Rover 220 Tomcat

Once these Tomcats ruled the 'hood, but shockingly just 103 remain. We find a mint survivor and get it purring

Words: Daniel Bevis Photography: Neil Fraser

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hen it comes to naming cars, America has always understood the PR potential of thrill-seeking monikers that stir the soul and gird the loins. Charger. Superbird. Jetfire. It all makes the name ‘220 Coupé’ seem rather pedestrian, doesn’t it?

But wait… there’s another title for this car. An unofficial one, admittedly, but much as everyone insists on referring to the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 as the ‘Daytona’, so pretty much everybody calls this Rover ‘Tomcat’.

It was the model’s project name, and immediately calls to mind thrusting US Navy jets ricocheting sonic booms across the Persian Gulf. Not that this rakish early-1990s coupé required such an injection of hedonistic excitement, of course – the flagship 220 Turbo model was the fastest and most powerful production car Rover had ever built. And for a brand with so much heritage and such a vibrant competition history, this was exciting stuff. 

The Tomcat was available in various flavours, ranging from the cost-conscious 1.6-litre variant to the naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre car, which were usurped by the later 1996-onward cars’ 1.8-litre VVC motor. But it was the 220 Coupé Turbo that grabbed the headlines and angried up the blood, and it’s that very car that we’ve found to play with today.

At this moment in time, there are just 103 Rover 220 Coupé Turbos functioning on Britain’s roads, although they do have a keen following and strong enthusiast support. Time to find out if they're worth the adoration...