RE: MG Rover

Monday 11th April 2005

MG Rover

As Britain’s last mass manufacturer struggles to survive, Andrew Noakes looks back at some of the classic MGs and Rovers.


Rover has been building cars for more than a century, MG for ‘only’ 80 years or so. But it’s the younger of the two marques which was the first to really make its mark.

Old Number One (1925)
Old Number One (1925)
MG’s origins lie in The Morris Garages, a collection of showrooms and workshops around Oxford which sold and serviced many makes of car, including the Morris Oxfords built up the road at Cowley. Morris Garages’ general manager Cecil Kimber began offering special bodywork for Morrises and by 1923 the first true MG sports cars were in production. It was actually later, in 1925, that the famous MG ‘Old Number One’ was built, and its Gold Medal success in the Land’s End Trial that year repeated a feat Kimber had achieved with another MG two years earlier.

By now MGs were selling well, and even greater sales success would come with the introduction of the M-type ‘Midget’, based on the new small Morris Minor saloon. In 1929 the company moved from its cramped workshops in Oxford to larger premises at Abingdon-on-Thames to cope with demand.

Sports Cars

MG became synonymous with sports cars in the 1930s, recording hundreds of class wins in major races and winning the Ulster Tourist Trophy three times. Record-breaking was popular and MG enjoyed success here, too: Captain George Eyston’s supercharged MG EX120 was the first 750cc car to exceed 100mph and its replacement – EX127, the ‘Magic Midget’ – topped 120mph in 1932.

After the war the T-series sports cars found a ready market in the USA, but MG’s bosses made the company stick to its increasingly old-fashioned formula for too long. It wasn’t until 1956 – with MG by then part of the British Motor Corporation, BMC – that Abingdon produced a true post-war sports car, the MGA.

MGA
MGA
It was a car that underlined the difference between handling and roadholding, running out of grip relatively early but in such a benign and predictable way that it was still a hoot to drive. With just 68bhp on tap it couldn’t quite ‘do the ton’, but Abingdon was working on a solution: in 1958 a Twin Cam MGA appeared, offering 108bhp and 115mph with acceleration to match many purpose-built racing cars of the era. Sadly the engine proved unreliable and production ended after barely 2000 had been made: a Twin Cam MGA today is a rare classic.

Rover

Rover P4 (1949)
Rover P4 (1949)
Rover T4 (1961)
Rover T4 (1961)
Rover P6 (1968)
Rover P6 (1968)

All this time, Rover had been quietly earning itself a reputation for well-made, conservative saloon cars. It, too, kept derivatives of its 1930s cars going long after the war, but all that changed in 1949 with the launch of the P4. Though it may look prosaic today with its trad wood-and-leather interior and upright styling, the P4’s full-width body and single ‘cyclop’s eye’ spotlamp in the grille were a major break with tradition. And there was plenty more to come.

Rover was developing gas turbine engines for cars, and the P4 structure was used to build the first of them, the 150mph JET1, in 1950. By the 1960s – while Austin’s Longbridge factory was busy producing millions of Minis, a handful of which were making their mark in international rallies – Rover in Coventry had developed a much more practical gas turbine car, the T4, which proved to be an early glimpse of a new production Rover, the P6.

Again the car was innovative, with an ‘endo-skeleton’ structure of enormous strength – much the same as the external safety cage used by Smart today. Married to an ex-Buick V8 engine Rover had bought the rights to, it produced the Rover 3500 – a quiet, comfortable saloon with 120mph performance that was much loved by police forces.

Range Rover

A detuned version of that engine powered the Range Rover – another innovative car, which created a whole new market sector – and this detuned version was also supplied to MG, both companies now being part of the huge British Leyland Motor Corporation. MG used the V8 for a high-performance version of its MGB, which had replaced the A in 1962.

MG Midget (1972)
MG Midget (1972)
MGB GT V8 (1973)
MGB GT V8 (1973)
MGTC & MGC
MGTC & MGC

Already there had been a six-cylinder version, the MGC, which spawned an exciting racing derivative, but the ponderous road car made few friends. By contrast the V8 MGB – available only in fixed-roof GT form – was a great car, but still sold only in small numbers thanks to a high price. The B was already of pensionable age, and more sophisticated alternatives were easy to find.

