Car of the Month : January 2015 – David Whitham’s 2002 Rover 75 Connoisseur SE CDT Tourer

David Whitham

David Whitham's Rover 75 Tourer.1
This is what £350 of Rover 75 looks like – what a bargain, the best kept Bangernomics secret

A little introduction first – I’ve been lurking around AROnline for a number of years now and have taken plenty out if it, so thought I would offer something in return.

I’m a serial AR enthusiast, having admired and, in some cases, lusted after the bread and butter that make this site so appealing to many of us. Rovers are my favoured brand and I’ve owned plenty over the years. I thought I would introduce you to my Bangernomics car of choice – my 2002 Rover 75 Connoisseur SE CDT Tourer. Yes, I know it’s got a BMW engine but this installation brought about a well-executed marriage of British design flair and teutonic reliability– surely a recipe for success?

After having sold my 1998 Range Rover P38 (everything about which I dearly miss except the fuel consumption!!), I needed a car for tip trips, towing and general tonking around in. FE02 YMP came up for sale on eBay, many miles away as they always seem to be, and was listed as a non-runner, with absolutely no history. I broke every rule in the car-buying book and took a punt, buying it sight unseen with an unconfirmed mileage and no idea of what I was getting. It duly arrived at my home address via a shiply request, bought and delivered for £350.

Upon arrival, first impressions were very good and, if all else failed, a number of tasty items that I didn’t know the car had could be sold enabling me recover my costs. It’s amazing how the price of retrofittable desirable options such as powerfold mirrors, tonneau dog net and fuel-burning heater can attract such silly money for such comparatively low value cars! Once fitted with a charged battery, I was greeted with an odometer reading of 182,000 miles which was a little concerning. The car cranked all day long but would not fire. A spray of easy start got it going – for a second or two!

David Whitham's Rover 75 Tourer.3
Perhaps a little ‘lived in” but worn well considering its miles!

The fault was finally traced to a flooded plenum chamber. Rover 75s have a twin bulkhead, between which sits the ECU. When the drainage holes become blocked with detritus, it’s only one downpour away from a drowned ECU. An email to a contact on the 75 forum ensured that a fully-programmed plug and play replacement ECU arrived with me a few days later. £140 well spent as it also included a 160bhp re-map! I’m always a bit wary of pushing an engine beyond what it was designed to do but, with this car, I made a well-informed exception. My 75’s original state of tune was a sedate 114bhp, the ZTs were treated to 135bhp but BMW did not allow Rover to use the full 160bhp state of tune. When new, this was reserved for their cars.

My new ECU afforded a first trip out in my budget hack. The car proudly wore its mileage and has been pressed into regular service since. It’s done plenty of dirty work, towed my P6 about, executed my 75 mile commute (on the occasions that my daily drive 75 has been off sick) passed its MoT without a sniff and has now racked up 194,000 miles. At £490, a home service and a pair of bushes I can’t complain really, in fact, quite the reverse. The remap also returns improved fuel economy and it’s averaged 56mpg over 12,000 miles. I must admit that I really love the old girl for all the characterful rattles and her slightly rough around the edges look.

However, is that where ‘the essence of Bangernomics” begins to fall apart? I’m driving her now with my heart, not my head, thus breaking the cardinal Bangernomics rule. In true Bangernomics style, this car is a consumable item and should really be only one big (or even medium) bill off the scrapyard, at which point I should dispose of it and take my chances with another clunker, just like you would with a dicky washing machine. I guess only time, and the size of the bill will tell. Or you could put it another way – the total expenditure on this car, including purchase, fuel, repairs, road tax and insurance is around half that of 12,000 miles worth of petrol the Range Rover would have consumed, so she owes me nothing. Perhaps I’ll treat her then when that bill arrives!!

David Whitham's Rover 75 Tourer.2
David has always loved the shape of the Tourer but reckons that the rear would be better with a smiley number plate!


Keith Adams


  1. Alternatively, consider it an investment – can 75/ZT prices go any lower or is it worth buying a few and sticking them in a shed for when the values start to climb (either as runners or spares cars) in, say, five years time?

    • What model would you pick as a “classic” to store away for the future; what is the best fit for this car?
      – CDT is too German, and not very Rover
      – 1.8 K-series perhaps too emblematic of Rover’s troubles?
      – V8 260s already selling for big money
      – Got to be the KV6, probably in MG ZT saloon flavour.

  2. This really could become a practical classic in years to come as the 75 is still a respected car and well looked after by its owners. David’s Rover with its ECU replacement makes it a very economical car to own for its size, the BMW engine has none of the dreaded HGF associated with the K series, and the quality of the interior and the drive will surely see a car like this increase in value as the 75 drifts into classic territory. I’m sure the last of the big Rovers will become a classic in the next decade and deservedly so.

  3. Well, David I logged on hoping to see my ZR here this month – oh well!

    However, I’ve still enjoyed reading about your 75. Your risky purchase has certainly paid off. It seems the type of buy you really appreciate the qualities of without having to be too concerned about keeping it immaculate, for as long as possible.

