The Big Car Database

Rover

Rover is a former British car manufacturing company founded as Starley & Sutton Co. of Coventry in 1878. It is the direct ancestor of the present day Land Rover company, which is a subsidiary of Jaguar Land Rover, in turn owned by the Tata Group.

The company traded as Rover, manufacturing cars between 1904 and 1967, when it was sold to Leyland Motor Corporation, becoming the Rover marque. The Rover marque was used on cars produced by British Leyland (BL), who separated the assets of the original Rover Company as Land Rover in 1978 whilst the Rover trademark continued to be used on vehicles produced by its successor companies – the Austin Rover Group (1982–1986), the Rover Group(1986–2000), and then finally MG Rover (2000–2005). Following MG Rover's collapse in 2005, the Rover marque became dormant, and was subsequently sold to Shanghai Auto,.

After developing the template for the modern bicycle with its Rover Safety Bicycle of 1885, the company moved into theautomotive industry. It started building motorcycles and Rover cars, using their established marque with the iconic Viking Longship, from 1904 onwards. Land Rover vehicles were added from 1948 onwards, with all production moving to the Solihull plant after World War II.

The Polish word now most commonly used for bicycle – rower originates from Rover bicycles which had both wheels of the same size (previous models usually had one bigger, one smaller – see Penny-farthing, and were called in Polish bicykl, from English bicycle).

Industry
  • Automotive industry
  • Motorcycle industry (until 1925)
  • Bicycle industry (until 1925)
Fate
  • Merged into Leyland Motors(1967)
  • Assets separated as Land Rover (1978)
  • Rover brand defunct (2005)
Successor
  • SAIC MG Motor
  • TATA Land Rover
Founded 1878
Founder
  • John Kemp Starley &
  • William Sutton
Defunct 2005
Headquarters England:
  • Coventry, West Midlands (1904–47)
  • Solihull, West Midlands (1947–1981)
  • Gaydon, West Midlands (1981–2000)
  • Longbridge, West Midlands (2000–2005)

Key people

  • Spencer & Maurice Wilks (Management & Engineering,1929–63)
  • John Towers
Products
  • Rover Automobiles
  • Motorcycles (until 1925)
  • Bicycles (until 1925)
  • Land Rover All terrain vehicles
Subsidiaries Alvis Cars (1965–67)

History

Before cars

The first Rover was a tricycle manufactured by Starley & Sutton Co. of Coventry, England, in 1883. The company was founded by John Kemp Starley and William Sutton in 1878. Starley had previously worked with his uncle, James Starley (father of the cycle trade), who began by manufacturing sewing machines and switched to bicycles in 1869.

In the early 1880s, the cycles available were the relatively dangerous penny-farthings and high-wheel tricycles. J.K. Starley made history in 1885 by producing the Rover Safety Bicycle—a rear-wheel-drive, chain-driven cycle with two similar-sized wheels, making it more stable than the previous high-wheel designs. Cycling Magazine said the Rover had "set the pattern to the world"; the phrase was used in their advertising for many years. Starley's Rover is usually described by historians as the first recognisably modern bicycle.

The words for "bicycle" in Polish (Rower) and Belarusian (Rovar, Ро́вар) are derived from the name of the company. The word ровер is also used in many parts of Western Ukraine.

In 1889, the company became J.K. Starley & Co. Ltd., and in the late 1890s, the Rover Cycle Company Ltd.

Rover motorcycles

In 1899 John Starley imported some of the early Peugeot motorcycles from France in for experimental development. His first project was to fit an engine to one of his Rover bicycles. Starley died early in October 1901 aged 46 and the business was taken over by entrepreneur H. J. Lawson.

The company developed and produced the Rover Imperial motorcycle in November 1902. This was a 3.5 hp diamond-framed motorcycle with the engine in the centre and 'springer' front forks which was ahead of its time. This first Rover motorcycle had innovative features such as a spray carburettor, bottom-bracket engine and mechanically operated valves. With a strong frame with double front down tubes and a good quality finish, over a thousand Rover motorcycles were sold in 1904. The following year, however, Rover stopped motorcycle production to concentrate on their 'safety bicycle' but in 1910 designer John Greenwood was commissioned to develop a new 3.5 hp 500 cc engine with spring-loaded tappets, a Bosch magneto and an innovative inverted tooth drive chain. It had a Brown and Barlow carburettor and Druid spring forks. This new model was launched at the 1910 Olympia show and over 500 were sold.

