Our Cars : Project 75 – the cracks are showing!

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Words / Pictures: Mike Humble

Almost another thousand clicks pass by on the 75’s digital readout. Its now my daily hack which is smooth, comfortable and never fails to impress – until today!

The 75 - Another classic shape still talked about in years to come? - Maybe!

Yes, I know some of you out there will be chuckling at the heading of this latest ramble on the Rover 75 1.8 Club SE, but bear with me dear reader, it’s not all bad news. My journey to Worthing everyday consists of a nice waft southbound along the A24, and the Rover blends into the Sussex countryside just like the horse and cart in Constables – The Hayway. Both leafy Horsham and the seaside town of Worthing are populated by more than their fair share of older people many of which run Rovers of all types and models.

Indeed, my bus route consists of at least four or five examples of Rover 75 which I greet akin to seeing a Magpie each time I pass by as they enjoy the winter sunshine awaiting their next trip to Homebase. Next month sees my 40th birthday (though ‘er indoors will claim it’s my 70th) so now being on the brink of being in my forty-somethings, is the 75 a fitting craft to coccoon myself inside? Had I have been asked that question last year even a year ago, I would have answered – no!

Certain cars have that something which can be difficult or even nigh on impossible to explain, I would go as far as saying that just like good comedy,the effect can be spoilt by even trying to reason or pin point what that something is, but its there. Even after all the models chequered and sometimes tear jerking history, the Rover 75 is a classic example of a great design, not a masterpiece of say an E-type for example, but the reference to looking like a baby Jaguar surely must be taken as a form of flattery? – I think so.

The seats were designed to emulate the Rover P6 and if you look over to the passenger side outboard dashboard vent, the way the upper dash works as a hood, again, just like the same Rover of old – the styling cue is more than obvious to the eye. I watched a launch video recently, whereby a Rover design boffin proudly remarked that every day, the owner might spot another design cue or touch that they would admire or at least, appreciate – in part, he’s right too!

Does anyone else consider this to emulate a Rover P6 facia?

The font on the dials, the shape of the needles, the wonderful over-sized chunky door pulls, that little walnut hooding over the centre console akin to a Series 3 Jaguar XJ or Daimler, the little chrome trims around the instruments, and warning light display, that wonderful ornate looking interior light unit that reminds me of vintage coaches from the ’50s; and even that large chrome plated glovebox handle are all a celebration to the glory days of Rover cars, but all of which still function in a modern world and beneath that tribute to the era of bake-o-lite valve radios and spam – hides some amazing functions, serious technology and body engineering of utter brilliance. For example, only the other day, one of the tail light bulbs blew, heralded by an amber warning light on the dashboard.

Getting out of the car to check, I noticed that indeed the tail light had blown on the offside, but the ECU had switched a low current to the corrosponding brake light – thus emitting a 5w glow to compensate and retain legal dignity. Another nice touch is the way the wipers self select intermittent when you slow to a standstill when using slow wipe speed – all clever stuff!

You get a reminder of the impressive body strength by simply putting the car onto a trolley jack, ever tried opening a door on say a Montego, Maestro  or 800 when jacked up on one side? sometimes the body flex of those cars would be so great, I have known people snap door handles try to open a door to move the steering wheel. And yet on the 75, it matters not one bit if the car is jacked up and the front or the rear, the door all open and close with that re-assuring clunk – a further reminder of the amazingly rigid shell and superb body engineering.

And what’s more, it’s British. I kind of feel ashamed that I never really appreciated the cars more when they were in production, having worked and sold them, you find you are on the gravy train just making money – never having the time to take stock and fully understand how good they ought to have been, rather than trying to placate another owner that was complaining about loss of coolant!

But time is a great healer, and yes, I adore the 75 seemingly like no other car I have owned before. But getting back to the rub regarding these cracks showing, I can sadly or gladly report, its nothing more than the nearside rear light cluster. Coming home from work in the Golf after the Rover was left in charge with ‘er indoors, I pulled onto the driveway, only for the headlights to catch a fleeting glimpse of a stonking great crack in the rear lamp lens.

I knew that my missus hadn’t done it, mainly down to the fact she is honest (too honest for a professional sales person) and would have phoned or sent a text. She was mortified once I pointed this out to her and the crack is just the right height for say the handlebars of a cycle, and after she mentioned she had popped to the local shops, I reckon this is how the damage occurred – either that, or she had un-wittingly reversed over a cyclist at great speed.

