When you see this, every tax-payer will have a tiny share in Rover cars, as the PM will have sponsored the ailing Longbridge company with £150m of our money, and BMW will have gambled £2.3bn to to save the sad situation or else the once-proud make will be on its own.
Rover (as opposed to BMC/BL) never made sportscars, but was not without sporting models; among those with a ‘Speed’ prefix. The £500 Speed 20 of 1935-38 was a 90mph car, which the famous racing driver Major Goldie Gardner ran at Brooklands, covering 82mires in 60 minutes in an MCC trial there, and R J Munday replaced his top-pace 30/98 with one, lapping at 82mph, and 62 over the Mountain circuit. Indeed, Rovers did well in mud-trials and at Shelsley Walsh, beat the ‘Blue Train’ record, and were known in the rally world.
The later ‘Aunty’ Rover 60 to loss saloons were dubbed ‘Betjeman-land’ cars, but were individual, competitively priced, and gave sedate drivers more than a touch of luxury; Jenks named the bigger 3-litre the ‘Great Aunt’. In fact the 105S was no sluggard. In 1957 MOTOR SPORT used one to cover the Italian GP and we timed it at just short of 100mph on the Turin-Milan autostrada. In a fast but luxurious 2500 miles it gave no trouble, except that Michael Tee drove it so fast down a mountain pass that the overheated brakes melted the hub grease. The price was then only £1595.
On a broader canvas, Rover ran two cars in the 1905 TT, and a 16/20 Rover won the 1907 IT Then the highly innovative T4 turbine car completed the distance at Le Mans in 1963, and the off-road fraternity will wish me to register high praise for the Land-Rover in all its forms.
I had considerable satisfaction in driving a Rover 2000TC and a 3500 Rover, even if the V8 engine in the latter was a discarded GM Buick/Oldsmobile light-alloy concept. But when it became apparent that Honda was powering the once-British make and assisting in designing its new models, I lost interest in what I now felt were Rovondas.
The future may improve the Rover image, under the BMW banner. But the choice of a Rover engine for non-leaded petrol research because it had particularly soft valve seats cannot have helped the current situation!