Rover 800 history

29 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Rover 800 history

The cars. Rover 800 development

The 800 emerged as the result of an ambitious to produce new Rover- and Honda-badged cars#8230;

However, the Japanese and teams disagreed in so many that very little up being shared between the two in the end, thus re-shaping projects

Honda saves the day

THE SD1 was undoubtedly the finest car to emerge BL during those dark of the 1970s, but along the way, it had from certain problems had eroded the appeal of the car as a whole. As in the SD1 story. it never really its potential on the market, failing to in the numbers that the highly Rover P6 and Triumph 2000/2500 had during the #8217;60s and #8217;70s.

BL had a large proportion of its executive-class share to the products of up-market such as BMW and Volvo, as well as rivals such as the Ford and Vauxhall Carlton. This of share was an inevitable side of the failing fortunes of the corporation as a but despite these troubles, the of the SD1 as a car was still good with customers.

First thoughts

Of by 1979, when the issue of a replacement for the car raised its head, the of the Rover SD1 was at its lowest point and of this, the new car was seen as an essential of the future corporate plan. In the days of the JRT division, Rover-Triumph a corporate plan that to a replacement for the SD1, codenamed the Bravo.

Because of the budgetary that BL was enduring at the time, initial plans drawn up for the were based on a comprehensive of the Rover SD1, offering four and five-door packages, and an range that encompassed the O-series engine, 2.6-litre and the venerable 3.5-litre V8. When BL was reshuffled in 1980, following the of JRT – the Light-Medium division revised plan accordingly. BL Cars a list of upcoming cars for revised product plan; all to as the LM range of cars.

Beyond the known LM10 and LM11. and mysteriously for BL watchers, there models that were to in the corporate plan as the LM12, and LM15 – and the company touted as the cars that would be up the rest of the future model The make-up of these cars change from year to but essentially, the LM12 was to be a coupé of the LM10/LM11, the LM14 was mocked-up as a version of the Montego (full-sized, in a vein to the later Ford and Vauxhall Cavalier) and the LM15, was to be a full-size executive car to replace the SD1.

Unlike the Rover which was a re-skin of the SD1, the was based on the LM11 Montego, in size accordingly. This made a certain degree of when viewed in the context of the opposition, but planners and designers BL knew that a new wave of cars from the company’s were on the horizon – and how much of an over the current crop cars would prove to be was something that designers as Gordon Sked were interested to find out.

In 1981, Sked attended the motor show, a task as a senior designer within BL, he be expected to, but he was actually there on a mission. Gordon Sked was in to get a feel for what the company’s would be introducing onto the over the next year or so. As Sked observed in 1986, the of ‘81 was, #8216;a little and due for replacement, so our knowledge of what be coming was the key.#8217;

Sked back from Frankfurt seen the Ford Probe as well as the Opel Tech-1 and it was obvious to them that the look of these concept the Europeans would be moving a more aerodynamic body This was only part of the the recently launched mark two BMW demonstrated that mechanical and sophistication were already forwards in leaps and bounds. rightly, the company knew at early stage of LM15 that a re-body of the upcoming would not be enough to produce a car would be able to compete against what was in the pipeline the company’s rivals.

Ray Horrocks and Snowdon soon surmised the only way that Austin would be able to develop a sophisticated car was with help Honda, who possessed the resources and to produce an entirely new large Discussions with Honda, started following the Frankfurt in September and along with the build Ballade arrangement; the of executive cars was discussed. found that Honda not only highly accommodating, but keen to collaborate with Rover because at the time largest engined car in export was the 1602cc Accord model and wanted to expand their in the USA, a Country that the big car.

Three stages of XX

First XX clay prototype in July 1982 was very a Rover 800. Many styling made it through to production, notably the “duotone” colour and the appearance of an unbroken glasshouse. The and grille treatment resembled the R8 Rover 200.

Austin XX “DEV 2” model on display in 1982: the convex flanks of the car were now removed, but this of the car worried Gordon Sked of its huge glass area, stance and “size perception”.

DEV 3 produced following the convergence of the XX and HX in the early months of 1983. design would amount to the Rover 800, aside a small change in dimensions.

The result – clean of the early 800 is very evident in shot – the uninterrupted beltline and treatment of the glasshouse being evident here.

