Once upon a time, back in the days when the MG Rover Group was alive and fairly hopeful for the future [...] in the hands of BMW, the Bavarian carmaker was dreaming up a new lineup for the British company. Among the plans was one for the development of a replacement for the outdated, fifth-generation Honda Civic-based, 200/400 series, later called the 25/45, positioned under the 75 in Rover's car lineup.
We remember many proposals and concept sketches for the car from the period, but the folks from "Aronline" managed to secure some exclusive photos of a full size clay model that we've never seen before. Named the R55, it's a design proposal for a compact sedan slightly larger than the BMW 3-Series said to have been completed back in the Spring of 1997.
The crew from the British blog talked to the designer of the car, Richard Woolley, who had this to say:
"Yes, I think it was shaping up well. Considering it went from sketch to clay to model in one shot, I think it still looks pretty good nearly 13 years on. But, of course, I may be a bit biased!"
"The car sat on a long wheelbase (c.2800mm), giving maximum rear accommodation, but with an overall length less than R75 – the North South installation enabled a much shorter front overhang. The clay model was completed in Gaydon, spring of 1997, and the composite model build was contracted out to Futura in Birmingham with completion that summer."
The R55 sported a dynamic design with very short overhangs, a clamshell-style bonnet and a relatively low roofline - something like a British flavored Chrysler 300. Only thing is the 300 was introduced as a concept model some six years later, at the 2003 NY Auto Show...
Sure the styling might be polarizing, but in our opinion (feel free to disagree) it still looks fresh today especially when compared to current offerings in the segment.
In any case, the R55, which was supposed to spearhead Rover's attack in the premium segment along with a slightly larger replacement for the 75 (think BMW 5 Series+) was ditched as where many other plans to revitalize Rover in the years to come.
Source: Aaronline , Photos: Nigel Garton