In 1913 a 'TT' model was launched with a shorter wheelbase and sports handlebars. The 'works team' of Dudley Noble andChris Newsome had some success and won the works team award.

Rover supplied 499 cc single cylinder motorcycles to the Russian Army during the First World War. The company began to focus on car production at the end of the war, but Rover still produced motorcycles with 248 cc and 348 cc Rover overhead valve engines and with J.A.P. engines, including a 676 cc V-twin. In 1924 Rover introduced a new lightweight 250cc motorcycle with unit construction of engine and gearbox. This had lights front and rear as well as a new design of internal expanding brakes.

Poor sales of their motorcycles caused Rover to end motorcycle production and concentrate solely on the production of motor cars. Between 1903 and 1924 Rover had produced more than 10,000 motorcycles.

Early Rover cars

In 1888, Starley made an electric car, but it never was put into production.

Three years after Starley's death in 1901, and H. J. Lawson's subsequent takeover, the Rover company began producing automobiles with the two-seater Rover Eight to the designs of Edmund Lewis, who came from Lawson's Daimler. Lewis left the company to join Deasy in late 1905. He was eventually replaced by Owen Clegg, who joined from Wolseley in 1910 and set about reforming the product range. Short-lived experiments with sleeve valve engines were abandoned, and the 12hpmodel was introduced in 1912. This car was so successful that all other cars were dropped, and for a while, Rover pursued a "one model" policy. Clegg left in 1912 to join the French subsidiary of Darracq and Company London.

During the First World War, they made motorcycles, lorries to Maudslay designs, and, not having a suitable one of their own, cars to a Sunbeam design.

Restructure and re-organization

The business was not very successful during the 1920s and did not pay a dividend from 1923 until the mid-1930s. In December 1928 the chairman of Rover advised shareholders that the accumulation of the substantial losses of the 1923–1928 years together with the costs of that year's reorganisation must be recognised by a reduction of 60 per cent in the value of capital of the company.

During 1928 Frank Searle was appointed managing director to supervise recovery. Searle was by training a locomotive engineer with motor industry experience at Daimler and, most recently, had been managing director of Imperial Airways. On his recommendation Spencer Wilks was brought in from Hillman as general manager and appointed to the board in 1929. That year, Searle split Midland Light Car Bodies from Rover in an effort to save money and instructed Robert Boyle andMaurice Wilks to design a new small car.

This was the Rover Scarab with a rear-mounted V-twin-cylinder air-cooled engine announced in 1931, a van version was shown at Olympia, but it did not go into production. During this time the Rover 10/25 was introduced, with bodies made by the Pressed Steel Company. This was the same body as used on the Hillman Minx. Prior to this time Rover had been a great supporter of the very light Weymann bodies that went suddenly out of fashion with the demand for shiny coachwork and more curved body shapes. Weymann bodies remained in the factory catalogue until 1933.

Frank Searle and Spencer Wilks set about reorganising the company and moving it upmarket to cater for people who wanted something "superior" to Fords and Austins. In 1930 Spencer Wilks was joined by his brother, Maurice, who had also been at Hillman as chief engineer. Spencer Wilks was to stay with the company until 1962, and his brother until 1963.

The company showed profits in the 1929 and 1930 years but with the economic downturn in 1931 Rover reported a loss of £77,529. 1932 produced a loss of £103,000 but a turn around following yet more reorganization resulted in a profit of £46,000 in 1933. The new assembly operations in Australia and New Zealand were closed.

Frank Searle left the board near the end of the calendar year 1931, his work done.

Building on successes such as beating the Blue Train for the first time in 1930 in the Blue Train Races, the Wilks Brothers established Rover as a company with several European royal, aristocratic, and governmental warrants, and upper-middle-class and star clients.

