Our Cars : Project Connie – Living the dream or letting off steam?

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Well, he’s been trundling around in her for almost a month and the V5 has now arrived in a nice brown envelope from Swansea. That’s right, the logbook is now in his name. We find out how things are shaping up for Mike Humble and his living room on wheels…

The "Project Connie" seems to behaving itself rather nicely despite very little fettling so far. With the exception of the gear knob and steering wheel, the only real wood is in the background.
Project Connie seems to behaving itself rather nicely despite very little fettling so far.
With the exception of the gear knob and steering wheel, the only real wood is in the
background – that’s Project Drive for you – but it’s all in hand readers!

I’ll confess, there was just a hint of buyer’s regret shortly after rolling home in the 75 SE T. Quite a few different cars were on the hit list and, literally days after the last £20 had been stuffed into the trousers of the semi-retired trader she came from, a mate in the trade, who goes back decades with me, informed me of a Jaguar X-Type diesel.

It was too leggy for him to retail but he informed me it was more on the button than a Saville Row tailor. Nige’s word is his bond (stand on me) but too late… I was back in the wobbly world of the Rover 75 – the bed was truly made for me to lie in, but boy what a comfy bed it is.

Using it as a daily hasn’t really brought up many major problems and most of the issues she does have were spotted during the poke and prod down at the trader’s premises. A foreign body in the road caused some damage to the exhaust flexi pipe shortly after purchase and that has necessitated the replacement of the aforementioned part and the catalytic converter.

A new old stock part was sourced locally for a very agreeable price and fitted for mates’ rates at a local garage. By the way, just in case you were wondering, the French tourist is doing well in Redhill Hospital. Ahem… I jest..

The 150Ps turbo 1.8 is using zero coolant and oil. Theres a couple of minor leaks from the camshaft carrier, pulley seals and rocker gasket though - fiddly but worthwhile tasks. Performance is swift and quiet - not startlingly rapid but torquey. Revised final drive gearing makes motorway munching much much better than the naturally aspirated 1800's.
The 148bhp 1.8-litre Turbo is using zero coolant and oil. There’s a couple of minor leaks
from the camshaft carrier (one of which you can just spot right above the alternator bracket),
pulley seals and valve cover gasket – fiddly but worthwhile tasks. Performance is swift and
quiet – not startlingly rapid but torquey and progressive. Revised higher final drive gearing
makes motorway munching much, much better and less rev demanding than the
naturally-aspirated 1800s.

Besides a deep clean of the engine bay, nothing has been tinkered or touched with the exceptions of the spark plugs, air and cabin filters. The sparkers had a gap so large you could almost slide a jam butty through and the pollen filter was soaking wet and covered with more feathers than a flock of seagulls.

The dreaded middle plenum was blocked up (what a surprise, eh?) though the ECU was fine, done in time just after the recent Sussex monsoon that hit us last week. One thing is dead certain, despite the full service history the book and papers proudly state, it’s not been half as well cared for as you would imagine.

However, that’s what made me say hello to such a good buy, a nice Rover in decent order that requires revival – a car every inch on the cusp of turning into a doom machine. AROnlinereader and mate Pete Melville popped by just the other day with a boot full of OBD equipment to mind meld if you like with the Rover’s brain. My own scanner is only a basic device and I was keen to see that was lurking in the memory.

The results were disappointing – or, in reality, pleasing with only a code or two for a misfire that points towards the life-expired plugs and maybe the leads. He seemed reasonably impressed after a quick blast up the local by-pass, too.

Former spanner guy and present Snap-On training guru Pete Melville went through the ECU like a bad pint... and found very little to worry about.
Former spanner guy, site fan, banter buddie and present Snap-On training guru, Pete
Melville, went through the ECU and under bonnet electrical bits with all the ruthlessness
and speed of a bad pint – and found very little for me to worry about. Win!

She does drive really well for an unloved clunker – and I do mean that most sincerely folks. Fuel consumption is quite impressive, as is the refinement and torque. That said, as Andy Williams crooned, the Days of Wine and Roses are far from here and there are, of course, the items listed below which require attention if I am to bring it anywhere near the same standard of the last Rover 75 we brought back from the dead.

Anyway, so far, it’s looking pretty good.

These consist of the following to date and are not exhaustive:

  • Totally shot rear foot and park brake discs and shoes
  • Leaking camshaft carrier
  • Weeping camshaft pulley seals
  • Drive and PAS belts require replacement soon
  • Slight rattle from the driver’s side anti-roll bar drop link
  • Laughably poor quality imitation wood fascia requires removal and burning with fire
  • Driver’s side door seal split and perished
  • Polish and restore the plastic headlamp lenses
  • The deepest interior clean and valet known to mankind.
  • Source and fit some mudflaps

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

21 Comments

  1. Looks nice in Firefrost Red… that was a colour on my want list when I bought a ZS (ended up with X Power grey though – still nice). This R75 still has character about it in my eyes – more so than some of the latest designs out there.

