Category Archives: From the Potato’s Sack

My Fantasy Class Garage – MarkM

Well I suppose it’s my turn to put my own list of 5 into print.

Not an easy task given the fact I’ve seen so many great lists already but here goes.

Rover 214 SEi:

There has to be a place for this in my fantasy garage, a touch of sentimentality, but also because I believe it was one of the best run-out models the firm ever made. The R8 was such a capable car, but the little 214 SEi gave an insurance-friendly, nippy, comfortable, sporty package that still felt quality.

 

Montego 2.0 GTi:

Another one that’d be kind of sentimental. I learned to drive in a post 88 Montego DSL, my old man also worked at a Rover main dealer between 89-91. I remember him bringing home a Montego GTi and I thought it was fantastic. Probably one of the most inappropriate uses of the GTi badge ever applied to a car and for that reason it’s a winner.

 

Austin Allegro Equipe:

That paint scheme, that front chin-spoiler and those wheels somehow turned a car I thought was a frumpy-looking, laughable blob into a hot-hatch chaser. Sexier than an Alfasud or Golf put-together, this was the only time they got it right with the Allegro as a Euro-star. Then the Series 3 came along and bollocksed things up. Dickheads.

 

Rover 3500 V8S:

I was torn between an SD1 and a P6. I’ve always told myself I wanted a P6 yet when it’s come to the crunch, a Series 1 SD1 with those Gold Alloys just ticks more boxes. It’d have to be in Triton Green too for that full ‘i wish the car in the brochure was mine’ effect, Just glorious.

 

 

Jaguar XKR-S Sportbrake:

A very difficult last choice, again, I always thought a 75 V8 would make it into my list and likewise a Discovery 3, but I cannot ignore the XF. It’s fantastic in 3.0d S guise, but it’d have to be the V8 Supercharged monster for me in this scenario. They’re a fabulous car to drive, incredibly nimble and supremely comfortable. The only reason I am picking the Sportbrake is that I could not put up with the ironing board spoiler on the saloon.

That’s yer lot… More to come.

The Firm in Rallying – Disappointing at Best

From the Potato’s Sack

I was having a chat with a colleague at work a few days ago when the subject of the World Rally Championships arose.  It prompted me to think about the firm’s involvement and success (or lack of) throughout the fore-runners of WRC and the WRC itself.

Because of the Mini’s 1965 success in the RAC and Monte Carlo rallies, 1965 & 1966 European rallies  and then the again in 1968 at Monte Carlo, we have this legendary halo in our minds of the firm being a big-hitter in the sport.

Prior to the Mini’s successes, there were 4 victories in the 1950s (2 for Jaguar XK120s, a Standard Ten and a Triumph TR2), however these were figuring in competitions where the fields were made up of predominantly firm-related cars anyway, so the chances were incredibly high that a winner would be from ‘our’ stable.

The London-Sydney Marathon of 1968 saw Paddy Hopkirk gain a very credible 2nd place to Andrew Cowan’s Hillman Hunter. Whether this performance spurred BL to enter a combination of Triumph 2.5PIs, Austin/Morris 1800s, Austin Maxis and a Mini Clubman into the 1970 World Cup Rally, it is unclear, however, again, 2nd place was the best the firm could manage, but once again it was a very credible results table which showed that in the top 11 finishers, there were 5 x Escort GTs, 1 Citroen DS and the rest were a combination of the Triumphs, Landcrabs and Maxis.

 

The 1974 event which followed saw a somewhat strange set of firm entrants, with a Range Rover, Rover P6 and Leyland P76 being utilised, unsurprisingly to many, finishes of 12th, 13th and 14th respectively did little to stir the senses.  One wonders what decisions led to these vehicles being selected over seemingly more competent cars such as the Marina TC, Maxi (again as in 1970) or even the Landcrab which had proved itself very useful in the previous two events.  Lets go even madder; why not the Mini?That said, the Range Rover went on to win 2 Dakar rallies in 1979 and 1981 and remains the last time a firm car took one of these major honours.  While Ford, Vauxhall and Rootes were creating the Escort RS1800, Chevette HS/HSR and Lotus Sunbeam where the hell was the firm? With such a diverse range to go at it’s a real joke no rival was brought from BL, was it a case of not being arsed, not knowing what to concentrate on, being on strike or simply being incompetent?

Then there’s the Metro 6R4. A weapon created for a short-lived class of rallying, finishing 3rd behind 2 Delta S4s in it’s debut season in 1985, a disappointing run in 1986 and the abolition of the class the same year due to the life-ending nature of the sport lead to Austin-Rover’s withdrawal from rallying at the end of the season. Even in private hands it was behind the rest.

Was the lack of development in 4×4 mainstream vehicle technology to blame this time for the firms absence from history after this point? I fear it has to be, amazing really when Land Rover was within group.

Then nothing….. until the MG ZR, which was over before it started.