Japan and unite

Discussions became serious, intentions became plans and as a result, in November the Austin Rover-Honda XX letter of was signed between the two companies. The Rover design team had not for the green light, however: had already started work on car concepts following their meeting with Honda in and their thoughts turned to aerodynamic solutions. This is reflected in Roy Axe ’s statement that, question was whether we wanted to into that pot, clear of it, or take account of it; in the we decided to take account of

The Director of Design’s reasoning was put into action when the team at the new Axe studios at Canley to draw their concepts for the new So, Austin Rover#8217;s intention was for the to reflect aerodynamic thinking, but at the time, given the high the SD1 was still held in, any new car produced by the team should bear than a passing resemblance to its

The XX external designer Gordon was quite vocal in his admiration for Bache’s design. At the launch of the new car in 1986, he opined, #8216;Looks never been a problem for the Even after ten years, it is quite a handsome car, proportioned.#8217;

So, a look was conceived and by 1982, the Canley design had produced their first clay model. The first XX model produced was recognisably a 800, carrying styling that would make it to production, such as the top/bottom colour scheme and blackened A, B and which gave the car the appearance of an uninterrupted glasshouse and its floating

Despite the proclamation made by Roy Axe the new car would not be a slave to aerodynamics, the incarnation of the XX was a rather characterless aero car with its smooth, barrel shaped flanks and covered rear wheels. It however, attain an excellent performance when tested at the wind tunnel, achieving a of drag measured at Cd 0.27.

Elements of the SD1 were added to the XX design to give the basic rather more character – and can be seen in the swage lines the flanks (treated in a rather way than on the SD1), the ribbed lamp lenses and the long, headlamps which bracketed a grille-less nose. Roy Axe was also determined to ensure that the of the XX could be transferred onto Rovers, as he believed that in for a model range to be successful, needed to be an element of a family

One surprising decision taken early in the design stages was unlike the Rover SD-1, the new car be a three box saloon, rather a hatchback. It may have seemed this was an illogical decision for the to take, but given that the XX was very much with a range of export markets the SD1, it was felt that the traditional layout was a more option especially in image markets, such as Germany and the where BMW, Audi and ruled the roost.

The need to a platform with Honda led to some design compromises and the one that Austin Rover wished that they had not saddled with was the need to the car within a width stipulated by the One major contribution to the feeling of in any car is the width of its passenger cabin and Japanese taxation laws a narrower car, Austin fought a losing battle Honda to make the new car more than the SD1. This difference of opinion between the two did make Austin Rover#8217;s stylists shift their and re-examine the ambience of the interior – and the end is one of this controversial car’s assets.

Collaborative work the Japanese and British engineering was soon underway and although the were taken aback by the that the British team had produced a model in time for first meeting, it did not sour between the two companies. Soon XX and HX codename for the Japanese version of the models were being side by side at Canley and an working relationship was soon up between both parties.

did not stop Honda exerting on Austin Rover to fill out the of the new car because the XX and HX would have to chassis pick-up points. The felt that the Citroënesque plan view that was so aerodynamically (and subsequently appear on the Mercedes-Benz 190) did not the car enough road presence and so, the new would have its dimensions altered. Variance on styling was but whereas the initial agreement of 1981 stipulated that the two would only have styling in the areas of front and overhangs, the actuality was that Honda and Austin Rover this to be an unworkable arrgement and of this, entirely unique HX and XX proposals soon evolved which happily left and Honda with their very different cars.

Honda had no interest in producing a HX, structural differences between the two also soon became whereas Austin Rover a that a 2-litre version of the XX was to the cars success in the UK and Europe, its needed to be engineered in order to the Roland Bertodo designed M16 as well as the Honda-built 2.5-Litre V6 thus adding further In terms of XX engines and because the V8 in the Rover SD1 was so deeply unfashionable at the no real thought was put into this engine in the XX, which is a given the less than power and torque characteristics of the V6 used in XX when it eventually

By November 1982, the next of the XX (referred to as DEV 2) was produced as a full-sized fibre and clay styling BL management flew out this to Japan for evaluation by both top brass and although Axe and Sked both happy with the of the car, they still unhappy about the overall of the car. Both men agreed further work was required and as put it, DEV 2 looked, #8216;a bit too soft, its perception was worrying us slightly.#8217; The posts moved quickly and it did not long for DEV 3, the final version of the XX, to some six months later.

teams were now designing much their own cars, but the to work together – and Honda did from the arrangement in much the way that Austin Rover The HX was by far the largest car the company had ever and the company did benefit immensely BL’s body engineering This meant that companies did gain a lot from the programme, a fact that BL watchers did not always fully when discussing Honda.

the two cars were in danger of too far diverged from each the design and engineering of both were once again closer together at Canley January 1983 in order to maintain commonality in the two programmes. step did bear fruit and both teams felt their engineering teams’ impulses were being in, it did mean that what was of the programme would be conducted as a joint venture.

