Rover on the Horizon - my Rover Story

by Peter Riggall

Why my interest in Rovers?  Actually, I am interested in all cars, but particularly British and European models.  Rovers have always caught my eye, particularly as I am always interested in cars that are a little bit different and unusual.  I also like the Citroen DS for much the same reason.

My late parents were both English having immigrated to Australia in the early 1950’s, moving to Tasmania in 1955.  Dad originally came from Lincolnshire and Mum came from Devon.

Dad’s family’s first car was an Austin 7.  He can recall when he saw his very first car as a young boy, he and a friend jumped off the road and hid in fright.

Mum had the dubious distinction of sporting a small scar on her cheek after she hit the glass division in her grandparent’s Daimler.  Levi the chauffeur ran head-on into a Rolls Royce in a narrow Devon lane.  Mum remembers Levi taking her and her brother for drives, tucking a blanket around their legs saying, ‘Are you warm enough Miss June and Master Peter?’

My family’s connection with Rovers started with my Uncle in England who was deputy editor of the Daily Mail newspaper in London.  It was customary for the editor to be issued the current model Jaguar and the deputy the current model Rover.  I was green with envy when I saw the family snaps, featuring a P6 2000, then a P6B, then an SD1, then an SE11 prior to his retirement.

The cars were handed down the line within the hierarchy after 2 years.  One of his SE11’s was mysteriously abandoned near London Bridge station which gives access to the continent and the employee has never been seen to this day.

My Uncle had a high speed crash in one of his SE11’s returning to Gloucestershire on the motorway one very wet Friday night.  He mounted the Armco railing and the car slid down on top of the barrier then launched itself into the path of on-coming vehicles, being hit by one.   The car was a write-off.

The Police gave him a lift home and he casually walked inside to be greeted by his wife who said, ‘You’re a little late dear’.

The officer said, if he had not been in a Rover he may not have survived to tell the story.

My brother also had a City Grey 1965 2000SC manual.

In 1975 I purchased my first Rover.  I was living in Sydney at the time and saw a 1970 P6B automatic in Arden Green.  I bought it.  NSW rego. GWM 328, I wonder if it is still surviving.

Alas, after about 12 months of ownership it started changing gears erratically and I panicked.  Had I known what I know now I would not have sold it as I know the BW35’s are relatively cheap to overhaul.

My love for the P6 was sealed.

In 2000 I was visiting the historic Woolmers property at Longford for an open day.  The VCCA (TAS) had a display but what I saw in the public car park was definitely the most interesting car as far as I was concerned.

It was a 1975 P6B 3500S in Mexico Brown with full Huntsman vinyl roof with Sandalwood leather trim.  I was surprised to see a rare S in such good condition and I had had never spotted this particular car before.  I noted it had Tassie plates but a Western Australian dealer’s sticker on the back window.  I concluded that it must be a new arrival.

I could not take my eyes off it and after of a tour of the house I was back in the car park checking it out, hoping the owners would return so I would have a chance to speak with them.

Alas, they did not return so I jotted down the registration number hoping I could find out where the car lived.

Some time later I tracked the car to a house in Longford, only a few kilometers from where I had first seen it. 

With some trepidation I knocked on the door and was greeted by a gentleman by the name of Ron MORLEY.  I told him about my interest in Rovers and explained that I had spotted his at Woolmers.  Fortunately, he was very keen to show me the car and even took me for a drive.  I could not believe it when he said:  ‘Would you like a drive?’  Would I what!

I was impressed as to how well the car performed compared to the several automatics I had driven.  It actually pushed me back into my seat when I accelerated, and I wasn’t even trying.

I met Ron’s wife Sally and said should they ever decide to sell, would they do me the honour of giving me first offer.  They agreed and we exchanged details.

I learned that Ron and Sally purchased the car new in Melbourne in April 1975.  It was manufactured in England in October, 1974. They had kept a file of receipts for every cent spent on the car from day one.

The car had lived in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth WA and then Tasmania.  The car was driven around Australia in 1983/84, travelling from Melbourne to Sydney, back to Melbourne then to Adelaide and back to Sydney along the Murray River, then to Brisbane, Cooktown then Darwin through the Barclay Tablelands, then to Wyndum, Albany, Esperance, Kalgoorlie, then to Perth.  The trip took a total of 16 months.  Ron and Sally slept in a tent along the way.

It was totally refurbished in 1996 in WA, having a total panel-off re-spray in the original colour, a new vinyl top and was re-upholstered in Connolly hide replacing the original velour.  A security system incorporating remote central locking was fitted.

I kept in touch with Ron and Sally about once a year just to check on how the Rover was going.  They continued to assure me that I had first offer and when they were ready to sell they would be in touch.  I did not push the matter as at the time I did not have the cash or garage space; so the wait suited us both.

This situation continued for 8 years from 2000-2008. 

In 2003 the National Rove came to Tassie and I was glad to assist the organizing committee where I could.  My idea of heaven was the evening the street outside our house was lined with Rovers when my wife and I hosted a welcome to Tassie meal for the participants.

In March 2008 I rang Ron and said that I would be ready to take over the Rover whenever he was ready, as I now had access to the cash and a spare lock-up garage.  He said they had since purchased a Honda CRV and the Rover had become a second car and was not getting much use.  He said he would discus it with Sally and call me back at the end of the weekend.

It felt like a very long weekend but eventually the phone rang.  Ron said yes, they would sell and they would be happy for me to buy the car. 

I was about to embark on my third successive visit to Melbourne for the B and E/RACV Classic Showcase and they were expecting guests to stay so we agreed on a price (accepted without quibble) and I said I would visit them in 3 weeks.

It was with much excitement that my wife Lorraine drove me to Longford with a bank cheque in hand.  Ron and Sally met us and the Rover was in the garage having been serviced, filled with fuel and professionally detailed.  They had even bought new Rover key rings for the two keys, one for each of us.

I was humbled to say the least.  After 34 years of ownership they were parting with a family friend they clearly loved.

I assured them that I would keep in touch and the car would visit regularly.

After a few explanations and the handover of the file of receipts Ron said, ‘How about we crack the champagne’. How could I resist!  So we wet the Rovers head.  This is definitely the way to do business!

There were tears all round as I headed off with a toot of the horn and a wave and I could see them in the rear view mirror watching as I drove off.

I have since taken the car back to show them. My wife and I presented them with a bouquet of flowers and a framed group of photos of the car including a photo of them standing in front of the car on the day we took it over. More tears.

Now, my proud ownership has begun, backed up by the terrific support from the RCCA.



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