon Sked, a bit of an oddity but nice to have (isn’t it?) Let’s face it, where do you find this stuff other than ebay? Loads of people have a picture of a Lamborghini or Ferrari on their wall, but who’s got one of a Rover 800 Coupé? It’s a shame, though, that my Wife won’t let me hang them up on the wall in any room. Can’t see the problem meself!

As for the Trek stuff, well it looks like I’m going to be keeping it for a while longer. You never know, someone may want to swap some car brochures for it.

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Kevin runs the excellent leylandprincess website.

4 Nov 2004

Dear MGR – Part 2

Dear MGR,

If the relationship with TATA has not soured too much following the CityRover debacle, do you think it is possible to open up a dialogue about the Aria concept car? You see, quite a few of us out here seem to think that it would form the basis of a rather good MG Midget. And we also think that you would be able to sell a few MG Midgets on the side…

I can completely understand why you are feverishly preparing for the next step of the RD/X60 programme – the very future of Rover depends on the new car hitting the market and taking it by storm.

However, we also know, that this is a risk. And if the RD/X60 crashes and burns (and I don’t think it will, given the engineering team’s talents to put something special togther with little more than the spare change found down the back of Toyota’s sofa), we all know that Rover (as we know it) goes with it. And if Rover goes down the tubes, MG is bound to follow (and do you really want the badge to be sold with the fixtures and fittings at a Longbridge closing down sale?)

But what about MG? Would it not make sense to have something in hand as a back-up? Something that can be rolled out rather quickly and maintain sales for the Oxford octagon. I’m constantly being told how wonderful MG is, and how there are millions of customers out there, who still have warm fuzzy feelings for the company. And how they would buy a new MG sports car like a shot if they could afford it. Would all of these less loaded MG fans buy a new Midget – something that would sit way below the Smart Roadster in terms of price (how does £8K grab you), but also offer fun in an environmentally acceptable package? You bet your pensions they would!

The time is absolutely right for a new MG Midget… speed is anti-social right now, and as the Midget would major on low cost topless fun (like the original one), sticking a lumping great K2000 engine in it would be totally unneccessary. In fact, all it really needs to be is cheap, good looking and reasonably dependable (spare us the oil leaks, though… things have moved on). If it has these qualities, it would sell in bucketloads.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course, so we’ll not comment on the failure of the first TATA collaboration, but we should certainly look forwards to the next one. CityRover is more than likely inoperable now, so why not give it back to the Indians (who love it), bung Pune a few (Chinese provided) quid, and get the Aria in production quick sharp.

I bet it could be in production in no time.

Then all you need to do is watch the money roll in. If RD/X60 doesn’t work out, let SAIC do what it wishes with it, keep bunging the Indians money, and make sure those new Midgets keep coming through.

And MGR, I bet you a tenner that the new MG Midget sells more in its first three months than CityRover does in its first full year.

Think about that.


Keith Adams,
Your biggest fan,
Middle England.

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3 Nov 2004

Possession Tax – A necessary evil?


Keith Adams’ old Cavalier 2000GLS Sportshatch – not really linked with Posession tax, but tenuously linked to the story – and we don’t need much of an excuse to get this car onsite…

News of the DVLA’s latest money spinning scheme has caused widespread alarm amongst classic car enthusiasts. The propsed policy takes the form of a £4.50 charge to be levied whenever VED or SORN is applied for on a vehicle. Of course in monetary terms this does not sound like much, but the underlying legislation befhind this is the most concerning.

Many have declared this charge to be yet another example of a ‘Stealth Tax’ imposed on motorists who already have to deal with crippling road tax, and more importantly petrol tax. It is a well known fact that some 60 pence from every 80-odd pence per litre of fuel goes straight into Gordon Brown’s pocket. The DVLA have stated that the new charge will be used to offset the cost of new vehicle registrations and also the issuing of provisional driving licences. Whilst I agree this is indeed a good thing for young people, I fail to see why the government could not offer some sort of cash incentive to the DVLA to assist with this. After all, the Chancellor had an untold billions of pounds tax excess last year, most of which had come from motorists in one form or another.

I love old Vauxhalls (but also have a
soft spot for BL/ARG products) and I
fully realise how many of these cars
would disappear because they have not
yet reached that ‘classic’ status

Taking the example of vehicles undergoing restoration, how many cars are languishing in a shed somewhere for the owner to restore ‘when they get a moment’. I myself have a 1978 Opel Kadett which is currently having a gentle rebuild – anyone who has ever restored a car, especially one that is a little rare or unusual, will know just how quickly the bills can mount up. I know that I for one am preparing to be hit with this legislation in the next few months if it manages to get passed, and while I am prepared to pay the £4.50 I just know many restorers will be sick of this extra buerocracy and paperwork. How many owners are going to call the scrappy to come and take it away?

I love old Vauxhalls (but also have a soft spot for BL/ARG products, hence being on this site) and I fully realise how many of these cars would disappear because they have not yet reached that ‘classic’ status – cars like Chevettes (which I also own), mk2 Cavaliers, mk1 Astras etc will all be scrapped instead of being restored because of the DVLA and/or governments insistence that we must be charged for keeping an old car, unused, on our driveway. The nanny state has taken one step too far into the car world this time, and I for one have had enough of it.

