1000 miles in three days

Mike Humble

That’s nothing! I hear the reader cry! To do 1000 miles in three days in a car, but okay then, how about if the car is coming up to being 21 years old?

As readers of discerning taste may note, my daily hack is a Rover 214SLi, of which is now in its 21st year and have owned for a shade over one. The longer I own the dear thing, the more it impresses me.

Some members of my family worked on the great LNER latterly, British Rail Eastern Region, and in the case of my late grandfather, for a staggering 45 years! These people and others have told me that in the days of steam trains, locomotives of the same class rode, performed and sounded different from each other. Some drivers even went so far as to say they each had there own characteristics and behavioural pattern – a mind of its own if you like. My point being that I’m almost coming to the conclusion my little R8 has a mind of its own and refuses to die or give up.

Over the years but excluding company smokers, I have owned personally almost 40 cars (not all at the same time I may add) in my 21 years of driving. It’s been a very eclectic mix ranging size wise from a Mini 1100 Special to a Saab 9000. From Austin through to Vauxhall with two Ladas along the way, I’ve sampled many many cars, but I have always come back to British metal. My 214 is the fourth 200 and third R8, and was bought on nothing more than a temporary solution to my past redundancy and loss of company steed, or so I thought.

I really wish that I had kept a before and after photograph album, but I didn’t because genuinely, I had no intentions of keeping it long term. Over the past 13 months of ownership, with the exception of wear and tear items, the car has cost me virtually nothing, well I say nothing, the fuel injector was replaced along with the filter but that’s been it. Every morning it starts on the button and gets on with the task of taking me wherever I point it, it’s been by far, the most dependable car I have ever known.

Yes some things drive me potty, take the interior noise levels for example. Driving at a constant 70mph gives a boom from the engine note that’s not exactly pleasant, but 5mph either way from this and it’s smooth as can be. I find the cabin narrow by modern standards, and it really needs power steering. Fuelling up is an art that requires the nozzle of the pump at a precise angle to avoid it clicking off, the fuel gauge lies like a cheap Rolex too, the needle hits the red but somehow the car will still go another 80 miles, an indicated ¼ tank is nearer half if you see my point.

Unlike a Sierra I once owned, when the needle went so much as anywhere near the red it would fart and cut out.

No, the 214 is by a long shot the best car in the world. The low speed ride is hard and lumpy, rear legroom is not the best and the rear suspension design intrudes into the boot but you know? I couldn’t care less. A car is like a knife and fork, its something you need and a means to an end but I suppose I’m lucky, in over 20 years of flitting around the motor trade my passion and enthusiasm for any mode of transport with wheels has refused to die.

So onto the “crux” of my ramble, 1000 miles in three days, well warts ‘n’ all this is how it went…..

Thursday 15 April

My boss asks me to do some errands for him running around Sussex and Hampshire picking up spare parts and dropping off drivers. No big deal, but the pool car is off the road, so he hands me his Barclaycard and off in my Rover still missing its rubbing strips and covered in grey zinc primer (Pride of Longbridge event is two days away). The day consists of a two trips to Burgess Hill, Bolney in Hampshire and onto Fareham near Southampton then back to Billingshurst. Upon arriving home, the dust is cleared away and some coats of Tempest grey paint are applied.

Friday 15 April

More running around but this time the back seats are folded flat for a boot load of second hand bus seat cushions from Sevenoaks in Kent. Arriving back at work its time for another trip to Burgess Hill and some gull wing coach mirrors to a painter in Littlehampton. Once again, the car is cleaned for the door trims to be re-fitted and the car T-Cut and polished, inside valet and the faded plastic bumpers brought back to life. I come in from the drive at 10.00pm!

Saturday 17 April

The big Longbridge gathering day. I’m up at 6.00am to give the car a once over. My long suffering missus is up reluctantly making me a packed lunch while I’m outside my house in leafy Horsham with chamois leather getting the morning dew off the windows. I’m on the road at 7.30 heading for South Birmingham 156 miles away. What a brilliant day, I was touched to see so many people from all walks of life and all ages including a lady in her 70s with her 1978 Allegro Super.

All through the 997 miles my car never once missed a beat, didn’t use any oil and didn’t use any water. Suffice to say that I have more confidence in this car than my partner’s three-year old Golf TDi and is a credit to the family who owned her prior to me that lovingly cared for the car in her first 19 years as the stuffed A4 envelope of bills and receipts will testify.

What impressed me the most about Pride of Longbridge was the fact that everybody had a story about their car. Some were overdone, some were wrecks and some were in such good order that I would be scared to drive them. One thing was true, everybody I met and spoke to was passionate about everything from Austin through to Wolseley. To say I felt proud to have played a small part in the event would be a fitting way to close and I hope everybody who attended, even those who came by foot enjoyed themselves and maybe raised a glass to ‘The Austin’, gone but by no means forgotten.

Posted in: AROnline Blogs
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

4 Comments on "1000 miles in three days"

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  1. Rob Blair says:

    I love this little car. These R8s are such good value for money. My K reg 420 has been in my possession for well over a year now, and has never gone wrong. Love it. Don’t see many of these pre facelift ones about now either. Quick question…..on the really early ones like this, the 214SLi was available without electric windows….so walnut trim aside, what is the difference between this and an Si? Congratulations on a wonderful little car 🙂

  2. Mike Humble Mike Humble says:

    Si to Sli Differences:

    Walnut Trims to facia and doors
    Plusher Wheeltrims
    Manual Tilt & Slide Sunroof
    Central Door Locking
    Heated & Electric Door Mirrors
    More Paint Colour Options

  3. Rob Blair says:

    Ahaa that’s cleared up some of the confusion. Thank you. So late model (M and N reg) Sis are basically the same as the early SLis then really. Cheers mate, and all the best with this little car. Its a wonderful little example 🙂

  4. Sector-9 says:

    I’ve owned three of the R8 400 series and they’ve all been good. These were the cars that turned Rover’s image around from the previous rot-boxes such as the original 200 series (though I did like it’s clean angular lines); unfortunately the later model that replaced it in the mid-nineties wasn’t as tough.

    Even now, in 2013, I’d still buy a good condition R8 if it was sensibly priced considering the age. I’d have loved the tourer with an L-series under the bonnet!

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