The British Motor Industry Heritage Trust has discovered the mystery surrounding the very last car built at the Longbridge plant in Birmingham. Stephen Laing, the curator of the museum unveiled a frostfire Rover 75, 1955cc 4-cylinder diesel, which is the last vehicle on the register out of the plant. The Trust has become the proud owner of the car, which has gone on public display in the museum at the Heritage Motor Centre near Gaydon in Warwickshire. It is most likely that this car will also be the last car to be adorned with the Rover badge.
Almost 15 million cars were manufactured in the century since Rover Cars was founded by Herbert Austin. It was on 8 April this year that MG Rover at Longbridge went into administration and car production ceased. Only a small group of skilled car workers was kept on at the plant over the summer to complete a number of unfinished vehicles, before the company was sold on to the Nanjing Automobile Corporation of China.
The Trust also owns the first Rover 75 car built under the company’s former owners BMW at Cowley Oxford in 2000.
The Rover 75 was the first large Rover car for 20 years, replacing the Honda inspired 600 and 800 models. Introduced in 1999, the ’75’ was initially built at the Cowley factory in Oxford, which had undergone a £700 million facelift, including a completely new manufacturing and paint shop facility. The ’75’ took styling cues from Rover’s heritage, whilst engine options were four or six cylinder petrol units from the K-series range, together with a BMW derived diesel.
When BMW decided to sell Rover Group in 2000, production of Rover models moved to the newly formed MG Rover Group’s factory at Longbridge in Birmingham. The ’75’ range was quickly developed, with the addition of an estate model (or tourer), more sporting MG versions and a long-wheelbase limousine. A V8 powered version was also developed, re-engineered with rear-wheel drive.
During 2004 the ’75’ range got a facelift, with a redesigned look for the front and rear end of the car and modifications to the trim specification.