There are three ways to drive the Rover 75 – slow, really slow or without a head gasket. So much choice should ensure the driver never feels either safe or privileged.
The 75 is the poor man or woman’s version of the Jaguar – different only in its power, road-handling, look, feel, comfort, reliability and prestige. Not so much a younger sibling; rather, a distant cousin twice removed who lives not in the leafy suburbs of the garden of England but in the grimy and derelict streets of Tory Britain, filled with broken windows, dreams and promises.
The motorway is full of speed cameras and police patrol cars. Unfortunately, the 75 is fitted neither with a speed limiter nor cruise control and, as both the satnav and its monthly ‘speed camera update’ subscription service are out of my price range, I am left at the mercy of the cameras and patrols as yet another tax on the poor. For me, no spec, no gadgetry, no subscriptions and, if stopped, no special handshake.
No need for concern about creeping over 70mph going downhill though. With the 75, you learn to stick to 55 lest bits fall off. And the only head-up display that digitally appears above the dashboard reads ‘suck it up, buttercup.’
The car is not raised – there is no feeling of superiority here, no lording it over the peasants. This is not an SUV, a Sports Utility Vehicle; just a UV. In this pre-Brexit country, suffering from 9 years of Tory austerity and poverty deaths, knowing yet worse is to come, driving is no enjoyment; it’s just one more thing to worry about the cost of. While I’m at it, it never ceases to amaze me how, when there’s a 50mph speed limit, so many poor people are convinced that their economic problems are caused, not by government policies or by capitalist ideology, but by equally poor immigrants.
Inside the front of the vehicle which I have never called a ‘cabin’, my wife has changed the radio station 27 times. Eventually, she found an independent station playing Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name’ and the Dead Kennedy’s ‘Kill The Poor’, but she had to scroll through umpteen BBC and other stations playing ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ first.
The seats are made from one of an ever-growing line of advertising-speak: ‘leather-look.’ So we drive along in our leather-look seats, guzzling ‘chocolate-flavoured’ milkshake and ‘juice drink’ while the 75 guzzles ‘freedom juice’ (the new American word for petrol). A Jaguar slides past doing 69.8mph, complete with the caesium blue 20-inch split spoke wheels costing £1,550. Just the wheels. My car cost £600.
There’s a delayed response from that talentless 5-speed gearbox, most noticeable when I’m, y’know….. driving anywhere. I get a similar result when my eldest, Imogen (8) asks what 9 x 8 is…. and my mind is so consumed with how the hell I’m going to find the £15K-a-year for family health insurance after Farage and Trump have their say, that I merely mumble “Fuck Brexit!” Of course, the correct answer is ‘the age at which I may finally be able to draw a meagre pension if I’ve not dropped down dead before then.”
The cumbersome nature of this vehicle and lack of any rear camera and warning-system demands that the driver relies upon their eyes when reversing. The complete lack of in-car technology is useful, leaving the driver free to focus on the flashing neon signs advertising everything from fast food and entertainment to the ubiquitous closing down sales. Drivers should never be so focused on the road that they miss an opportunity to be a consumer. Great that our once-sleepy seaside towns have been so magically transformed into Las Vegas.
I wonder if my Rover 75 will make it to the advent of the Drive-Thru A&E? ‘Licence’ (to check your identity), ‘Passport’ (to check your eligibility) ‘and Health Insurance’ (to make sure you’re covered against being just another poverty death). And I’ll remember a time when ‘please God, don’t die on me’ was what I said about the car, not my wife.
Facts at a glance:
Price: Too many lives
Power: in the hands of those with no conscience
Economy: serving only the wealthiest 1%
0 to 60: UK life expectancy