One benefit of change in tack was that news from Japan was that the dimensions of the Honda V6 to those that had been forwarded to the XX and HX teams, both and Austin Rover engineers move quickly by working to rectify the situation. The newly-sized V6 force a 9mm increase in the wheel dimensions of both cars and it was Sked who took this on board and turned it into an by putting back some of the sidedness of the original DEV 1 prototype.

on the other hand, took the way out and simply added wheel blisters reminiscent of those on the URquattro to the existing body – a fitting appendage for an executive Either way, Honda their hands up for this error, and financially compensated Rover for the trouble they had the British company. Be that as it Honda allegedly used the to their advantage according to one #8216;But I was told that took advantage of their to pull the HX launch well of XX.#8217;

Of very real however, was the four-cylinder engine developed by Austin Rover, it used the rather unimpressive unit as its starting point. the SD1, which relied on a of physically large, torquey the XX would make do with a version of an in-line 4-cylinder developed in two states of tune to those used in the Rover and 2600 models. Austin would rely on Honda to a top of the range engine befitting of the of replacing the much-loved V8 in the Rover – initially Honda failed in task.

New engines

Roland tasked with producing new of the O-Series engine – the higher-powered of the two would need to be able to at least 70bhp per litre (to put into perspective, the standard engine managed 46bhp/litre). was an extraordinarily tall order for his to meet, given the fact the O-Series engine in single 2-litre form delivered at 4900rpm. Given that objectives were tough to meet, there was also the issue of emissions regulations and how the new would be designed to meet

This required the new engine to be of configuration, in order to meet emission regulations, whilst being able to produce power and torque to propel large bodied saloon in an way demanded by executive car buyers. to say, Bertodo realised his team needed to design a 16-valve cylinder head for the and also do away with induction, replacing it with injection in both versions of the In order to meet power, and mixture expectations, particular was paid to the design of the combustion – and here, Bertodo went to the future, borrowing the design of the Triumph Dolomite Sprint.

According to Bertodo, #8216;Triumph stumbled on the fact that it ( the combustion chamber design ) very good economy, but didn’t quite know We sat down at BL technology and devised rigs…. to discover why it was the best It gave the best combination of economy and low emission under burn conditions.#8217; So, whether liked the Rover 800 or not, King had his hand in at least one of its design.

The lower powered engine called the M16e M16i in 138bhp form) was unusual in being offered single-point fuel injection, was a real rarity back in This system effectively as an electronic carburettor, the fuel being mounted on the throttle which meant that a injector, electronically controlled be used to fuel all four In this form, the engine developed a healthy 118bhp at

Actually, the M16 engine was quite a achievement, given the humble point and less than development budget given to the

This is especially apparent compared to the original Honda V6 which was also supplied in two of tune, but tellingly it was engines#8217; figures that gave the away: 163lb ft at 4000rpm for the version and 160lb ft at a scarcely 5000rpm for the manual version. The itself was sweet and smooth, but the V8 powered Rover 3500, could double as a tree puller, the V6 versions of the XX would to be revved in a most un-executive way to serious performance from. and Honda were well of the deficiencies of this engine it even reached production and feverishly on improving it, but the sales of the V6 Rovers was certainly compromised by initial version.

New chassis

The 800 laid bare: The car in the form it was finally launched was probably different to the one that Austin would have produced had done so independently and given a hand. Compromised this may have been, but without there probably would been no feasible replacement for the SD1 and for reason, this collaborative should be applauded.

In terms of configuration, Austin Rover and were miles apart in they thought was needed in to produce a worthy chassis. were lifelong advocates of the wishbone school of suspension whereas Austin Rover to cook up something more in order to free up much interior space. Honda, won this argument, but there was a amount of animated discussion in reaching this decision.

Morris was Austin Rover’s of chassis engineering at the time and the troubled chassis development of the XX and his on the situation was this: #8216;Certain of minds were necessary to the compromises each company had to to agree on the design of an executive Honda wanted technical only, but Austin Rover a good interior package as

Because of Honda’s insistence the car would have a low scuttle led to a low bonnet line, traditional struts would not fit, so a and expensive double wishbone was settled on, but in true Honda there was only a limited of wheel travel available.

of this, as far as Austin Rover concerned, ride quality was from the beginning and as a result, aspect of the car was at variance to how it might been, had the British designed it. As it careful development of this by Rover did pay dividends and although so-called collaborative deal up being more of a meeting of than anyone may have back in November 1981, the end was certainly an improvement over the layout of the SD1.

Once the development of the car was completed, the decision was to develop a hatchback version of the car – and Gordon Sked ’s design a low and flat beltline, the conversion to format would prove to be a straightforward process. Marketing the car prove to be a more sensitive being juggled repeatedly by the department after the appointment of Day in May 1986. However, the five-door would not prove to be the only of the XX: Unlike the SD-1 before it, the new car was created very much the US market in mind and because market research undertaken in the run up to the US of the car unearthed the fact that the wanted a Personal version of the car – in words a two door coupé the design team at Canley work on such a car.

