Project Drive – Working (R)overtime!

Mike Humble  

The Project Rover 25 at long last becomes the car it should have been thanks to the fitting of a new item that was literally driving its owner round the bend… a new steering wheel! 

Well, here we are in 2011 and Happy New Year to you all – I hope you enjoy this New Year and that your hopes and dreams all come to fruition!  

I’ve been beavering away since Christmas on the old 25 and, to be fair, I have been doing various ‘betterment’ jobs on the old cronk ever since I bought it last Autumn. On the whole, but after a slightly troublesome start, my thoughts on my latest project car have been favourable but I will state that it’s nowhere near as full of character and resilience as my previous, ancient R8 214 SLi – which I still miss. The Rover 25 is by no means a bad car but it’s just not in the same league of quality as the previous front drive Rover cars such as the R8 & HH-R models.  

Over the past few months, I have tried to add the features so cruelly removed by MG Rover’s Project Drive policy. These have included the fitting of the mock walnut trims to the dash and heater surround, a later valve cover with Rover branding, a yellow warning label on the PAS reservoir, Rover logos on the rear C-Pillars, a wiring cover to the MAP sensor on the inlet manifold and sound insulation to the passenger foot-well area.  

Eat your dinner off this? Seriously, you could!

Other numerous jobs have also been done along the way including the fitting of 5w dash bulbs instead of the previous 3w jobbies – now you can see the damn clocks  properly in fading light. A subtle orange light has been wired into the ashtray – a feature last seen on a small Rover in the earliest of R8 GSi models, not true to form for the Rover 25, but hey, I like it. One of the jobs that really made a difference was lowering the ride height of the clutch pedal.  

Brighter clocks but they don't glare at you

This common Rover trait is relatively simple to cure providing the clutch itself is in a good state. To run through the entire procedure on here is long winded but, by following a workshop manual, removal of the clutch pedal is not as scary as you may think and adjustment of the ride height is possible by altering the stop bolt on the top of the pedal – it transforms the driving experience because the clutch pedal is no longer 3in higher than the brake.  

However, by far the most annoying thing on my car was its nasty steering wheel complete with crumbling rim – another late MG Rover feature which smudges the overall pleasure of the interior. Unfortunately, as with many components on later MG Rover products, quality suffered. I could bang on about the carpets, non-painted surfaces under the bonnet and so on, but MG Rover changed the suppliers of the steering wheel at the time the 200 changed to the 25.  

The previous R3-shape Rover had a high quality, chunky steering wheel which looked good and tough even after high mileages. Change over to the 25 and the wheel is dimensionally the same, but the quality is vastly inferior. The rim itself has a very cheap gloss rubber trim which is very thin and is quickly damaged by acids and chemicals found in human sweat as well as hand creams. The result? The rim lacquer crumbles away exposing the foam rubber beneath which looks and feels horrid to the touch!  

Nice leather trimmed R3 wheel replaces the horrible standard one

The replacement wheel was donated from a scrap R3 216 SLi which also has the added feature of a leather rim – more befitting the Rover marque. This wheel is totally interchangeable with the Rover 25 type and the only tools you need are 13 & 19mm sockets and a torx bit set.  

PLEASE NOTE care and safety needs to be adhered to when removing or refitting the airbag! The difference out on the road is amazing –  I no longer wince at the touch of horrible foam rubber as I twirl the wheel from lock to lock.  

My final Project Drive reversal came in the form of fitting electric/heated door mirrors. One benefit of MG Rover’s cost-cutting was the fitting of common wiring looms which makes the fitting of items such as door mirrors or front fog lamps a doddle. Poke out the blanking trims and you will find wiring connectors for your mirror switch and front fog lamps. Investigate further and you will find wiring plugs for electric window motors behind the door cards – even if your’s is a base model!  

I have also invested in a new battery as the old one was showing the signs of a dying cell and the alternator was making noises suggesting that heavy charging was taking place – prevention is better than the cure so they say. I have therefore ended up investing a bit of time and money in the car but it’s money well spent and I have every intention of trundling up the M40 for the next Pride Of Longbridge gathering.  

Washed, polished and ready for everything 2011 can throw at it

Anyway, on a personal note, I would like to say a MASSIVE thank you to the new friends and aquaintances I have made last year. I have also been chuffed and flattered by many of the comments made in response to my witterings and ramblings on this ever-growing and brilliant website. I intend to expand the subject of Leyland Trucks and Buses with the help of Andrew Elphick. It will take a little time, but it will happen.  

To close, 2011 marks another chapter in my topsy-turvy world of all things Motor Trade-related. There is a possibilty that my experiences of and thoughts about the trade may go into print in a leading automotive publication. It’s all thanks to some of the people I have met and got to know during the last year. Everybody who contributes to this website, no matter how small or what its content may be, plays a massive part in the heritage and memory of the British Motor Industry – I am, as I’m sure you also are, very, very proud to be a part of it.  

Here’s to 2011!

Mike Humble


  1. Interesting stuff and a tidy looking little R25. Sounds like the tweaks have really improved it and put back some of the quality Project Drive drove out!

  2. Project Drive reminds me of the cost-cutting exercise done by Ford when the Mondeo Mk3 was facelifted around late 2003.

    Anyway, it’s nice to see a Rover 25 being as loved as this one is.

  3. It’s the little things which make the most difference – especially on cars with a perceived ‘quality’ image, such as the late-model Rovers.

  4. (Slight pause while I put my anorak on.)
    Actually Mike, the steering wheels for both 200s and 25s were made by Breed Steering Systems in Tyseley – I worked there at the time of the changeover. The rims are made of polyurethane, covered in in-mould paint (not lacquer, as such).

    BSS are no longer in business – the whole Breed Group collapsed – I believe they are now owned by Key Safety. The factory in Tyseley (built for New Imperial motorcycles and later owned by Alvis) has been demolished and houses have been built in its place.

    I can see that your steering wheel deteriorated dreadfully – it’s a very wise move to replace it with a leather-covered one.

    Incidentally, common wiring looms were also used on HC Vauxhall Vivas from 1975 on. Gosh, it’s really time I took my anorak off!

  5. @Ken Strachan
    Was that the same factory in Tyseley that the Rover Company acquired and possibly used when it purchased Alvis in 1965?

    Do you also know when the factory was demolished?

    Sorry for the questions but, as a Rover enthusiast, I would be interested to learn more about this former factory.

  6. @David 3500
    I don’t honestly know – it was in Spring Road, B11 3DN – now Clifford Close etc. and should not be confused with the old Rover factory in nearby Kings Road. That’s still standing, but split into industrial units.

    The factory was originally built for New Imperial motorcycles in about 1930. I haven’t been able to find a picture on the web, but I will post a link if I can. The steering wheel company was originally the Clifford Covering Company and supplied steering wheels for the Rover P4.

    BSS was demolished between 2000 and 2003. It was a very old-fashioned factory with a foundry, metal cutting and shaping, assembly and leather wrapping on site – even a toolmaker (Digiform).

    The only thing we couldn’t do on site was to do wood wrapping for Jaguar and Land Rover. I believe Alvis used it in their military vehicles era.

  7. A nice article and car, Mike! The photos of the dash components and Fission alloy wheels remind me of my own previous Rover 400 and Platinum Silver Rover 45. That new steering wheel is a definite improvement. Good luck in 2011!

  8. @Ken Strachan
    I was only going by what I have been told and I doff my forelock to your experience.

    Same supplier may be, but a much-noticed lack of quality over previous steering wheels.

  9. Great work! I remember driving an early 75 and, several years later, one that had been ‘Drived’ – the difference was shocking.

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