Our Cars : Project 75 – one month and 1000 miles on. Regrets?

Well the Rover 75 has been residing at Swiss Towers for one month and also has been pretty much in everyday usage. Has it been sweetness and light or otherwise? Mike Humble explains life so far with the project 75 Club SE.

Sadly or gladly not much to report despite some hard use

As my opening gambit states, the Rover 75 Club SE has been with me for one month. Both my partner and I have been using it as much as we can, putting quite a few miles onto the clock. The 75 is a car of which in the past I have worked on, sold and driven many of, including the ZT models, too.

Like I have stated before, the 75 never bonded with my emotions, yes I thought and still do think it’s ever so pretty from virtually every angle. Overall build quality is light years ahead of anything Rover has built this side of a P5B, but it just seemed to lack that certain spark. At its launch, I found the 75 to be a little too quaint or twee, if you like, and when pressed for action on floating B-roads it failed to make you feel alive like a BMW or Alfa Romeo never failed to achieve. But thinking about it, the average customer that the 75 seemed to attract was either barely alive or never cared for handling that kept you on a knife edge!

Other aspects of the 75 did appeal, like the swathes of wood inside along with that lovely lashing of chrome along its flanks gave the car a genuine feeling of quality and heritage that the 800 and 600 series it replaced seem to woefully lack. The way that the outermost face vents are semi hooded by the upper dash padding seem to almost echo the style of the wonderful Rover P6 that came some 30 years before, even after 12 years, it’s a veritable feast of retro & technology all thanks to Richard Woolley.

The brakes are progressive and have ample anchor power and those compact yet eyebrow-looking quad headlamps are powerful in range. It truly feels a well-engineered and sturdy car, of which I seem to be admiring as the days and miles pass effortlessly by. There are of course, some items that frustrate or spoil the car. For example, the steering wheel is too large, the boot switch would be better off on the armrest rather than nearly being on the floor, and the CD changer robs the already small glovebox of any meaningful space. Oh, and there’s not enough room in the driver’s footwell area either.

None of the above makes the car a loathsome machine and maybe I’m nitpicking at things, but is anything perfect these days. One thing that is however, is the way the car behaves and gets on with life. Now this car was cheap, and I do mean seriously cheap, so I was hardly expecting that much from it, but with the exceptions of one or two minor items, I’m stumped if I can find anything else to worry about or warrant attention. It all feels well screwed together with close fitting shut lines and re-assuring thunks when closing the doors or boot – a far far cry from the Montego which was a car you almost get into without opening a door.

Readers will note from a previous mumbling of mine that I fitted an upgraded gasket and oil rail to the 1.8-litre K-Series engine as a purely precautionary measure. With the original clocking up 63,000 miles, there was a certain probability that either now or in the near future, it was bound to fail. So far so good as they say. And the oil and water consumption is zero. Also, speaking of consumption, I’m deeply impressed with its fuel economy too – quite amazing for such a bulky heavy car.

So what has been dealt with so far then? Well, the annoying number plate lamp that had a mind of its own has been re-soldered. The seats which were filthy and covered with ground in chocolate have been painstakingly scrubbed back to health, and a small yet visually noticeable crack in the dash veneer near one of the heater vents is now history.

Chrome mirrors adorn the car along with torpedo badges and I have thrown away the horrible boot trim with faded badge in favour for a pre 2000 type with ROVER embossed into the chrome. Initially, an older type branded valve cover was fitted, but after removing it again to clean up the spark plugs, clumsy oaf that I am stood on the damn thing and cracked it. So the old one has been re-fitted until I can find another one I know I have buried somewhere in the shed. Okay, so it’s not a V6 or 135 diesel, it’s certainly no ball of fire either, but I find the engine well insulated and torquey for what it is.

Its lovely to drive, simple to work on engine-wise, seemingly costs very little in fuel. And both my parents and `er indoors have told me I face castration if I was to sell it…. Any regrets?

None what so ever – so far!