British Leyland

In 1970, Rover combined its skill in producing comfortable saloons and the rugged Land Rover 4x4 to produce the Range Rover, one of the first vehicles (preceded by the Jeep Wagoneer and IH Scout) to combine off-road ability and comfortable versatility. Powered by the licence-built ex-Buick V8 engine, it had innovative features such as a permanent four-wheel drive system, all-coil spring suspension, and disc brakes on all wheels. Able to reach speeds of up to 100 mph (160 km/h) yet also capable of extreme off-road use, the original Range Rover design remained in production for the next 26 years.

The company's other major project at this time was the P8, a successor, styled by David Bache, for the 3-litre. The car's shape owed much to Detroit, with a front bumper concealed under a "bumperless" polyurethane nose, in a manner reminiscent of contemporary Pontiacs, and a side profile reminiscent of a slightly chunkierOpel Rekord. Although the original brief was for the car to be no longer externally than a Rover 2000, management changes led the project to be redefined as it progressed, and the P8 scheduled for launch at the 1971 London Motor Show was substantially larger than any existing Rover sedan, with the Rover V8 engine expanded for this application to 4.4 litres. The car followed the P6 in employing a steel frame structure with bolt-on steel or aluminium panels. The manufacturer was nevertheless short of cash and focus at this time: the P8 was one of several new model projects subjected to a slipping time-line. By the revised launch date towards the end of 1972 the considerable development costs had been expended and pre-production prototypes had even undergone extensive testing in Finland. Production capacity had been set aside for the P8 at the Solihull plant. However, an expenditure review in 1970 found the project subjected to criticism from Sir William Lyons, by now an influential member of the British Leyland board: speculation has arisen that Lyons saw the car as a threat to future investment in the recently launched Jaguar XJ6. It later emerged that Rover's contender would not have been particularly cheap or easy to build, and the shrinkage of the European market for sedans of this size that followed the 1973 oil price shock suggest that abandonment of the project in 1972 - even at the eleventh hour - may have been the right decision for British Leyland; but the P8 was not entirely ummourned nearly thirty years later. Some of the P8's styling cues turned up two years later on theLeyland P76, and the driver's view of the instrument panel (albeit without the Austin Allegro style "quartic" steering wheel that appears in one of the surviving pictures of it) would have been not entirely unfamiliar to the driver of a 1976 Rover 3500.

As British Leyland struggled through financial turmoil and an industrial-relations crisis during the 1970s, it was effectively nationalized after a multibillion-pound government cash injection in 1975. Michael Edwardes was brought in to head the company.

The Rover SD1 of 1976 was an excellent car, but was beset with so many build quality and reliability issues it never delivered on its great promise. Following the closure of the Triumph factory at Canley, production of the TR7 and TR8was moved to Solihull; soon after, a savage programme of cutbacks in the late 1970s led to the end of car production at Solihull, which was turned over for Land Rover production only. The TR7/TR8 was discontinued while SD1 production moved to Cowley. All future Rover cars would be made in the former Austin and Morris plants in Longbridge and Cowley, respectively.

In 1979, British Leyland (or as it was now officially known, BL Ltd.) began a long relationship with the Honda Motor Company of Japan. The result was a cross-holding structure, where Honda took a 20% stake in the company while the company took a 20% stake in Honda's UK subsidiary. The deal was thought to be mutually beneficial: Honda used its British operations as a launchpad into Europe, and the company could pool resources with Honda in developing new cars.

Austin Rover Group was formed in 1982 as the mass-market car manufacturing subsidiary of BL, with the separate Rover Company becoming effectively defunct.

In the 1980s, the slimmed-down BL used the Rover brand on a range of cars codeveloped with Honda. The first Honda-sourced Rover model, released in 1984, was the Rover 200, which, like the Triumph Acclaim that it replaced, was based on the Honda Ballade. Similarly, in Australia, the Honda Quint (known in Europe as the Quintet) and Integra were badged as the Rover Quintet and 416i.

Rover Group

By 1988, Austin Rover had moved to a one-marque strategy, using only the Rover brand. Its parent, BL, was renamed as theRover Group, with the car division becoming Rover Cars.

