Like so many other British manufacturers Rover started out making bicycles. By 1904 the company had decided to move into cars and by 1914 had become Britains second largest car firm. By the 1920's the company had begun to suffer problems and was rescued from closure by the Wilks brothers. Throughout the 1930's-40's Rover had established a range of well built cars aimed at the middle-class motoring sector.
Following the end of WW2 Rover decided that it needed to be more diverse in order to survive and set-about designing a multi-purpose vehicle that would appeal to farmers and export customers looking for a rugged vehicle, the new car would be called "Land-Rover". The Land-Rover sold in large numbers around the globe and allowed the company to continue development of its passenger cars.
Although Rover continued to build its traditional middle-class saloon models it was not afraid to experiment with new technology. In the mid-50's the company developed the worlds first gas-turbine (or "Jet" engined) cars and designed a mould breaking executive model for the 1960's, the Rover 2000.
By the late 1960's the company had become part of what would later be known as "British Leyland". This un-happy period witnessed the company's good name for quality disappear as it was dragged down by industrial action during the 1970's. By the 80's BL had become Austin-Rover and later the Rover name was to be seen on all of the former A-R models.
After a turbulent period of BMW ownership the Rover Car Company is now back in British hands, although only time will tell if this is as successful as British enthusiasts hope.
Rover was among the leaders of the Coventry cycle trade and started making motorcycles in 1903. Tricars were introduced in 1904 with the first motorcar proper arriving towards the end of the year. The design of this 8hp single-cylinder light car was entirely original, featuring a substantial central chassis tube which supported the engine and transmission and on which all the other elements of the car were hung. When the Tatra T11 appeared in 1923 with a virtually identical backbone chassis it was hailed as a brilliant example of revolutionary design!
Early in 1905 a 6hp Rover of fairly conventional layout joined the 'Eight' and these two cars formed the mainstay of the firm's pre-Great War production, although larger four-cylinder cars were also made, a 20hp example winning the Tourist Trophy race in 1907. For years Rover had a reputation for quality and it will be interesting to see in the future what if anything arises from the ashes of Phoenix.