Opinion : Still no information from MG – nothing ever changes

MG PR3s at Longbridge (photo: Thomas AK)
MG PR3s at Longbridge (photo: Thomas AK)

It’s been a couple of days since questions of the future fate of the MG Rover prototypes, previously squirrelled away at the Longbridge Roundhouse, started to light up our previously-quiet corner of the Internet. And in those two days, all manner of us have been bombarding Longbridge with one simple question – what are the plans for these cars?

We’ve heard different stories from various people indirectly connected with the ownership of these cars, but nothing at all from the management. Gemma Cartwright CBE, Organiser of the Pride of Longbridge, and a long-time campaigner for the pension rights of the workers, told me that she’d spoken to Gary Egan and William Wang, and they were simply, ‘moving stuff around.’ I should feel reassured by that, but I don’t.

Why? Well, as usual, there’s been a wall of silence around this from the top and, from my admittedly remote position as an outsider, it makes no sense not to at least issue an official statement saying that the prototypes are safe, and that their place in the company’s history is recognised. What’s particularly interesting is that MG’s PR Agency have so far been unable to supply an answer, and another MG insider said, ‘I’ve been watching the stories and comments escalate over the past few days. And I honestly wish I were able to give some info, or a statement other than “no comment”.’

Unlikely to be scrapped

Admittedly, it’s pretty unlikely that the cars are going to be scrapped, despite what our man on the ground was told – and there might be some interesting plans for them. However, given the amount of interest that this story has generated, you’d think someone high up would say something like, ‘the future of these cars is safe – we can’t tell you what exciting plans we have, but rest assured, they’re going to be saved.’

Instead, just ominous silence…

Actually, that’s a little unfair. We did get a press release from MG yesterday. Sadly, it was just to say, ‘MG Motor UK has welcomed Cinderford MG in Gloucestershire to its growing franchise dealer network as the brand continues to expand its presence in strategic locations throughout the UK.’

What’s particularly disheartening about all of this is that there are museums (including the big one – the British Motor Museum) and several owners’ clubs queuing up to house these cars. And from what I’ve been led to believe, they’re getting the same level of silence as the enthusiast community. Again, I might be doing MG a disservice here, and something might be happening in the background, but a simple statement putting out the fire has not been forthcoming.

Why so important?

RDX60 as shown to the dealers in December 2002
RDX60 as shown to the dealers in November 2003

If you’re in any doubt as to the importance of these prototypes, it’s worth spelling out why now. The MG PR3s signalled the beginning of the rebirth of MG as a sports car manufacturer in the 1990s. There were three cars developed by three outside contractors commissioned by Rover management to compare three different solutions – front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive with a front engine, and mid-rear-wheel drive. The story of how that panned out can be told in the MGF/TF development story – but, long story short, they epitomise how so much could be achieved with such tiny resources.

The Rover TCV and MG Rover RDX60 both represent the last throw of the dice from a dying car company desperately trying to put together a new product on near-zero resources. The TCV was used as a shop window to show potential suitors that the company was capable of producing innovative and viable products – and, although its styling remains controversial to this day, there’s no denying that its vaguely crossover attitude and ruggedized looks stand scrutiny in a market now crammed with such cars.

As for the RDX60, its importance is clear – this was the car that was lined up to save MG Rover, its last-chance saloon. A medium-sized family hatchback and saloon that was based on the Rover 75, and which would have gone into battle against the Volkswagen Golf Mk5 and Ford Focus Mk2 had it gone into production in 2006-2007 as was anticipated. Could MG Rover have made it work? Some commentators today sneer, and say not a chance, but I’m not so sure. There was enough residual engineering talent left in Longbridge at that time to recapture the fighting spirit that made the MGF such a decent effort out of what was effectively a parts-bin special.

Losing these small but important parts of the company’s history is something that doesn’t bear thinking about.

So, how about it MG: are you going to tell us that these cars are safe for the future? The community would love to know…

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

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.
Keith Adams

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11 Comments

  1. Couldn’t they just sell them on Ebay? Then at least a museum or an enthusiast would have a chance of buying them.

  2. As for “Losing these small but important parts of the company’s history is something that doesn’t bear thinking about,” – knowing the price (of storing – nuisance value?) but not the value of these prototypes?

