John Kemp Starley made the 'Rover Safety Cycle' in the 1880s, and began making motorcycles in 1902. Rover entered car manufacture with tricars, progressing to four-wheelers in 1904. Spencer Wilks came from Hillman in the 1920s, becoming MD in 1933. Wilks also brought in his brother, Maurice, to head the Rover design department. Rovers were perceived as well-engineered, but conservative. The Rover 12 P2 returned to production in 1947, for just over a year, followed by the P3, a traditionally-styled car resembling the P2. The modern-style postwar car appeared in 1949, the four-door Rover 75 P4, followed by the Rover 60 and 90 in 1953, the 75 Mk II in 1954, 105 in 1956, 100 in 1959, and the last two P4s were the 95 and 110. In 1958 the P5 was launched, known at the time as the 3 Litre saloon, followed by the P5 four-door Coupe, made in 1963-65. In 1967 the 3? Litre saloon and Coupe were launched as the P5B ('B' for the Buick V8 engine). The P6, or Rover 2000, was an entirely new design, launched in 1963. In 1966 Rover merged with Leyland Group, and in 1968 became part of British Leyland. The V8 engine powered the Rover 3500 P6 from 1967. The SD1 3500 hatchback of 1976 was entirely new. The SD3, or Rover 200, was launched in 1984, based on the Honda Ballade and built at Longbridge; the booted version was the Rover 400. In 1986 the Honda Legend-based Rover 800 replaced the SD1. British Aerospace bought the car division of BL in 1988, selling 'Rover Group' to BMW in 1994. In 1993 the Rover 600 was a version of the Accord built in the UK by Honda, with different exterior sheet metal. Under BMW control in 1998, Rover launched a new car to replace the Honda-based 800 and 600. It incorporated 'retro' design features recalling the P4, which were not obvious to every buyer. Originally planned as a range of three cars, large, medium and small, only the mid-sized 75 went into production. An estate car version followed. In 1999 the Rover 25 was launched, a facelifted 200, and the 400 series was facelifted as the 45. The tooling for the Rover saloon cars ended up in China.
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