Manflu – it always strikes me at this time of year and, last week, it duly struck. Remember those good old-fashioned colds which used to make you a bit drowsy and sniffly for a week or so? Whatever happened to them? Every ‘cold’ I get now renders me useless for the best part of a week, incapacitated and living off Lemsip and not much else.
The time spent in bed, though, allowed me to do much soul-searching and inner reflection – and a great deal of looking at car sites and forums, which is indeed, a very dangerous thing to do under the influence of Paracetamol-laced drinks. After a great deal of thinking and making pithy comments on pictures uploaded on the Autoshite forum, I soon had a reason to be cheerful after thinking about Rover.
Since 2005, talk about Rover has revolved around gloom and centered on doom. However, I am beginning to feel a little more upbeat about them. Anyone here who suggests that Rover, as a marque may be ‘On the comeback trail’ as Auto Express would probably phrase it, is digitally shot down. Now let me make one thing clear, I think there’s just as much chance of seeing Lord Lucan having a beer with Elvis in your local, as there is of JLR dusting of the old Viking ship and slapping it on a new or existing product.
History should be left in past and Rover are just that. We should, though, take comfort in MG Motor UK in the same way as aircraft enthusiasts might in the preserved cockpit of a dismantled airliner. No matter how you look at it, ‘firm’ DNA is still very much alive at Longbridge. Rover, though, are not but, as they said about Elvis, dying was the best career move he ever made.
Too often we think of Rovers as being scrapyard fodders, being carted off to breakers’ yards in their hundreds (maybe thousands?) each year. That may be true, but remember the youngest Rovers will soon be eight years old and that, these days, any car in the same age bracket, or older, will be in danger of an undignified ‘pick-a-part’ death and that later crushing of their stripped carcasses.
Some of them, though, are lucky enough to make it out alive. Anecdote time… Earlier this year, in the height of summer, I pulled into my local petrol station to get some unleaded. At the pump directly opposite me there was a facelifted 75 Connoisseur. It had piped cream leather and flawless burgundy paint. Flawless at least, until I saw the damage to the front end of the car. ‘That’ll be scrapped,’ I thought to myself as I climbed out of my evil German car, when I noticed the owner wondering around the Rover, surveying the damage. I wondered if it had just happened.
I postponed my refueling, to wonder over. ‘Are you okay, mate?’ I asked.
‘Yeah mate!’ (we all call each other ‘mate’ in Hampshire) ‘I’ve just picked it up from the scrappies,’ he said.
It turned out he bought the car as damaged repairabl, and was going to fix it himself at home. At this point, I wanted to walk into the garage and buy him a cream egg as a reward for his services to Rover. That didn’t happen though, and I settled on giving him one of my wet wipes to clean some muck off the screen with.
In all the time I’ve been driving around the general area of the breakers’ yard, I have never seen a accident damaged car going in the opposite direction – until that day and the one car I should see being saved from bean can oblivion: a Rover. The gentleman was willing to put time, effort and money into putting a car back on the road, which was from a defunct car maker, with the residuals of a CRT television. Which means one thing – he loves Rovers.
He’s not the only one, as many users of this site and its Facebook group will testify. However, look beyond the internet, and you’ll see the dedication to Rover and all things Longbridge translates just as strongly in the real world. Take a look pictures from Pride of Longbridge – if you haven’t yet, Google it. Now in its eighth year, more than 1000 cars attended this year and I’m more than certain the numbers will continue to grow. Mind you, it’s not just in enthusiast circles where you can see the dedication to preserving and appreciating Rovers.
Next time you pass one on the street, take a look at it. You’ll probably find it’s in good condition. Maybe a bit scuffed here and there, if it’s an older car in daily use but, by and large, well-maintained looking. Look at a 16 year old Rover and compare it to, for example, a Vauxhall or Ford of the same vintage. My money is on the Rover looking like the best-cared-for car. There’s a fiercely zealous loyalty to the brand, which no other car maker, not even all conquering BMW or VW, seem able to match.
Not only that, but anyone who knows their Viking ship onions will be able to tell you that Rovers are in fact more than capable of being reliable, contrary to what the bloke in the pub will tell you. The combination of many being equipped with K-Series units, which are accessible to most home mechanics and have great parts availability, bode well for their continued survival. Taking this all into account, Rovers probably have all they need to survive into Youngtimerhood and beyond.
All in all, that’s why I’m starting to think that Rover, to quote the marque’s most famous aficionado, Alan Partridge, is bouncing back…
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.