I can’t help feeling this area could’ve done something along the way, I can’t help feeling the firm SHOULD’VE been more prominent, yet again, it’s another chapter of stupid missed chances in our favourite historical soap-opera.

 

 

The R8 – A worthy legend or lucky to be amongst such bad rivals?

From the Potato’s Sack

There is a place in our hearts here at MacDroitwich that will always belong to the R8 Rover 200/400 Series.

I have blogged previously about just how fantastic I find this glorious range of cars yet I do find myself questioning just how good they actually were.

My reasons for doing so are quiet simple really; 1. whenever we get into discussions about the R8 and talk about it’s rivals, we find it so easy to dismiss virtually every one of them and 2. despite the fact almost a million R8s were made, so few remain (and I’m not just talking about now, they’ve been disappearing massively for the last 10 years).

So let’s look at the rivals first; starting with the Escort. Ford replaced one of the UK’s best-selling cars with one of the most uselessly powered, under-developed cars seen before or since. A major bollock-dropped.

Vauxhall’s Astra, again a good seller had just been subject to a very minor facelift shortly after the launch of the R8 that did little to lift it to the same levels of quality or refinement that had been set by Rover, the Astra F that followed in 1991 felt a big step away from this, yet still struggled to match the R8.

Then there was Renault. It’s recently released 19 range had replaced the 9 & 11 and, despite being built to decidedly ‘French’ standards, rather than those that Rover had set the bar at, was a competent car, escpecially as you went up the range.

It’s a similar story with Citroen and their ZX model, the Volcane and GTI were a glorious thing, the versatility of the estate model giving particular cause for concern too, as Rover’s 400 tourer set itself more as competition for the Alfa 33 Sportwagon, BMW 3-series Touring and the like, rather than for the lower-end of the market occupied by the ZX.

Peugeot were in the unfortunate position that the 309 was beginning to feel very out-dated and the 306 was still 2-3 years away. Once the 306 did arrive however, this proved itself to be worthy competition to the 200/400, even if indirectly.

There are similar stories throughout every brand you look at; the VW Golf in MkII and MkIII form had strong followings, regardless of their obvious flaws – lacklustre performance and rust being but two; the Volvo 440/460 range was another, hampered by it’s engine range – borrowed in-part from Renault – and also held back by it’s handling and it’s price-tag.

The Fiat Tipo, Nissan Sunny, Toyota Corolla and Mazda 323 all formed part of a disappointing field of runners & riders that, it could be said, helped galvanise the image of the R8 whether justified, or not.

Now I’m not saying that the R8 doesn’t deserve it’s reputation. The K-series, at time of release, was a revelation. The build quality and fit and finish was a class above the rivals. It looked fantastic, drove superbly and evolved into a diverse range that offered economy or scorching performance, brought hatchbacks, coupés, saloons, estates and cabriolets and a choice of gearboxes. A real range.

No, I’m saying that perhaps, had there been better competition out there, then maybe, just maybe it wouldn’t have felt as good.

That brings me on to the second point; is the survival-rate down to the fact that, once better alternatives DID come about, was it worth saving them anymore?

The R8 was the most successful car since British Leyland days in terms of volume, yet at a time when other brands where thriving, I hope, it was because of the positives that it possessed, rather than the flawed crap it had to compete with – I’m much happier thinking that it was.

Rover 75 – The Relentless Pursuit of Bad Taste

From the Potato’s Sack

As far back as late 1994, Rover’s designers had all but settled on the final look for the firm’s new flagship model.  A retro-inspired design that some would say was intended to court controversy with it’s combination of cutting-edge technology and classic design cues.

A late styling proposal (picture courtesy of ARonline)

OK, so we all know that side of the story, however, at no point during the endless design meetings and focus group sessions that no doubt took place, did those talented Rover Group folk account for the proportion of future owners that would be devoid of taste to such an extent, their cars would end up looking like they had ram-raided a tacky shop owned by some straggly-haired vegetarian specialising in wind-chimes and health crystals.

A ruined 75 famous in Magpie circles belonging to stick-on-tat-moron ‘Windrush’

For reasons no one can quite work out, anyone who now owns a 75, is over-come by the all-engrossing desire to stick anything from plastic wood, plastic chrome, extra badges and even chrome wheel embellishers on top of alloy wheels, to these once fine vehicles.

A particularly eye-watering example – Note; imbecile owner not in shot.

Indeed, on the Rover 75 & ZT owners club website, a topic regarding ‘walnut*’ accessories runs to 138 pages.

It is done in such a hap-hazard, nonsensical manner, one can only assume these imbeciles are either in the final stages of dementia, are suffering from a traumatic childhood experience that has clouded their judgement so poorly that nothing makes sense any longer or they are simply motoring arseholes.

I love the R40 and always have, yet I would gladly see these utterly RUINED specimens sent to the crusher rather than prolong their indignity any further – ideally with their owner still sat in the fake-wood festooned flea-pits.

 

As we so often end up saying;

WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG?