Project 75 : Part 2, it all comes to a head!

Working on the proviso that prevention is better than the cure, Mike Humble spends some quality time with the 75 while also putting right some of the wrongs… she’s looking good!

Chromed bullet mirrors & Torpedo Badges – A more subtle form of ammunition.

Say what you will about the MG Rover cost cutting plan (Project Drive) which came into effect from 2002, but for a company where every penny mattered, MG Rover saved a small fortune, and maybe kept a few more people in gainful employment for a while longer at least. From a salesman’s point of view, we were barred from mentioning the numerous and complex deletions or revisions from the product range to the general public unless asked about it.

Everything – and I do mean everything – was scrutinised for viability and raw cost even right down to blanking caps on screw heads or the fitting of cigar lighters on 25/45 which quietly became a £15 optional extra. Rear anti roll bars were no longer fitted to 1.8 75s and our official party line was that it saved weight, ever been a passenger in a Rover 45 only to end up having cold feet? – you can blame that on the lack of rear floor heating ducts – the epic list of omitions and deletions is both extensive and worrying to read.

Anyone who has run their own business (myself included) will be all to aware of raw cost and how to control it, at the time many of us bemoaned this policy of taking a bit here and cutting a bit there, but in hindsight we now see how parlous things became with MGR but also how adept the production planners became in cutting build times and production costs.

Maybe if the same scrutinisations had been made with MGR’s previous incumbants ie: British Leyland/BAE/BMW et al, we would still be manufacturing and assembling cars in Longbridge rather than gluing them together with parts from a box – who knows. Rant over anyway.

Getting back on track (oddly, also the name of another cost cutting exercise from Inter-City Eastern Region circa 1987) my own 2002 75 Club SE is a pre project drive machine, but some items are missing that you would have found on earlier Cowley built cars: dark coloured body sills and engine denomination badges on the front doors for example.

On my home from work recently, I overtook a recovery vehicle belonging to a nearby massive breakers/salvage yard carrying a W-plate 75 on it’s back which had endured a terminal poke in bum. I was sure to pop by a day or two later to find the car among the other vehicles waiting for god pretty much intact, apart from the existing accident damage to the back end.

In the name of recycling, my smoker now sports rear C post badges – torpedo decals to the front and a pair of lovely looking chrome mirror caps for the earlier (and some say better looking) bullet type door mirrors. At the same time I also treated myself to the earlier type of engine cover with ROVER branding rather than the bland looking plain rectangle and a leather gear knob. What a difference these small changes make to the car, but as the saying goes; it’s the small things that matter – making a fine car look superb. All that needs doing now is to paint the lower parts of the bumpers and body sills in satin black – I can’t wait!

My 75 has now covered 54,000 miles on it’s original head gasket and being a firm supporter of the phrase prevention is better than the cure, I have taken the liberty of removing the head and sump in order to fit an uprated head set and oil rail. A nearby resident drives Caterhams among one or two tasty steeds, and kindly donated a modified oil rail to the cause with the proviso I write a feature as he is an avid reader of this site – cheers Bob.

Upon draining the coolant and oil, it was more than obvious that a good two-years has passed since it’s last service, the oil was as black as Satan’s underpants with the coolant looking as murky as the pond water we would collect Newts in as a child. Maybe I ought to write to Norris McWhirter with regards to the head gasket, as some 1.8 K series heads would fail within their first year let alone at nine years with mid-life mileage – a Guinness Record surely? though no doubt someone will prove me wrong.

While doing the work, the usual wanderers and dog walkers passed by remarking on the car generally and I am surprised at how receptive the public still are to the Rover 75, with one or two stopping for a chat. Comments such as ‘what a shame they came to this’ or ‘what a handsome car’, are still banded about when describing the 75 or ZT.

They are very much a 10 paces and turn car – you have to have one final glance over your shoulder be it after parking in Sainsbury’s or before closing the front door.

