Rover 827 Vitesse: PH Ad Break

You’d hardly believe it now, but the early 90s were an optimistic time for Rover. After a torrid period in the early 80s, the company’s partnership with Honda was starting to pay dividends, and the Rover 213 and 216 – Honda Ballades, in all but name – had met with agreeable reviews and become a successful model for the company.

Rover's most unintentionally ironic subtitle?
Rover's most unintentionally ironic subtitle?
The next Rover to come out of this partnership was the 800, codenamed XX, and it continued the trend. Closely related to the first-generation Honda Legend, it featured a combination of Rover 2.0-litre M-Series engines and Honda V6s, and equipped with the latter, it spawned the second big Rover to wear the Vitesse name.

The first, of course, had been the big, brutish SD1 – but the 800 was an altogether different animal. Front-wheel drive, and more of an executive cruiser than a touring car tearaway, it’s no surprise that it’s barely remembered today while the SD1 is feted. But in its own right, and in its day, it was – take a deep breath, now – a good car. The V6 gave it 180hp, enough to propel it to 60mph in eight seconds dead, and it handled well. “Unlike the Legend, this car has the heart of a lion,” said Car magazine. “The Vitesse wipes aside the ills of earlier Rovers.” Let’s not forget, while we’re on the subject, that it was a completely standard 827 Vitesse that was the first production car to average 100mph around the Isle Of Man TT circuit, a feat achieved with Tony Pond at the wheel in 1990.

'I remember when these were all Ambassadors...'
'I remember when these were all Ambassadors...'
This particular ad, for the whole 800 range but featuring the Vitesse most heavily, was one of Rover’s better efforts of the 90s – all subtlety and innuendo, clever camerawork and neat asides. In fact it wouldn’t be out of place if it appeared on our screens today. In one fell swoop it takes a delightfully unsubtle swipe at Rover’s main rivals from the German car industry (then in its ascendancy, and just a few short years away from taking over the company in its entirety), and then addresses concerns about Rover’s fit and finish (although, clearly, the supposed owner who “likes the way it’s put together” enjoys the odd panel gap), before referring to its sporting credo (while cutting to a shot of a four-speed auto box being shifted between gears). Ahem. OK, so it’s not the greatest ad in the world in terms of its accuracy, but who cares? It looks great, the concept’s neat, and the car’s... well, it’s actually looking rather good these days, we reckon. Enjoy!

PS. If you want a giggle, check out this earlier example of XX 800 advertising to see how well they moved the game on. Keep an eye out for the head-on shot with a main-beam bulb out. Only a company formed from the ashes of British Leyland could manage that one...

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (118) Join the discussion on the forum

  • W124 13 Mar 2013

    'England expects, but Austin-Rover struggles to deliver' - I'm sure that was on the cover of CAR when the 800 came out. Shows you how old I am.

  • Digga 13 Mar 2013

    Always liked that Deutsche ad.

    The 800 was, frankly, a huge anti-climax compared to the SD1 it replaced, but wasn't a bad motor. IIRC Team Central TVR had one in their collection of sheds courtesy car days, just before their controversial switch to a Fiat Seicento fleet and it wasn't a bad drive. The 800s looked a bit dowdy from the off but it was probably the best Rover could do with the Honda platform share deal.

  • Z28DUNC 13 Mar 2013

    My brother had a black 827 vitesse. For a big old car it shifted and handled quite well. 825 was never as good as the Honda engined cars.

  • suffolk009 13 Mar 2013

    Year ago travelled to Wales for a weekend of surfing/camping with two friends in one of these. Years ago.

    One of the younger surfers in the campsite asked why three lawyers were surfing. I said none of us were lawyers. He said, "Oh, we'd all just assumed with a car like that."

  • W00DY 13 Mar 2013

    A magnificent ad.

    I shall use it to cure my occasional insomnia.

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