Our Cars : Meet the Fleet No.6 – 1995 Rover 214 SEi

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Craig Cheetham

rovers 827 214 061 (800x600)

The problem with owning a rather vast fleet of vehicles is that sometimes you forget exactly what you own…

I hadn’t forgotten about this one, per se, and to tell you the truth I wanted to take it to the R8 25th birthday bash at Gaydon a couple of months ago, but as with all best laid plans it never happened – not the fault of the car, nor of the driver, but of simple circumstance, as my lovely 214 SEi has been out on loan for for about half the time I’ve owned it.

Craig's 214 - a little bit of posh in a small package
Craig’s 214 – a little bit of posh in a small package

It’s currently providing sterling service as a stand-in learner vehicle for our childminder’s 18-year old daughter, who can’t use the family Passat for her driving practice because the VW has an electronic handbrake. It’s taking her a little longer than anticipated to pass her test, but while the car is safely stored in her parents’ garage and its tax, insurance and other costs are paid for by them, I’m happy to leave it there until such a time as it finds its way home… Indeed, I only feel compelled to introduce it here right now because I’m about to acquire another R8 (all will be revealed in good time) and that reminded me I needed to check up on this one…

Like many people on here, I’ve always been a fan of Rover’s second generation 200/400-Series. It’s a design that, in my view, epitomises the absolute best of the Rover/Honda collaborative years, even more so than the 800, which I adore for different reasons, and the 600, which was probably the best dynamic package from the collaboration, but in time has shown to be lacking the same durability and quality, particularly in terms of corrosion. The SEi wasn’t so much a run-out model, as perceived by many, but a ‘retail special’ – a showroom Christmas Tree of a car with all the bells and whistles that lifted it above anything rivals such as Ford and Vauxhall could provide for the aspirational, upwardly mobile middle-class motorist. A fellow enthusiast described it to me as the ‘Vanden Plas of the Nineties’, which I think is a nice way of putting it…

the 'Vanden Plas of the 90s', complete with Vitesse-style seats
the ‘Vanden Plas of the 90s’, complete with Vitesse-style seats

Mine’s a cracker. It’s not perfect, and to make it a show car it would need some of the panels re-lacquering to compensate for small areas of peeling, a minor scuff touching up on the back bumper and a couple of supermarket dings running under the iron, but overall it’s a very smart and presentable example, finished in Nightfire Red, which I’ve always believed to be the best colour for post-facelift R8s. Parked alongside my Charcoal 800 Vitesse, with their matching alloys and half-leather interiors, they’re a fine looking pair – and I find it hard to believe that each is fast approaching its 20th birthday. I was 17 when these cars were new, so it’s clear they must have left an impression on me.

Like so many of my cars, I never actually intended to buy this one. Back in August 2013, after returning from a year working in Australia, I acquired an F-plate Rover 820 Se Fastback off eBay, primarily as a short-term transport solution. What I acquired, though, was a much, much nicer car than I expected, and was significantly better than I expected for the sub-£500 asking price.

eBay fastback turned out to be mint. So mint, in fact, that a friend got me drunk and bought it off me...
eBay fastback turned out to be mint. So mint, in fact, that a friend got me drunk and convinced me to sell it…

The weekend after I bought it, I had a houseful of mates as we were driving in convoy to the BMC/BL Show in Peterborough. I won’t say it was love at first sight (though I suspect it may well have been), but my good friend John Marston-Jones, a serial BL/Rover owner, expressed an interest in buying it over a beer or two. After three or four beers, or possibly five or six, a deal had been done that involved me taking the SEi in part-exchange, but in need of a new windscreen.

We swapped cars a fortnight later at the Tatton Park Classic Vehicle Show – I’d already sourced a windscreen fitter local to Cheshire who did the job before my drive home for £112 all-in, which I can’t help but think is pretty good value. The windscreen fitter himself loved the car and remarked on its overall condition, and it’s understandable really. The 214 has covered just 46,000 miles from new (with a new head gasket before anyone asks), the alloys are unmarked, it has a host of interesting period accessories, such as genuine 200-Series overmats, headlamp protectors, rear sun blinds and number plates from the original supplying dealer, albeit with Nissan logos suggesting the car was bought there and traded back in after the dealer had changed brands.

M755SVR sports a Tomcat rear panel. I have a spoiler, too, but haven't got round to fitting it yet...
M755SVR sports a Tomcat rear panel. I have a spoiler, too, but haven’t got round to fitting it yet…

It drives brilliantly, too. A rattle from the front when I first bought it turned out to be nothing more sinister than a loose brake dust shield, and other than that I haven’t spent a penny on it in 14 months.