In 1986, the Rover SD1 was replaced by the Rover 800, developed with the Honda Legend. The Austin range were now technically Rovers, though the word "Rover" never actually appeared on the badging. Instead, there was a badge similar to the Rover Viking shape, without wording. The Metro was officially badged as a Rover when the restyled version was launched in May 1990. The second generation Rover 200, based on Honda's Concerto, was launched in the autumn of 1989, but now featured a hatchback instead of a four-door saloon, the bodystyle which would feature on the Rover 400(visually similar and based on the same underpinnings) from its launch in early 1990. The larger Rover 600, launched in early 1993, was based on the Accord but used Rover engines only and was aimed further upmarket at the likes of the BMW 3 Series rather than the likes of the Ford Mondeo which the Honda Accord was marketed to compete with.

Rover exported Rover 800s, badged as Sterlings, to the United States from 1987 to 1992.

British Aerospace ownership

In 1988, the Rover brand went back into private hands when the Rover Group was acquired by British Aerospace.

BMW ownership

The Honda partnership proved to be the turnaround point for the company, steadily rebuilding its image to the point where once again, Rover-branded cars were seen as upmarket alternatives to Fords and Vauxhalls. In 1994, British Aerospace sold the Rover Group, including the Rover, Land Rover, Riley, Mini, Triumph, and Austin-Healey brands to BMW, who had begun to see Rover-branded cars as potential major competitors.

Under BMW, the Rover Group developed the Rover 75 and was launched in early 1999, as a retro-designed car influenced by the earlier Rover P4 and P5 designs. It proved to be a success for the marque, gaining positive critics, although it failed to outsell the BMW 3 Series.

In May 2000, BMW split up the Rover Group, selling Land Rover to the Ford Motor Company for an estimated sum of £1.8-billion, retaining the MINI marque, and selling the rest of the car business to the Phoenix Consortium, who established it as MG Rover. Interestingly, although BMW included ownership of the MG brand in the deal, they retained ownership of the Rover brand, licensing its use to the new MG Rover company for use on the ongoing car models that they had acquired.

MG Rover licensing

A specially assembled group of businessmen, known as the Phoenix Consortium and headed by ex-Rover chief executive John Towers, established the MG Rover Group from the former Rover Group car operations (acquired from BMW for a nominal £10 in May 2000) and continued to use the Rover brand under licence from BMW.

In 1999, the Rover Group had sustained losses of an estimated £800 million - largely due to the declining sales of its existing 200 and 400 family cars and initially slow sales of the Rover 75. The four businessmen who took control of the newly formed MG Rover Group are reported to have received around £430-million in a dowry from BMW that included unsold stock.

The first new Rover-branded car to be launched after the formation of MG Rover was the estate version of the Rover 75, which went on sale later in 2000. In 2003, MG Rover launched the CityRover, a badge-engineered Tata Indica that served as an entry-level model. Despite high initial expectations, sales were poor, and it received mainly negative critics. Several concept cars intended to point the way towards a replacement for the Rover 25 and 45 were shown in the early 2000s, but no production model emerged.

MG Rover production ceased on 15 April 2005, when it was declared insolvent, resulting in the immediate loss of more than 6,000 jobs at the company. On 22 July 2005, the physical assets of the collapsed firm were sold to the Nanjing Automobile Group for £53m. They indicated that their preliminary plans involved relocating the Powertrain engine plant to China while splitting car production into Rover lines in China and resumed MG lines in the West Midlands (though not necessarily at Longbridge), where a UK R&D and technical facility would also be developed.

On 30 May 2007, Nanjing Automobile Group claimed to have restarted production of MG TF sports cars in the Longbridge plant, with sales expected to begin in the autumn.

Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), who held the intellectual property of Rover 75 car design (bought for £67m before MG Rover collapsed) and was also bidding for MG Rover, announced their own version of the Rover 75 in late 2006. In July 2006, SAIC announced their intent to buy the Rover brand name from BMW, who still owned the rights to the Rover marque. However, BMW refused their request, due to an agreement that Ford had reached with them to be given first option on the brand when it acquired Land Rover. Unable to use the Rover name, SAIC created their own brand with a similar name and badge, known as Roewe. Roewe was eventually launched in early 2007.

