ROVER MOTOR COMPANY Limited. (1904-1967)
Motor Sales. (1967-1968)
Motor Corp. (1968-1975)
British Leyland. (1975-1978)
(1978-1980 in USA)
Jaguar Rover Triumph Inc. (1980-198? in USA)
Cars Inc. (198? in USA)
Have we got you wondering why we have
listed all of these company names? Well, here in the USA, beginning in the
mid 1960's, this is how things went.
My father joined the
Rover Motor Company of North America Limited
(located at 373 Shaw Rd, South San Francisco,
CA) in February 1960 after David Brown
Aston Martin closed their office on Davis St in San Leandro, CA, and moved
their operation back east. As Service Manager at Rovers, and later the
Product Development Engineer, the job required many hours on the road
visiting dealers or testing vehicles & up-grades to suit the US market.
Shy of being 2-years old I was up to my eyes in Rover cars and Land Rovers.
As I got older dad would bring home sales brochures that I would proceed to
cut up and paste all over my room. One evening we had special guests for
dinner, the Wilks Brothers, Spencer Wilks and Maurice Wilks. These were THE
men behind the Land Rover! I dragged them to my room where they saw Land
Rovers everywhere! It was a funny night for a little boy. Since day-1 of my
life British cars have been my life, and motorcycles too. In 1967, at age-9,
we were on vacation in North Shore Lake Tahoe. Dad and I went out off
roading on Mt Rose in the 109", the same one in the photo below. I kept
pestering dad that I could drive the Land Rover... out of no where he stops,
gets out, walks around to the passenger side and opens the door, where he
says to me, "Over you go, drive the thing then." So I did! And
for the next hour and a half I rushing about in low-range in a 109" Land
Rover Station Wagon (I can still drive the same car, as I found it in 2002
and restored it).
In 1966 Richard would
become the Product Development Engineer for The Rover Motor Company of North
America Ltd. Three projects he dealt with was the new 3-Litre Coupe', the
2000TC (and pending emission regulations) and the installation of the newly
acquired V8 into a Land Rover, then known as Project BOP, later known as
The same day that Golden
Rod was finished and dad drove it home to Dublin... we went to for a ride,
with blue smoke from the rear tyres we rushed about Dublin for 15 minutes,
upon our return home Roger Taylor, now Service Manager, was there with a new
white 1966 NADA (North American Dollar Area) 109" Station Wagon. I was going
stark raving mad, two new LRs in one afternoon! And more work lay ahead for
dad and Roger, testing both of these vehicles. At the same time they'd been
testing the 2000TC. One day at Fremont Raceway (drag strip) in mid '66 the
Golden Rod could and did outrun the 2000TC down the 1/4-mile strip!
The following year,
1967, those who worked for the Rover Motor
Company or Triumph-Standard found a name change and company shake-up. The
Triumph office, then on Bush St in San Francisco, was to close up and move
to 422 Valley Dr in Brisbane where Rover was now located. I vaguely remember the exact date
(will confirm dates asap),
but I remember the day, riding my bicycle in the field I heard an engine
revving from the house, as I approached I saw a new British Racing
Green Triumph TR250 in the garage... I dove inside and we were off!
For some time it would
be Rovers, Land Rovers and Triumphs as company cars. When the TR6 arrived in
'69 Leyland had a sales contest, Dad brought one home for me and I completed
it, I still have the tie tack for getting 100%! So now I was up to my eyes
in sports cars, my fav being the TR6 for some years.
Soon the 2000TC would
have a new stable mate, the 3500S. Dad did many miles testing these in both
the heat and arctic cold, the first one here was disguised as a 2000TC. At
this time mum and dad had bought the blue 109 from the company for $1500.00
and mum had gone back to work, yes, driving the Land Rover, with shirt &
heels too! Later, about '71, the 109" was sold to SF Land Rover dealer Paul
Felton and replaced with a white 3500S.
Later when it became
British Leyland, they would take over the importation & distribution of MG,
Austin/Morris and Jaguar from BMCD in San Francisco. I remember the first
Jaguar dad brought home was a new baby blue V12 E-type coupe' that he was to
do some testing on. Soon we'd have Jaguars and MGs to rush about in too.
The first road car I
drove legally (with a learners permit) was a 1973 MGB GT, and took my
drivers license in a Triumph Stag. It was at this time that the Land Rover
would stop being imported into America... it was a sad day in deed. During
this period I was driving many a company car, plus mums 3500S. Sometimes I'd
take a company car to high school (1974-76). On teacher asked me in class,
"Why is it you have a V12 E-Jag and I drive a 122 Volvo?" My
reply was, "Poor taste in cars?" Laughter from all and I was
asked to leave. Well, he asked. Mostly it was MGBs, Marinas, and Triumphs
That said, here's a
funny story... At the time we had a new white '74 MGB that dad brought
home, I was buzzing around in it, while he was driving a silver '74 V12
E-type. One evening mum, dad and my sister Kerry went out in our '69 3500S
(mums car), so my friend John and I went out in the e-type with some local
buddies to Livermore. On the way home these bozos ditched us and made way
for the freeway while we were on a side road. We soon turned around and got
to the freeway... it was a lovely summer evening, west bound in a V12 with
Band on The Run on the 8-track and the A/C blowing away... I pinned the
throttle on the firewall and headed west. As we accelerated out in the fast
lane we passed Steve & Rob in the El-Camino (which was doing about 100),
then Mike on his Suzuki 250 twin. Now we're looking for Mike's Dodge Charger
in the dark as we sped along nearing 150 mph! Up ahead I see Dodge tail
lamps traveling at a high rate of speed, about 120 mph, as we neared I
flashed the lights at him... OOOPS! When I flashed the lights the words
"HIGHWAY PATROL" lit up in the trunk lid! It was a Dodge alright, just the
wrong one. As I lifted the pedal and changed lanes my speed carried us past
him, the officer pointed for me to stop and I did. The resulting ticket was
for 80+ in a 55 mph zone (which later cost me $25.00 I had 3 other
tickets that month on my Honda SL100. The Judge tossed them out as
"speed-traps", and asked me not to do it again!). The down side was having
to tell dad in the morning! On a funnier note: In 2011 I took the Merle
Brennen E-type race car from Laguna Seca races to Quail Lodge on the highway
with 9 other racing Jaguars following... we had a CHP escort there and back.
