Opinion : MG Rovers – how many left, now and later?

MG Rover dealer

In the comments section of David Morgan’s recent feature marking the 20th anniversary of the formation of MG Rover, I noted that the number of cars on UK roads seems to be dwindling rapidly. It’s a sad fact of life (for British car fans) that, in the average UK cityscape these days, spotting an MG or Rover is quite a rarity. I accept that there are local pockets of abundance but, in general, these cars are becoming an endangered species.

When I made my comment, it was really a throw away remark based on nothing more than my own anecdotal experiences. So, it was interesting to hear from the brilliant John Batchelor, the Chairman of the Rover 200 & 400 Owners Club, who has been undertaking some scientific study of the remaining cars, as well as plotting their future prospects by extracting their half-life figures.

As John says, ‘it is important for clubs to understand current vehicle numbers and likely future trends because it indicates the likely pool of members. It helps to inform decisions regarding the re-manufacture of parts and potential tooling routes – it may also help indicate future values due to rarity.’

There’s never a truer word been spoken. The classic car world lives and dies by numbers. There needs to be a large enough pool of cars and owners to sustain a new parts supply, but not so many as to keep values low. That’s because low values mean that owners won’t want to spend the money on their cars if there’s no financial incentive. Trust me, I’ve heard it a million times before – ‘I can’t spend £1000 getting this car sprayed when it’s only worth £800.’

Okay, we would, but we’re a special breed! Thanks to John, who’s burned the midnight oil to pull this data together, here are the numbers of popular BMC, BL, Rover and MG Rover cars left on the UK roads. It’s worth saying that the data has come from www.howmanyleft.co.uk and doesn’t take into account those cars outside of the tax/SORN system, such as any ‘barn find’ cars which could re-enter the pool. However, that’s not a significant factor.

Mini23,500
MGB21,026
Austin/Rover Metro2200
MG Metro31
Austin Maestro312
Austin Montego99
MG Maestro74
MG Montego18
Rover 213/216 (SD3)72
Rover 800458
Rover 200 (R8) three-/five-door1189
Rover R8 Cabriolet440
Rover R8 Coupe362
Rover R8 four-door455
Rover R8 Tourer155
Rover 600658
Rover 400 (HH-R)1472
Rover 200 (R3) three-/five-door2919
Rover R3 Streetwise1726
MGF8200
Rover 7519,500
MG TF12,000
Rover 457200
Rover 2512,300
MG ZR5100
MG ZT4300
MG ZS2700

Within these numbers, there are some interesting individual cases:

  • MG Metro: 1300 – 64, Turbo – 25 (and 6 6R4s!)
  • MG Maestro/Montego: 74/18, including 19/6 Turbos respectively
  • Austin Maestro van: 96
  • Rover Metro GTi: 46
  • Rover Montego GTi: 2 (last Austin Montego GTi listed in 2012)
  • Rover 216 Vitesse EFi: 3
  • Rover R8 Coupe Turbo: 78
  • Rover R8 220/420 GSi Turbo: 7/3 respectively
  • Rover 800/820 Vitesse: 61~100 (difficult to filter out SD1 Vitesse and some 800 Coupes could also be Vitesses, but probably nearer 60 than 100…)
  • Rover 800 Coupe: 40 of all derivatives
  • Rover 600 Ti: 66
  • Rover 75 Tourers/MG ZT/T: 2800/650 are included in their respective totals
  • Rover 75 V8 and MG ZT/ZT-T: 260 – 250
  • Rover Group/MG Rover cars fitted with M- and Series engines: c.700
  • Rover Group/MG Rover cars fitted with four-cylinder K-Series engines: c.40,000

MG ZS

Looking at platforms, the numbers look like this

PlatformQuantity
Mini (ADO15, ADO20)23,500
MGB (ADO23)21,026
Austin/Rover/MG Metro/100 (LC8/R6)2305
Maestro/Montego (LM10/LM11)499
Rover 213/216 (SD3)72
Rover 800 (XX)458
Rover 200/400 (R8)2601
Rover 600 (SK1/SK2)658
Rover 400/45 MG ZS (HH-R)11,372
Rover 200/25 MG ZR (R3)22,045
MGF/TF (PR3)20,200
Rover 75 MG ZT/ZT-T (R40)23,800

John Batchelor has gone on to track how quickly the cars are disappearing. ‘Using cars covered by the Rover 200 & 400 Owners Club, it is possible to establish a ‘half-life’ of the cars,’ he says. ‘This is the time it takes the number of cars on the road to decrease by 50%. The numbers of cars were analysed in 2015, when the club expanded to cover the SD3, HH-R and R3 models in addition to the R8.’

