Rover 220 Turbo | Spotted

Looking to become an instant legend? There's a Tomcat for sale…

By John Howell / Tuesday, 3 May 2022 / Loading comments

Yes, I know, we did a Rover 200 Coupe not that long ago. But that was a very different animal to this Tomcat. It was green for a start, and this one’s blue. And that car had more miles on its clock – 79,000 of them, while this one has racked up just 7,000. Most importantly, though, it was a 216i, which meant it was a perky little thing, but not properly pokey. This one is definitely that. It’s the 220 Turbo, which was the fastest and most powerful production Rover when it was launched, and today these are rarer than decorum at an Anne Summer’s party. And just look at it; it’s completely wonderful in every respect, don’t you think?

Those lines have aged incredibly well considering they were penned at the start of the 1990s, and the last one came off the Longbridge line a quarter of a century ago. If there’s an angle from which it doesn’t look good, send your answers on a postcard to: You’re Wrong, Sorely Mistaken Street, Have You Heard of Spec Savers. It’s neither overdone nor bland, with a pretty overall shape, lovely proportions and good details (i.e. a wee power bulge and just the right amount of spoilering). Plus, of course, that chrome grille to add to the Best of Britishness without reeking of twee retroism. I mean, which is more cohesive, this of the later 75?

That plush theme is carried on inside as well. There’s the odd slab of burr walnut, sure, but again, it’s not too pipe and oh-look-it’s-1952-all-over-again slipper. The interior is restrained yet classy, and full of Japanese switchgear, which is no bad thing. Whether it should’ve stuck with the Honda Concerto’s double wishbone front suspension is a matter for debate, though. Rover opted to eschew this in favour of MacPherson struts; did that contribute to the old Tomcat Turbo’s wild antics? There was much talk about torque steer and how it was too powerful for the chassis. Then again, plenty of people pipe up to say they weren’t as bad as all that, so I am sure that lively debate will continue in the comments section.

However extreme, the potential to change lanes with a squirt of power arrived courtesy of the T-Series four-pot under the bonnet. This managed a very healthy 200hp, which wasn’t far off the headline-making Ford Escort RS Cosworth’s 225hp, and despite lacking the Cosworth’s four-wheel drive, the Tomcat Turbo’s 0-62mph of 6.2 seconds wasn’t that far behind, either. Moreover it topped out at 150mph, while the Cossie, with its “Oi, oi, let’s ‘av some of that, then” rear wing dragging it down, managed just 144mph.

This one appears to be in superb nick and as complete as can be. The Tahiti Blue looks as fresh as the day it was lacquered and those fantastic period Rover seats, with sumptuous side bolstering, have just the gentlest signs of wear. Its two owners have certainly treated it kindly and kept everything in order, including the two keys, a documentation file with the original sales brochure, the handbooks and ‘virtually every MOT.’ And an article on its FDH status.

The story is, this car was one of approximately 200 that were built for the Japanese market in 1995. The cars were specified with all factory options and sent on their way, but before they were registered, Japan changed its emission legislation, and the cars weren’t saleable. Well, this caused a right old hoo-hah. It was deemed uneconomical to do make the changes required, so in the end the cars were shipped back to the U.K. and registered by Rover at the Dudley DVLA office, under the suffix FDH – hence became known as the FDH cars. That was after many delays due to administration and re-entry laws, so the cars weren’t registered until 1998 and were sold either to Rover employees or the Rover dealer network for a discount. A rare and mint-condition fast car with a tale to tell. What more could you ask for?

SPECIFICATION | Rover 220 Turbo Coupe

Engine: 1,994cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 200 @ 6,100rpm
Torque (lb ft): 174 @ 2,100rpm
MPG: 34
CO2: 200g/km
First registered: 1998
Recorded mileage: 6,968
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £19,995

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