The fruits of this labour be shown to the world in April with the unveiling of the Rover CCV Concept Vehicle), which as a showcase for the talents of the Austin design team. The car dropped than subtle hints to the press about the upcoming new and also demonstrated that the was seriously evaluating the idea of a new, big coupé.

The Canley team, headed by Roy Axe had also produced a car that managed to the automotive community as a whole, sit up and notice of the company. Much was of the fact that if the car gained a reception, it would be put into production – In truth, that had already been made, the of the car being used as a carrot which to lure American to join the ARCONA (Austin Cars Of North America) network.

Rover#8217;s brave new

Visually very appealing, the Hamblin designed Mk1 800 dashboard was by all who drove it – this demonstrates how well the Sterling is at night.

On 15 September 1985, Rover Managing Director Musgrove discussed Project XX at the Motor Show. #8216;This car challenge the best Germany has to — clinic results in Europe and America have been in that opinion. We have to our cars to suit individual markets. In the case of Germany, has meant spending considerable and resources on meeting the emission — whether we approve of them or

#8216;But our range of compliant benefit both the consumer and the But we have other advantages. Rover products are not dependent the availability of lead-free fuel— if a catalyst is fitted— at present by just about 10 per cent of the stations in Germany and difficult to elsewhere, so that, in effect, are placing travel restrictions on one of the outwardly mobile populations in Europe.

Catalysts are expensive to buy and and their fitment inevitably loss of fuel efficiency. It that with current catalysts will be required to the low emmision levels for large but in the longer term, Austin is developing new lead-burn technology will result in significant in emission performance and fuel

In October Mark Snowdon, Rover#8217;s Managing director of development, commented on why the similar legend was announced earlier: their working with and their provision of prototype Honda were somewhat and gained a little ground. came a need to make design modifications at a fairly stage — nothing unusual — but resulted in a small delay.

We have a wider model and we want to put a good part of it the market place at once. leads me to the fourth and by far the most factor #8211; a different way of cars.

#8216;This is not just a difference Honda and ourselves but one between and Europe. In Japan, it is common to a car not only before dealers received stocks but before the has seen it and even before has begun. In Europe, the normal is somewhat different and we shall to our usual aproach of full and press previews and establishing a stock of cars in dealers before launch day.#8221;

The run up to the of the new car was traumatic, to say the least. 1986 Had with the release of the overall UK figures for 1985 and it made reading for BL. 1985 Was the first year all Austin Rover#8217;s new of family cars, Metro. and Montego had all been on sale, the of Sir Michael Edwardes#8217; recovery #8211; except there was no to be seen despite all the taxpayers injected into BL.

In an expanding BL achieved a miserable 17 per cent only narrowly ahead of and its impressive new range of front drive cars.

The Metro was to fade saleswise against the five speed Ford and the Maestro and Montego were selling less than the they replaced at the start of production lives, the Allegro and In short, 1985 had been a for BL, and the bad news continued into the year.

By February 1986 it was that Mrs Thatcher#8217;s Conservative was trying to sell Land to General Motors and Austin to Ford which resulted in an political furore and there was a climbdown. This was the time of the affair when two cabinet resigned, and the government was accused of American big business against the interest.

In April it was revealed BL had lost £39.5m over the financial year, Austin alone lost £6m compared to in 1984. But this was little to the government determined to privatise the car, bus and lorry making But the directors claimed that operating losses were #8216;significantly#8217; better than the before, when BL lost

Sales were up 14 per cent — 479,500 vehicles a year.

Rover#8217;s accumulated losses had now £966m since the Government in to save the company in 1974. The frustration with BL came to a on 1 May 1986 when it fired Sir Bide, chairman, and Ray Horrocks, executive, and appointed Canadian Day as chairman. On 8 July 1986, the of BL decided to change the name of the to Rover Group PLC, the of its prestige marque, although saloons were no longer at the old Rover company#8217;s plant at but at the Morris Motors factory at

Back to the Rover 800: In an extravagant promotional campaign, unmatched in memory, Austin Rover some 3500 dealers, buyers and their wives, with journalists to Switzerland to drive the fuel injected in the Alps for a weekend. In addition, chiefs throughout Britain flown to Switzerland to test the car, and 60 members of parliament and of foreign journalists were to scenic Northumberland, England, to try the

On 10 July 1986, the Rover 800 was launched to the public. The importance of the new car was not on senior Austin Rover Ashley Farmer, commented at the #8216;In 1980, the launch of the signalled this companies It was a car for survival.