Comparison of numbers 2015 to 2019
 
20142019% decrease
SD3 2001207240
R8 200/4009000260171
R3 200 inc Streetwise111,00022,04580
HH-R 40047,70011,37276

He adds: ‘The 200 (SD3), launched in 1984, has already reached double-digit numbers and is perhaps being recognised as ‘endangered’ but still has suffered a 40% decline in on-the-road numbers. The other three Rover 200 ranges, launched between 1989 and 1995, have reduced between 70 and 80% in five years, giving a half-life of two-and-a-half years!’

Applying this likely worst case of halving every three years (to make the maths a bit easier) to all but the probably stable MGB and Mini gives the following results:

Three-year half-life
202020232026202920322035
Metro2300115057528814472
Maestro38019095482412
Montego12060301584
Rover 200 (SD3)703518942
Rover 800460230115582914
Rover 200 (R8)199099549824912462
Rover 400 (R8)600300150753819
Rover 600660330165834121
Rover 400 (HH-R)15007503751889447
Rover 200 (R3)465023251163581291145
MGF8200410020501025513256
Rover 7519,5009750487524381219609
MG TF12,000600030001500750375
Rover 45720036001800900450225
Rover 2512,300615030751538769384
MG ZR510025501275638319159
MG ZS2700135067533816984
MG ZT430021501075538269134
Total86,05044,03823,03412,53372844661

It’s bleak, but maybe not as bleak as these numbers play out. As John says, ‘this works out at a 94% reduction over the next 15 years, but that is probably not going to happen as reductions usually level out. So, taking the example of Rover 200 (SD3), which is now on a half-life of about six rather than three years and is six years older than the R8, and applying that to the Metro/Maestro/Montego and Rover 800 and, in forthcoming years, to Rover and MG models produces the following forecast.’

Three- then six-year half-life
202020232026202920322035
Metro230017251294970728546
Maestro38028521416012090
Montego1209068513828
Rover 200 SD3705339302217
Rover 800460345259194146109
Rover 200 R81990995746560420315
Rover 400 R860030022516912795
Rover 600660330248186139104
Rover 400 HH-R1500750563422316237
Rover 200 R34650232517441308981736
MG F820041003075230617301297
Rover 7519,50097507313548441133085
MG TF12,00060004500337525311898
Rover 4572003600180013501013759
Rover 2512,30061503075230617301297
MG ZR510025501275956717538
MG ZS27001350675506380285
MG ZT430021501075806605454
Total86,05044,87130,21223,16817,88613,926

This is still an 84% reduction!

So, with a current car population of 33 million, there are just 86,050 of Austin Rover, Rover Group and MG Rover cars left on the road and, in a best-case scenario, that will drop to 13,926 in 15 years time. Should we be sad about this? On a personal level, it’s a real shame that the UK car landscape looks like anywhere else in Europe these days (‘it’s Starbucking, man…’) and the demise of MG Rover has clearly been a major contributor to this.

However, the good news is that, in another few years, those remaining cars will be in appreciative hands, cherished by their owners – and there will be more than 10,000 left. With those numbers, we can be assured that parts supplies and club interest will be healthy. Let’s hope those owners keep reading AROnline. That’s a positive we can all take home…

MG Commerce

[John Batchelor’s Notes: The half lives have been applied to a model line as a whole and uses the model’s introduction date, so do not take the age of specific vehicles into account. That’s just too hard! This does not take into account SORN’d vehicles being made roadworthy again, which is likely to happen for specific vehicles, especially if values rise significantly. No account has been taken of potential Scrappage Schemes or taxation changes, either of which could have a sudden and significant effect on vehicle numbers.]

