I always love emails like the one that delivered these stunning design images. It came from John Turner, former Chief Engineer, MG Rover Projects, and depicts one of MG Rover’s design ideas to extend and modernise its very capable Rover 75 platform, and move it beyond the RDX60 hatchback project.
The background to these images is fascinating. MG Rover was facing an existential crisis – since the beginning of 2004, the company had desperately been trying to land a deal with SAIC Motor to produce its cars in China and join forces on future product development. The talks were proving famously inconclusive, and the Chinese were proving elusive when it came to signing on the dotted line.
In early 2005, and with months left, the company went on a major charm offensive to get the Chinese on board. It had been accepted that the rather unsexy RDX60 wasn’t enough to do the deed by itself so the company’s talented young Designers were tasked with creating some design concepts to show to SAIC Motor’s executives and demonstrate what they – and the platform – were capable of.
A race against time
MG Rover’s future lay ahead of it – and it could be measured in weeks. And with a team led by the brilliant Peter Stevens, and including such young talent as Lee Mitchell, Adam Gompertz and Dan Bowen among others, they were bound to come up with some interesting ideas!
You can see the results of the last ditch plan to turn things around in the RDX60 development story page (linked above), but these previously unseen images – which appear to have been penned by Dan Bowen – demonstrate that MG Rover wanted to show the Chinese that it was deadly serious about taking the Rover marque back upmarket for a launch in the world’s fastest-growing car market.
Sadly, we all know the ending. SAIC Motor walked away at Easter 2005 and, by the following month, it was over for MG Rover. The company went into administration, with Nanjing Automobile Corporation picking up the bones, and the much of the firm’s workforce, including its Design Team, being scattered to the four winds.
All the design
What I find fascinating about these images is just how natural Rover’s developing design language worked in a more upmarket direction. This curvaceous coupe/saloon, cast in the Mercedes-Benz CLS mould, was clearly inspired by the Bugatti Veyron as well as the Rover P5B and it works rather well.
Looking at it with the benefit of 20 years’ worth of hindsight, it’s a car that, had it made it into production by some miracle, would have sunk without a trace in a world that was about to be overrun by an absolute avalanche of SUVs. But, still, this is a lovely-looking idea and Rover-ish enough to help take the brand forwards in a new and exciting direction.
Interestingly, though, in today’s EV-centric world, the idea of a fast, beautiful saloon is making a return on the coat tails of cars like the BYD Han, HiPhi Z Sedan, Lucid Air and Volkswagen ID.7, so here’s an intriguing thought: could this Rover/Bugatti mash-up have been just the thing for here and now?