Oh well! another trip to the breakers yard beckons and another excuse to dig out my trusty Roveralls and socket set!

On a plus note, the 1.8-litre K-series never fails to give impressive fuel returns and the re-sealed camshaft carrier has nipped in the bud the slight oil leak. The engine which now benefits from a top quality Reinz MLS head gasket and stonger bottom oil rail continues give decent performance considering the cars immense bulk – but I still remain undecided about the bumper and sill satin black treatment, a choice I will make in time for April’s Longbridge event.

A strange yet rather large crack - bicycle handlebars we reckon!

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

43 Comments

  1. Know what you mean, Mike.

    The 75 has that certain something. A certain aura. So many details are special and everything comes together in a just right fashion. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
    For modest money it is a truely special car. Whilst it costs the same (or less) than the average herd it is far, far more special.

    Mine continues to be totally reliable – the head gasket replacement was 14,000 miles ago now.

    Still in two minds about the black sills. On the Copperleaf pre-production 75 featured on AROnline they seem to stand out too much.

    Mike, I was interested in your comments in your New Year feature about a possible business venture dealing largely with MGR cars. This would possibly be my ideal job and such thoughts did cross my mind during my redundancy period and were slightly explored.

  2. My 02 plate 75 tourer I had from was supplied by Marshalls.
    18,000 miles in my latest 75 (a 04 CDTi) since last May and no problems, just a slight tendency to eat bulbs

  3. Hopefully all this enthusiasm will turn into genuine interest for my Pre-Production example. Come on Chaps, you know you want a decent well made British car!

  4. My CDT ZTT has just turned over 147500 miles this week and still drives like a car with 100k less miles on it.
    My father borrowed it last week and simply couldnt believe it had covered so many miles with how it felt and drove.
    Its is utterly reliable and great to drive that I would say it is the best car I have ever owned.
    Plus it looks damn fine when its been washed and polished up…
    The finest hour of MGR? I believe so.

  5. Meant to say before…

    If my car budget remains the same, does not multiply several times, then I can’t see any future car coming remotely close to my 75. It better last a long, long time……

  6. Kev, I don’t suppose you have a relative called Kate Sharp who taught English at Senacre Technology Technology College? I used to see V399OKO in the car park every day 🙂

  7. I reckon that the R75 interior is by far the most satisfying of all the car interiors over the last 20 years or so, especially the ones with leather trim – it’s the only car interior which I genuinely covet. I would buy a R75 purely for the interior and I can’t think of any other cars that that would apply to. The only one to come close was probably the Rover 214SEi with wood and half leather/lightning trim.

    Satin black – definitely.

    What are you doing on the bus when you’ve got a car Mike?

  8. One 75 is never enough, I sold my first one for an Accord Coupe and after 6 months I had to have another one. I still have that car 6 years later and now it has a ZT-T to keep it company.

    We have got to get rid of one car this year and it’s a toss up between the 75 and the MG-F. I have a feeling the F could be on notice.

  9. Steve Bailey – Comment 9

    Yes, the 75 interior is pure class. Leather best but the SE velour in dark grey like mine comes close.

    The 90’s interiors were also spot on. A Roverised Montego was a cut above rivals. The Rover Metros were in a different league. The R8 range in general was a cut above rivals, the GTi versions being noteable along with the SEi. A 600 iS with the relatively sporty trim almost had me sold once too.

  10. @Mike – ah, that makes sense! Wondered why you’d choose the to go to work on the bus when you have the 75! Bet you meet some “characters” at work. Surely there’s a blog there somewhere…

  11. @ Tim Burgess, comment 12.

    I think your right, one is never enough, I have 3 a mark 1 ZT 1.8t 03 plate in Trophy Blue, 75 CDTi 54 plate in Silver and my recent acquisition a ZT-T 180 auto in British Racing Green 54 plate.

    All brilliant cars and ones that will not depart for a long long time, nothing really compares when you look at the competition in the levels of equipment and comfort for me and which ever angle you look at them you still give yourself a little smile and that shiver down your spine.

    Mike – just wonder if you could tell me where you purchased the Reinz MLS Gasket and bottom oil rail, I fear the ZT may be in need of one!

