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Staples2Naples, 2004

2: Preparations

23 Jun 2004

Well, I have signed up and am looking to build up a team.

Finding a car will probably be a task and a half. Given that we have signed up under the name “Team austin-rover.co.uk”, that means we are now slightly limited to what kind of car we go for. Mind you, that adds to the appeal really. Think about it. Anyone can buy a Mazda 626 or Toyota Camry and know that they will get there in one piece without anything going wrong. Go down the Rover route, and you open yourself up to getting there in style… assuming that you get there. Reliability is more likely to be a lottery, and that kind of unpredictability is going to add to the fun. I’m looking forward to the challenge and hope to keep everyone informed as to how the preparations are going.

24 Jun 2004

Our first sponsor: SBS Commercial. Many thanks!

25 Jun 2004

Alongside SBS Commercial, we have managed to encourage Laseread to sponsor us. This is teriffic news, as it means that Team austin-rover.co.uk will be in a good position to tackle the Staples2Naples challenge successfully.

We are still on the look-out for a suitable car, but at least we now have a short list. Hopefully, by next week, we will have wheels…

Please keep the donations and offers for help rolling in, so that we can make the event a bigger success.

29 Jun 2004

One of the less pleasant aspects of finding a car for £100 is the dreaded jaunt to the car auctions. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy auctions as much as the next petrolhead, but the problem lies with restraining myself. You see, once those cars start rolling through, I am bound to want more than one, and hey – look at that, what a bargain! Even if it cost more and was much newer than what I was looking for. So, there was a bit of apprehension that I would go looking for a £100 Maestro and come back loaded with £1000-worth of Rover 800 Coupe. Much to the consternation of she-who-must-be-obeyed…

Then there is the car trade’s seedy underbelly: the bombsite lot that sells nothing but cheap heaps. Again, I love them all… the exaggerated claims by pitch owners, as well as a cornucopia of old-aged cars, which to my eyes, should all find good homes, makes for wonderful entertainment. Citroen BXes, Volvo 440s and old Escorts are the bread-and-butter of these places, but the Rover R8 is getting there now, and would have been my place to go looking.

However, thanks to the unprecedented generosity of Rover 800 Tickford owner, Scott Woodcock, we don’t need to go on such potentially heartbreaking ventures. You see, Scott’s one-and-only car-love is his 800, and that means that his original car, a Rover 216GTi 16V, is now surplus to requirements. Having spotted my plea for a cheap car, he immediately got in touch, “How does a free 216GTi (twin cam 5dr) sound? I’m terrible at selling cars, and I kept this one for ages, and I’m not ever really going to use it (decided to get the 820 Tickford up as soon as poss), and rather than try and sell it (which is beyond my usual level of effort), I could let it go to you since its for a good cause…”

Talk about understatement! Do I want it? Oh yes please! How could I possibily refuse? After all, it now looks like we will be able to get back from Naples (as well as get there in the first place) thanks to that lovely, strong, reliable and unbreakable Honda engine.

The car
1990 Rover 216GTi 16V

Engine: 1590cc, DOHC, 128bhp
Performance: 135mph (wind-assisted), 0-60 in not many seconds
Fuel consumption: 20-25mpg
Total cost: £0.00 🙂

Kindly donated by Scott Woodcock.

Scott, we salute you… once the clutch is sorted, and some sponsors logos afixed, I reckon we are not just in with a chance of completing the event, but also of winning it (you can cover a lot of ground with 128bhp). And the better we do, the more money we can raise for charity.


Honda powered to Naples – it’s a no-brainer, thanks to Scott Woodcock. Further pictures in the gallery…

30 Jun 2004

And now we have a driver line-up too! It is with pleasure that I can announce that we have an international line-up: Alexander Boucke and Declan Berridge will be joining Team austin-rover.co.uk for the event – they must both be masochists at heart. The combination of Alexander’s supreme map-reading skills and Declan’s long-distance driving ability, we are looking in good shape to tackle some of the more involved challenges that Staples2Naples has to offer.

The team
Keith Adams Alexander Boucke Declan Berridge

So, we have a good team and a good car… we will be trying very hard to push this heap into a winning position!

The team’s entry can now be found on the Staples2Naples team page, we’re team number 73…

18 Jul 2004

Well, at long last, the 216 GTi 16V is back at austin-rover.co.uk Towers. After an event-free trip back from rural Oxfordshire, the car has quickly wormed its way into our affections. The engine has that revvy, tinny, unburstable nature of an old Honda, and thankfully, it still seems to be putting out all of its 128bhp. I cannot be sure of the fact because the clutch is indeed, knackered, and will be replaced in the next week-or-so by the Official Staples2Naples mechanic (and back-up driver) Brian Gunn. This is a good job, because if you apply any more than half pressure on the throttle cable, the revs soar upwards… Not good for Stelvio.