The older type plate hood looks far better, don't you think?
Mike Humble


  1. i own a 2004 cdti which iv’e had since may and all was well until two week’s ago when the alternator packed up ,smc slough fitted two faulty one’s and after three breakdown’s it seem’s ok now ,on any other car i’d be fuming but i’ll forgive my 75 anything so long as it doesn’t do it again.

  2. SMC of Slough allways had a damn good name as dealers, along with others including P.J Green and Soul Garages survived the post 05 detritous purely on the grounds of customer service.

  3. Looking well. Reads like a good long term test!
    What is the craic with the bootlid? Did they have a badgeless chrome pre-2001, then had a badge, then removed the badge again for project drive?

  4. Earlier cars had ROVER embossed into the chrome plinth and an oversized rover badge on the boot

    Later cars had a plain chrome plinth no boot lid badge but a small rover decal built into the chrome

  5. The way this car is getting attention from Mike means it will be a great buy for any future owner too… In my opinion it’s as good looking as any of the latest models. I still wish SAIC had imported their Roewe 750 to the UK

  6. As much as I like the 75 I just can’t see people lusting after one in 20 years time in the same way they do for the SD1

  7. i think the 75 is aging rather well,certainly better than the s type,whether the 75 ages as well as a SD1 is another matter entirely,you may have electronics/can bus modules “timing out”or secumbing to moisture(normally the biggest can bus failure condition)as opposed to the nice and simple SD1.

  8. I really want a 75 now.
    I pulled up behind a parked 75 last night. I wasn’t sure which model it was but I noticed the V6 badge on the back.
    While I sat waiting, the owner of the 75 returned and started the car. What a great noise a V6 engine makes. A lovely deep rumble without being too loud though. Quality..
    I’m hooked 🙂

  9. i know someone with a ZT190 finished in black fully loaded,sat nav the works it looks the absolute business im quite partial to the V8 limousine too.

  10. That number plate plinth is the best option of the three. I love the huge shaped number plate too – reminds me of Rovers of yesteryear.

  11. I have a 2004 CDTi Contemporary SE and love it. 16500 miles in 6 months. It replaced a 2000 CDT which was also a loyal servant, 52000 miles in 3 years. Clutch letting go twice was a pain though, once hydraulics, once mechanical.
    I have owned a SD1, a 800, several 600s and 3 75s. I think it will be remembered well and good examples of the deisel seem to attract strong prices even now.

  12. “At its launch, I found the 75 to be a little too quaint or twee, if you like, and when pressed for action on floating B-roads it failed to make you feel alive like a BMW or Alfa Romeo never failed to achieve. But thinking about it, the average customer that the 75 seemed to attract was either barely alive or never cared for handling that kept you on a knife edge!”

    I read somewhere (possibly on ARO somehwere) that if you took an R75 and the equivalent 3 Series and drove them along the same twisty bit of B road. The 3 Series would be in front, the 75 wouldn’t be far behind but the driver would be much more comfortable.

    I mean taught BMW suspension is great on German roads, but gets a bit tiresome on pot holed British roads.

  13. i traded my 75 1.8.t club se i for a chevolet cruze diesel at my former mg rover dealer, now chevolet and good i miss my rover.What was i thinking.

  14. I agree with Dennis’ last point

    “I mean taught BMW suspension is great on German roads, but gets a bit tiresome on pot holed British roads.”

    German suspension is useless on potholed speed bumped poorly surfaced UK roads. It’s alright on billiard smooth Autobahns when doing 155mph.

    French cars used to be nice in this regard, as the roads in France were as bad as UK roads. However, now they have fixed their roads, and think everybody wants German-style ride, for example the latest DS4 and Laguna Coupe have ridiculously hard suspension.

    The 75 has aged extremely well, the detailing looks elegant.

    I do think it will be a classic in the future, if only for being the last throes of the UK car industry (in the same was as the new 9-5 will be a collectors car if Saab goes down the pan).