Timeline

  • 1986: BL plc renamed as The Rover Group plc
  • 1986: Rover SD1 production ceases after 10 years and the car is replaced by a new model called the Rover 800 – the result of a joint venture with Honda which led to the manufacture of the Rover 800 and the Honda Legend.
  • 1987: The Leyland Trucks division (which by then included Freight Rover Vans) merged with DAF and then floated. (Note: After being declared bankrupt in 1993 the new DAF NV company split into three independent companies; the UK van operation became LDV, the Dutch operation resumed trading as DAF Trucks and the UK truck operation resumed trading as Leyland Trucks. Both truck operations were later acquired by PACCAR of the USA.)
  • 1987: Leyland Bus floated off; bought by Volvo Buses in 1988
  • 1987: Unipart spare parts division sold off via management buyout
  • 1988: Rover Group privatised; sold to British Aerospace
  • 1989: The volume car manufacturing subsidiary Austin Rover Group Ltd shortens its name to Rover Group Ltd following the shelving of the Austin brand two years earlier.
  • 1989: The new Rover 200 goes on sale, abandoning the four-door saloon bodystyle in favour of a three- and five-door hatchback. It is also sold as the Honda Concerto. Maestro and Montego production is scaled down as a result.
  • 1990: The Rover 400 – saloon version of the Rover 200 – goes on sale. Also going into production is the heavily updated Metro, which features modernised body styling, a reworked interior and a new range of engines.
  • 1991: The Rover 800 receives a major facelift.
  • 1992: Convertible and Coupe versions of the Rover 200 are launched.
  • 1993: The Rover 600 is launched, based on the Honda Accord but re-styled and using a mixture of Honda and Rover's own engines.
  • 1994: 31 January – British Aerospace announces the sale of its 80% majority share of Rover Group to BMW.
  • 1994: 21 February – Honda announces it is selling its 20% share of Rover Group causing major problems in Rover's supply chain which was reliant on Honda.
  • 1994: An estate version of the Rover 400 is launched, along with an updated Metro which sees the 14-year-old nameplate shelved and rebadged as the Rover 100Maestro and Montego production also ends.
  • 1995: New versions of the Rover 200 and Rover 400 go on sale, though this time they are entirely different cars. The Rover 400 is a reworked, upmarket version of the latest Honda Civic, despite the Rover-Honda collaboration finishing a year earlier. The new MG F goes on sale, bringing back the MG badge on a mass-production sports car for the first time since 1980.
  • 1998: The Rover 75 goes on sale as a successor to both the Rover 600 and Rover 800.
  • 1999: The Rover 200 and Rover 400 are facelifted to be re-badged as the Rover 25 and Rover 45 respectively.
  • 2000: Land Rover sold by BMW to Ford
  • 2000: The new MINI launched by BMW, produced at the Cowley assembly plant.
  • 2000: Remainder of company sold to the Phoenix Consortium for a nominal £10 and becomes the MG Rover Group

Ford Motor Company ownership of the brand name

Ford had first option to purchase the Rover brand name if MG Rover ceased trading, a right that had been negotiated when the Land Rover brand was bought fromBMW. This right was exercised on 18 September 2006, and effectively meant the return home of the Rover brand to Solihull since the SD1 was moved to the Morris plant in Cowley in 1981. No Rover-branded cars were produced whilst Ford owned the brand, and in a further twist, Tata Motors now owns the brand that was used for the ill-fated CityRover model, a rebadged Tata Indica marketed by MG Rover under licence in the UK Market from 2003 to 2005. Tata had purchased the Land Rover and Jaguar operations from Ford in 2008 to form Jaguar Land Rover.

Tata Motors' ownership of the brand name

As part of Ford's agreement to sell their Jaguar and Land Rover operations to Tata Motors, the Rover brand name was included in the deal, but has yet to be revived on any production cars.

