Oh Rover, always taking the difficult turn weren’t you? Why did you waste all that cash on the CityRover and the Streetwise when you could have made a car that could easily have rivalled the likes of the BMW 3-Series?
This truly was the car that Rover fans had been demanding. For years, Rover had been struggling with its somewhat old-age image. While the Rover 75 of 1998 was a pristine car, with beautiful luxury wood and leather interiors, great performance and a comparatively inexpensive, it didn’t exactly light people’s fires and wasn’t whipped up like contemporary BMW’s and Mercedes by the hip, young crowd of aspiring business executives, but instead was the pride and joy of retired couples and middle-aged businessmen. The result was Rover losing an absolute fortune as cars were placed into storage on the runways and taxiways of Britain’s many abandoned airfields.
The 75 however could have saved itself if the company had only invested in this, the 75 Coupe. In 2004, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the motor company, Rover, running out cash, proposed a facelift of its existing products, the 25, the 45 and the 75. Included in the facelift programme was a selection of new models of limited difference that would hopefully put Rover back in the running. These included the Rover Streetwise (a sporty version of the 25), the CityRover (a rebadged TATA Indica) and the Rover 75 Coupe.
The concept for the Rover 75 Coupe was basically to lather style and luxury onto a machine that would cost less than its comparatively humdrum rivals, the Ford Mondeo and the Vauxhall Vectra. The 75 Coupe would include a long, smooth body with crisp lines that made it truly look like it had been moulded by the wind. Internally it was near enough identical to the regular 75, with the same general interior and powerplant carried over. However, this magical looking car, which was probably more beautiful and crisp than the likes of the BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes CLK it would do battle with, would use its pure style to help reel in the customers.
Such was the interest of this project that even MG wanted in on the action. At the time the company’s range consisted of identical models to Rover products just with different badges and grilles, the exception being the MG TF and the MG X-Power SV. MG was desperately in need of something that would help it stand out once again as a competitive sports car manufacturer, and a luxury two-door coupe such as the 75 Coupe would have been absolutely ideal.
During this period, Rover Group was in discussions with Chinese manufacturer SIAC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation) for a possible merger to secure its future, and I genuinely feel that the Rover 75 Coupe could have helped rescue both companies from financial meltdown. The sheer beauty and craftsmanship behind it truly did blow SIAC away when the concept was unveiled in early-2004, with the company impressed with every last little detail both inside and out. The concept’s interior was conceived to capture the elegance of Rover, and as a result, strongly focused on Yew wood and Tan leather hide introducing the style of designer furniture into the automotive lounge, extending Rover’s trademark for a welcoming interior.
Peter Stevens, Rover’s design director at the time said: ‘I want people to turn away for a moment from post modern brutalism and to enjoy the elegant and timeless lines of the 75 Coupe’s design. The true character of a Rover comes from its ability to present a cosseting environment with comfort and refinement being the high priorities, elements that should be expressed in the form and detailing of the exterior of the car. Heritage is a great strength for a marque as it gives you the terms of reference and something to build on for the future. That is exactly how we saw the challenge of presenting a Rover concept in its Centenary year.’
Sadly though, Rover’s understated design that could have rescued it was too expensive for the company to put into production, and a year later in April 2005 the company went bankrupt, taking the Rover 75 and any hopes of this beautiful car ever hitting the roads with it.
Would I have bought it? Hell yes! Especially when you consider how cheap Rover 75’s are today, some mint-condition ones going for as little as £900, the idea of a two-door luxury coupe with tan leather, wooden trim, a stylish, timeless design and some nifty performance costing only around £1,000, the savings when compared to the equivalents are just astronomical!
What an appalling shame…