    Keep up the good work here on AROnline

  12. I had a 1.8 Club SE auto. Nicest (although NOT the most reliable!) car that I have owned. Just opening the door and getting into the car felt like a special event. I still hanker after another 75. Possibly a diesel next time?

  13. @ Mike Humble.
    To answer your question, yes there are strong elements of the P6 dash in the 75’s dash, particularly as shown in your photo.
    Reminds me of the first time I drove one – a curious mixture of old and new which I didn’t really like at the time but which does grow on you.

  14. Both my Focus’s have had that wiper intermittent function at standstill too – very useful in light showers. Sorry your rear lens got cracked , looks like bike handle bars or similar to me, at least it’s not completely smashed before you find a spare unit.

    I agree the R75’s dash has shades of the old P6 about it albeit in discreet small doses.

  15. The one and only 75 have driven had been parked up for a couple of years as the owner acquired a company car! however a new Battery and the 1.8 in British Racing Green fired up after a few churns to a balanced fast idle.

    The owner had been through the mill with a few HGF in the past but it ran for a while then sure enough the engine was trying to melt itself, though no warning lights or Temperature gauge would say otherwise.

    After the engine was stripped (K series internals are quite a work of art) and no4 piston had a chunk missing from it, Head Gasket was fairly ok though the orange seals around the oil/water journals were partly missing but that could just be the removal.

    I still want one (if funds would allow and a place to store it) there is a Champaign coloured one I know for sale, not sure if its petrol or diesel or the trim level or the year but it is pre face lift, It has been sitting for a while awaiting a new owner,looks very tidy from the road and I think around £1200 or £1500?.

    Does anyone know the pitfalls of the BMW Diesel version? there appears to be a few with Gearbox/Clutch problems

  16. Peugeot 406 had the intermittent-at-stop wiper function (along with auto wipers and lights).

    The engine mounts on it were too shot to be a relaxing car to drive in town though.

    The diesel is the same as was sourced for the Omega 2.5 diesel too. The few that remain get snapped up immediately as minicab fodder.

  17. @ dontbuybluemotion

    My first 75 was a Cowley build CDT. I had it upgraded to CDTi 135 at 55k and it lunched the clutch at 61k. Biggest issue with the clutch is that the slave cylinder is inside the gear box – and it has DMF so replacement can work out expensive. However the same arrangement is used by other maufacturers and is equally as pricey – if not more so.

    Other issues to watch for on the diesel:

    Leaky thermostat housing; a pig to sort out due to its location at the back of the engine. Obviously in its original home under a BMW bonnet it would not be an issue.

    Injectors seem to cause problems for some users. Mine started to feel as though it had square wheels; I was looking at new fuel rail / injectors but the garage I used tried putting some Forte in it first, then I gave it an Italian tune up. I did another 25k in the car and the problem never returned.

    The tank mounted fuel pumps are notorious for failing

    Early 3 speed cooling fan motors fail at round 70k. Most should have been replaced with the later 2 speed item by now. This is common to all R40s regardless of engine type.

    Hope that helps.

  18. I miss my 75s so much. The best drive I ever did was in a silver CDT Club with 17″ Meteors, from West Yorkshire to Loch Leven, near Fort William, via Shap, Beattock, Loch Lomond and Rannoch Moor for New Year. It was a cold December day, the sun set on the snowy Highland summits, the road was quiet and I felt like a king. A few days later I drove back to Worcestershire, via W Yorks in a day and when I arrived home I felt i could turn round and do the long drive again, the car was wonderful.

  19. I like R75 very much, hope to get a 2.5 top of the range tourer one day, I fancy a MG ZT also, am a bit old fashioned am afraid I would love to have a ZT or ZT-T Roverised i.e with all wood trim fitted, like a R800 Vitesse. The R75 has a very comprehensive range to sort all tastes and pockets, I think its well designed car. As already been said and aggree the R75 reminds me of the P6.Regards Mark.

  20. @Tim Burgess

    Many Thanks for your comments on “buying CTDi” though it still hasnt put me off wanting one! The Gearbox, is this a ZF item? wondered why lots of owners on ebay have given up because of the clutch problems… strange place to put the slave cylinder, exactly where gearbox removal is necessary for access, Wonder if anyone has done a conversion using VW item or similar?