Second World War and gas turbines

In the late 1930s, in anticipation of the potential hostilities that would become the Second World War, the British government started a rearmament programme, and as part of this, "shadow factories" were built. These were paid for by the government but staffed and run by private companies. Two were run by Rover: one, at Acocks Green, Birmingham, started operation in 1937, and a second, larger one, at Solihull, started in 1940. Both were employed making aero engines and airframes. The original main works at Helen Street, Coventry, was severely damaged by bombing in 1940 and 1941 and never regained full production.

In early 1940, Rover was approached by Frank Whittle to do work for Whittle's company, Power Jets. This led to a proposal from Power Jets in which Rover would put forward £50,000 of capital in exchange for shares in Power Jets. Rover contacted the Air Ministry (AM) regarding the proposal, which ultimately led to an arrangement between Rover and former Power Jets contractor British Thomson-Houston (BTH) to develop and produce Whittle's jet engine. The Air Ministry had left Whittle and Power Jets out of these negotiations. Rover chief engineer Maurice Wilks led the team to develop the engine, improving the performance over the original Whittle design. The first test engines to the W.2B design were built in a former cotton mill in Barnoldswick, Lancashire which Rover moved into in June 1941 (along with Waterloo Mill in Clitheroe). Testing commenced towards the end of October 1941.

A need for greater expertise within the project, along with difficult relations between Rover management and Frank Whittle (not least because Rover under AM approval had secretly designed a different engine layout, known within Rover as the B.26, which they thought was superior), led to Rover handing over their part in the jet engine project and the Barnoldswick factory to Rolls-Royce in exchange for the latter's Meteor tank engine factory at Ascot Road, Nottingham, the result of a handshake deal between Rover's Spencer Wilks and Rolls-Royce's Ernest Hives made in a local inn in Clitheroe. The official hand-over date was 1 April 1943, though there was a considerable overlap, and several key Rover staff such as Adrian Lombard and John Herriot, the latter being at Rover on secondment from the Air Inspection Department (AID) of the AM, moved to Rolls-Royce. In exchange for the jet engine project and its facilities, Rover was given the contract and production equipment to make Meteor tank engines, which continued until 1964. Although Rolls-Royce under Stanley Hooker were soon to be able to start producing the Whittle-designed W.2B/23 engine (known within Rover as the B.23, later named by Rolls-Royce the Welland), they evaluated the 4 Lombard/Herriot re-designed Rover W.2B/B.26 engines under test at the time of the takeover, and selected the Rover design for their own jet engine development (it became the Rolls-Royce Derwentengine).

After the Second World War, the company abandoned Helen Street and bought the two shadow factories. Acocks Green carried on for a while, making Meteor engines for tanks such as the Centurion and Conqueror, and Solihull became the new centre for vehicles, with production resuming in 1947. This was the year Rover produced the Rover 12 Sports Tourer. 200 cars were built for the export market but all had RHD so many cars stayed in the UK. Solihull would become the home of the Land Rover.

Experimental cars

Despite the difficulties experienced with the jet engine project, Rover was interested in the development of the gas turbine engine to power vehicles. In 1945, Rover hired engineers Frank Bell and Spen King away from Rolls-Royce to assist Maurice Wilks in the development of automotive gas turbines. By 1949, the team developed a turbine that ran at 55,000 rpm, produced more than 100 horsepower (75 kW), and could run on petrol, paraffin, or diesel oil. Rover's early turbine engines consumed fuel at a rate much greater than piston engines, equivalent to 6 miles per imperial gallon (5.0 mpg-US; 47 L/100 km). Although fuel consumption was later reduced by using a heat exchanger, it was never as low as that of contemporary piston engines.

In March 1950, Rover showed the JET1 prototype, the first car powered with a gas turbine engine, to the public. JET1, an open two-seat tourer, had the engine positioned behind the seats, air intake grilles on either side of the car, and exhaust outlets on the top of the tail. During tests, the car reached a top speed of 88 mph (142 km/h). After being shown in the United Kingdom and the United States in 1950, JET1 was further developed, and was subjected to speed trials on the Jabbeke highway in Belgium in June 1952, where it exceeded 150 miles per hour (240 km/h). JET1 is currently on display at the London Science Museum.