Car owners have been the cash cows of the government for too long, for example the rolling tax break for cars over 25 years old having been frozen at 1973. There can be no legitimate reason for this, other than the loss in revenue as more people would hang on to their older cars for longer. Also, it would only be a matter of time until the £4.50 became £20 or £30, to cover ‘administration costs’ incurred by the DVLA in putting all these vehicles on their system. The fact DVLA regulate what they charge means effectively they can charge what they like and us motorists would have to pay it. Everything now seems to be pointing in the direction of running a new car, as many of the benefits promised from running a classic have been negated by the current policymakers. People like Ken Livingstone have demonised classic vehicles by declaring them unclean, and not fit to travel within the confines of central London, which I believe reflects the sort of thinking which goes on at an administrative level in this country. The fact that the Chancellor receives a hefty slice of tax from the list price of a new car is purely coincidental.

If anyone feels as passionately about this proposal as I do, then please visit the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs website at and sign their petition, also write to your MP to register your misapprehensions. Please visit my website at for nice pictures of rusty old Vauxhalls.

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2 Nov 2004

Italy’s Allegro?

The parallels are to be found everywhere: Alfa Romeo and BMC>Rover – two companies, which have produced some of the world’s greatest cars.

Government owned during the 1970s, Alfa Romeo produced some of the shoddiest, most unreliable cars you could buy anywhere in the world. Electrics were a nightmare, and rust… well, don’t even talk about rust. You could buy an Alfasud during the Seventies, and within months of leaving the Pomigliano d’Arco factory in Naples it could rust anywhere. The earliest cars were truly appalling in this respect: they could rust in the roof panel, the sills, the A-posts, the doors, the wheelarches – anywhere you could think of.

As for build quality, ‘Suds were slack – very slack. The Italian government in its infinite wisdom chose to lend Alfa Romeo the money to build a new factory for its upcoming small car, but decided that it would only do so if Alfa Romeo built said factory in the poorest area of Italy, and used the least qualified car workers around. Add to that, Naples is at one end of Italy, and Turin is at the other. You get the idea… And doesn’t this all sound familiar?

But the styling was a Giorgetto Giugiaro masterpiece… and to drive, the Alfasud was – is – a towering achievement to the Italian engineers. With the Alfasud, Alfa Romeo proved that a 1.2-litre family saloon could be fun to drive, and a hoot to take around the corners. In many ways, the ‘Sud was the car to beat for the entire decade in terms of driving pleasure, and it was only with the onset of low-profile tyre technology in the early Eighties companies such as VW and Ford truly begun to catch up.

So, it is a car of mixed qualities – technically a stunningly good family car, but in the damp cold climes of the UK, totally useless, thanks to its propensity to dissolve in rain.

And many people in car circles have decided that the ‘Sud is Italy’s answer to the Allegro. And there are similarities: it has a small flap pretending to be a bootlid (where a hatch should be), it suffers from a dreadful reputation for unreliability, and like the Allegro, it is technically advanced. In one or two magazine road tests, the two cars were pitched together as rivals, and the results were very interesting. Mainly because they were both advanced front drivers in a class dominated by hum-drum tin boxes, such as the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Viva.

The ‘Sud is a car of mixed qualities:
technically, a stunningly good family
car, but in the damp cold climes of the
UK, totally useless, thanks to its
propensity to dissolve in rain.

Along with the Citroen GS, the ‘Sud and the Allegro proved that there was room for innovation in the family sector, and as a result, they are remembered today as cars that added character to the marketplace. However, the three cars were very different, and to call one an equivalent of the other would be doing each car a disservice. The Citroen and the Allegro offered interconnected suspension. The ‘Sud and the Citroen offered flat-four Boxer engines. The Alfasud and the Allegro offered sporting models at the tops of their ranges before VW defined the genre in 1976.

No, what these cars offered was diversity – something that is sadly lacking in the class of 2005, where conformity and high equipment levels now rule the roost.

So, is the ‘Sud Italy’s Allegro? Of course not. It drives better, looks better and rusts better… There may be superficial similarities, but the ‘Sud is Italy’s ‘Sud, and let’s leave it at that.

And just to prove the point, I’ve bought one for Towers to play with, so expect a twin test in the near future. As for knowing the answer to the question of which is better, we hope to find out the answer for sure very soon.

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1 Nov 2004

The modern/retro problem


Time and again, this site discusses retro Rover versus modern Rover – what the name means, moving away from the 1950s Auntie image, how to replicate the success of the P6, when is there going to be another SD1 (with a decent paint finish), was it right to import an Indian small hatchback badged CityRover…

There has also been longing expressed for a return to the Honda days when the name last had value.

The reality is Rover means nothing to today’s public except ageing products and an ever decreasing market share.
The RD/X60 is an opportunity to move forward. If the Photoshop images from our friends at Autocar are anything to go by, this car is just what the doctor ordered — stylish, technologically advanced and a chance to show what Rover can do as we approach the middle of the decade. Neither a Honda cast off (25, 45), BMW funded small executive (75), Indian mini (CityRover) or mid-nineties domestic sports car (MGF).

I don’t think the RD/X60 needs to be
‘Roverised’ – if it is good enough,
it will sell on its merits…

Perhaps MGR can also spend some of the £213 million remaining in the kitty on the 75’s dashboard design, losing the Trilby and Pipe/Spitfire instruments that have caused so much debate. Perhaps they could also stretch to a facelift that actually makes the car look different.

I don’t think the RD/X60 needs to be ‘Roverised’ – if it is good enough, it will sell on its merits. If anything, it looks a little like a 2007 Renault Megane. And that car is no slouch in the styling department. Let’s hope the vertical rear window is a future trend, and not a cul-de-sac like the reverse slope Fords of the 1960s.

A Rover setting the standard – now that is an appealing image, and one we have not seen since 1976’s hatchback 3500. Longbridge vehicles no longer suffer the build quality problems that helped to sink the SD1, so perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel.

And this time, it isn’t a train coming the other way.

Keith Adams

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