    Small query – I was sure the 1.8T engine was quoted as putting out 160ps, not 150? Look forward to reading further reports and whether Mike will actually replace the plastic wood facia!

  2. Good to see someone rescuing a 75 – but the article would be much more readable without all the ‘Arfur Dailey’ embellishments and unnecessary similes…

    • BongoBill, I don’t think you realise that Mike ‘Umble was the very inspiration for Arfur Daley. Similarly, it was a no-brainer when they chose Dennis Waterman to play Keef Adams. Mike’s articles just wouldn’t be Mike’s articles if they weren’t written by Mike, and sown with more corn than Iowa.

  3. Always liked the exterior but the carriage clock interior and twee red backlit cream dials were always a major turn off for me (along with the lack of rear legroom). Still, looks like a good car and should give many miles of cheap motoring with a bit of TLC. Plenty quick enough with 150bhp.

    • Funny ain’t it? The twee dials were what first caused me to fall in love with the 75. I still get a little thrill when the odd sunny Sunday rolls around and I pull the dust cover off my lovely Cowley Connoisseur, open the door, savour the aroma of leather and cast my eyes over that superlative dash and instrument cluster. Because I sit up front in the pilot’s seat and refuse to contaminate the interior with dirty, unappreciative passengers, I care nothing about the rear leg room.

  4. Well Mike, I think you should be well pleased with this purchase even with the list of ’round to it’ jobs. Don’t think there is anything there that’s going to cause head aches apart from the dreadful plastic intake manifold , also the H/G issues that have seen many of these great looking cars go to scrap. Looking forward to hearing more .

  5. Project Drive – living (?) proof of that old adage that you should never, ever let an accountant run a business.

    Lovely colour, that metallic red but what an old fuddy-duddy design the R75 was – made even worse by its clumsy final ‘facelift’. It took the Chinese to make it rather a good looking car, in the shape of the Roewe 750.

    I wonder if any 750s have made it over to the UK. Now that would make an interesting ARO project…

    • Accountants taking over from engineers? Just ask Ford of the late 80s and Mercedes of the late 90s how that worked out.

      Though MGR, as it turns out, was living hand to mouth, they had to do something to stave off what turned out to be the unfortunate inevitable.

  6. “With the exception of the gear knob and steering wheel, the only real wood is in the
    background – that’s Project Drive for you – but it’s all in hand readers!”

    Hang on a minute…Is the wood on the steering wheel and the gear knob real??

  7. @Warrent, for some reason I can’t reply to you post, but for Sundays and sunny days I have a Japanese MGB (MX5 2.0 litre). MG without the tears. I tend not to worry about rear legroom in that, but for my day to day rise I have to accommodate two lanky teenagers and my own long legged frame plus SWMBO, hence a Mercedes C Class estate is the business tool of choice. I looked at the 75 tourer just before Rover went bust, unfortunately it was just too small, although I liked the 2.0 diesel engine and the front seats were comfy enough.

    As I spend a lot of time in my car, and it’s a business tool, I really want to like the interior, and the 75 just did not do it, although I really wanted to support Rover Group. At the time I settled for a Saab 9-5, which I disposed of just before Saab went to the wall.

    • I have two 75s at home right now, and in the later PD-afflicted car the interior has lost some of the charm and quality that made the original so attractive to me. I always have a sense of well-being when I sit in my early Connoisseur. It’s like no other car, and I love it.

      Funny, I had a liking for Saab too, but never indulged, with Rover being ahead of them on the list. Nowadays my daily runner/business tool is an MG6 (my second), and whilst I have no great love for the interior (despite it being far better quality than people give it credit for), it is a good, enjoyable, dependable car. And oddly, despite having 100mm less between the wheels, it seems to have more rear leg room than the 75. Better packaging, obviously. Anyway, I’m 5’6″, SWMBO is 4’10”, and the kids are commensurately diminutive. We could all fit in an MX5 on the weekends!

      • I dealt with the Saab itch, unfortunately now left with a car needing a driveshaft where the old dealer now deals in Porsches, and wants nothing to do with a rebodied Vectra, and the Vauxhall dealer is useless.

  8. The 160bhp 1.8t was the mg zt state of tune. Good luck finding rear mk2 mud flaps. They’re very hard to come by! 75s are fabulous cars, I’ve got 4! The BMW 2.0 diesel with an auto box is the best combination.
    Project drive deletions are annoying and do Reduce quality and the pleasure of driving one but without it, mg rover may well have folded earlier than they managed to hang on for. Replacing project drive affected components with pre project drive ones is very popular as most of the items are easily changed items of trim.

  9. Well spotted! That’s a real Rover. A cursory web search indicates it’s been for sale for at least 18 months – I’m not surprised at that price!

    What a lovely example, though – the front grille on the 4.6 looked almost… modern!

  10. That place is full of ultra low mileage Rovers at ultra high prices! Obviously sitting on them waiting for something…

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