If anyone fancies a nice late R8, do let me know, because there’s another R8 coming my way very shortly, which isn’t as posh or as smart, but is a much rarer and earlier survivor. As such, I can’t justify keeping both, and I’d rather it stayed ‘in the family’ than was farmed out to eBay – and if you’re a genuine AROnliner, I’m happy to let it go for mates’ rates on the promise of a good and genuine home. It’s completely rot free, looks sensational from 10 paces, and is a genuine low owner, low mileage car that still keeps pace with modern traffic. It’ll be up for grabs as soon as our babysitter has passed her test, that is, as apparently she intends to buy something a little more sexy than her ‘grandad car’. The youth of today, etc, etc…

214 SEi will be for sale soon, to make way for a rare R8 that I'm in the process of rescuing... Anyone interested?
214 SEi will be for sale soon, to make way for a rare R8 that I’m in the process of rescuing… Anyone interested?

 

Craig Cheetham

A serial impulsive car purchaser, Craig has had his name on over 200 V5s over the past 20 years. 10 per cent of those have been either 800s or Austin Allegros, with between 10 and 20 cars usually owned at any one time. Started out as a local newspaper journalist then worked for car mags including Auto Express, Classic Car Weekly and Land Rover Owner. Worked inside the car industry for a decade as an employee of General Motors, now works for a news distribution agency. Home based, which is dangerously convenient for further irrational heap purchases. Lover of all makes of car since childhood, with a particular leaning towards Austin-Rover... Father of three boys, so hoping to spread the car love. Other passions include rugby union, travelling and eating out.

14 Comments

  1. Someone needs to point out to your childminder that the 214 SEi is one of the best cars of the 1990s and a Passat just won’t cut it as the ‘Chariot of the Cheetham Children!

    • Ben, fear not. The Cheetham children aren’t allowed near any of the classic ARG fleet. Their usual chariot is a 2000 Discovery Series II in posh ES spec, no less. The leather seats wipe clean, for a start…

  2. I think the 214 SEi possibly best typifies Rover’s 1990s high water mark.

    This one, Craig, looks simply great – inside and out. Don’t think I’d be loaning it out as a learner car !

  3. My uncle bought a 214SEi new in BRG. It turned out to be his last car before he passed away and it was given to my cousin who px’d it within days for an Astra!!!

    I was livid. I offered him top money for it but to no avail.

    If I wasn’t between jobs I’d be beating a path to your door to make you an offer.

    Lovely looking car. Still very handsome especially when compared to the new beigey-beige yawn inducing non-entities on the roads today.

  4. Craig’s 214SEi looks a beaut and Nightfire red is a lovely colour. I agree the R8 and 600 models were probably the pinnacle of the Rover Honda tie up… shame it didn’t continue.

  5. Gorgeous.

    Always liked the R8, much more than the bubble that followed.

    The sheer amount of R8s still on the road is testament to their long term quality.

    This looks stunning.

  6. The Rover 600 was probably more of a victim of the scrap page scheme than corrosion. My Father-in-law’s is sixteen years old & has only just had its first welding for an MOT.

  7. My Dad had a 214SEi 3rd in that colour in 1995 when he retired. His company car had been a 220SLi, and a 216GSi before that, and he was quite happy with the 214. The interior was really superb at the time.

  8. Nearly bought a dark grey 214SEi in Mitcham South London. Was a bargain at £300ish. Ended up passing because I prefered the 414SLi I was running then.
    Last year I went on a spending spree and I bought a 416 Tourer, another 414 (for bits, but didn’t have the heart to break it), and a second Tourer ( to alternate running with the other one).
    Hope the little 214SEi went to a good home 🙂

  9. BSD

    I was delighted to read the blog.

    Unfortunately,here in Israel,Rover was always considered as Honda’s poor cousin,and there is no chance of seeing such Rover (or any Rover…) in such mint condition!!!

    Also,the K engines (especially the KV6-and especially especially the 2.5 version) suffered from blown head gaskets because of the hot climate here in Israel (even the modified gasked blows itself…).

    And the cost of spare parts (because of the import taxes and the rate of the israeli shekel to the uk pound) does not help either.

    And believe me,i know very well about the above (K engines and spare parts cost) because i work at Land-Rover Israel…

    And,if your Rover is older than 19 years you have to pass the mot test twice a year!

    Therefor,my dear uk colleagues,i can only read your sweet as honey blogs,see your sweet Rovers-and envyyyyyyy…

    And the funny thing is that at my work (i am a technical clerk at the main Land-Rover garage) i see old rovers that look like a mobile garbage can – and old Land/Range-Rovers (even old Tdi defenders and discovery 1 Tdi’s & V8’s) that are in mint condition and are used for everyday commuting…

    How come the difference? i do not have a clue…

    Aniway,i wish you all all the best,and have a nice day from Israel!

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