History of the Coupe – 1992-1996 – Series 1 Cars

1992-1996 – Series 1

In the mid-1980s, when Rover and Honda were jointly developing the successor, codename “R8”, to the original Rover 200 and Honda Ballade, Rover started work independently of Honda to produce coupe, convertible and estate versions of the new R8. Rover codenamed these independent projects “Tracer” for the cabriolet, “Tex” for the estate (or 400 Series Tourer model as it was known at its launch), and “Tomcat” for the coupe, hence the often-used reference to the coupes as “Tomcats”.

From their launch at the Paris Motor Show in October 1992 through to mid-1996 (model years 1992/3 to 1995/6) Tomcats were powered by the Honda “D” 1.6 litre SOHC engine in the UK, the DOHC version in export markets, or both normally aspirated and turbocharged versions of the Rover “T” Series 2 litre engine. There were three cars in the range in the UK, identified by their engine size and aspiration, and being an integral part of the 200 Series they were designated as the 216, 220, and 220 Turbo Coupes. Automatic transmission using the Honda 4 speed box was available, as an extra cost option, only on the 1.6 litre engine. In Japan, the 216 was sold with automatic transmission as standard. All 2 litre-engined cars had manual gearboxes.

Sitting at the top of the 200 Series range alongside the Cabriolet models, the Coupes and Cabrios featured prominently in Rover’s “200 Series” and “Today’s Cars” full range sales brochures. The 220 Turbo was the most expensive car in the 200 Series by some margin, not surprising given its sparking performance and its advertising strapline “…one of the most powerful production Rovers ever built.” putting it, and Rover, firmly in BMW 3 Series territory.

In the early 1990s Rover were aiming to be more upmarket than their traditional mass-market rivals Ford and Vauxhall to justify their higher prices. Thus, the three Tomcats were very well specified with only one level of trim for each engine size/aspiration, with the 216 having the lowest level specification and trim and most options, whilst the 220 Turbo had the highest specification and trim and hence least number of options. As all three models were at the top of the 200 Series range the number of options was quite small even on the 216.

The three models all shared the same range of body colours but could be told apart externally by the style of alloy wheel and the presence, or absence, of the boot lid spoiler and front fog lamps. The 220 Turbo had its own 6-spoke “Turbo” alloy wheels. The 220 Turbo and 220 had front fog lamps and a boot lid spoiler, whilst the 216 had the same 7-spoke alloy wheels as the 220 but lacked both the boot lid spoiler and fog lamps. The interiors were almost identical, all receiving the Silverstone fabric to the seat facings and doorcards. The only difference between them was the upholstery of the bolsters and sides of the seats which were velour in the 216 and leather and vinyl in the 220 and 220 Turbo, with the Turbo also receiving a leather covered steering wheel and gearknob. The upholstery and interior trim could be upgraded to full leather in “Ash Grey” or “Stone Beige” on all three models as an extra cost option.

Most of the standard features on the 220 Turbo that were not standard on the 216 and 220 were available to buyers of these models as extra-cost factory-fit options. However, the “Turbo” alloy wheels, the boot lid spoiler and the front fog lamps were not offered as factory-fit extra cost options for the 216 or 220. But, as all Tomcats used the same bodyshell, aspiring owners could always buy the required items as spares over-the-counter from their local Rover dealer and fit them to their car to give it the exterior appearance of a more powerful and expensive model. Thus the style of alloy wheel, and presence or absence of rear spoiler and front fog lamps should never be taken as proof of a Tomcat’s “as built” specification.

There were minor specification and option changes between 1992 and 1996, and these have been reflected in the specifications by adding the dates, model years, or periods applicable to items where appropriate.

The Restyled Front Grille

In November 1993, during the 1993/4 model year, the body-coloured “letterbox” style front grille was replaced by the Rover grille with chrome surround, bringing the Tomcats into line with the “house” style of grille already used by the 800, 600 and 400 Series models. This was the only obvious exterior change between 1992 and 1996 apart from changes to the available body colours.

The 216SE

Sometime in 1995 and before the introduction of the new “R3” body for the mainstream 3 and 5 door saloons, a special edition of the 216, the 216SE, was produced. The 216SE had its own sales brochure as it was not included in the 1994/5 model year brochure published in late 1994. From the side view it was identical to the 220 Turbo, having the boot mounted rear spoiler from the 220 cars and the same alloy wheels as the 220 Turbo. However, from the front it could still be told apart from the Turbo which had front fog lights whilst the 216SE did not. Apart from the alloy wheels, boot spoiler and the R750 radio as used in the 2 litre cars instead of the R652 radio from the 216, it had the same standard specification as the 216.

The SE did not have the options of the full leather trim or the radio upgrade to the R950 radio/cassette open to the 216 at the time, and was available in only 3 of the usual body colours which just happened to be the same colours as used for Tomcats exported to Japan. The available colours were normally extra cost options but are believed to have been included in the list price of the 216SE. For a “Special Edition” the “Special” extras of boot spoiler and style of alloy wheel and the higher spec radio was partly offset by the limited choice of body colour and reduction in available options.

The 216SE did not feature in the 1995/6 model year, and hence was quite short-lived, possibly as short as 3 months. There were no changes made to the specifications of the 216 or 220 models to accommodate the 216SE, which some offer as evidence that the 216SE was only ever intended to be a short-lived temporary addition to the Tomcat range.

The “Rover Coupe” Designation

The next significant change came with the 1995/6 model year. At their launch, Tomcats were an integral part of the Rover 200 Series, with the 220 Turbo being the flagship of the Series closely followed by the 216 Cabriolet in terms of price and status. However, for the 1995/6 model year the “R8” style bodyshell used by the 200 Series since 1989 was replaced on the 3 and 5 door saloons with the Rover designed “R3” bodyshell and a revised interior, sometimes known as the “Bubble” interior.

The Tomcat, along with its Cabriolet and Tourer siblings did not get their version of the new “R3”body and continued in production with their existing “R8” style bodyshells and interiors. As they no longer shared a bodyshell style or interior with the mainstream 200 series they all lost their 200 Series designation and lo longer appeared in the Rover 200 Series brochures. Instead the 216, 220, and 220 Turbo Tomcats were henceforth known as the 1.6, 2.0, and 2.0 Turbo Coupe(s) respectively in the 1995/6 model year.


1996-1998 – Series 2 Cars