Today, the Rover 800 is important.#8217; Harold Musgrove the corporate mantra: #8216;I over-emphasise just how important car is, not only to the company but to the country. the Metro was the car for our survival, the Rover 800 is the car for our prosperity.#8217;

On launch day The Guardian this: #8216;A tour the Rover 800/Legend production reveals an environment more of the slightly antiseptic Japanese car than of the dark and forbidding car production dungeons of yore. screens and notice boards the brightly whitewashed factories; and smoking areas, with plastic chairs and tables ; hissing robots are more than snarling shop But says Andy Barr, Rover productions director, the which the group has brought play for the Rover 800 production not been drawn directly Japan.

#8216;Nor indeed, Barr have they employed because of the pressures of the collaborative venture. Rather Rover has implemented a wide series of environmental training and schemes whose broad are improvements in quality and productivity, to the group to meet international challenges from a stronger Its new practices will not be confined to the 800 tracks but will be spread the groups plants. Barr however, that the instigation of the 800 with its new assembly line the group with an ideal to install new techniques.#8217;

#8220;We did not lift a stack of practices from Honda or Datsun,#8221; explained. Instead, he and fellow Rover executives embarked on a series of visits, studying the of West German and US car manufacturers as as Japanese, to evolve their own of improved working practices. thing we wanted to do was to change attitudes so that their became the same as the company#8217;s,#8221; says.

#8216;The most of the methods they sifted other car manufacturers were to the management consultancy firm, PA to up and produce as a working programme. of course, was an early area for and workers on the Rover 800 line undergone a three week programme, many times extensive than ever attempted within the group. The of the training programme. while to be judged in qualitative terms, has proved its worth at more one level as far as worker involvement is

#8220;When we transferred some workers onto the 800 line, the already there complained Barr related with satisfaction.

#8220;They haven#8217;t trained, they said, aren#8217;t competent enough to do the

Andy Barr had another tale to illustrate the changing attitudes on the Rover 800 assembly A large group of component visited Cowley the other for the mandatory tour of the new robotised #8220;The difference was,#8221; Barr. #8220;that this workers were rushing up to the and eagerly asking them they thought of the new car, they liked it I#8217;ve seen such a change in

#8216;This change of mood is in the light of the intensified Japanese The Japanese executives who will be in evidence when Legend comes on regular stream expect to talk to the Cowley as they are able to in Tokyo, and in some instance, a lack of commonality. Applicants for jobs at Rover are now invited to undertake a two day course, over a weekend, in with their families.

not just that we weed out and decide whether we want to them,#8221; Barr explained. important that the whole gets involved in the decision and whether they want to with us. We#8217;re not pretending to be on the Japanese employment for life although at Cowley, maybe by we have a surprising number of and sons employee situations.#8221;#8216;

As the Rover 3500 before it in the existence of this car was widely about in the media – apart anything else, the XX had been to in corporate plans since and was often mentioned in the running that Austin Rover had to endure during their visits to the Parliamentary Select concerning company finances. The of the car was also familiar following the launch of the HX, or Honda Legend as it was in December 1985. Because of speculative reporting in the media ( of these leaks being semi-official sources ), even the of the car came as little surprise.

Some journalists did pour on the new car, but they were in the minority – Car magazine was one such that reported their with the new car, announcing it as #8216;Bland Rover#8217;. They did praise the car for its British engines, but had to say of the V6 models. #8216;On the evidence of of the 800… Honda’s biggest to the 800 – the engine – seems to be a poor The new 2.5-litre V6, despite technical is woefully short of mid range making it an ill-bred engine for car use.#8217; That did not stop the criticising the M16-engined versions, #8216;The twin problems the M16, in its more powerful injection guise are that not particularly refined, nor is it especially

Car magazine continued, #8216;As the 2.5-litre V6, it’s short of pulling power, so must be hard to deliver real Maximum torque comes in at an high 4500rpm, but above the M16 does provide reasonable It has to be said that the M16 engine the sea change in engine design swept through the industry, in the 1980s and continuing through the #8211; the advanced M16 having a whole scale industry to the 16-Valve/twin-camshaft formula. Rover anticipated this trend for more powerful, more engines: by the mid-#8217;90s, just every petrol powered saloon was powered by a multi-valve

Handling and ride also mixed reviews from Car . low speed the ride – although – also leaves something to be It’s firm, and won’t up holes that, say a Granada take in its stride. Overall, the comes as a surprising failure, the chassis excellence of ARG’s and Maestro.#8217; Austin Rover at the time that there was British involvement in the suspension but the shortcomings of the Rover 800 demonstrated in this respect, they had led by Honda – and were left to their design.