The B soldiered on until 1980, starved of development and disfigured by big, black bumpers which were a cheap and easy solution to American safety requirements – along with a raised ride height, which destroyed the cars’ sporting handling. The B’s even older stablemate, the Midget, suffered the same indignities and worse, being fitted with a Triumph Spitfire engine to keep down the costs of emissions compliance.

The 'M' Cars

Rover SD1 (1982)
Rover SD1 (1982)
MG Maestro (1989)
MG Maestro (1989)

Rover Tomcat (1989)
Rover Tomcat (1989)

Pininfarina 1100 (1968)
Pininfarina 1100 (1968)

Once the B and Midget had gone (and Abingon with them) the MG marque lay idle until it reappeared on hot Metro, Maestro and Montego models.

Enthusiasts were appalled, but had forgotten MG’s roots building sporting cars based on pedestrian saloons. Rover, meanwhile, had replaced the P6 and big P5 saloons with the SD1 – technically advanced in many areas just as previous Rovers had been, and a success in touring car racing, but hampered by appalling build quality.

The next generation of Rovers would be built in partnership with Honda, and some of the results would be outstanding – cars like the 800 Vitesse and the ‘Tomcat’ 220 Turbo coupé. The next generation of MGs sprang from an unlikely source – the dear old MGB, which had proved such a popular classic that British Motor Heritage at Faringdon had collected together all the tooling and had begun to build replacement bodyshells. ‘Project Adder’, the MG RV8 of 1992, inserted a developed Rover V8 and added muscle-bound arches to a BMH shell to create an instant sports car – a live-axled anachronism, but a real MG nonetheless.

It’s easy to forget all these characterful machines, hidden among the hundreds of thousands of Marinas and Allegros. MG, Rover and the other BLMC marques between them made a fair few duffers, but they also built some fine machines.

Today’s MG-Rover company is the result of generations of visionless management who ignored ideas such as Pininfarina’s 1968 family car concept, failed to invest in successful products, and failed to position the company in its marketplace and its industry. It’s because of them that a century of achievement might finally be over.

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Discussion

dinkel

Original Poster:

24,718 posts

193 months

Monday 11th April 2005
quotequote all
I heard MG Rover got some extra Bliar money to save his @rse in comming elections . . .

My fav: MGC with a nice 150-200 (in race trim) horse straight 6.

www.realdriver.com/mg/images/gallery/mgc2.jpg

www.burgesstuning.free-online.co.uk/MGC.jpg

www.spinning-wheel.net/prod460.htm

www.birmingham101.com/101motorsCLASSICROCK.html

There's a nice article about this Healey cousin in C&SC.

flasheegee

20 posts

170 months

Monday 11th April 2005
quotequote all
Is no British Investors available to rescue Rover!?
Its a shame,really.
Rover goes to China,the upcoming Esprit to Malaysia
TVR to Russia.
I think we need new Laws from the
Governments t.m. British Companys can only
sold to British Investors and not to peoples outside
UK etc.
I know,thats would be a drastically Step but its
better to protect the british (and not only in UK!)
Economy and the future of every company in U.K.
Globalization is a Dream,we see it in the normal
reality with the upcoming "real British cars" made
in Asia.

See YA!

flooritforever

861 posts

178 months

Monday 11th April 2005
quotequote all
Sad end for a manufacturer with such a long heritage.

I think the best we can hope for is for someone to buy the MG brand and turn it into a low-volume sports car manufacturer. I can't see the Rover brand surviving in any shape or form. But time will tell.......

Andrew Noakes

914 posts

175 months

Monday 11th April 2005
quotequote all
flooritforever said:
the best we can hope for is for someone to buy the MG brand and turn it into a low-volume sports car manufacturer


Pretty much what Alchemy wanted to do five years ago. MG-Rover was always too small to survive without a big partner, so it makes sense to turn it into a niche market, premium manufacturer.

john75

5,303 posts

182 months

Monday 11th April 2005
quotequote all
No mention of the Lola-MG EX275 that ran at le mans with Kevin McGarrity on board then ?
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dinkel

Original Poster:

24,718 posts

193 months

Monday 11th April 2005
quotequote all
dinkel said:
I heard MG Rover got some extra Bliar money to save his @rse in comming elections . . .