Keith Adams

32 Comments

  1. Hi Keith.

    Very interesting read, I also use the ‘how many left’ site and feel that the data has a margin of error, confirmed in the article, which suggests the future predictions to be pessimistic. I can only speak confidently for the MGR V8 production models still mooching about. Our current ‘live’ member owners within the Two Sixties stands at around 660. This is made up of all V8’s both MG’s and Rover 75’s, in the whole world. Admittedly its reliant on people confirming back to us when they sell their cars but we tend to pick the change up either when the team identify cars in showrooms or auctions or when member owners tell the forum they are selling their cars. That said some do slip through so we estimate that currently there is between 450 to 550 cars either on the road, SORN, in other countries. This is double the range in the ‘how many left’ site.

    It’s also assumed as time moves along the proportion of V8’s compared to other variants will increase as again in the article, there will be a better economic reason to repair a V8 due to the residual value.

    Regards Tim

  2. Interesting work. IMO the MG derivatives of Metro, Maestro and Montego must be worth collecting as future classics. I foresee a classic J curve in pricing of some models as people realise they become rare eg Rover 75, as is currently happening with early 90’s Japanese cars like Celicas.

    How many cars get scrapped due to accident damage rather than MOT repairs being uneconomical?

    Be interesting to see how things stand with Honda platform equivalent Ballade, Concerto, Accord (can’t remember when I last saw one of them on the road), Legend (ditto), etc.

    There might be a small future skew with bringing RHD cars back to the UK becoming viable, eg rust free Japanese Minis.

    What’s depressing at the moment is the very low value of servicable MG Rover cars in salvage auctions – snap them up if you have a spare barn!

  3. I may be heresy to talk of other marques here, but today I saw a beautiful condition Sunbeam Rapier. With the registration 127 RYB, I imagine it was1961, 1962 or 1963. I could almost smell the leather.

  4. To become valuable, or relatively valuable classics, cars have to have a certain nostalgic appeal and appearance. The cars mentioned in the article are essentially older basic transportation cars…some a bit more upmarket and luxurious than others, but not very memorable to most people, except to some die-hard enthusiasts willing to become club members. I don’t want to be a wet blanket, but being realistic, even some rather nice classic Jaguar saloons aren’t fetching much money, and thus not worth restoring/maintaining, unless money is no object. I predict that fifty years from now, for example, the only MG TFs that will still have a steady parts supply will be the 1954-55 MG TF sports car, that came before the MGA! Darwinian though it may seem, in the end it is the economics of the marketplace that will determine the survival of what becomes a timeless classic.

    • Yes but whose nostalgia? Will cars from the 50’s and 60’s really hold their value when the generation that can remember them as new cars is no longer with us?

      Take your MG TF. Why would anyone bother with an ancient relic, based on a prewar design, when no-one living can remember that car being on the road? The demand and value of pre-war cars has gone down for that very reason.

  5. Ignores the fact that UK Govt is looking to phase out sales of new internal combustion cars in 2035. Thats only 15 years away, or the average life of a new car sold today.
    Elsewhere in the heritage sector, steam railways are looking at coal supplies dwindling rapidly as UK’s coal-fired power stations close or are converted to alternatives. Its a big problem, they use a tiny amount compared to power generators and it calls into question their future supplies and viability.
    Once electric car sales push petrol and diesel over the tipping point a similar thing could happen, availability of those fuels will likely decrease and prices increase.
    Meantime as we see climate change happening around us the eco-lobby is becoming ever more active.
    Face it, burning fossil fuels for fun has only a finite time left.
    The times they are a-changing. I say buy a big old smoker now and enjoy it while you can.

    • I can’t say I would be too upset about that, if it means we have perfected electric car. Objectively the only advantage that ICE cars have is quick refueling and range. If electric cars solve those issues, why would i want a petrol or diesel car?

      However there is an alternative future, in which fuel from air technology is perfected. If powered by nuclear power and renewables. Making petrol/diesel from the air is carbon neutral and we already have the infrastructure for such vehicles.

      It all depends on how fast battery tech can improve and how cheap it gets.

