Well, it was going swimmingly for my 214: another year’s MoT, some serious mileage in just three days and plenty of admiring comments at the Pride of Longbridge gathering so it goes without saying that, to quote the title of that brilliant Jack Nicholson film, ‘something’s got to give’.
It all started on the trip back to West Sussex from the Pride of Longbridge.I was slowing down for Beaconsfield Services on the M40 for a dash ‘n’ splash (one of very few free facilities in today’s motorway money pits) when I noticed an ever-so slightly spongy brake pedal. A quick look under the bonnet showed no noticeable drop in brake fluid so I put it down to my imagination and the fact that both I and my mate, who was riding shotgun, were totally knackered.
The car wasn’t used the following Sunday so, by the time Monday came along, I was surprised to find that my normally adequate brakes had deteriorated rather worryingly. On returning home later in the afternoon, the offside-rear drum was removed to find a badly weeping brake cylinder, a new one was sourced locally and the remaining corners bled up with fresh DOT4. I was lucky to discover that the fluid leak had not yet contaminated the healthy-looking brake shoes.
The next problem arose last week. Over the past few months I have noticed the tailgate getting more and more reluctant to close- now it’s got to the point where two hands and an almighty slam are needed. Various attempts were made to cure this including re-aligning the tailgate, adjusting the plate on the boot lip and moving the latch mechanism but all were to no avail. Then, one afternoon, the hatch just would not shut – much shouting, swearing and slamming followed and, eventually, it closed.
You really need to be careful on the R8 shape 200 series. The tailgate glass is bonded to the frame and, over time, the seal goes hard and brittle. This often causes the glass to unseat from the tailgate frame and leak water into the boot. In extreme cases, I have seen the rear window shatter into a million pieces caused by flexing of the glass. The rear windows are also very difficult to refit correctly – any Glass Fitter will tell you that even the professionals hate doing them as the glass needs to perfectly aligned using special plastic widgets – so, if you think your 200 needs a new boot catch, get it done right away!
OK, so that brings me to today. Driving back from an interview in Surrey, I got snagged up in a humongous traffic jam on the M23 caused by a new Focus and a Vauxhall Insignia deciding to act as magnets. I managed to get two miles in an hour and ten minutes and then, as if by magic, the traffic just moved again. A quick comfort stop with a nosebag courtesy of Burglar King at Pease Pottage Services followed and after coming out of the building my heart sank at the sight of a pinky red trickle coming from the front end of my car!
Obviously, the cooling system working overtime (I too was a big fan of XTC) had caused the radiator to give up the ghost. The expansion tank was still plenty full and the actual leak was very minor so, being blessed with above average mechanical knowledge, a calculated decision to plod on home via Crawley was made. A quick call to Euro Car Parts sourced me a brand new Nissens radiator for under £50 including VAT. Closing the bonnet, two grubby lads walked passed and made a pithy remark about my car. They proceeded to climb into a new-looking Transit drop side which promptly refused point blank to start – that cheered me up no end.
Having worked on, sold and owned plenty of Rover cars, many of these marques radiators fail at a very early age (especially 200 and 400s) so imagine my surprise to find the name Llanelli Radiators and a date stamp of 1989 on the side casing of the old radiator which, for the record, had about 60% of its cooling fins remaining.
To be fair, I have known the rad needed changing right from when I bought the car so, like my Murphys, I wasn’t bitter. The original fan switch was a right bugger to remove and needed to be refitted with a dab of RTV to avoid a leak. The new radiator is slightly thicker than the original so a touch more coolant than normal is required to fill the system but that’s no bad thing at all. The earlier K-Series block is also a damn sight easier and quicker to bleed I may add.
I just hope that, as the old adage states, things always happen in threes!