Project 75 : hesitation, repetition, deviation

Words and photography: Mike Humble

The project 75 blots its copy book and gives the owner a mild heart attack. But thankfully, it’s all dealt with in Just A Minute!

The Project 75: A minor fault causes major panic
The Project 75: A minor fault causes major panic

I reckon the essay header is a fitting one to those who know and love the Rover marque. BBC Radio Four is of course preset number 4 on the in-car wireless receiver of the Project 75. Once a week, and about that certain time of an evening, if I am driving, Nicholas Parsons and his bandy gang of wordsmiths, entertain the masses with their comedic quiz show Just A Minute – the best way to describe the show is: Ovaltine for your ears.

Having owned a Rover 75 for almost two months now, a couple of things have caused me to ponder and take stock. Firstly – by my standards anyway – I have owned this car for a long time. And secondly – the 75 has seemingly slowed me down to a more sedate and enjoyable pace.

That latter sentiment was also noticed when I owned a SAAB 9000 CSE Anniversary a few years back. The more leisurely I drove the car, the more it rewarded me. Besides the saving in fuel, my change of driving style to a more relaxing manner makes you appreciate the journey that little bit more. And with the Rover 75 – it’s all about the drive than the arrival.

Yes, I know some of you will pooh-pooh the bulk of  ‘what I wrote’ (doffs cap to Ernie Wise), but I’ll bet the majority of you have inkling at what I mean. Could I go back to something as small and cheeky as a 25, or hardy yet lacklustre as a 45? – I’m really not sure, but one thing in certain, and I am prepared to go on record by saying this – I am keeping the Rover 75.

But this all depends on the cars reliability – and just this afternoon, the 75 decided to throw a wobbly and almost send me into a mad panic. Enjoying a day off, I set about giving the car a good wash following some very cold icy mornings. After learning lessons from previous winter experiences, the council gritters have been out in force over these past couple of weeks.

Keeping those wheelarches free from salty muck is key to avoiding a crash course in Mig welding for those who keep their cars for the long term. Upon noting I was getting low on snouts (not converted to a pipe – yet) off I went up the road to my local paper shop to replenish. About half way there, there was an almighty hiccough from the engine.

Enough to make the toughest of men cry - A flashing ECU lamp!

This was quickly followed by another, and at this point issues of fuel pump O-rings or coolant flooding into the combustion chambers, were swimming round in my mind. So I twirled the 75’s leather clad wheel and drove straight home. By now the car was running on three cylinders and the yellow light of death was flashing – a sign of a serious ignition fault, for those who are unaware.

A quick rummage around in the shed had me find my OBD2 scanning tool – a vital piece of kit for a modern car owner, and a download of data from the ECU detected a random multiple misfire. At the same time as fitting the MLS head gasket for prevention purposes, I also fitted some new O.E spec NGK plugs, so I was confident the fault lay elsewhere.

Three bolts later, and the valve cover was off – and there in all its glory, staring you right in the face, was the problem. All it turned out to be was a plug lead that had come detached from the right hand coil pack, a simple yet odd little foible I have never seen happen before on these twin pack ignition systems before. Simply putting it down to pilot error when I put the head back together, I opened up the electrical contact at the end of the lead with a screwdriver a fraction for a tighter fit, and shoved the little blighter back on.

Clearing the code and firing up the engine, the K16 was once running again like a Swiss watch. The obligatory test drive via the paper shop confirmed all was perfect again, and my heart rate returned to normal.

So apart from this recent blot of the copybook with the only out of pocket money being spent on 6 months rent and 2 new tyres, running a Rover 75 continues to be an extremely pleasurable affair. I like it; ‘er indoors likes it; Stella my workshop cat likes it; and by reading some of your comments – you seem to like it too.

After some thought, I have decided not to go for the satin black treatment to the lower edges of the body work. Partly because my rattle can skills are hopeless and partly owing to my opinion that the lighter colour shows off the curves – but like the weather or by financial bribery, I can be subject to change!

That's all folks - Nothing more that a loose plug lead - Phew!
Mike Humble


  1. Nice, swift detective work there, Sergeant Humble!

    I’d have guessed wet coil/ignition wires if it’d just been washed, but nice and simple is ALWAYS welcome, either way.

  2. My robust yet mildly exciting 45 did the same thing after I OCD’d the engine bay. Turns out that one last sponge over the underside of the bonnet leading edge had let water in to the plug wells.