If Car magazine to be rather unmoved by the new car, the pro-BL Motor magazine on the new car#8217;s undoubted strengths. testing the Sterling model and it up against class rivals, it the new car up rather positively. #8216;We can be for viewing the BMW and Mercedes as ambitious for the Sterling but in this company the is an endearing but ageing machine. The does too many things to be a pushover for the Rover, but simply to the three pointed star is a achievement… As it is, the newcomer has done expected of it and more.#8217; If this as a qualified recommendation, their of the 820Si highlighted Rover’s in pushing the Sterling model as as it did at the start of its life. #8216;On the of Northumberland, the 16-Valve Rover won us conclusively. We can’t think of a 2-Litre executive car.#8217;

One of the 800 that was unanimously praised was its which managed to incorporate a outlook, whilst maintaining a olde-worlde charm – Honda learn lessons from in this department.


Despite these mixed reviews, the Rover 800 was generally with enthusiasm from the and public, but soon the launch of the car was by the fact that, just with the Rover 3500 1976, people who actually to buy the new car were denied the opportunity of limited supplies. Austin had made available 1000 800s (the majority of being Silver Sterling across the dealer network, but one considers that at the time, were still 1400 ARG in the UK, it would mean that a lot of would go away disappointed.

people pointed the finger of for this at Austin Rover Harold Musgrove and his case was not in September 1986 when his half year financial were revealed. At the same the year before, Austin had made modest profit of now it had lost £60m. On 22 September, Day took decisive action.

He that Harold Musgrove was early retirement. This was a sad end to career which began as an apprentice in 1945, and it was his dynamism had galvanised the development of the Metro, but his allegedly abrasive management had antagonised the workforce and led to fractious relations, particulary at Cowley in Also looking for new employment was Snowdon, Austin Rover#8217;s director of Product development, and one of the of the BL/Honda link and by definition the 800.

Also, the initial comprised of just two cars, the Sterling and the Rover 825i – the absentees from this were the M16 powered cars would not become generally until later that There was a genuine reason for the in the lower powered model: it was an unfortunate victim of last changes that had to be effected in to avoid fouling homologation This was a shame because the 800 was an exceptionally promising car – and any setback prove difficult to overcome in the life of the car.

As it was, the 820 arrived on the scene some later and the range began to rather viable. Trouble was though – and it came in the form of the bedfellow: Jaguar.

Because had launched the V6 powered 825 versions the marketing emphasis was placed a certain lack of subtlety at the top of the range, at the expense of the bread and models. When Jaguar the new XJ6 in October 1986, they cannily marketed their car as a of models and made great of the fact that their level Jaguar XJ6, the version cost significantly money than the new Rover

In the minds of buyers, the new Rover 800 was the Sterling model – and that a luxury leather-lined £20,000 Rover had gaffed – and although the marketing men employed by the re-focussed headed by Graham Day quickly this situation, it was a situation did take time to put right in the of buyers.

David Benson, in the Daily Express on 26 September an alternate slant to the poor of the Rover 800: #8216;And are looking up on the productivity front. As Graham Day says. Industrial performance has been excellent the Rover Group, with per cent of working time

The factories at Longbrldge and Cowley are now the most modern in the world and are out cars equal in quality to any in the Productivity in these plans with the best in Europe. The of quality has, however, to some of the disaster in tho Austin division this year.

The awaited Rover 800 range was in nine moths late. It has a production rate of only 500 per although the factory has a capacity for a week. It was also deliberately at its launch in July, to depress until the line got up to capacity.#8217;

in the same issue, Paul was more vitriolic on BL/Rover#8217;s #8216;When Mrs Thatcher test the new Rover in Downing Street, she was by the car#8217;s design, smooth and comfort — but not by the price. The Prime later told friends much as she liked the blue it was too expensive for her and her husband Denis.

So if the Thatcher family is not prepared to up £19,000 for a top-of-the-range car on which the Group is building its future, who The question was being asked urgently yesterday after the Rover Group … unfolded before the company#8217;s investors — the taxpayers.

#8216;At first glance, the half-year operating losses just another poor for the nation#8217;s number one albatross. But the is that Britain#8217;s last motor company is broke, dependent on Government cash and in danger of complete collapse. the past ten years the former Leyland, turned Rover has burned £2.3bn of taxpayers#8217; On top of that there are £1.5bn of underwritten by the various governments, are again the ultimate responsibility of the

It was this kind of mindset Graham Day, now personally Austin Rover, had to placate. On 4 however, there was more bad for Rover. Just as sales of the 800 were beginning to take off a slow start, the Birmingham of Lucas had been unable to enough headlamps and rear due to a pay strike.

Production at the Cowley, factory had to be halted at the moment Austin Rover bosses planning to introduce a night to boost output. By October 8th of all Austin Rover cars was at a standstill and the company began to for alternate suppliers.

