Carchive:- The Rover 800 (Part 1)|Hooniverse

12 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Carchive:- The Rover 800 (Part 1)|Hooniverse

Carchive:- The Rover 800 (Part 1)

Welcome  to All New The Carchive, De-Luxe edition, where all the pictures are the right way round. Some of you have expressed a vague interest in the actual material in the photos and are fed up with having to squint and use a magnifying glass, so now, via all manner of web-based sorcery, you can click on the photos to enbiggenate them.

So, themes. Well, it#8217;s extraordinarily self-indulgent of me, but to commemorate the arrival of The Rover back at The Towers Of Rust (you may have read about it here #8230;) this week is going to be a Rover 800 and Sterling special. So call off anything you#8217;d usually do at 13:30 on a weekday, in fact, take the rest of the week off.

Tell #8216;em Chris said it would be OK.

Today we#8217;re going back to when it all began.

#8220;Four years ago, Britain#8217;s leading car manufacturer embarked on its most demanding challenge ever. The aim- to design and build a luxury performance saloon which would be without equal#8221;

I don#8217;t need to remind any of you about what the Rover 800 had to do, but on the basis that somebody one day will read this who doesn#8217;t even know that Rover ever existed . here we go.

The Rover 800 replaced, gradually, the Rover SD1, which replaced the P6. The SD1, famed for its Ferrari Daytona aping styling, had been successful in design terms and for generally improving the rather staid image of British Leyland, but had never been the runaway sales success the corporation wanted. Over time it had overcome some of its reliability and build quality issues (though not all of them) and come to be seen as a creditable machine at last.

But the only way to distance the Rover name from the problems of the past was, they figured, with a clean slate approach.

The thing was, at that point, Rover didn#8217;t have any technology. Rover were a rag-tag bunch of Dickensian street urchins in a world becoming dominated by the German and Japanese zeitgeist. However, they did have an ally in the shape of Honda, whose Ballade had underpinned (and a whole lot more) the very acceptable if prosaic Triumph Acclaim, a conservative car that drove so much better than anybody expected it to.

How about, they pondered, teaming up with Honda to take the world on together? In 1981 the first steps were tentatively taken to make this happen.

#8220;Designing the new car would create a partnership unique in the automotive industry, uniting the resources of the most advanced technology and the most highly skilled engineers#8221;

To be honest, though Honda and Rover both wanted to end up with a similar product, at every stage in the process there were disagreements and compromises, and considerable discipline was needed to prevent two totally different vehicles emerging with absolutely nothing being shared at all. For example; Honda, who were pursuing  prestige first and foremost, had no interest in the car having anything smaller than a V6, but did need a car that was within a certain width to satisfy arcane Japanese vehicle tax rules.

Rover, on the other hand, didn#8217;t give a rats toss about width, in fact were all in favour of a wide car to maximise interior spaciousness, but did want to employ a straight-four engine to compete in the UK and Europe, where big engines were of limited appeal. In fact, they were desperate to move on from the big V8 idea, which was seen as distinctly unfashionable.

#8220;The promise of a new Rover is unique and exciting. It must continue and develop an engineering pedigree which is second-to-none#8230;. You will appreciate that the tradition continues; the promise has been kept#8221;

The result of Project XX still wasn#8217;t quite what Rover wanted it to be. Honda#8217;s insistence on double-wishbone front suspension meant limited wheel travel and compromised ride quality, but in some ways this was a good thing. The front-wheel-drive, sportily suspended 800 was completely different to the live-rear-axle, rear-drive SD1.

Altogether more contemporary, and being a sedan rather than hatch, perceived to be more upmarket too.

#8220;At the wheel, you#8217;ll immediately recognise the wraparound cockpit layout of the ultimate driver#8217;s car  an open invitation to a motoring experience of a new and exhilarating kind#8221;

The interior was universally praised and found to be remarkably spacious and well designed, while being modern yet traditional at the same time. Wood and leather were back on the Rover OK list.  And, exhilaration was on the menu, too, with 173hp being on tap from the Honda V6 or 140hp from the two-litre M16 engine, which was a real silk-purse from a sows ear being based as it was on the old O-Series engine of Morris Ital fame.

The four was a good sounding engine, too. The Honda V6, though, was roundly criticised for being the wrong engine for the car. It delivered its peak torque way up at 5000rpm, great for a sports car but rather ill-in-keeping with what was supposed to be a hushed limo kind of car.

And if you measure it solely by its interior, the Sterling really could have been a limo. There was a drivers seat with memories, rear seats that reclined electrically, steering column control stalks illuminated with fibre-optics, the list went on. Seriously, passenger nor driver wanted for anything.

#8220;Austin Rover is now benefiting from the investment of many millions of pounds which have made available to it the finest and most advanced design, engineering and production facilities in the European motor industry.  The result is the achievement of the highest possible product quality #8211; the Rover 800 Series#8221;

That went on to become a topic of some debate.

Stick around for more Rover 800 action this week, you lucky, lucky people. Next stop, Austin Rover Cars Of North America.

(Disclaimer: All images depict original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me.

Copyright remains property of Rover, which probably by now either means BMW or China Brilliance or MG or some guy called Kenneth who picked up the deeds while rummaging through a garage sale. Actually, if you#8217;re reading this and thinking of getting rid;  hit me up)

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