  6. And if no ‘spare barn’ – just space for one more under a car port, I’d still say ….. “Go for it”.! That’s what I did 6 months ago. Saw an eBay ad. “Rover 75 Tourer CDTI for repair or spares. Just failed MOT rear brakes. £350” Without seeing the car, which happened to be in Cornwall 350 miles away from where we live, in Chris C’s words above, I ‘snapped’ it up. Having ascertained that the vendor would be willing to deliver the car to a family member’s home a few miles away, I cheerfully paid the asking price by bank transfer & looked forward to visiting Cornwall after Christmas to be united with my purchase. Was I disappointed after doing something so stupid.? Au contraire mon ami. The car turned out to be an Auto Connoisseur model in gold with all the usual refinements. The investment of a further £350 at ‘Newquay Motors” got ‘her’ serviced & through the MOT. An attractive & useful vehicle, rescued from being dismantled for spares and with the ability to double its current mileage of 140k. Could I recoup my £700 outlay.? Probably NOT. But there are some things in life you need to do for LOVE . This is one of them

  7. I quite often see 75s when out and about, and they always look cared for. I had a 400 diesel for some time and now have a 45 diesel as my main (only) car. Had that for 6 years now and happy to spend where necessary on its upkeep – my biggest fear is someone hitting it, however mildly, as that could be the killer. Rarely see other 400/45/ZSs, but occasionally a nice one will appear. Not been in use since lockdown, as WFH, and getting deliveries of essentials. Did go for a quick blast the other day and it seemed to be smoother and quieter than ever. I’ve not modified it in any way, as seems to be the usual thing for these. I get 50mpg on my mixed commute of 11 miles each way, and much more on longer motorway trips – pretty much exactly as listed in the manual.

  8. Would have been interesting to see what the pre-1980 BL survival rate was also, where do things stand with surviving Allegro, Marina, Maxi, Princess etc. Have these numbers stabilised?

  9. My father in laws mg metro has been laid up for over a year at a friend’s garage, waiting for the reconditioned hydra gas to be fitted, so there will be another back on the road once that’s fitted.

  10. I have a burgundy rover 216 cabriolet ‘laid up’ on my father-in-laws drive. I took it off the road 7months ago because it needs a bit of money spent on it…….but I ran her as a second car for over 3 years and knew that she was a good reliable backup. I still used and enjoyed her everyday during the 3 years and she never missed a beat. Her future is in doubt at the mo, but part of me wants to plough some cash in and get her back on the road……we’ll see…….but still using my immaculate dark blue 2003 Mg zs 180 everyday for the fun factor, when I can…..as I also have a company vehicle
    Always had Morris/triumph/mg and rovers and it is very difficult to give up the habit of owning them and enjoying them!!!!
    Hope they never die out

  11. Anyone that uses the how many left site needs to take it with a massive MASSIVE grain of salt, they have listed cars as extinct when the club in question had a number of members, and our own classic is not even on there either and thats on the road… and it is the only one left, according to them for the year of build, plus the last time it was looked at there had been NO additions made for some time.

    • HML now includes the latest 2019 DVLA data and, as always, is only as good as that is….

      The analysis is meant to give general directions and not exact numbers.

  12. Think there may be a small error.

    First table says 31 MG Metros left, then the “more details” text underneath says 64 MG Metro 1300s and 25 MG Metro Turbos, which surely makes 89?

  13. I know of four Rover 75s in use where I live and all in good condition. I think the ones that have survived have been well maintained and belong to older owners. They don’t seem to be treated as bangers like the 200 and 400 became as they reached 10 years old and were probably scrapped when a major bill appeared or needed MOT work.

  14. Two points to add. The How Many Left site definitely has errors as I have a 2010 Ford Mustang, a personal import, the DVLA list as ‘Ford Coupe. No model name is recorded, even on the V5, so this car wouldn’t show on any search except as ‘Ford’.

    Secondly, my brother is records officer for an exotic Italian motorcycle owners group. Their members supply reg nos and engine/frame numbers, and they have more bikes of certain models than DVLA show. I think this is the same as the first issue.

    HML is useful, but only indicative.

    Finally, I know two 75s near me, both well looked after and in regular use by their long term owners. One is a V6 Tourer in the paint that changes colour in the sun. He’s most worried about body damage!

