Mike Humble shares his memories of the Rover 75, 20 years on from when it was first unveiled at the NEC Motor Show in Birmingham.
Twenty years ago… can it really be that long ago? Yes, playmates, the Rover 75 was launched to an amazed public 20 years ago at the NEC in Birmingham on 20 October 1998.
Sadly, events overtook the car barely a year later with the BMW Group carving up and selling the Rover Group in slices, but the 75 remains a respected car. With plenty of them trundling around today, I’ll argue the point that, in a few years time, it will be talked about with the same reverence as the P5B and P6. Thanks to some truly top-drawer engineering from both Rover, the car pretty much worked straight from the box.
Engineers who developed it, Designers who had a hand in styling it, not to mention a raft of folk at the coal face (myself included), who were there from the start remain very proud of what was achieved – on time and on budget. From 2000, we saw the ornate and pretty estate car launched soon after production moved from plant Cowley to Longbridge – a move in itself that was a work of engineering and logistical art.
The fizzy MG-branded Z cars followed soon after, all developed on a budget that was a tiny fraction of what the original R40 development cost that helped to keep the momentum moving and get the age demographic of the customer down by a good few years. Sadly, despite the company spending a great deal of time looking for a collaborative partner, the game was all over for MG Rover.
How fitting a tribute then for the very last car to roll out of the Longbridge factory to be a Firefrost Red Rover 75 Connoisseur SE that now resides in the British Motor Museum.
Happy Birthday old friend… Here’s to many more!