I guess you UK chaps just don't want to know eh?

roger645

1,619 posts

182 months

Monday 11th April 2005
quotequote all
Calling the 220 Turbo Coupe outstanding is a bit of an overstatement. If I remember mine the only outstanding bits were the dire handling & reliability!


Roger

ubergreg

261 posts

166 months

Monday 11th April 2005
quotequote all
dinkel said:

dinkel said:
I heard MG Rover got some extra Bliar money to save his @rse in comming elections . . .



I guess you UK chaps just don't want to know eh?


It's funny how the government announces the receivership of MG R over - even before the (privately owned and operated) company gets to, and now look! It's come up with a bit of rescue cash to save the day for the poor workers. Any bets on them providing enough loan money/new strategy to take them through the election?



Maybe I'm seeing too much into that, but if I'm not, that would definitely be one crass tactic.

wedgepilot

816 posts

218 months

Monday 11th April 2005
quotequote all
ubergreg said:

Any bets on them providing enough loan money/new strategy to take them through the election?



...and then pulling the plug once a third term is secured? Wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.

Pettsie

354 posts

192 months

Wednesday 13th April 2005
quotequote all
I think its a crying shame that;

A) successive UK governments have failed to properly back the UK car industry and all of our great names have gone. Unlike the French, Germans, Italians, Japs.
B) unions. My god they made a mess of BMC/BL.
C) management. enough said. people will not buy crap.
D) the public. the great middle classes who prefer BMW, Mercedes, Nissan, Renault, VW etc etc to British cars.

Rover, Riley, Wolsley, Aston, Jaguar, Rolls, Bently TVR RIP.

dinkel

Original Poster:

24,718 posts

193 months

Wednesday 13th April 2005
quotequote all
Pettsie said:

Rover, Riley, Wolsley, Aston, Jaguar, Rolls, Bently TVR RIP.


Aston - going uphill and holds on to their heritage
Jaguar - going downhill fast
Rolls - they had a past. The woody is great though
Bentley - Brrrr, what about the 4x4
TVR - great cars, improvement every decade

garyDVO

426 posts

173 months

Wednesday 13th April 2005
quotequote all
Can we not ask for EEC assistance to help retain manufacturing within Europe?

The rescue package needs to be at least 1Bn so that a new model can be design built and tested. (Omega cost GM 800M).

Main areas at risk are Wales, Birmingham. The EU needs to be clever hear to assist manufacturing in Europe through the next few years whilst China grows.

Would Italy let Fiat die, Germany let VW or BMW die, France let Renault or PSA die, and Spain let Seat die. I don't think so.

The Rover group developed the Mini (initiated before BMW buyout) and invested time and money and never received any benefit from its success. That cash would have paid for the next 25/24. The working capital needed from new models is not there.

Rover is I am afraid in need of major investment its not only 6000 jobs or even the jobs in associated industry it is also the jobs in the future.

An interesting point is that a Team from Morris setup the production line in Germany for the VW after 2nd WW. I also think that a Team went to Japan to do the same for Toyota implementing Just InTime and Cell structure based manufacturing.

Good luck to Rover but 100Million is small chips and will keep the problem to after 5th of May.

KEEP POLITICS OUT. Lets get a EU Business development rescue package.

Yes here in the UK we are bothered let s get a real rescue plan.

Gary

garyDVO

426 posts

173 months

Wednesday 13th April 2005
quotequote all
dinkel said:

Jaguar - going downhill fast



The Dollar hit Jaguar. S Type is JD Power number 1 with the least depreciation in its class.

Jaguar was ensuring Ford remained in profit. The main Jag market is the USA the dollar has now given the products a premium.

Ford will want to move the production to USA to help this. Now that would also be disastrous.

