Richard Woolley answers a few questions.......
As the man behind the look of the 75, Richard Wolley holds a unique place in the story of R40. The fluent and cohesive qualities of the car have aged well in an age where other manufacturers are striving to provide more fashion-led styling, and for that Richard's work marks an epoch in the history of Rover.
I took the opportunity to pop a few questions to Richard a while back about the work he did, and he took time out of his busy schedule to answer them. Admittedly I'm no Jeremy Paxman but hopefully you'll find his comments illuminating and hopefuly will clear up some of the tales and whispers that surround certain aspects of the 75.
Looking at the early days of the design work, there were three models being drawn up with one of these being a coupe. How similar was this to the launched 75?
In the early days of 75's design, Rover were looking at doing 3 different product offerings, only one of which made it to production i.e. the 75. The other two were firstly a 'flagship' car (bigger than 75) and secondly a vehicle that I can best desribe as similar to the new Mercedes R class. (code name Eric) All these were to have come off the same FWD platform, but as things progressed plans changed. We did briefly look at a Coupe version of 75 much later, but only in sketch form.
There have been some comments by people on minor features that didn't make it - the indicator placed on the front wing for example which is shown in one illustration.
There was an indicator feature on the original design for 75, but never made it to production. There are only a few other features that didn't make it, mostly minor details.
Also the S figure shutline of the front panel with the wings. Quite a number of forum subscribers have made guesses around the other treatment that may have been tried. Did you try alternative ideas in this area?
The 'S' on the front wing has always been a bit of a talking point! It was there from day 1, and although I did look at some alternatives because of manufacturing feasibility concerns, managed to keep the feature as intended.
Although the design works brilliantly as a whole (my personal favourite is the rear three-quarter view), are there any parts of the vehicle that makes you pause and think about having another go?
I always thought the car rode a bit high (especially at the rear) in production. This was a late(ish) change to improve ride quality. The lower and sleeker the better as far as I was concerned!
What was your first reaction on seeing the facelifted model with the revised nose and tail treatment?
I was a bit disappointed with the facelift (last version). I think there's a visual mismatch between the new bits and the existing. I think the MG (ZT, ZT-T)derivatives look great though. I'd already shown a 'sporty' 75 at Frankfurt 2000, with less chrome and bigger wheels etc, so had shown the way before the company was split and MG-Rover formed.
A detail part I always wondered about was the grille not being incorporated into the bonnet structure. Were there other styling decisions that caused much discussion when you were formulating the 75's shape?
For reasons of build quality, it was decided to attach the grille to the bumper moulding rather than the bonnet. From a design point of view, I don't think this made much difference visually, but kept overslam gaps to a minimum.
When BMW became the new owners of Rover, were there any discussions to have the 75 as a rear-wheel drive model and utilise the German platforms – or even develop an all-new chassis for this purpose instead?
The 75 was always going to be a new front wheel drive platform. We never looked at a rear drive option. What we did look at, was using the old BMW 5 Series platform (which was of course rear drive) for the Flagship project, but this idea died with the car.