  3. Still reckon that the sills at least should be black to show off the chrome finisher, but I’m with you on the fear of the rattlecan technique!

    Glad you’re still enjoying the 75 Mike. How does it compare to the 420iL you had? I was really tempted to buy that 420iL at the time, it looked so luxurious.

  4. Good call on the black satin I reckon. I agree on the pale colours suiing the 75- so why do I admire grey or black ZTs so much??

  5. @ Steve

    Interesting question. The 420iL drove sublime – ask KJA, but the car felt like its class and heritage were added extras.

    The 75 in comparison? It was all there right from the designers pencil!

  6. @ Mike,
    Maybe you can answer this question?

    Sometimes you can just sense the quality in some cars. That reassuring “feel” of a better quality product.?
    I am seriously considering buying a either 75 or ZT.
    Obviously, a lot depends on how a car has been cared for and maintained over the years, but I’m wondering if there is any noticible difference in quality, between the older Rover 75’s vs the later Project drive model’s?

  7. Another great read Mike

    My Sterling Coupe came out in sympathy with project 75 on my way to Rotary Club this evening and sounds like a whole bank of cylinders may have gone idle intermittently before returning to propel the old girl of like a scolded cat. It is a strange sensation, wafting along with all 2.5 litres of silky smooth KV6 eagerly waiting instruction for the next part of the mission, only to find without notice that forward of all that leather and comfort under that long bonnet, come the pathetic sounds and feel of a 3 cylinder Polo!

    Will I be as lucky and find a loose plug lead do you think when I get the Sterling Team to check her over? I’ll let you know, but the old girl I affectionately call ‘The Baroness’ does not feel like she’s ready to resign for active service and I hope to bring her up for the Pride of Longbridge event. Will keep you posted!

  8. Another radio 4 junkie!! 🙂

    Long for a R75 or MGZT, but Live on a tiny lane with a tiny drive 🙁

    A car that gets more beautiful with time.

  9. Makes me also wonder if things would have been different and mgr had pushed the 75 harder, it could have been the companys Volvo 200.

  10. Mike, I know what you mean –

    Somehow, the more leisurely you drive, the more pleasant the experience becomes. Tonight’s drive back from work was a typical example. It’s 12 miles of largely urban driving finished with a motorway mile. As usual, I was practising ‘seamless’ driving, trying to minimise sudden acceleration or slowing and judging lights so I could waft through as opposed to stopping. God, I enjoyed it even more than usual tonight. People in normal cars would have arrived home stressed by the rush hour traffic. Me, I landed home smiling with a sense of ‘Relax, it’s a Rover’.
    As I’ve commented recently, I never knew sedate driving could be so much fun.

    As time passes, they’re becoming increasingly special.

  11. I had a similar experience with the engine warning light igniting (static, not flashing) on my Focus. There was no power loss and – under warranty, the dealer checked it out. The verdict was a faulty “HEGO sensor”. However it still took a day to get the part. Luckily I dont tend to worry too much about these kind of faults, as long as the warranty is still valid…

  12. Yeah, I know the heart in mouth moments related to the ignition too..

    The first Sceptre I had – VFO 486 – almost cooked me and my gf at the time..

    I’d undone and checked number one spark plug, to check that the engine was running the right mixture a few days before and we had a long journey up to a stone circle near Banbury for a naming ceremony for the little one.

    Three Quarters of the way there coming onto a roundabout, the car started to sound wrong, nothing obvious, just something I could sense was wrong and getting worse. Came off the roundabout and accelerated away, and I suddenly stopped driving a Sceptre and started flying a B25*. The noise was incredible and I thought I had blown the engine up.

    Of course it was dark so I pulled off and L and A stayed in the car. Opened the bonnet with the engine idling, and there was a pretty little blue spark flickering away. The first cylinder had thrown its plug which was happily sparking all on its lonesome…

    Managed to get it back together and made our way to the hotel safe and sound.

    Next morning I checked the car – and almost had a heart attack. The burning hot plug had burped its way out of the engine and ended up resting on the plastic fuel line… and had been busy burning its way through it, with some success..

    If I hadnt stopped as quickly as I did, we would have had a serious problem. Not to mention that the little baby was in her seat in the back, which as most parents will know, are not designed to get lil ones out in a hurry.

    * described by its modern pilots as “the quickest way to turn aviation fuel into noise”.