Considering how neutral I used to be towards these cars, I now find them soothing on the eye, and now with them being so utterly cheap, easy on the wallet providing it’s a good one. Even ‘er indoors likes to have a waltz round the block in the car at night – just so that she can gaze at the glowing dials – ridiculous sounding but true, maybe Rover should have featured a brass coal scuttle in the options list?

Well, everything went swimmingly, the head was straight and true, even the carbon build up at the bore tops was minimal, no slop in the cylinder liners or play in the water pump. My choice of head gasket is a multi layer steel type manufactured by Victor Reinz, having fitted many of these now with no comeback, I can wholeheartedly vouch for them and the quality is just superb – even the torque settings and tightening sequence is included in the packaging.

A friend fitted one of these two years back on his Freelander, last time I looked his mileage had clicked over to 170,000, some 50,000 miles since it was fitted. Some red type OAT antifreeze and 10w/40 oil with a filter finished the job off nicely, just in time for a long hot soak in the bath and Sunday tea.

To close, if anyone has a set of 75 mudflaps going spare at an acceptable price then please do get in touch via the Contact Us tab!

Victor Reinz MLS Head Gasket – Six layers of total quality and I swear by them!
Mike Humble


  1. Looks well with those mirrors. The 75 still looks good today, the interior especially was a work of art. Even the MG version was well thought out – a silver one was behind me yesterday and it looked every inch a performance saloon.

  2. So when you took the head off of any sign that it was about to blow? I still think you should have left well alone.

  3. “some items are missing that you would have found on earlier Cowley built cars: dark coloured body sills”

    I always thought the painted sills and valances made the car look much better. It made the body look lower and seemed to give it more presence. The rear bumper looks better by far, as with the black rear valance it looks like it’s hitching it’s arse up.

  4. Looking better by the day! I remember those torpedo engine door badges and chrome mirror housings. I had a 2003 MGZS which didn’t have sound deadening material under the bonnet (my previous R45 did) That must have been another example of “Project Drive”!

    Cant wait to see more of Mike’s progress on this car.

  5. Sounds impressive!
    Slightly off topic, but if anyone can point me in the direction of more comprehensive info Re “Project drive” and things which were removed or deleted from cars I’d be interested, I’m guessing it must be somewhere on this site.
    My sister ran around for a while in a Rover 45 on a 03 plate for a while which she’d borrowed. I only rode in it twice, but it seemed but more cheaply put together than a similar Rover 400 on an N plate which my dad had as a company car. Both were 1.4 I models I think, but the older of the two felt classyer and better screwed together. Sadly my sister hated the 45, largely because of it’s colour “a horid shade of green” as she put it, but I still think it felt comfortable to ride in, certainly one of the most comfortable cars I’ve had the pleasure of being a front seat passenger in. Why people dislike them so much I’lll never know.
    Anyway, as Mike says, “Project drive” was a shame, but probably kept the companyy going for longer which has to be no bad thing.

  6. I don’t know.
    I had just convinced myself not go down the 75/ZT route.
    Then, I read this.
    I want a 75 again now… 🙂

  7. My 75 had an MLS gasket and Oil rail 48000 ago and all is still well.

    As an early Longbridge car mine still has bullet mirrors and torpedo badges but had lost its C pillar badges, illuminated vanity mirrors ,leather gearknob and black sills.

    If you’re after mudflaps, good luck. I’m looking for a set for the ZT-T and even a set of second hand ones are £28 on the ‘bay.

  8. @Keith Adams

    “Next step – black sills
    Like my old 75.”

    I can’t believe the difference the black sills and lower bumper section make! The chrome stands out far better and the bumper stops looking like the one piece moulding that it probably is. Get that rattle can out Mike!

  9. “I can’t believe the difference the black sills and lower bumper section make! The chrome stands out far better ”

    That’s colour dependent though, i’ve always found the cars looked better in say Midnight Blue, as it enhanced all the chrome, like the door handles and the coach line.

  10. @Angus Huntley… I’ve owned an R400, R45 and ZS and liked all three. My R45 was Platinum silver with 15″ alloys and rear spoiler and with its mix of chrome & wood effect trim I thought it always looked classy (poor mans R75 or Jag?).

