Car of the month : September 2010
The Rover 200/400 looks crisp and exciting over two decades on from its launch. Early ones are getting rare now, and Mike Humble’s example is one of the best…
Words and pictures: Mike Humble
The high watermark
A lovely car in a lovely(ish) setting…
I NEVER get emotionally tied to cars. Yes I enjoy them and even sometimes make some money from them. But I always try to distance myself when it comes to feelings, cars on a whole are like a knife and fork or a ham sandwich – essential items you can’t do without. Every now and again something comes along and tugs at your heartstrings or earns your trust and respect.
A while ago I faced redundancy and my company Passat Sport 2.0 TDi saloon was taken away from me, with a couple of grand to spare, I knuckled down to the drudgery that is buying a second hand car. I rang various trader friends, thumbed my way through the trader rags and surfed the net – nothing jumped out and caught my eye.
Even though I do have an eBay account, I wont buy or sell cars via this method, my experience with it has given me a nasty taste in my mouth, besides, I love the haggling of a car purchase. I did have a scroll through the bay and fell upon a local but very early Rover 214 that had a few hours to go which was taxed, tested and sitting at £105. The owner had no feedback but did have a contact number. Following a call to the lady I flew up the road to have a gander at said Rover and with the exception of it looking like it had never had a wash or hoover since Hitler was a Lance Corporal as it were, it was a darling of a car even the original handbook pack with all the literature was present along with big wad of bills and receipts for all previous work done on the car, even its number plates were original.
It needed a new clutch sometime soon, but what the hell, I wanted it so much, and besides, it came in at over £1800 under budget. I had a quick drive of the car and told the seller I would return home to bid. The car became mine for £150 and I returned to collect with the cash the very same day. On driving the car it was obvious it needed some fettling as it had been sat around for some months unused. It was coughing and spluttering all over the place under hard acceleration but I new it wouldn’t take much to put right.
This K-Series engine has been as solid as a rock, and is impeccably clean.
The roof lining was hanging down, the parcel shelf was missing and the rear door cards had been eaten by the owners terriers. In the end it took a whole weekend of scrubbing and scouring to get rid of the dog hairs and years of ground in dirt. The running problems were nothing more than knackered plug leads, a gummed up throttle body and lack of use. Following these items being dealt with and a good hiding with some redex in the tank, the cars performance and power soon came back.
A brand new Valeo clutch was sourced and fitted along with some decent front struts to cure the sloppy handling. The roof lining caused a major headache, my car has a manual roof which are very rare to find now, so I had to source a roof lining from a later car and carefully cut a hole for the winder mechanism. A parcel shelf was sourced and the car became my daily driver.
Running problems over the last 18 months have included a faulty injector, crank sensor failure and a wonky coolant sender unit. The car never uses oil, water and returns well over 40mpg on a good run. The early 214s were built to a seriously high standard, the underseal on the floor must be 3mm thick at least. I can honestly say that in the 15,000 miles I have covered, I have encountered more hassle and faults with new cars. I even talk to it when no one is around!
But the prospect of of a 2002 Rover 25 car has come along, and this one could well have to go, although I don’t really want to see it go. And in fact, I’d be just as happy to keep it. Keith Adams drove the 214Si when he came down to collect his Rover 3500 after I’d given it a full service and he was ‘stunned’ at how good it felt. And he’s right to think that – it drives just as tightly as it did when it rolled out of Longbridge, and not only that, but it uses no oil or coolant, and the gasket is in fine fettle. But in 1989, with the closed deck design, the K-Series was as good as it got. It still is today.