Four further prototypes were built, the P4-based front-engined T2 and rear-engined T2A saloons, the rear-engined four-wheel-drive T3 coupé, and the front-engined front-wheel drive T4 saloon.

Rover and the BRM Formula One team joined forces to produce the Rover-BRM, a gas turbine-powered sports prototype that entered the 1963 24 hours of Le Mans, driven by Graham Hill and Richie Ginther. It averaged 107.8 mph (173 km/h) and had a top speed of 142 mph (229 km/h).

Rover also ran several experimental diesel engine projects in relation to the Land Rover. The 2-litre, 52 horsepower (39 kW) diesel unit designed and built by Rover for its 4x4 had entered production in 1956 and was one of Britain's first modern high-speed automotive diesel engines. Experimental projects were undertaken to improve the engine's power delivery, running qualities, and fuel tolerances. British Army requirements led to the development of a multifuel version of the 2.25-litre variant of the engine in 1962, which could run on petrol, diesel, Jet-A, or kerosene. However, the engine's power output when running on low-grade fuel was too low for the Army's uses. Rover developed a highly advanced (for the time) turbodiesel version of its engine in the mid-1960s to power its experimental '129-inch' heavy duty Land Rover designs. This 2.5-litre engine used a turbocharger built by Rover's gas turbine division as well as an intercooler. This was one of the first times these features had been incorporated on such a small-capacity diesel unit, but they were not adopted.

After the Leyland Motor Corporation takeover, the Rover Gas Turbine was used in a number of Leyland trucks, including one shown at the 1968 Commercial Motor Show. Rover gas turbines also powered the first Advanced Passenger Train.

Golden years

The 1950s and '60s were fruitful years for the company. The Land Rover became a runaway success (despite Rover's reputation for making upmarket saloons, the utilitarian Land Rover was actually the company's biggest seller throughout the 1950s, '60s, and '70s), as well as the P5 and P6 saloons equipped with a 3.5L (215ci) aluminium V8 (the design and tooling of which was purchased from Buick) and pioneering research into gas turbine-fueled vehicles.

As the '60s drew to a close Rover was working on a number of innovative projects. Having purchased the Alvis company in 1965 Rover was working on a V8-powered supercar to sell under the Alvis name. The prototype, called the P6BS, was completed and the finalised styling and engineering proposal, the P9, was drawn up. Rover was also working on the P8 project which aimed to replace the existing P5 large saloon with a modern design similar in concept to a scaled-up P6.

When Leyland Motors joined with British Motor Holdings and Rover and Jaguar became corporate partners these projects were cancelled to prevent internal competition with Jaguar products. The P8 in particular was cancelled in a very late stage of preparation- Rover had already ordered the dies and stamping equipment for making the car's body panels at Pressed Steel when ordered to stop work.

Rover continued to develop its '100-inch Station Wagon', which became the ground-breaking Range Rover, launched in 1970. This also used the ex-Buick V8 engine as well as the P6's innovative safety-frame body structure design and features such as permanent four-wheel drive and all-round disc brakes. The Range Rover was initially designed as a utility vehicle which could offer the off-road capability of the Land Rover, but in a more refined and car-like package.

Mergers to LMC and BL

In 1967, Rover became part of the Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC), which already owned Triumph. The next year, LMC merged with British Motor Holdings (BMH) to become the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). This was the beginning of the end for the independent Rover Company, as the Solihull-based company's heritage drowned beneath the infamous industrial relations and managerial problems that beset the British motor industry throughout the 1970s. At various times, it was part of the Specialist Division (hence the factory designation SD1 for the first—and in the event, only—model produced under this arrangement), Leyland Cars, Rover-Triumph, and the short-lived Jaguar Rover Triumph. The Land Rover products however had flourished during the turbulent BLMC years, with the Range Rover in particular generating sizeable revenues for the company as it moved further upmarket. After the Ryder Report in 1975, Land Rover was split from Rover in 1978 as a separate operating company within British Leyland, and all Rover car production at Solihull ended and was switched to the Austin-Morris plants in Longbridge and Cowley for the rest of the marque's existence. The Range Rover subsequently went on to become BL's flagship product, after Jaguar was de-merged and privatised in 1984.