  4. This is exactly my kind of motoring. Back in 2005 I started a new job that required me to hand back a company motor and run my own car for a year as a contract employee. Over the 12 month period, I knew I’d cover almost 50,000 miles. Rather than one car, I bought three – all Rovers. For a total outlay of £1,100 I acquired an 820i, a 420 GSi Tourer (how I wish I’d kept that one…) and an early HH-R 414i. The purchases were carefully planned to avoid any servicing bills other than oil changes (ie, all had recently had cambelts) and each willingly clocked up the miles without complaint.

    That’s kind of ironic, as part of my thinking behind running three cars was that I would always have another one ‘on hand’ if one of them misbehaved, as that never happened…

    At the end of the year the 820i had covered 21,000 miles in my stewardship, the 420 GSi 17,000 and the 414i a mere 10,500. When you consider the 414 was the ‘economy’ car I bought specifically because a) I wouldn’t become attached to it and b) wouldn’t mind using it in the cut and thrust of daily traffic, it was interesting to see how it all balanced out in the end. And it also probably explains why, 10 years on, I’m on my ninth 800…that one was my first.

  5. A well maintained 13 year old car shouldn’t be the gamble that, say, this was 1994 and you bought a 1981 Rover 2600. Rust protection, engine life and transmissions are all vastly better than when the SD1 was on the go. The 75, while suffering problems with its 1.8 K series engines, otherwise is a durable car, like most cars produced since the eighties, and so long as it’s been well serviced and MOT’d every year, could last for a couple more years, if not more, if you’re prepared to lavish care on it, which a next owner might be prepared to do.

  6. Having driven a 75 CDT Tourer, I find it a frustrating car. It is very good in so many ways, built like a tank, well screwed together, doesn’t rust and is so close to being a great car.

    However there is a but, which has to do with that standard state of tune. It is too sluggish and similar issues keep cropping up. The handling isn’t quite sharp enough, the pedal weights are not quite right.

    It is a great car to be a passenger in, but when you drive it, it feels like a car that could be better, that BMW deliberately sabotaged to stop it harming their sales.

  7. I had two of these: a 52 plate ZT-T CDTi manual and an 04 plate Contemporary SE CDTI auto. If I could combine the two it would have been perfect!

    The ZT-T was in X Power Grey and looked wonderful. Unfortunately, it was a manual and the clutch was too heavy and I couldn’t stand the pain in my left ankle any more so I bought the 75.

    The Contemporary SE trim was wonderful as you got all the goodies of the Connoisseur but with MG seats in leather with heaters and electric adjustment. However, I now realise this was a car made when they were gradually removing bits: the horn was pathetic, the spare wheel didn’t have the surround that the ZT-T’s had and I’m sure lots of other things were missing. That being said, the auto had a winter driving mode an a friend has run it for 10 years and it has 135,000 miles on the clock and has only recently changed the original battery.

    I was faced with the decision as to what to replace the 75 estate with. My first attempt was a VW Passat: very practical, drove well, but the Sport seats did my back no good and it wasn’t that well built (a turbo was replaced under warranty and it had a melt down with the central locking). Since then I’ve moved onto Volvo. In their way they’re a bit different and in the right, non-sporty trim have something of the 75 about them (including marvellous seats!)

  8. Nice story and you deserve the luck after taking a punt on this and giving it a bit of TLC is deserves. I have a soft spot for 75’s and although i don’t see many on the road these days, occasionally I see one that appears looked after and still a great looking car. In my youth I worked at longbridge and gaydon in summer of 96 and 97 where I got to see the development. I was given a fast ride around gaydon test track in an early prototype based on a 620 turbo, it handled really well and always thought the 75 had potential to be a good drivers car as seemed very well developed. The basic layout of the interior still looks fresh and distinctive too.

    Hope you get a good years reliable motoring.

  9. This is the time to own a 75. They’re ridiculously cheap and there are still a lot of good ones around. I’ve done 14000 miles in mine since last may, with no breakdowns and 300quids work at the mot. At 1200 quid it’s the cheapest car I’ve ever bought, and by far the most enjoyable. Good luck with yours!

  10. @ Jonathan Carling, I’ve never seen a rough one and most on 51-05 plates still seem to be immaculate and running well. Rather like older Mercedes, the owners seem to take care of them and don’t see 75s in the same way people would with an old Vectra, a banger that’s only around until MOT time. I’d like to think 75s are now treated with the same respect as older P6s were in the early eighties.

  11. I like the Mercedes comparison I hope you’re right Glenn – they are classics and deserve to be looked after.

  12. I still drive a 14 year old 75 as my daily driver. Its still well screwed together and apart from a slight rattle from the rear suspension (ARB drop links?) still drives well. A looming cam belt change (KV6) and the fact it is still on the original clutch at 111k means it may be approaching the time to go.

    I also have a CDT Tourer on the drive on SORN at 98k needing suspension work. When the weather gets better, it will be getting rear springs and shocks, track rod ends and front arm bushes, plus a fresh MOT and it will go back on the road.

    The interiors have proven extremely hard wearing and while my car desperately needs a wash, it tidies up nicely and when the weather warms up the soap and the polish will be out.

  13. I’d like another drive in a 75. Two years, 6 months since I parted with mine and the memories are becoming too distant!!

  14. Getting 12,000 miles out of £490 worth of car – excellent work!

    Double bangernomics points for selling off the dog net and auxiliary heater.

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