  15. My ex MG Maestro Turbo, No. 40 BRG, has been in my brother’s brother-in-law’s garage since 2000.
    To view it in all it’s glory, from years gone by, Google images “Two Tone MG Maestro Turbo”, there you find 4 images of a BRG Turbo with lurid Fiat bright green (yellow-ish) side skirts!
    Taken at a MGM meeting.
    It’s not too original though, as i kinda went mad on it, fitting a digital talking dash, rear electric windows, electric sunroof, wood door tops (what was i thinking), VW bigger front discs, boost turned up, bigger carb needle (245bhp on a rolling road in Padiham. A mini specialist garage if my memory hasn’t deserted me), and so on.
    Anyway, heaven knows if it’s still SORN or if it’s now slipped through the net.

  16. We probably all see a few regular local cars where we live but its out on the Motorways that they have disappeared. When we were able to make long distance runs I always made an effort to spot Rovers and MGs. Its usually single figures over a 200 mile journey.
    That is unless it was a trip to POL!!
    On the subject of colour flip paint finishes, my MG ZT 260 was in Twilight Blue/ Purple and the worry about possible paint damage probably accounted for its very low mileage when I sold it after 15 years ownership.
    Great comments here on an interesting subject, we are definitely dinosaurs!

  17. You are right when it comes to mass-produced vehicles, Bartelbe. You are quite wrong when it comes to classic, and even vintage automobiles considered ICONIC. Thus the value of an American Ford Model A has gone down in the marketplace, as has an English Austin 7. However, the value of a pre-war car such as an SS Jaguar 100 is still in the stratosphere, and a company such as Suffolk is doing well building REPLICAS! This is a car where the only people alive when they were new are in their nineties and not driving. Plenty of other classics are selling for higher prices now than ever…it all comes down to whether the marketplace has decided that they are iconic enough or not. I have never owned an MG TF, but even “my” MG TF, as you put it, is holding its value very nicely. As for the other MG TF, I doubt it will ever be worth an arm and a leg, even though I respect the devotion of its aficionados.

  18. MESSAGE TO BARTELBE: your reply from Laurence to your “whose nostalgia?” comment is at the bottom of the postings

  19. One has to wonder how the economic crises from the Covid-19 Pandemic will have on keeping many of the more mundane models of older cars discussed here on the road as owners lose jobs, need to use savings used to keep them going to survive.

    • It’s unlikely to be good, especially if the Government or any car manufacturers run another scrapped scheme.

      • I think it’s unlikely we will see more scrappage schemes for a while, especially as the government is borrowing so much. As was reported in the news earlier this week, scientists are worried that the cleaner air we have at the moment will actually get worse after lock down as people will drive more and hold onto older vehicles longer.

  20. how about this then – friend’s just picked up ex MG Rover management 04 MG TF in sunspot from a little old lady in west lancs – 14,000 miles from new and she asked under £200 for it.

  21. I think it’s safe to assume that for some models, such as 90s 100 and 200 and maybe also the bigger 600 and 800, there are more here in Italy than in GB

  22. The point made earlier about losing the ‘memory connection’ – the issue of the very young folks not remembering an ordinary car like the Cortina – is a worrying one. The VSCC are struggling with membership levels and ages – most of the 20’s and early 30’s cars are owned by elderly folk who – in some cases – remember them on the road. The only (generally) younger owners are ‘monied’ and take the membership into a ‘silly money’ arena. The result of the ‘age related interest’ thing is evident when we show a 30’s Wolseley alongside a 50’s MG. the old folks migrate to the Wolseley and the middle-aged ones (but not the very young who think an early Nissan Micra is a classic car) go to the MG. Seen it time and time again. There are not many of us out there that find an Edwardian Racer to be a thing of great beauty and interest – whilst most will cross the field to look at a MK 3 Cortina. If it’s all to do with ‘connection’ then other than the million pound exotics – it might all just fizzle out. I’m not sure – just playing devil’s advocate I guess.

    • Your right. Being born in the 70s, I have a fondness for most 60s, 70s and 80s cars which I remember on the road, but most pre 60s stuff I look at but not with the same enthusiasm – except for one of two models. My father, when he was alive, use to migrate to the older cars especially to a MG VA or a Riley Kestrel, both which he use to go rallying in as a child.

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