Despite setbacks, the ambitiously priced 800 quickly became a well-established of the executive car class, being by the management and executives of the UK and Europe, Production at Cowley was brisk, but of the failure of ARCONA to establish the brand in the USA, sales of the Rover 800 were modest to say the Because ARCONA decided not to themselves in the rampant price war on in the USA (at the behest of Graham Day ) at the time, the car to sell – and when reliability and niggles were highlighted by JD (famously, leather that turn green in strong the Sterling cars were for an unglamorous … in the USA.


1988 saw interesting new developments the Fastback bodyshape (with of the SD1) and a larger and torquier V6 engine. Both were to create the 827 Vitesse. Some of the name, some didn#39;t.

fortunes on the other side of the were in sharp contrast to in the UK, where the Rover 800 was going strength to strength. In February the new, improved Honda V6 was announced, curing many of of its 2.5-litre predecessor. The revised had been bored out to 2.7-litres and in the gained a much flatter curve and slightly more power.

The driving experience was – and when the fastback version of the 800 was brought onto the market shortly afterwards, a bespoilered of the 2.7-litre fastback was given the badge, resurrecting memories of the SD1 Vitesse.

The fastback model was an example of how in the brave new world of the new and Graham Day -run Rover the marketing department was getting a say in deciding how model variations being presented to the public. In when plans for the 5-door of the 800 were in their infancy, the had decided that this would be sold at a lower than the saloon, as hatchbacks seen as a more utilitarian of car than the saloon. To sell concept, they had decided the car should receive the Rover 600 and be sold with less and at a lower price.

However, market research into the of potential Rover 800 buyers, Morley discovered that did not perceive the hatchback as being in any way to the saloon – and they reacted to the 600 badge. The range was re-jigged and be marketed as the 800 Fastback, although name would not be seen on the car its badging remaining identical to the model. The fastback range did a new entry level model the carburettor fed O-Series powered, 820 #8211; a true replacement for the 2000#8230;

In late October it was announced that a slump in for Rover 800 and Sterling cars had the lay off of 1800 workers at the Cowley Production lines stopped for separate weeks in November, and January. But workers would be paid.

David Benson in the Daily Express explained the for this: #8216;The Rover 800 the Sterling and the Fastback topping the is a superbly engineered and styled car should have given big slice of the executive car market, with fleet buyers in the UK.

it hasn#8217;t — mainly because it is as costing the same as a Jaguar, though you can buy a basic 800 for as little as This is a problem that is being overcome. But it is in North where there was talk of 30,000 cars a year, the sales performance has been so

#8216;Sadly, sales there averaged barely 10,000 a since its introduction two and a half ago. Meanwhile, the Rover 800 at Cowley has been turning out 900 cars a week where it produce double that. So has gone wrong? In America the launch has been little of a disaster.

The Sterling arrived a year later than its sister, the Legend, and missed out on the end of the U.S in European executive cars. The took a downturn which has hit including Mercedes Benz, Jaguar and Volvo. As part of a new plan, Rover has promised in the USA that next vear the models will be in dealerships in for the main buying season.#8217;

to the future

The R17 version of the Rover 800 curvier front and rear in an attempt to bring it right up to In fastback form, the extensive has been pretty successful.

Why a winning formula? The dashboard little in the way of modification over the model – the most changes are limited to the re-siting of the looking) clock and the addition of a new and looking steering wheel.

The problems that Rover was now in selling the 800, was that it was not seen as being exclusive – and given the fact that the sale of the company to BAe, the plan was to generate as much as possible from each the Rover 800 would need to a facelift in order to be seen as a British BMW instead of the Ford rival that it really In 1989, plans were up to give the 800 a quite comprehensive but immediately, at this point the added larger US-spec bumpers to the car – this subtle made quite a difference and the presence of the car increased accordingly.

The facelift was soon given the code, R17, and the plan was to the following: Restyle the car to give it classier appearance the company and to overhaul the 2-litre engine. The was considered essential as the existing 800 was a pleasant looking car, it was a of its time and that time was The world was moving on – and the Rover 800 was left behind.

Marque was very important in the executive – and where the Rover presented a bland frontal aspect in the of aerodynamics and family resemblance to the other manufacturers had gone the same route – so now, you find cars from Citroen and many others from the front, looked all but from the supposedly upmarket

The R17 project was compromised, however, by the to retain the existing cars capable underpinnnings, but as there had significant backroom work on the chassis, this was not a complete Also, the smooth and strong engine would be retained a positive aspect to the range as would the interior, which was the best aspect of the car.

Contentiously, one decision was made, further compromised the car#8217;s style, and that was the retention of the side doors. Despite the of the past, it seemed that had not learned from the folly of policy.

An insider put it in these #8216;It is true about R17 having to use XX door pressings on the specific instruction of Andy but he, like Musgrove, ruled much by fear, so people avoided being the bearer of bad I believe someone did try to make the that the dies were up for replacement by the time that R17 was due to production, but got shouted down.#8217; So, the to keep the existing doors, on cost grounds, would to be incorrect: the dies were which meant that the benefits of this decision totally eradicated.

