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?
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…