  15. @Darren
    Don’t get to hooked. My ZTV6 used to sound nice but now sounds like a Talbot Horizon, with only 54000 miles! My MG dealer told me its probably the head or inlet manifold and Id be looking at around 600 pounds and two to three weeks. Oh, and to replace my clouded over irreparable headlamps, another 400 quid(from Rimmers)plus an endless list of other faults I won’t bore you with.
    Beautiful car, but a total pile of dung, and worthless after five years. Just dont do it. Buy a Jag

  16. @Charles Bishop

    I’ve felt a similar pain with my MGF. I love driving the F. It has given me a lot of headaches in two years though. Including the HGF failure. To be fair, a lot of problems have been easy fixes. That just adds to the frustration sometimes though.
    I just fancy a change of car. Something comfortable for a change & a car that’s better built & reliable. That’s why i liked the R75?
    Having read your ZTV6 experiences though, maybe I should think it over for for a while 🙁

    A Jag V6 eh? mmm now there’s a thought 🙂

  17. @ charles and Darren
    No comparison. A 3.0 V6 foor wheel drive X-type for three grand, estate or saloon. Now thats a great car. Dont even think about a V6 75 or ZT. Mine was constant trouble and so badly made it was shocking. Even the factory spare wheel didn’t fit and left me stranded. HGF, clutch, headlamps, fuel pump, heater motor, window rubbers, total junk.
    Mind you, a nice ZT V8 in BRG would be another story!

  18. “French cars used to be nice in this regard, as the roads in France were as bad as UK roads. However, now they have fixed their roads, and think everybody wants German-style ride, for example the latest DS4 and Laguna Coupe have ridiculously hard suspension.”

    I think a lot of that comes from reviews on TopGear etc. Anything that doesn’t have Rock Hard sports suspension and has any hint isolating you from the (potholed) road. Gets slated for being sloppy and having poor handling. Alex moulton complained about the modern trend for strapped down suspension.

    The original Citroen DS is a good example, yep soft suspension and you could hammer across any bump you liked and it soaked it up, at the same time it would go around corners as well as a mini, it’s just you had body roll, all the wheels stayed stuck to the road though.

  19. My brother owns a ZT 190 and is very happy with it. A year ago at 100k miles it started making engine noises and some plate at the valve gear had worked loose and oil pressure gone low; ei new engine.
    Since it’s driven OK again but the price 🙁
    I have driven it a few times, it’s nice at Motorways but a bit clumsy and hash on ordinary roads. Not riding as refined and steering as precisely as my Alfa 156 2,0 did.
    Re German Auto Bahns. Well some are like a floor but others are well and really worn. Most German drivers prefer firm suspension as it gives a more stable ride at the unrestricted 55% part of the Auto Bahn network.

  20. @ Charles.

    Sounds like inlet manifold vis motors. I believe there is a cheaper fix available – check out http://www.the75andztclub.co.uk. Anyone with a 75 or ZT, or even thinking about buying one needs to join. It’s an invaluable source of information.

    As far as your headlight issue goes I find Rimmers excessively expensive for anything modern MG or Rover. I needed an oil filler bracket for our MGF – quoted £8 inc VAT from an ex-MGR dealer. Rimmers wanted double that.

    I’m amazed at the comments about build quality; I’m now on my third R40 and they’s all done big mileages and worn incredibly well, certainly better than many S and X types I’ve looked at. Mind you, I’ve always stuck to pre-facelift cars so I may have missed out on the worst of Project Drive.

  21. Charles, if it’s the plastic headlights that have clouded over, you may get away with T-Cutting them! Have managed to revive a few plastic lenses before using the stuff, either by hand, or with a polishing machine. Failing that you can buy a product that’s specifically designed to revive headlight plastic.

    If It’s sounding like an old Talbot then it’s usually a bit late, and a replacement manifold does work out around £500 odd.

    Beware of the moaners club, they’re only after your money, I find the 75/ZT community a much nicer place to be 🙂

  22. I have a V6 2001 Auto, and I changed my boot plinth to the embossed Rover one about a year ago. I do not have a Rover badge on the boot now. I also have the ‘smiley’ plate, and I think it makes the rear end look great.
    Although my car is September 2001 I have now fitted almost all of the pre-project optiions. Makes for a much better car I think.