Gordon agonised over the way the Rover 800 incorporate a more traditional design on the facelifted car. The 600 was actually the first car to be designed to the new set-up, but the 800 would reach the first, and would carry many existing styling In fact, the decision to add the grille to the 800 was taken after positive results on the 600, which a quick redesign. In the end after at countless grille proposals, he a solution that #8216;looked right than all the others.#8217;

the new look succeeded – the car looked had much more road and certainly conveyed a bolder identity. Only the fact the doors jarred the overall of the redesign, because they the car to maintain a rather flat not in keeping with the rest of the design.

In an engineering sense, was little new to report beyond the engine: the M16 engine received re-engineering in an effort to increase at low revs #8211; the result was a and the newly-designated T-Series engine to be a more suitable power for the car. The V6 Vitesse model was by a 2-litre turbocharged version, now in both saloon and fastback styles, but beyond this, the new car was changed underneath the skin.

CCV years late

Good or not? You decide. That was the with the 800 Coupe – it was no doubt an car, but by the time of its launch in it was already an elderly design and at a of £30,775, it was up against stiff competition such as the Jaguar XJS 4.0 and 300CE.

In that context, the car was

The following year, the Rover 800 finally appeared after being clinicked to … by the That completed the R17 range, and that Rover were unique in the executive car market for up three defferent body

Back in 1988, shortly the purchase of the Rover Group by Aerospace it had been announced the Cowley South Works, the old Motors plant, would be and 4000 jobs shed and moved into the North formerly the Pressed Steel building, purchased by BMC in 1965. On 20 1992 Rover opened a car assembly operation that it would rival the factories of its competitors. A new 360,000-square-foot assembly had been installed at Rover#8217;s Cowley North plant, operations that used to be among three factories.

The new had a capacity of 110,000 cars a over double the then of 51,000 cars a year. the introduction of Japanese-style production Rover planned to increase at Cowley within two years the then current 33 cars a day for worker to 40 cars, well the European average of 31.

The problem for BAe and Rover was that the world was again in a deep recession and it be BMW and its new MINI that would the benefit from the new factory. By 1992, Rover along other manufacturers, was indulging in cutting to shift its cars. the world began to emerge the economic trough it was the newer 600 that reaped the benefit as the 800 into the background.

After the Rover 800 was pretty much to live the remainder of its life in peace: the impressive 2.0-Litre Sport was launched in 1994, its rather unimpressive predecessor. chassis engineers tuned the ride and handling superbly – and with the 200bhp power the car proved to be a surprisingly effective saloon. Of course, it was ignored on the – by this time, events had overtaken the 800 and without a badge, as those worn by German the Rover would always be at a on the market.

Following the Vitesse model came the KV6 powered 800 that finally meant the by then elderly Honda V6 be put out to pasture. As the name implies, the KV6 was a development of the in-line four engine. Giving away to its Honda predecessor, it nevertheless as a highly impressive engine – and a showcase of what the engineers at Longbridge could achieve, a little time and money.

In the KV6 would have to wait 1999 and the launch of the Rover 75 it would be installed in a car worthy of it.

So, was the 800 a failure? Patently not – for a start, Rover 800s were in total than the much-lauded SD1. Unlike the SD1, always had ambitious sales that it failed to live up to, the 800 performed reasonably well, in fair numbers and was generally by the people who would come to buy and use the After some initial problems, the 800 also proved and fleet of foot. So, what wrong?

Why is it that Rover really managed to capitalise on the desirability of this car?

In and 1989, the Rover 800 proved to be on unbeatable in its class, but because made the decision to thoroughly the 800 during 1988, rather developing an entirely new car, it appear that soon the launch of the R17 and R18 versions of the car, it apparent that the design was now too to compete effectively with fresher cars. Was this the of Rover? Probably not – given a hand Rover would to have joined Honda in a new car based on the 1992 Legend, but constrained by the fact that Honda were prepared to this platform with the economics did not favour the British and so, given the fact that BAe tightly controlling their the next generation Legend never have a Rover

Rover, in reality, had no choice – were given enough resources to very effectively the original car, but as executive became increasingly badge what was perceived, as a Chrome-fronted XX would not do. And that is a real Under BMW, the masters of the car, the replacement for the 800, would be developed in co-operation the Germans was surely going to be an success – wasn#8217;t it?

We would to wait until 1999 to out.

Given a less brief, Rover stylists and would have liked to produced an entirely new car, than facelifting the XX. This released a the time of the Rover 600 in 1993, clearly penned in shows the way they were Would Rover have in a stronger position in the executive in the mid-#39;90s had they produced a car on the above design?

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