    I’m guessing but is the fuel tank still made of metal instead of the more usual plastic? I had a hell of a challenge a few years ago obtaining a new tank for my 220d and not a cheap item, as for Dual Mass flywheels and Injectors, you can see why many are put off owning there armchairs on wheels.

  21. Surely they wouldn’t fit – the rear of the Roewe 750 is quite different. Even if they did, I’m sure they’d look very out of place!

  22. @28, slave in box is becoming more common, less moving parts to worry about, however most other manufacturers use an alloy or metal slave, Rover used plastic…

    What happens is it goes brittle, clips break, seal stops sealing fluid gets past seal and clutch stops working. Trouble is there is so little fluid in the clutch system it only takes one small leak to empty the system in a few pumps of the pedal.

    Fuel tank is still plastic.

  23. “Peugeot 406 had the intermittent-at-stop wiper function”

    So did the Volvo 480, IIRC, which also put the wipers onto full speed when you floored the throttle. From memory, some early functions of the CEM on the ’87 480 were removed to make space for total closure and maybe other features on the ’92 models. I could be mistaken though, it’s been a few years since I was into those Volvos.

  24. since taking over my dad’s 2004 cdti im constantly impressed by how smooth and silent it is for a diesel better than some petrol car’s iv’e been in , apart from the alternater being replaced a couple of month’s back it’s been great ,not replacing it until mg launch something similer.

  25. Glad you’re enjoyinmg the 75 experience. If things go better this year then we’ll be getting a “new” car – well several years old. But bigger (think estate) and safer than our present old crate. 75 Tourer/ZT-T does tick a few boxes!

    I started bus driving “temporarily” several years ago…

    And, my crap old T Plate Megane had those clever wipers. You’d also get a quick wipe of the rear screen when you put it in reverse. Best features of that car by a country mile.

  26. The 800 Fastback would set the rear wiper off if you selected reverse with the wipers on, and got to agree it is very handy.

    I quite like the autowipers on the S-Max, you can vary the sensitivity, bit like variable intermittent, and it will slow to intermittent when you come to a stop. The only thing I’m not keen on, is if you leave them on, occasionally when you start the car it will wipe the screen, even if it’s bone dry.

  27. I had a little chat with a guy at a garage today, after the safrane decided that its drivers side rear wheel and the (formerly) associated track rod arm decided they werent talking to each other (not a nice experience). A previous owner had decided to tow my car with a rope tied round the trackrod and thats the point at which it snapped!

    Apparently someone he knew got a 75 while he had a E36 BMW. Said 75 owner was harrumphing about how much better his was – right up to the point that the guy from the garage got a screwdriver and prised off the alloy wheel centre boss – the cap underneath said BMW… someone had the wind taken out of their sails big time…

    Incidentally – it might be an idea to check with dealers for so called ‘retired’ parts. The rear trackrod for the Safrane is one such – which means you cant get them from Renault – or from anywhere bar the odd ebayer. It might be an idea to find out which these parts are for the 75 if possible and get a couple in…?

  28. @ Jemma, and when do can get parts from them they cost a fortune. After my last experience as a Renault owner (mark 2 Scenic), I wouldn’t buy another.

  29. Around £60 (iirc) quoted for a rad hose from the stealers for the Megane… A fiver from the scrappie was much more to my liking! I have to say I’ll never drive anything French ever, ever again.

    A few years back I got some very very cheap brake bits from a Vauxhall main dealer for my old Mk1 Astra which at that time was 21 years young. They were having a clear out of old bits (retired parts?) and were flogging stuff for peanuts. Years later the same dealer wanted a fiver for a Cavalier dashboard bulb… Err, no.

  30. Unfortunatlely, as a SAAB owner it looks as if the entire dealer experience has come to an end, for better or worse. Still, at least there are plenty of SAAB specialists around, when MGR went under I struggled to get service parts for my HHR in the immediate aftermath, and had to sell at a knock down price.

  31. Very tidy 02 plate 1.8 for sale around the corner from me with tax and test…£995 if anybody wants to take the plunge!

  32. I know it’s not good but the clutch on my 1.8 tourer has been leaking for 30,000 miles. Every 6 months it needs the fluid topping up and bleeding. Its a half hour job. The master is above the pedal (trim needs to be removed) but its easy enough with a length of hose pipe attached to a big, beefy syringe. The car has done 142,000 but still excellent all round (except the clutch!) I know it will let go completely one day and I will replace the lot then!

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