Car of the Month : June 2007

It’s been a while since we featured a modified car for the monthly honour at austin-rover.co.uk, and thought it was a situation that needed amending.

The car in question is a pretty Tomcat, owned by Mark Gomer, who actually pretty much bought the car by accident, then fell in love with it subsequently. His modification process has been long and comprehensive, but there’s no doubt that it has been a labour of love…

Pictures: Keith Adams and Mark Gomer Words: Keith Adams


Heat seeking missile…


Roversport front bumper is complemented by the 17-inch TSW alloys…

THE early 1990s were a very exciting time for Rover – either the company was being lauded by an adoring British press, or it was cooking up new and exciting niche cars in order to bolster its range… Hang on a second, we hear you say – the British press was being nice to Rover? Oh yes. Following the launch of the R8 in 1989, it seemed the company could do no wrong – with even the Metro taking the spoils in the What Car? car of the year competition.

These were exciting times, and the company could do no wrong… even the hard-bitten PR people get dewey-eyed at the memory of the the product launches at the time, because for the first time ever, it seemed like nothing could go wrong.

Sadly, it was a brief purple period in the company’s history, and by the time of BMW’s takeover in 1994, things were already moving away from Rover. When the Tomcat hit the streets in 1993, it didn’t get the easiest of rides – the trouble was that the press tended to focus on the range-topping 200bhp turbo version, and that was probably the most flawed of the lot.

Whereas the delightful 1.6- and normally aspirated 2-litre versions were nicely balanced and well appointed, the tyre-smoking T16 Turbo version earned itself a reputation for shredding tyres and torquesteer. It wasn’t entirely justified, of course, as the car possessed tons of front end grip thanks to that clever TorSen differential, but in truth it was (and remains) a bit of an overpowered proposition. That’s not to say it wasn’t (and isn’t) a load of fun – just a bit of a handful compared with similarly priced rivals at the time. After all, the similarly powerful Calibra Turbo had the advantage of four wheel drive.


Retro-fitted Smokestone leather interior looks good – and feels better…

And if we’re being brutally honest, it’s nowhere near the problem the press made it out to be – but we know how much motoring journalists like to exaggerate…

The Turbo cast a long shadow over the rest of the range – which remains in place to this day. However, to ignore the lower powered versions would be to do the Tomcat a disservice, because they are so sweet and well balanced.

Today, coming on to a decade since the Tomcat, it’s still very much in vogue with younger buyers, who appreciate the smart styling, and accessible pricing.

Mark Gomer is one such owner – someone who literally fell into Tomcat ownership by accident, but now he’s there, he’s in for the long haul. He’s had his motor since March 2004, and as can be seen from the photos, he’s spent considerable time and effort getting it into perfect shape. That has meant considerable visual modification – which to our eyes seem to be pretty well judged.

However, as well as the visual programme of improvements, Mark’s lavished plenty of time and effort into getting the oily bits running just right – and for all those K-Series doubters out there, it’s well past 100,000 miles, and shows no sign of having its headgasket give way. There’s no substitute for regular maintenance…


Biggest visual mod are the rear lamp clusters…

The thing is, this Tomcat might be pampered – Mark enjoys polishing it at every opportunity – but it is also used as its maker intended, having racked up 50,000 miles in three years. Mark tells the his Tomcat’s story, “I bought R183 VKL in March 2004 with just 53k on the clock and in completely standard trim, and by accident.

“The garage next door to where I bought the Rover was a Japanese import specialist, and I was originally after a Mazda MX-3 V6. After two months of continuously being fed a load of rubbish about it being on its way, I’d had enough. Still annoyed after leaving the showroom, I went next door and my mother pointed the Rover out to me. I’ve always quite liked them, so I thought I’d have a sit in it. I was given free reign to take it for a test drive, and within ten minutes, I decided it was what I wanted.

“Since buying the car, I’ve slowly and gradually been upgrading and changing parts to make it unique but subtle. The main aim of the modifying is to make it slightly different, but for people to see that it is still a Rover Coupe – so that they spend longer looking at the little touches as to where the changes lie.”

We’d agree that Mark’s achieved those aims most handsomely, and the car’s a credit to his hard work. However, the work’s not yet finished, “Money permitting, I’m hoping to have fitted a T16 turbo engine over the winter, to give it the go to match its looks,” he added. We can’t wait to see that…


The front-end benfits enormously from losing the front grille.


Specifications

Car: Rover 216SE Coupe
Year: 1998
Drivetrain: 1590cc K-Series five-speed manual (119bhp @7159rpm)
Colour: Tahiti Blue


Strut brace and induction kit are the obvious modifications.

Modifications:

BMC enclosed induction kit
Custom Powerflow cat back exhaust
52mm throttle body
Lowered 35mm on KYB springs
EBC brake discs
EBC Greenstuff pads
Afterburner rear lights/blended into bodywork
Fully colour coded rubbing strips, rear diffuser and Japanese specification rear ‘plate plinth
Roversport front bumper and grille
Renault Laguna front splitter
17” TSW Ribs in Anthracite on Goodyear F1 Eagle tyres
Alpine CDX 9850i Ipod head unit.
Pioneer front speakers
Fusion 10-inch sub
Fusion 350w amp
OMP front strut brace
De-cat pipe
Full Smokestone leather interior retro fitted.
Electro-luminescent dials and heater dials.


Gallery

A closer look at the work Mark’s done on his Tomcat:


How it was when it was bought in March 2004.


The front end receiving its new parts – these were experimental times for Mark…


The instrument pack is visually arresting.


Rear lights are a work of art…

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.

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