    I liked the front twin headlight/grille arrangement a’la 75 – that’s why I bought it. Perhaps the “old man / pipe & slippers” image put buyers off, but I wasn’t an old man or smoker when I owned it! I lament not having bought a 75 or ZT. If the Roewe 750 had reached our land I would have considered it.

  11. Project Drive wasn’t all bad. I worked on some of the powertrain changes, most of which were invisible to the customer: catalyst coating changes were a big cost saving to the business, £7m per annum. The introduction of 1.8T in lieu of 2.0KV6 in R75 was a big saving as well, and an improvement to the car I believe.

  12. “That’s colour dependent though, i’ve always found the cars looked better in say Midnight Blue, as it enhanced all the chrome, like the door handles and the coach line.”

    Good point – it wouldn’t make as much as a difference on a dark coloured car.

  13. I agree with Dennis, colour coded sills and bumper bottoms visually lowers the car and gives a much better stance, and doesn’t smack of rusty bits covered with underseal to hide it from the MOT man 🙂

    I disagree with Dennis about the colours though, yes the darker ones show the chrome off better, but they also give the back end a heavy look, lighter colours showing the curves off better and making it look a lot less slab sided at the back. I have one photo of my old dark blue 75 taken at just the right angle to make me think the back end is just horrid, yet same car in a different lighter colour at the same angle looks fine.

  14. I might be in the minority, but I really dont like black sills, especially on the lighter coloured cars, they look a lot ‘fresher’ body-coloured.

  15. This makes me all the more annoyed that I couldn’t take a colleauges 75 off his hands a few months back. It was a very tidy W plater, same colour, decent spec (can’t remember exactly which) one owner before him, low miles and decent history with it too. All it needed was a new exhaust, couple of tyres and… head gasket. He’d used some steel seal in it (!) so untold horrors would’ve lurked I’m sure. He intended to get it sorted properly when funds allowed, however he “came into a few quid” and bought a newer car – that 75 netted him £250 at the scrap yard! I simply didn’t have the ££s at the time to sort the engine out, shame.

  16. I’m another person that thinks black sills look like its had the sills welded up and blathered in Tetroseal

  17. What dash has it got? With it being an 02 plater, it is likely it has the Plastic wood look a like version. If the passenger side cover has “AIRBAG” moulded in, it’s the plastic one. If it as “AIRBAG” in gold lettering under the lacquer, it is real wood.

    The dash panels were changed over some time in late 2001, so the 51 reg cars should still have the wood. These can be picked up quite cheaply in the scrappie, and can be changed over quite quickly – they only clip in (just be careful with the clock cable and the bowden cable for the vent wheel under the clock). You will find the wood version is a much better fit, looks better and there are no unsightly gaps around the vents – and it’s real wood!

    You will also need security Torx bits for the passenger air bag cover to remove the facia from the aluminium backing (7 screws if I recall).

    My 2002 reg tourer was registered in March ’02 and had the plastic (now replaced).

    Your car looks very good with the paint work looking in very good condition. Good Luck with it.

  18. Lol @ 18. “and doesn’t smack of rusty bits covered with underseal to hide it from the MOT man”

    What a flash back to the Seventies!

  19. She looks good – absolutely spotless!!

    In two minds about the black sills – they can be a bit DIY rust proofing! I once thought the 75 looked better with black sills but seeing the photo of yours I’m not so sure.

    After 14,000 miles all is well with my ‘new’ head gasket.

  20. Glad the 75 is shaping up – it’s a handsome car, and (like so many BMC/BL/Rover Group cars) got much better later in life.

    Interesting to hear about Project Drive – but I reflected that if you add up all the cash MG Rover burned between 2000 and the end of production in ’05, it comes to something like £2000 lost per car sold. No cost-saving project was going to be more than a (rude analogy deleted here)in a thunderstorm, sadly: Rover were making too few cars across too broad a product range, even before the nonsenses like the De Tomaso linkage, to ever make money. Ho hum… but I’d still like a very late MG ZT-T wagon 🙂

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