Gary


>> Edited by garyDVO on Wednesday 13th April 11:20

dinkel

Original Poster:

24,718 posts

193 months

Wednesday 13th April 2005
quotequote all
garyDVO said:
Can we not ask for EEC assistance to help retain manufacturing within Europe? . . .
KEEP POLITICS OUT. Lets get a EU Business development rescue package.
Yes here in the UK we are bothered let s get a real rescue plan.
Gary


I think EU rather sees Japs / Koreans coming up here to use their valuable experience in building sound cars. They supply for big plants and big work like we need so much here. Throw another penny in this money pit is a complete waste.

garyDVO said:

dinkel said:

Jaguar - going downhill fast

The Dollar hit Jaguar. S Type is JD Power number 1 with the least depreciation in its class.

Jaguar was ensuring Ford remained in profit. The main Jag market is the USA the dollar has now given the products a premium.

Ford will want to move the production to USA to help this. Now that would also be disastrous.

Gary


Err, I'm talking about the cars not about the sales. Isn't that just the point why Bents and Rollers look so shite nowadays? 4x4 anyone . . . . Jaguar diesel estate - I mean: how to kill a brand with such splendid heritage? Off course neighbour John Jones proudly polishes his Jag-badge every saturdaymorning . . .

Pettsie

354 posts

192 months

Thursday 14th April 2005
quotequote all
I have a Jag XJ8 - its just fine thanks. Aston, Jag, Rolls, Bently etc etc are now as foreign as Nissan and Audi. Pity that we cannot build cars anymore.

Jinx

8,576 posts

195 months

Friday 15th April 2005
quotequote all
roger645 said:
Calling the 220 Turbo Coupe outstanding is a bit of an overstatement. If I remember mine the only outstanding bits were the dire handling & reliability!


Roger


Never had a problem with mine - great little car and hugged corners like a rabbit in heat.

tvrgaas

1,372 posts

205 months

Friday 15th April 2005
quotequote all
There was a report on the BBC last weekend where the interviewer was asking about the history of the names (MG, Rover) whereas the interviewee was making the point that it's Longbridge and to the employees it was always "The Austin".

Austin was founded at Longbridge in 1905 and as such the Austin Clubs were planning a Centenary rally at Longbridge later in the year.

The first MG's were made at Cowley, and they're still making MINI's and I guess the Rover plant at Solihull is still making Fords... okay Land Rovers.

Longbridge's output was nearly always fine staid cars... until the Allegro. The exceptions were the two seater Austin Sevens and the supply of engines to Healey.

Andrew Noakes

914 posts

175 months

Friday 15th April 2005
quotequote all
tvrgaas said:
The first MG's were made at Cowley


No, no, no! The first cars you could call MGs were made at Longwall Street and then Alfred Lane, in Oxford. The first MG with a real Cowley connection was the TA in 1936 but though that was effectively a Morris design, it was assembled at Abingdon.

GavinPearson

5,711 posts

186 months

Saturday 16th April 2005
quotequote all
garyDVO said:

dinkel said:

Jaguar - going downhill fast




The Dollar hit Jaguar. S Type is JD Power number 1 with the least depreciation in its class.

Jaguar was ensuring Ford remained in profit. The main Jag market is the USA the dollar has now given the products a premium.

Ford will want to move the production to USA to help this. Now that would also be disastrous.

Gary


>> Edited by garyDVO on Wednesday 13th April 11:20


Ford remains in profit by selling trucks and SUVs, and loses money on Jaguar. At least that is what the NYSE analysts are being told. I believe it.

The Pound's excessive strength is not helping Jaguar but then again neither is the fact that they're not selling anything like the number of cars that they should to be efficient.

pwig

11,868 posts

205 months

Saturday 16th April 2005
quotequote all
Jinx said:

roger645 said:
Calling the 220 Turbo Coupe outstanding is a bit of an overstatement. If I remember mine the only outstanding bits were the dire handling & reliability!


Roger



Never had a problem with mine - great little car and hugged corners like a rabbit in heat.


I would buy another

Would upgrade the brakes though