Norfolk and Norwich Rover Owners' Club driving ahead to keep famous Rover name alive
Norfolk and Norwich Rover Owners' Club
Rover, once a driving force of motoring, came to the end of the road in 2005 after a century of production. But a dedicated group of motoring enthusiasts is not only keeping the famous name alive but looking to grow Norfolk and Norwich Rover Owners' Club across East Anglia. Motoring editor Andy Russell finds out more about the romance of Rover.
he Rover name was known across much of the motoring world in its heyday for building quality cars but, after more than a century of production, the famous marque bearing a Viking emblem came to the end of the road.
Now a growing band of local enthusiasts, dedicated to keeping the famous Rover name alive, aim to drive their enthusiasm for maintaining its cars on the road and interest in the marque by expanding across East Anglia.
Norfolk and Norwich Rover Owners’ Club, formed in 1975, is not so much sailing as spreading its wings across East Anglia, building on its success by attracting members from a wider area and putting on events further afield.
Membership has grown four-fold in recent years to around 100, with 150 Rover cars, predominantly from Norfolk but also Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire and even a handful from Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Kent, making it something of a regional club.
Now, as well as keeping the Rover name alive, the club wants to become the focal point in the area for all Rover owners, those looking for a car or just interested in marque – but it will remain Norfolk and Norwich Rover Owners’ Club to retain its identity.
Chairman Russell James said: “Rover made cars from 1904 to 2005 so there was a century of motor cars and, with 150 member cars, we have examples of most models.”
Its oldest is a rare ash-framed, fabric-covered 1928 Rover 10/25 Weyman, the newest a 2005 Rover 75 Connoisseur.
When Rover ceased production in 2005, the club decided the best to keep this wealth of motoring history on the road was to open membership to owners of any Rover, not just classics.
“There are quite a few national clubs but they deal only with classic models and they are not well represented in East Anglia because we are a bit out on a limb here.
“These days we find people with later models are joining and that is good to see, and something we encourage, because it brings younger members in. We are pretty well represented across the whole model range,” said Mr James who owns a 1962 P4 100 and a 1974 P6 3500 V8 and has a 216 Cabriolet on loan.
With so many members, the club also has a wealth of knowledge and experience running and restoring Rovers, often helping each other with project cars. It also has ‘model champions’, specialist contact points for specific model ranges to answer members’ specific questions.
“If they don’t know the answer, they know someone who does,” said Mr James.
“One of the good things about Rovers is that the parts are very readily available. There are quite a lot of people around who do the work for you and many of our members do it themselves. We like to think that we encourage people that, if they see a car that needs restoring, rather than letting it go, they get it back on the road, use it in the summer months and enjoy it.”
Buying a Rover doesn’t have to be expensive with Mr James saying a decent Rover 216 can be bought for £500 while a P6 costs £6,000 to £8,000.
“One of the reasons people can have Rovers is that they are really affordable, quality, classy cars and they won’t let you down and spares are readily available.
“If you think back to the British Leyland days, it all became a bit of a tangled mess but Rover was the only brand that came through those troubled times,” he explained. “Those that are still running today are all sorted out and are jolly good cars.”
Norfolk and Norwich Rover Owners’ Club meets the last Tuesday of the month at Caistor Hall Hotel, Caistor St Edmund, just south of Norwich. It also attends car rallies and organises road runs and driving days, visiting tourist attractions, and social activities. Anyone interested in joining can visit its annual rally at Bressingham Steam and Gardens (admission charges apply) on Sunday, May 27.
History sees club grows as company declines and disappears
Norfolk and Norwich Rover Owners’ Club dates back to 1975 when it was formed as The Norwich Rover P4 Club by a few owners with the aim of preserving these stately cars as the oldest P4s were just becoming classics.
A chance meeting between current member Terry Reynolds and the late John Ringwood led them to seek out other P4 Rover owners for regular meetings.
Club members also took their cars to local events but, after three years, organised their own rally and it is still held annually at at Bressingham Steam and Gardens, near Diss on the Norfolk-Suffolk border. Rosettes were awarded for the best P4 in each class – 60, 75, 100 etc – and judging was carried out by local personalities.
By 1979 the club had grown considerably, to 32 members, and a committee was formed.
The club changed its name in 1980 to Norfolk and Norwich Rover P4 Owners’ Club, due to the wider membership, and joined the Association of Norfolk Car Clubs. It continued to grow and P3, P5 and P6 owners were allowed to join.
In 1997, the name changed to Norfolk and Norwich Rover Owners Club, recognising the wider range of cars, now also including the SD1.
By the late 2000s, the country was in recession and membership and activities had declined. The club set about improving its visibility, recruiting members, and launched its own website – www.norfolkandnorwichroveroc.org.uk
New social events and outings were added and the club prospered, ironically as the troubled Rover Company, which had been through a number of changes of ownership, went into receivership and the famous Rover name disappeared after more than 100 years.
A sad time for Rover enthusiasts, with no new models being produced, when the 800 came of age in 2011 membership was extended to include all Rover cars.
The club’s aim became the preservation of the Rover name by helping to keep the cars on the road and in the public eye hence the strapline now is “Working to keep the famous Rover name alive”.
As well as flying the flat at car rallies, many owners are often engaged in restoration projects and the club maintains a directory of parts suppliers and workshops specialising in classic cars, especially Rovers.
Jet car at annual Bressingham rally
A replica jet-powered Rover is due to attend the Norfolk and Norwich Rover Owners’ Club’s 41st annual All Rover Rally at Bressingham Steam and Gardens, near Diss, on Sunday, May 27.
It is not widely known that the Rover company did a great deal of experimental work on gas turbine jet engines alongside Frank Whittle and Rolls-Royce – the RB in Rolls-Royce’s engine numbering scheme still reflects Rover’s early contribution.
Rover also built a number of experimental gas turbine-powered cars and the club plans to have a P4-based example, like JET1 in the Science Museum in London, at this year’s rally, believed to be the first time it will be seen in this area, weather permitting.
The rally is fully booked for exhibitor vehicles with some 100 Rover expected to be on show. Visitors will have to pay the Bressingham admission charges to see the Rover club’s display.
The club will be out and about during the summer but the main club displays we will be:
June 3 – Norwich Classic Vehicle Club Show at Strumpshaw Steam Museum, east of Norwich.
July 1 – North Norfolk Railway Vintage Transport Festival at Holt Station.
September 30 – the club’s charity day at Sandringham Estate in aid of Pancreatic Cancer UK.
Hearse rescued from untimely end
One of the more unusual vehicles in the Norfolk and Norwich Rover Owners’ Club is a 1964 coach-built hearse.
The Rover P5 hearse, being painstakingly restored by owners Glen and Marie-Ann Read, is now believed to be the only one still in existence.
It started life as an ordinary Rover three-litre P5 before the coach builders cut off and extended the roof, removed back doors and back seats, covered the bottom the rear door openings, made taller top rear corners and a hatchback door and fitted long horizontal windows.
The couple bought BFL 56B in 2013-14 and have found out it had been sold to banger racers, then restored only to be seriously damaged by fire, and was then set to return to banger racing until the previous owner agreed it was worth rescuing.
Then began a labour of love bringing the body, interior and bespoke wood trim back to its former glory. The hearse has been to the Practical Classics Restoration and Classic Car Show at the NEC Birmingham the last three years where has created lots of interest.