1999 Rover 75

1999 Rover 75

Forgive me for having been on a bit of a Rover binge lately, but for those who don’t know on 15th April 2005, exactly 10 years ago, the Rover Group finally ran out of money and Britain’s last volume car manufacturer disappeared forever. I remember well the BBC news reports showing workers being turned back at the gates of the Longbridge Plant in south Birmingham, their jobs finished and their cars ceased. In all, nearly 6,000 people in the Midlands were sacked upon the closure of Longbridge, and whilst Rover, a brand that had dated back to 1904 and had once been a symbol of pedigree British Motoring, finally died after a long and painful spell under British Leyland and ownership by BMW, MG was able to claw away from darkness thanks to Chinese investors, rescuing one of the most renowned and hallowed names in Motorsport history.

This however was truly the last great Rover, and one that was a succulent blend of style and substance. Reliable, well priced, smooth riding and sweet, the Rover 75 was the embodiment of everything that was to be found in the everyman’s British motor car. But nowadays most people remember it as a prime example of how even though this car, as reliable, well performing and beautifully styled as it is, can be completely compromised by that all important part of the human psyche known as image…

The Rover 75 was unveiled in 1998 after 4 years of development, and was the first car to be launched by the company since the Rover 600 in 1993. In fact the car was built to replace both the Rover 600 and 800 to become the company’s flagship motor. The car was the last to be styled by world renowned coachbuilder Vanden Plas, famous for its distinguished chrome nose and luxurious internal styling. I remember well the style and profile of this mighty car, filled to the brim with soft leather seats and sublime wooden trim, built to emulate the mighty Rover P5 of the 1960’s, but with a fiery 4.6 Rover V8 under the hood for some extra grunt. It was perfect…

…trouble was nobody wanted it.

The main problem that killed the Rover 75 was its image. The car was designed to emulate grand old England, with that chrome and wooden trim making it look and feel very nostalgic. There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia, in fact I very much enjoy a look into the heritage of Britain and the Rover 75 strikes a chord with me, it’s very pretty, well styled and has a lovely feel to it, and many foreign buyers agree, with the 75 winning awards in Germany and France, as well as being dubbed the best car in the world by Italian stylists. The nostalgia of old England is something that foreigners love, they come to Britain in their droves to see old Castles and tour the quaint streets of our ancient cities. However, the only people who don’t like the old British are in fact the British themselves. I consider myself a bit of an exception but on a grand scale a majority of British people don’t like being referred to in some quaint old manner of plummy accents and established gentry, and would much rather like to be seen as modern and innovative like the Americans or the Germans.

Because of this, the Rover 75 was to the British nothing more than just some pathetic hankering for the past, and trying to firmly establish Britain as some kind of fatuous ‘Ye oldie world’ theme park instead of a 21st Century nation. For this crime the Rover 75 was punished with absolutely abysmal sales on the domestic market. Across the UK many of our airfields were littered with thousands and thousands of unsold 75’s in storage because domestic sales were so poor. Rover was churning out cars that nobody wanted and losing an absolute mint.

BMW saw no enthusiasm in owning a car company that was failing miserably, so in 2000 the Rover Group was broken up into its most profitable parts. BMW retained Mini whilst Land Rover/Range Rover was sold to Ford. The remainder of Rover was sold to Phoenix Investments for the price of just £10, a clear sign of how little confidence there was in the ailing company. With little to no money to support the company no new cars could be developed, and Rover turned to the Indian firm TATA to build them their final product, the 2003 CityRover, an attempt to fill the gap left by the discontinued Metro that instead turned out to be the final nail in the coffin for the company. Bankruptcy came in 2005 and soon afterwards the Rover company went into liquidation. Although MG was able to escape death by way of Chinese investments, for the rest of the Rover company after nearly 100 years of operation, it was simply a case of TILT! Game over…

Posted by Rorymacve Part II on 2015-04-15 08:23:31

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