  23. I’ve had my 75 1.8 Club SE for 16 months and 18,000 miles now.
    Apart from early head gasket problems it’s been totally reliable.
    I love the car! I’ve said similar before but the point is worth making again – “What an amazing car my £2500 bought! Just think what I could have had?!”

  24. I did find that the lack of space above the pedals very puzzling. Is there a panel above the pedals that can be removed? My feet are only of average size.

  25. Hi Keith
    I still enjoy the A to R site and visit regularly.
    As you know I’m more occupied with my Alfa interest and my Spider 1970 – nearly had it for 8 years now and it boringly reliable, but it’s the only boring thing about it. Changed my 156 last spring, it was then 12,5 years old and still going strong. I know you at a time had a 156. Now have a sensible Fiat Bravo TJet 120.
    Keep up the good work

  26. @TwoR8s,

    First thing I noticed when I picked mine up was the lack of space above the pedals. There is removable panel that sits above the pedals and removing this resolves the problem. It doesnt have any ill effects.

  27. I’ve had my 1.8t for 9 months now. The turbo definitely makes a difference to performance and I’m impressed with the economy also.

    I tend to have the seat programmed high, which causes problems when I lower the sun visor, I have to duck!

  28. Can guarantee this comment will jinx everything and the car will fall apart in spectacular fashion tomorrow, however…

    My mum has a 2005 ZT-T 120, its done just short of 90,000 miles and apart from a wheel bearing, dodgy interior lights and the usual airbag light issue, it has been totally faultless in every way, original gasket, clutch etc. It gets used for everything from commuting, transporting the dog, trips to the recycling and picking me and my mate’s up when we’re too drunk to blink. Its also been to the South of France a few times, Italy, Switzerland and was the support car for my final project at University driving round the country with my 1960 Mini full of photography equipment and being the camera car with me hanging out the back of it photographing my Mini round a test track or two.

    Such a good, characterful car.

  29. I’ve had my 2001 1.8, naturally aspirated, 75 club tourer from 18,000 miles and 4 years old. Its now showing 141,000 miles. It had HGF at 63,000 and again at 138,000. Of course, I had the latest multi layer gasket and oil rail fitted when it was last done. It was LPG converted at 65,000 miles and continues to be reliable and extremely comfortable. I been to Europe 3 times, it does my 80 mile commute evry day, takes stuff to the tip, what more could I wish for! I estimate that the economy is equivalent to 65mpg. It does 460 miles on its 100 litre spare wheel well mounted tank and it costs around £45 to fill up – I do drive it steadily though. My local Asda sells gas at 66p a litre, it’s such a bargain! It’s had nothing but a water pump, 2 sets of auxillary and cam belts (done with the HG replcements), a battery, 1 set of brake pads and one set of rear discs. The rest is original! I guess it will all go wrong at once but I’m not complaining. There’s nothing I fancy replacing it with so will just keep it going! Proof that Rover got it right in the end!

  30. Hi All

    i bought my 2004 75 2ltr cdi face lift contemp when two yr old, in 2006 for £10,000 with 24k miles on clock, £28k when new,she has done 122k miles, works out @ roughly 10p per mile value im sure

    with nothing going wrong (appart from power steering failure today, pump appears to be fine may be pipe/hose
    i will also have to replace the bushes as this has started to be noticable with a slight thud when going over bumps)
    i have to say this is the best car i have owned (previous cars vaux carlton 2ltrcdx and siera 2 ltr ghia)
    i have looked at resale values for this car and expect 4k+ for a average mile cdi contemp while my insurance small print sugest value of £1200 shame on them
    the electric leather seats are as fine as any car on the market this side of 40k, also some of the standard fittings are not on 40k cars harmon kardon speakers for example

    the 131 BHP is helpfull and sweet (cam chain good for 150K wont go snap in the dark) and satisfying to see an 8 year old out gun a recent 2ltr diesel, seeing the supprised look of the drivers behind

    do i like this car, will i keep her for another five six yrs you bet your last quid on it, shes still a go’er and cheaper than the wife to run

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