Project 75 : Part 1, getting a firm grip on things

Mike Humble has now been a Rover 75 owner for 72 hours, has the honeymoon period ended or does it still look promising?

75 Club SE - Straight into action with no real problems thankfully

As I draw the living room curtains each morning before leaving for work, the early morning sunshine glances off the chrome grille and bumper insert of the 75, it’s a nice sight first thing in the morning. As I have said before, historically I would have never considered a Rover 75, indeed around this time last year, I recall a conversation with Keith over why the Rover 75 never floated my boat as t’were.

The Rover 800 had the potential to fall apart around you as you drove at speed, akin to one of those little cars the clowns would chug around in at the circus. But quality aside, I loved the 800, especially the earlier ones and have always fancied one. When Rover first launched the 75, I was a man in my late 20s and thought that the cutting edge of modern technology motoring should not look like the Rover 75, even though its shape even today is rather svelte.

Over the years as I have grown sideways and grey, I found the 75 to be a pretty car to stare at. In my own opinion, Richard Woolley and his styling team did a truly fantastic job of catching the retro theme with many draught ideas making it to the production line in Cowley. Those door handles which are chunky billets of chromium plate are a joy to tug and those oversized inside door pulls and bulbous column switches mean that you could probably be able to drive it wearing boxing gloves – it’s a pretty shape and design exercise, funny how that back in ’98 I was aghast in horror.

I  remember with a smile a fitter I worked with who bought a tribly hat from Northampton market, he would wear it whenever he went out on road test or PDI thus ending up with a mild telling off, they used to get a fair bit of stick!

So bringing things up to speed, I am now a middle aged man, living in a middle class area, driving a Rover 75. How does it feel? – nice. Obviously having a company smoker, the 75 is pretty much our 2nd car – well actually third as ‘er indoors has a company Golf too, but every chance I get the Rover gets used.

Pretty much from day one it’s been pressed into service with only the usual fluid checks and everything seems okay. Saturday just gone saw me fly up to Brent Cross to meet Keith for the kerbcrawling article, armed with just my camera, snouts and wallet – no tools – the journey went without any murmer or hitch whatsoever. I came home via the North/South Circular road through some torturous traffic only to be stopped by a Met traffic car advising me that a rear indicator was showing an almost white light near the Chiswick roundabout.

They allowed me to continue on the proviso that I dealt with it promptly upon returning to leafy Horsham, which I duly did along with a wing repeater bulb. So far there has been zero oil or water consumed, the tyres need rotating and I think a nearside track rod end is due but mechanically, it’s ruddy sweet.

Some niggling jobs have been attended to including a jammed ashtray which refused to slide out fully which turned out to have a wedged £2 coin in it – result. And a really annoying fault with the steering column adjuster lock. During spirited driving, the wheel would drop half an inch and giving the rim a good pull would cause the wheel to pull outwards owing to the lock system needing attention. I had the same fault on a Sierra Sapphire years ago and it annoyed the hell out of me and it’s also an MoT failure too.

After just 15 minutes work with a Phillips and 13mm spanner all is back to normal and the steering wheel locks tight again while also seemingly sharpening it’s road manners – or could that just be a placebo effect? who knows. Amazingly, all the car now needs is a good valet inside and the plan of action is to paint the bottom of the bumpers and sills satin black while adding some torpedo badges to the front doors, I think the pre 2000 Cowley cars look that bit smarter this way.

If I get chance to visit the breakers this weekend, I will grab some rear quarter trims with logos on them – I might even push the boat out for a pre Operation Drive boot lid trim. If time allows, the oil and water will be flushed through too.

If your 75 has a similar issue with steering adjustment - simply tweak the nut you can see here.
Mike Humble


  1. i remember reading the story in CAR magazine when the 75 was introduced and the test drive was in italy or something and the writer commented on a priest approaching him and saying “sir that is the most beautiful car i have ever seen”

  2. I’ve always found the 75 colour sensitive in its looks, dark colours just don’t show the shape off that well, lighter, and especially metallics, show off the subtle curves and lines to great effect.

  3. I saw a 75 on the M25 the other day with a MG ZT rear wing. I think it had been lowered a little too with lower profile tyres. It looked absolutely spot on, like a latter day Vitesse. I know it sounds like it shouldn’t work, but trust me, it does.

  4. I agree the chrome touches on Rover’s made all the difference. That’s why I liked my R45 with its chrome number plate frame, handles and bumper inserts. Perhaps the first R75’s put some buyers off with their retro looks because it maybe looked “older” than the preceeding 600?

    My last Focus also suffered from the “white rear indicator syndrome” when it had its 3 year service. I guess it takes that long for the orange coating to lose its opacity.

    So far, so good with the 75 Mike – I hope it stays that way…

  5. The orange coating on the bulbs gradually gets flaked off from the heat of the filament.

    Still, clear lens are easier on the eye than amber ones (and clear repeaters can really refresh the look of the wing on an old car!).
    Not sure if those chrome-look bulbs are any better.

    We’ve all followed a car/trailer with dodgy wiring where the brake/reversing light is blinking as the indicator!

  6. Those orange coated indicator bulbs are another way in which unscrupulous MOT testers can (allegedly) rip off unsuspecting punters, especially where you need tools and time to get at the bulbs.
    Yes the chrome on the 75 is quite tastefully done but I think over-applied on the 45 which makes it look old, especially in that light blue metallic. The worst case of tacky chrome though has to be the rear numberplate surround on later-model Escort Ghias.

  7. I had a 51 plate 206 Gti some years ago. It failed its first ever MOT for the side repeater bulbs having flaked off their amber laquer coating. I know its a personal taste thing but I prefer amber lenses nowadays – probably because of the 206 MOT incident…

  8. @Ian S. Yes, my R45 was silver so the chrome fitted in well, perhaps better than the blue you mention. I do also recall the Escort Ghia’s chrome trim on the rear plate frame and grille.

    I used to be happy with amber lenses rather than amber bulbs, but most car makers seem to follow that design trend these days.

  9. “The orange coating on the bulbs gradually gets flaked off from the heat of the filament.
    Still, clear lens are easier on the eye than amber ones (and clear repeaters can really refresh the look of the wing on an old car!).
    Not sure if those chrome-look bulbs are any better.”

    I would highly recommend the ‘chrome look’ bulbs. Not because they look like chrome, but because under the chrome coating they’re made from orange coloured glass. The front bulbs in my mini have been in there since 2005 and they still flash amber. They may be a bit more expensive and they may be aimed at boy racers but they do solve the problem!

  10. I’ve been using translucent glass paint for years to make clear bulbs orange for use in clear indicators, and to restore the orangeness to bulbs whose lacquer has flaked off. Applied with a small paintbrush after giving the bulb a good clean with meths, it works a treat and is available from any good art or model shop.

  11. That’s good DIY advice from SHEP… as has been mentioned here, the orange coating loses its opacity after a while, even though the bulbs still work fine. Painting the sills & underbumpers black on Mike’s 75 should set it off too. Cant wait till we see the results.

  12. Obviously Honda orange paint is much better than Rover as my 6 year old FRV bulbs are still good as new.

    I quite liked the 75 and nearly bought one with the 2.0 diesel engine, but it was about the time when Rover were going down the tubes and so I bought a Saab 9-5 estate (3.0V6 tid 🙂 ) instead. Now Saab are going down the tubes….

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