Other than that, the car is an absolute peach, and we have to thank Scott Woodcock again for his incredible generosity for donating the car to the cause. The best thing about it has to be the supportive seats, commanding driving position and tight, rattle-free interior. Handling is also very good, and it is obvious that this 96,000-mile car has not had a hard life, because you can feel it through the steering every time you take it around a corner. In fact, in the chassis department, it seems leagues ahead of my own trusty 400 Tourer.

Other good news. The information pack has turned up from the S2N organisers and we should be booking hotels in the next couple of days or so. The challenge looks… challenging!

23 Jul 2004

We’ve encouraged another sponsor to join the cause: The Energy Brokers, Limited, who does what it says on the tin: Broker energy. Thanks to both for their generosity…

17 Aug 2004

Just before I went on holiday, Brian Gunn and Stuart Bishop managed to get some time to replace the GTi’s clutch. The job had been straightforward for the guys – plenty of tea and not too much swearing had the gearbox off, and the clutch in. ‘Box replaced and the suspension put back in, the job looked a good ‘un. Certainly, the boys did themselves proud…

Itching to have a go in the car, I was aware that the oil did resemble lumpy black porridge, and could we change it? Brian ducked under the car before I had even finished the sentence and was already removing the sump nut… Oil drained, filter replaced (not easy on the D16 engine thanks to its not-so-thoughtful filter location), Brian set about screwing the ‘nut back in. Just after making a comment about how well-engineered these Hondas are and, “isn’t it nice when things…. just work”, disaster struck. The sump nut wasn’t going in. It had been threaded. Arrgh!

It seems that someone earlier in the car’s life had stripped the nut, and decided that the best remedy would be to simply Loctite it back in…

Bitterly disappointed at the prospect of no drive, all sorts of plans involving violence and destruction formulated in my own mind. Brian on the hand, unperturbed by the whole affair, simply said… “I’ll go and get another sump”. Which he did. Yahoo, Brian!

So, the next day, and after the sump was replaced, I took the Rover for a spin.

…and it reminded me once again why I so love these little Rovers. Roomy, eager, a great driving position… and in the case of this GTi, it came with the added bonuses of a rorty and strong engine, and tweaked chassis. Excellent stuff. On the rutted backroads near where I live, the thing felt so composed, so planted, that I really began to feel good about our prospects of doing well in the Staples2Naples challenge.

Work will continue on our car in the following weeks, and I have done a few small jobs on it myself today. It now has a reasonable CD player in it (found at the back of my garage!) and a hole-less parcel shelf. In fact, it’s becoming such a nice car it almost seems a shame to thrash it to within an inch of its life. Almost.


This snap was taken on our stand at Peterborough, where the car was wearing some makeshift laminated site logos on its doors and bonnet; these are due to be replaced by some decent magnetic signs in time for the trip, by when it should also be displaying the logos of the companies who are sponsoring us.

24 Aug 2004

Took the 216 for its first test in anger since the new clutch (and sump) was fitted last month. On a 100-mile journey up the motorway, the Rover proved faultless. Acceleration was sprightly enough, and although the gearing is on the low side (4,000rpm equates to an indicated 72mph), the Honda’s inherent smoothness as high crank speeds means that this is no chore. In fact, it seems to be a positive advantage, as the engine is right in the sweet-spot of its power band on the motorway, meaning you have on-tap acceleration at the flick of your right big toe.

The most amusing aspect of this 216GTi is that its rev-limiter comes in at an indicated 7,800rpm, so even though the real power arrives as late as 4,500rpm, you still have a reasonably wide power band to play with (certainly compared with your average turbo-diesel). It takes some time to acclimatise to this, especially if you’re used to bigger, torquier engines, but once in the correct frame of mind, it is a hoot.

Handling is also on the tidy side of interesting. Damping seems much stronger than it is on standard R8s, and although this particular car has 91,000 miles on the clock it still handles tightly and true to how Rover intended (i.e., some understeer, followed by lift-off oversteer when provoked). Brakes are not quite up to the job, but this seems a Rover family trait (certainly during the era this car was made, anyway).

Preparations continue, and seeing as we are still well within budget (the car cost £Zero; the clutch was £25; oil and filter, £10; and a new rear shelf and back lights, £10), a full (plugs and brakes) service will be following shortly. All that remains to be done is to get the PGM-FI relay off and re-soldered… (we have an intermittant starting problem).

Oh, and we still need a spare distributor…

Posted in: Banger rallies, Events
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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