  3. MG UK should have nothing to lose by ensuring these cars are kept safe in their care or given / sold to a trusted Museum or Enthusiasts Group. There can’t be much (if any) critical confidential secrets held within their ageing bodywork.

    A crowd funding attempt might be of use to acquire them? As Keith says, a reassuring comment from SAIC / MG Management would help…

  4. Just goes to show that they have no real interest in their badges history or the enthusiastic following it still has. Just milk it for all its worth and get rid of anything with no use. I so hope I’m wrong………..

    • Which was precisely what I believe asset stripping BMW did. Its what we as a Nation allow to happen far too often. Foreign control of the Nation’s assets, too many sold off “quick fix” hugely under value cheap.

      The once massively asset rich former Rover Group just once example of the far too many such “beneficial deals.

      • As long as there are workshy anything for a simple like working class dolts around who can be played like a fiddle by public school hucksters it’s going to happen.

        Just spin a pseudo nationalistic / “socialism is bad” distraction & they are putty in the hands of the snake oil salesmen.

  5. This surprises me not. I recall the Nanjing fake ‘start of production’ at Longbridge years ago where we entered a freezing cold factory (no functioning car plant is ever cold) stripped of most of its production equipment with the paint plant dormant. Six Chinese built MGFs were driven off a ‘production line’ devoid of workers and lineside equipment and parts. Then came a press conference at which sour faced Chinese either refused to answer questions or six sentences in Mandarin were reduced by the interpreter to two words. Why should SAIC be any different and answer reasonable, polite queries about cars that would interest many MG fans of displayed in an English museum?

    I think the SAIC MG export foray has failed. The much-vaunted UK R&D centre is toast. The brand loses as many UK dealers as it takes on, the product is just me-too rather than innovative, the RHD assembly plant in Thailand is running nowhere near capacity. The first Australia launch failed, the more recent relaunch has gained barely any traction in a market where some Chinese LCV brands are doing reasonably well in select niches.

    I wouldn’t touch an MG with a barge pole, not because the product is bad but because I have no faith in parts and service being there next year, let alone in a decade. Chinese MG will, I think, go the way of Saab et al. SAIC has enough to deal with at home with the mainstream brands’ market slump and the government edicts for EVs.

    Let’s hope the actions of enthusiasts and journalists such as yourselves at least get these prototypes’ future resolved, and they stay here, accessible for anyone who’d like to see them.

  6. That’s a thought – putting hydragas on RDX60. After all the MGF was still using it at the time I think. Self levelling for the estate would be available off the shelf. Really good ride & handling and good power with the K series. Top of the range 2.5 KV6 and potentially a supercharged MG version… Lots of torque down low for a very usable quick car.
    I think part of the problem with these is the rampant ecocretinry – it’s not a tesla or brand new therefore there is no inherent value. It really is sickening.

    Personally I’d like to investigate using a clutched supercharger – so it provides torque low down in the rev range but freewheels above a certain rpm. Good torque at low speed but good efficiency higher up.

  7. As an enthusiast of the Rover brand, back in June 2010 I approached MG Motors UK Ltd about its plans for the one-off Rover 75 V8 Limousine (registered as BX54 OPL) which at the time was being used as a ‘works runaround’ within the Longbridge facility. The car no longer had a current MOT and was not taxed, so it couldn’t be used on the public highway. As part of my enquiry I expressed an interest in buying it, with the view of offering it on long term loan to a museum, as one of the last development ideas for the Rover brand.

    I eventually got an email of reply from someone senior within MG Motors UK Ltd assuring me that my interest as a potential purchaser of this vehicle had been formally logged and that I would be contacted when the company was reviewing its plans for the vehicle. Two years later I heard the car had been scrapped…

    Unfortunately this exercise and MG Motors’ poor response in recognising the importance of safeguarding prototype or development cars did nothing to affirm their understanding of ‘heritage’. I have little reason to believe that mindset has changed in more recent times with the MG sports car prototypes and other vehicles of interest in its custodianship.

    Good luck to all parties concerned interested in safeguarding these and other vehicles with a Longbridge link for the benefit of future generations to enjoy and learn about.

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