As I pulled on the lawn and shut off these two elderly ladies are standing
in front of the Jag, one says to me, "I bet that's the first you've ever
chased a CHP with a Jaguar!" I started laughing, and said "you have
no idea." Then I told her the story from 1974.
Dad would say, "If
anyone can run up more miles in a weekend it's him." In those days they
were doing constant EPA tests, some that would require a test on a Wednesday
in Los Angeles, then another the following week, which in the meantime
required an additional 2000 miles be covered prior to the next test...
Dad would drive down and back to LA from Dublin, then on the Saturday or
Sunday I would get in it and drive to Palm Springs (or Elko, NV) and back,
then dad would take it Tuesday to LA again to be re-tested. This would go on
and on, one minute in a TR8, then an XJS V12.
In 1975 I was roaring
around in the last of the California TR6s. It was great fun cruising Walnut
Creek during the summer, wish I had it now. It was a white hardtop,
overdrive, AM-FM-8Track stereo, and Air Con. One day I was told to take it
to Cal-Auto in Benicia, the port facility, and pick up what we knew as
Bullet, aka TR7. Waiting for me was a slime green TR7... it was a good
giggle, but it was no TR6. In May '75 mum & dad bought me an Austin Marina
GT... I wanted a TR6! I was lucky to get that though. I had been driving
many a Marina company car at that time. One day at the port we unloaded
these bloody ugly purple 4-doors with bright red upholstery! No dealer would
take them so the became company hacks. In '75 when we were doing the XJ6
change over and we had workers from Coventry in the states, one such place
being in Benicia. I was given a part-time job of helping these guys out.
After hours four of us would get in the purple Marina and go rally driving
down the dirt & gavel roads within the old military base... was quite the
giggle, the 4-door all crossed up in the corners, gravel flying everywhere.
The Brit's love it and they though I was totally mad! My car was soon
to look like a rally car. Dads pal at Lucas donated some lovely driving &
fog lamps, dad made some alloy mount to fit ammeter and clocks, we fitted a
limited slip TR7 diff, and soon I was in the Special Tuning catalog. Now it
had twin SUs from an MGB, it would do nearly 90 mph in 3rd gear!
In 1976 dad bought me a
'71 Chevy Vega for $600.00 on my 18th BD (oh thanks dad!), the Marina gone after some
drunk hit and my insurance became unaffordable (back to the motorcycle).
When they went to England late in '76 I sold the Vega for $1000.00 after
dolling it up and bought a 1967 88" Hardtop for $900.00 My first Land Rover.
During this time someone came up with the idea of the TR7 Victory Edition
due to its SCCA Championship in America. I was working at Cal-Auto at the
time... all we did all day was modify standard cars, I put on strip kits for
days, then I'd be running the tire machine fitting the white 8-spoke wheels
made down the street at International Wheel.
In 1977 three TR8s arrived for
testing, two yellow 5-speeders and a white auto car (what a dog!). First
thing dad and I did was remove the "Sprint" decals and modify the exhaust
pipes and paint them flat-black. We did this to all three cars. It was great
fun, the people you could aggravate with it, Datsun 280Z, 911T Porsche to
name two. the TR8 would just drive away, but the best thing was everyone
thought it was a TR7!
Next up was the SD1,
otherwise known as the 3500S in America. Dad flew to Texas to pickup the
test car, a white automatic (that was highly over geared to comply with CAFE
regulations, hence the performance suffered - as did the Jaguars at the time
in the USA). It was about this time that the name would change again, this
time to Jaguar-Rover-Triumph Inc (MG were now gone after 1980 model year). One Saturday dad
and took the SD1 and the old 3500S out for a comparison run... the old car
was so far superior to the SD1 is wasn't funny. The SD1 lacked any
performance, while the 3500S had 10.5:1 cr and ran on 104 octane fuel! The
brakes and handling on the old vs the new was a joke. The old car had
4-wheels discs (inboard at rear), IRS with a DeDion tube, with lovely ride
and road holding. I remember pushing the 3500S a bit too hard on a twisty
road. Dad had warned me, "Don't lift the pedal in mid corner or it'll
swap ends." Guess what I did? I looped mums car and missed the guard
rail by 12 inches! The leather seats and their positions in the old car made
those of the SD1 look like they'd come from a couch in a Nevada bordello!
This was the beginning of the end, the SD1 was not the Rovers that I knew
and grew up in (Like the 2000TC and 3-Litres prior to the 3500S), and would
be the last real Rover car in America.
Con't next page...
Here are some great old pictures
from dads collection as well as mine that you might enjoy.