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Car Of The Month :
February 2013

'Living with MY horse named Rover' by Roger1

The Rover 75 V8 was and is a bit of an enigma. One has to wonder just why it was ever built as MG Rover didn’t make a red cent from the model, so clearly they had other reasons for proceeding with the project.

Of course they very much did, their engineers must have been dying to create a flagship for the 75/ZT range but must have been struggling to find the ideal combination of power and handling to fit into the FWD chassis.

Front wheel drive couldn’t provide the answer as the proposal was for V8 power emulating the previous P5, P6 and SD1. This of course would now entail using rear wheel drive with a more traditional layout for suspension and differential. Finding a suitable engine would be a difficult task considering the financial constraints the company must have been suffering at the time. This was going to be no mean feat but they managed to do it all rather beautifully.

Along came a horse in the guise of the well proven Ford 4.6 Litre Modular V8 as used in the Mustang GT, it would meet the emission standards, would just fit with a certain amount of ingenuity and was affordable. So a deal was struck and the MG ZT 260 was born. In 2004 the V8 version of the Rover 75 was announced in Connoisseur SE and then Contemporary SE specification.

My horse is a Contemporary SE, MG Rover only produced 30 of these, the balance of the Rover 75 V8’s being Connoisseur SE’s. In total there were 883 built between the two marques, mine is number 767, I am the third owner and as long as I’m alive I intend it to stay that way.

My wife and I owned two other 75’s, a 2000 2.0 Club and a 2005 2.5 Connoisseur, I was driving the 05 and Trish the 2000. We are both big fans of the marque so when I got wind in 2008 of a 2005 V8 for sale in Auckland, we live in Canterbury on the other island, I quickly arranged flights to get to see the car.

It had been traded in on a supercharged Jaguar and had at that time covered 64,000 kilometres. After taking her for a quick run on Auckland motorways and by roads I was sold, Just as well as whilst I was signing the papers another guy phoned up saying he’d buy it sight unseen!

I subsequently discovered that it had been an MG Rover New Zealand director’s car, which had been used as a demonstrator by car magazines and also in the television programme “AA Torque Zone”. In that show it was test driven by two people, including former superbike champion and BTCC racer Aaron Slight who drove it on a hill climb track. YouTube links of the show featuring my car are at the bottom of this article.

So what’s it like to live with? In a word, wonderful. She’s a quirky filly, but that’s why I bought her and why I love her. Not for me the boring sameness of Japanese or even German cars, which no matter how fast they can go, or how flashy they are, tend to be totally lacking in character and soul. Not so my Rover, just to look at her you can see she’s full of character and once behind the wheel it hits you in spades. That’s not to suggest she’s perfect, no car ever is.

To drive, she’s a dream – on the highway. Plenty of power (260hp) and 410Nm (302 ft./lb.) of torque. Driving long distances is tireless, both for the car and the driver. The excellent seating and relaxed driving possible due to the power and flexibility of the engine and automatic gearbox ensure this.

Around town she’s a bit less of a dream as this model, the Contemporary SE, is set-up for performance and handling in a very similar fashion to the MG ZT V8. This means harsh suspension and a less comfortable ride than the Connoisseur SE model and the V6 Rover/MG versions. The earthquake damaged roads around my home town of Christchurch have played havoc, so I’ve had wheel alignment done and have some more rattles than previously. I’m sure I can track them down though!

Round town driving is also expensive. If I cane her I only get 15 miles to the gallon (18L/100kms), but with care and when combined with some longer road stretches this improves to 21 miles to the gallon (13L/100kms). On a trip the fuel economy is a very acceptable 27 miles to the gallon (10.5L/100kms).

So lead foot driving is not encouraged! The official figures advertised by MG Rover at the time of release were remarkably accurate, and these are what I am still achieving nearly 8 years later. We now live in a rural town in North Canterbury, so I commute 30km to work. This is mostly at highway speeds, so I now get much more from a tank of fuel plus also greatly enjoy the motorway and rural roads journey twice daily.

The ongoing concern of course is parts. There are some specific items that were only ever fitted to the V8’s and are unavailable. Body parts are a particular concern, mechanical and interior components are generally less of a concern, as many are widely available due to being fitted to, or adapted from other Fords and MGR products, such as the Mustang and the V6 Rover 75. I have taken the precaution of purchasing some spares, for example an ECU and heater hoses.

Another owner, also based here in Canterbury, has gone to the extent of buying a whole new front and rear suspension set-up and V8 engine, which was sourced through a company that picked up surplus stock in the big MG Rover fire sale in 2005/6. I’m hoping that I won’t need to ever do that! I’ve also purchased a few smaller ‘surplus’ items through Rimmer Bros and X Part in the UK. In addition, the 75 & ZT Owners Club and MG 260’s club have been a god-send.

I have had a few service issues, the most annoying being the check engine light and the code P0443! This first came on over two years ago, and signified a faulty purge solenoid. So, this was replaced, but the light stayed on. After many hours of searching, not to mention lots of $$$$$, the light is still on. The car has not played up in any way related to the same fault, so now I just put up with it. Thanks to Brian at Dreadnought for his help in trying a new ECU and other tips. Unfortunately nothing has fixed that particular problem.

The most recent issue was a faulty fuel pump, the symptom of which was loss of power under acceleration, especially at 3,000 rpm. Brian picked that one up immediately and a new fuel pump duly arrived. Problem solved in one hit! Now my horse performs better than ever, so I suspect the old pump was never in top condition. I have also replaced the heater valve with the ‘black olive’ version, which again was a good move, although I suspect that I’m still losing small amounts of coolant.

In New Zealand the V8 is particularly rare. There were only four ever sold here new, at which time the buy price was $92,000. These were all Contemporary SE’s. I believe that there are only 20 known to be left in the world, only 10 of which are in the UK.

So, she’s a rare warhorse. At eight years, she’s hardly old, so has many years of life to go. Currently she’s still my daily drive, but I do hope to let her take a break more often in the future, as the odometer now reads over 100,000 kms. Our other car is now an MG ZT-T; – but that’s altogether another story.

Article written by member Roger1

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