This R8′s alright, mate…

Mike Humble

Early R8 looks tidy and original, and makes the perfect banger

Following redundancy last year and my nearly new Passat 2.0TDI going back, I found myself looking for a second-hand car to keep me mobile. After the usual trawling through the weekly inkies such as Auto Trader, I came upon a Rover 214 on eBay that was literally a few miles up the road in leafy Surrey.

The car was a Silver/Tempest 214SLi on a G plate with a few hours to go and one bid at £102. The car had a dribble of tax and a few months MoT and, going by the pictures, looked fairly tidy. There was a contact number on the advert so I called to ask a few questions to put my mind at rest before I committed to buying a 20 year old banger.

Following a lengthy call to a lovely old lady, it transpired that the only reason the car was being sold was because she had recently been widowed and her late husband had left, in his passing, a fairly decent motor pool comprising of a Mercedes E-class estate, a Harley Davidson Soft Tail and a newish Hyundai.

I felt confident in bidding, tapped away on the keyboard and left the system to do its bit. A few hours later and for the princely sum of £150, I was the owner of a G plate R8 shape Rover 214. Seeing the car in the metal, I was stunned to find it was pretty much as described and mechanically superb though the interior was a little sad. The car had been used as nothing more than transport for three dogs, one of which was a long haired retriever. The roof lining was falling down, the parcel shelf was missing and the rear door cards had been half eaten.

What impressed me most though, was the huge fat A4 envelope for every bill, every MoT, every bulb, nut, screw & wiper blade going right back to the car’s initial purchase. All of it in date order, even the MoT advisory sheets were lovingly stapled to the Test Certificates. Oh, and to cap it all, the original Rover/Phillips branded radio was still there. Funds were exchanged and I drove the 10 miles back to my house in the dark and the rain. The car was not a happy one, it coughed, barked and hiccoughed whenever you tried to plant the throttle, so I guessed that I would be investing a few quid into the car.

The next day I went out on the front with my mug of tea to see what I had bought in more detail. A quick inspection showed me that the plugs were a bit grubby and the butterfly in the throttle housing was caked in gunk. Armed with a small wire brush, an old toothbrush and a can of carb cleaner, I cleaned up the plugs, the throttle valve and fuel injector. According to the paperwork a new water pump and cambelt were fitted a very short while back so I took the liberty of removing the belt covers to be sure. The car had, in fact, only covered 350 miles in the last two years under the previous owner.

A few hours worth of tinkering and fettling followed and I was back on the road to see if she ran any better. The car still seemed a bit lazy, though many times better than before so I threw a good dose of Red-Ex into the tank and took to the local A roads for an Italian tune up. A couple of hours worth of high revs in 2nd & 3rd started to make a difference. After a week of ragging the life out of her, she stopped smoking, the idle became stable and the zingy nature for which the K series is reknowned for came back.

A parcel shelf and roof lining (the latter not being a job for the faint hearted) were sourced for a total cost of £20. Door cards were also found, though sadly not a perfect colour match, for a cost £15. The clutch was biting at the very top of the pedal and owing to it being the original with 110,000 miles on it, I sourced a brand new Valeo kit via eBay for £38 including postage and fitted it. All in all, I now have a car that drives far far better than your average 20 year old jalopy.

Indeed, so confident was I in the car,that I gave her a quick check over and put her in for MoT when the old one expired and she passed with only 1 advisory item, that being an ageing outer CV boot. In nine months the car has covered 13000 miles and, in that time, has required no coolant and only half a pint of oil. The 1400cc 16 valve unit has never had the head lifted since new according to the wad of paperwork, runs like new and returns well over 40 mpg on the open road. These early cars had very stiff engine/gearbox mounts so the engine is always vocal, especially at high speed but the note is not unpleasant.

There you have it, then,  my 20 year old car that’s more than proved itself in nine months of daily and hard useage. It’s my third 214 over the years – I previously owned  ’94 and ’95 214SEis. I’m, in fact, no stranger to Rovers: other drivers over the years include a Marina, an Ital, 2 Montegos, three Maestros, a bubble shape 216, a 620ti, a Mini 1100 and a Metro with only the Ital being a troublesome car.

The  sadly inevitable demise of Rover was a shame but many proud owners and websites like this will keep the spirit alive!

Keith Adams


  1. You still see loads of these about in great condition. I wouldn’t mind a Rover coupe or 3dr GTi for a runaround but most of them have been trashed by chavs, which is a shame. Nice looking car, by the way.

  2. A great looking car that proves the point that Rover did make quality cars that could stand the test of time. How inviting is that interior? I’m sure you’ll have years of trouble-free (relative for a 20 yr old) motoring.

  3. Brings back memories of my 1994 214Si, which was my first ‘proper’ car back in 2000. Look after it!

  4. We have one of a similar age with 150,000 miles on and the head has never been off that either. Makes you wonder how people manage to break them…

  5. What a little gem. How many Astras or Escorts of similar age would have stood the test of time so well?

    Mike’s story also supports a theory that I’ve held for a long time, namely that K Series only became problematic after the cost cutting that saw plastic inlet manifolds etc. introduced with R3.

  6. @Tim Burgess

    Thanks for the compliment. Sadly the interior originality has been tarnished somewhat by my fitting of a Pioneer CD player. This was because the original Rover/Phillips radio cassette decided to chew up my album “Velveteen” by Trasvision Vamp (joke)

  7. I used to have a J reg 214SLi and it was a great car. Had it for 3 1/2 years whilst I was at Uni and a bit afterwards. It regularly used to take me from Portsmouth to Liverpool to see my girlfriend (now wife). I found it used quite a bit of oil but never really had any trouble with the car except for two broken alternators.

    Ironically, at a shade under 114k, I swapped it for a 416SLi HHR model and it was never the same, never felt as solid, was far less economical and just wasn’t quite the same.

    Overall probably the second best car I have owned and only pushed into second because my current Focus has been owned by me for 7 years and over 110k miles and been utterly faultless.

    I admit that my 214SLi was deeply uncool at the time of my ownership with the beige interior but it was very comfortable and felt like a really classy motor for not a lot of wedge. I agree, though, that they are a bit noisy on the motorway.

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