British Leyland entered into a collaborative venture with the Honda Motor Corporation of Japan, which resulted in a whole generation of Rover-badged vehicles which shared engineering with contemporary Honda models, which would sustain the beleaguered company and its successors until the mid-1990s.

Sale to BAe, and divestment

In 1988 the business was sold by the British Government to British Aerospace (BAe), and shortly after shortened its name to just Rover Group. They subsequently sold the business in 1994 to BMW. Honda, which had owned a 20% share in partnership with BAe, exited the business when BAe sold its share to BMW.

BMW, after initially seeking to retain the whole, decided only to retain the Cowley operations for MINI production. Land Roverwas sold by BMW to Ford. The Longbridge production facility, along with the Rover and Morris Garages marques, was taken on by former Rover executive John Towers in April 2000 for a derisory sum under the marque MG Rover. The Towers administration of MG was declared insolvent in April 2005 and the business was later refloated under the ownership of Nanjing Automobile, who moved production to China.

Current Status

Legally the Rover marque is the property of Land Rover under the terms of Ford's purchase of the name in 2006. The company is now known as Jaguar Land Rover Limited, Land Rover having been sold by Ford to Tata Motors in 2008. As part of the deal with Tata the Rover marque had to remain as property of Land Rover.

Models

Launched under the independent Rover Company pre-merger (1904–1967)

  • 1904–1912 Rover 8
  • 1906–1910 Rover 6
  • 1906–1907 Rover 10/12
  • 1906–1910 Rover 16
  • 1906–1910 Rover 20
  • 1909–1912 Rover 12 2-cylinder
  • 1908–1911 Rover 15
  • 1910–1912 Rover 12 sleeve-valve
  • 1912–1913 Rover 18
  • 1912–1923 Rover 12 Clegg
  • 1919–1925 Rover 8
  • 1922–1923 Rover 6/21
  • 1924–1927 Rover 9/20
  • 1925–1927 Rover 14/45
  • 1926–1929 Rover 16/50
  • 1929–1930 Rover Light Six
  • 1930–1931 Rover Light Twenty
  • 1927–1947 Rover 10
  • 1927–1932 Rover 2-Litre
  • 1932–1934 Rover Meteor 16HP/20HP
  • 1931–1940 Rover Speed 20
  • 1932–1933 Rover Pilot/Speed Pilot
  • 1932–1932 Rover Scarab
  • 1934–1947 Rover 12
  • 1934–1947 Rover 14/Speed 14
  • 1937–1947 Rover 16
  • 1947–1948 Rover 12 Sports Tourer
  • 1948–1978 Land Rover (I/II/III)—In 1978, BL established Land Rover Limited as a separate subsidiary; it took over Land Rover production.
  • 1948–1949 Rover P3 (60/75)
  • 1949–1964 Rover P4 (60/75/80/90/95/100/105/110)
  • 1958–1973 Rover P5 (3-Litre/3.5-Litre)
  • 1963–1976 Rover P6 (2000/2200/3500)

Launched under the Rover trademark as a British Leyland Motor Corporation (later BL plc) subsidiary (1967–1988)

  • 1970–1978 Range Rover—In 1978, BL established Land Rover Limited as a separate subsidiary; it took over Range Rover production.
  • 1976–1986 Rover SD1 (2000/2300/2400/2600/3500/Vitesse)
  • 1983–1985 Rover Quintet—Australian market
  • 1984–1989 Rover 200-Series (SD3)
  • 1985–1989 Rover 416i—Australian market
  • 1986–1998 Rover 800-series & Sterling

Launched by the Rover Group/MG Rover as a British Aerospace/BMW subsidiary (1988–2005)

  • 1989–1995 Rover 200/400-Series (R8)
  • 1993–1998 Rover 600-Series
  • 1994-2001 Range Rover Mk.2 (P38A)
  • 1995-2005 Rover 200/25 (R3)
  • 1995-2005 Rover 400/45 (HH-R)
  • 1998-2004 Land Rover Freelander
  • 1998-2005 Rover 75
 

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