  13. My 75 CDTi auto tourer was the first automatic I owned ( a friend is still driving it -it’s done over 90,000 miles). this was the first car that I found myself wafting around in. It’s better -get a nice stereo and relax. i’m much happier!

  14. Black paint on sills is so 1970’s and was introduced in an attempt to slim down dumpily designed cars. I was so pleased when Rover painted to 75’s sills in body colour which then sets off the chrome trim much better. My other pet hate in this department is(was) the TR7 which always looked like Tom the cat walking on tip toe or how about a woman walking in the sea with her skirt tucked in her knickers.

  15. I’m getting worried every time you write something about this car, Mike, in case you find something wrong with it, which will shatter my illusion of what a fantastic car the Rover 75 is, and why I ultimately want to buy one one day and keep it for eternity.

    Right. Time for me settle back again and relax… it’s a Rover.

  16. Good choice to keep the sills body colour. Never been a fan of the black sill look…
    Glad you’re writing about this car Mike, you’re a sort Guinea Pig before I take the plunge and get one of my own 😀

  17. To me the car looks more contemporary without the black sills and somehow more solid. But that’s just me 🙂
    Out of interest, how come it had body coloured sills to start with? I thought it was only Oxford cars that had them?
    One side done would look interesting, be a talking point if nothing else!

  18. I own a moonstone green 75 and in my not so humble opinion this most beautiful colour Rover produced the car in and I reckon painting the sills black would surley ruin the look. The only improvement in my thoughts are sticking a set of genuine MG 17″ wheels on her and swapping over the center cap’s to Rover.
    After over a year of happy effortless, costless ownership this is the first car I’ve ever owned and been completely satisfied with, I used to look at other cars and think I might consider ones of them next well not anymore.
    Hope your ownership is as a fulfilling an experience as mine has been.

    Can I ask, what’s that under your front repeater?

  19. We must have become 75 owners at about the same time, I bought mine at the very end of November after a seal let go in the diesel pump of my magnificently capable old ’94 BMW 525 TDS Tourer.
    Mine is a 53 plate 1.8T Club SE in blue and has proven to be a very nice car and has had a similar effect in removing some of the urgency from each journey. It’s just such a shame that they made it wrong wheel drive. But then, if it had been rear wheel drive BMW would have pretty much shot themselves in the foot!
    I was really impressed with the performance of mine for the engine and vehicle size combination, but then discovered that thanks to a hardened rubber hose leaking boost pressure sensing air, my car is over-boosting! I would never work the engine in this car as hard as I used to work the BMW I have to say. I do still carry the fear around with me everywhere I go.
    As for the black sills, does nothing for me I’m afraid other than ‘cheapen’ the car.

  20. Ah the orange dash light of doom. The Cavalier decided to turn its on last year, after running like s**t for a couple of days. No code scanner required, just a paper clip… Minutes later it told me the oxygen/lamda sensor was kaput. Got a new one for a tenner and she was back to normal.

    As for black sills… Well I fear the black stuff will make its appearanceon the Cav very soon. Drivers rear arch is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. It isn’t wrotten as yet just very “surface rusty”. It’s not really worth the time and effort to repair and respray properly as the rest of the cars paintwork isn’t exactly brilliant. Painting just the arches black would look a bit daft so I’ll go right along the sills with the black stuff. I expect much close scrutiny come MOT time!

    As for the 75, I say keep them as they are, though I do like the satin black look.

  21. @ Ianto. I’ve seen worse. Around here I’ve seen a Volvo S40 with a Ferrari badge glued under it’s repeater.

  22. @Mike l like the idea of the badges does it not look so good? I meant to say what 1mod I have done is on the front grill I cut out the bars at the side of the badge and replaced them with stainless steal diamond mesh. It looks very nice but it’s not on the car as I’ve just finished doing it. Once I put it on if there’s some way I could show you a picture I would’nt some feedback, see what you think.
    @Ianto Yep I think the colours complement the chrome really well.

  23. Ahem… you scanning tool…Like Ned Fladers’s BBQ to Homer Simpson, its on long term loan….Bonny lad!

  24. Mike,

    My 75 (1.8 Club SE, like yours) continues to be trouble free. The last coolant check just days ago was fine. 16,000 miles since HGF now! No other problems to report either.

    Gave the car an extra special wash and wax last weekend. Parked at work it was putting management Mercs to shame. By the end of the week they were gleaming too!!

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