Our Cars : Mike’s a welcome in the hillside…

His self-imposed Rover sabbatical lasted somewhat less than he thought. Mike Humble takes a drive out west to the land of song and re-kindles some funny, familiar, forgotten feelings upon arrival…

No, it's not the scene from a minor RTA but myself and Neil Rapsey sealing the deal on yet another car swap caper
No, it’s not the scene from a minor RTA but Mike Humble and Neil Rapsey sealing the deal on yet another car swap caper

Oh, well, that lasted a long time, didn’t it? My life without a Rover lasted barely two months, though it was not down to any cold turkey or itchy feet on my part I must add. As you may know, the 214GSi was sold to our man in the USA, Richard Truett, and for those who don’t, I subsequently purchased former AROnline Editor Keith Adams’ Ford Focus 1.8LX – everything was going swimmingly. A few minor jobs on the Focus were quickly done – all that involved was a non-working driver’s window and windscreen wipers that refused to park, once turned off.

After fitting a wood-effect dash panel from a scrapped Ghia, I was enjoying the pin-sharp handling and zesty performance for which the Ford Focus was and still is, so highly regarded. It was the first Ford vehicle under my stewardship for well over 12 years and, even though I have driven plenty of Foci, they blend into the background with equal invisibility to oxygen. But I needed a change at the time and it seemed the right car with the right history at more than the right price. As a driving tool, the only stick to hit it with is the throttle pedal position that’s a bit too high for cruising comfort.

Meanwhile, some 234 miles away near Swansea, Neil Rapsey, who took over the reigns of my Rover 75, was thinking about changing his car. Like me, he and his better half jump in and out of each other cars with regularity. Being used to a tidy BMW 316 compact, Neil told me a little while back that his missus had found the 75 tricky to park owing to having a high rump (the car and not hers by the way) and was reluctant to drive it around – though a more recent chat with Tracy has found this not to be the case. Even though he has not said it in so many words, I reckon he hankers for another R8 200 series, if the truth be told.

So as you may have guessed by now, the former AROnline Project 75 – the very same one I have owned twice before is back in the fold and Neil has adopted the Focus. Yet I was quite happy trundling around in the Focus until a text message bleeped onto my mobile a couple of weeks ago on a cold Wednesday afternoon. It was informing me that said 75 was possibly for the taking so I called Neil back. I mentioned it to ‘er indoors at teatime, expected her usual talk me out of it spiel (she’s of sensible headstrong nature) but it wasn’t forthcoming – in fact, if anything, she was most receptive to the idea.

When we did the last swap-a-thon deal a few months back, we put Neil and Tracy up for the night and treated them both to one of Horsham’s finest Tandoori houses for a nosebag. The offer was reciprocated, an overnight bag was packed and the long trawl down the M4 took place for the small hamlet of Trebanos – just a short hop from Swansea. Despite owning the Rover twice before, I had butterflies upon spotting the 75 parked at the top of the hill where they live. I have to say, he’s done a cracking job of running the car over the last few months, too.

After its near death experience when the inlet manifold failed a little while back, the 120Ps 1.8 K series has performed flawlessly. She pipped 40mpg on the run back to Horsham too.
After its near death experience when the inlet manifold failed a little while back, the 120Ps 1.8 K-Series has performed flawlessly. She pipped 40mpg on the run back to Horsham, too

It’s been treated to a number of subtle betterment fittings like the upgraded Alpine head unit and an O:E Rover accessory manual rear window blind. Equally, I had spent some time also on the Focus by means of having the front wing re-sprayed owing to some ugly lacquer lift on the paintwork, the fitting of the Ghia wood trim and sorting out the radio that, without warning, decided to go on the blink. We road-tested each others steeds around the hilly back roads and both decreed our vehicles fit for purpose so an evening curry in Swansea’s picturesque bay area known as The Mumbles sealed the transaction.

What started as a chat in the cold at Longbridge last April has matured into a good solid friendship and the ladies get on with each other too, both of us being happy that our respective chariots are going to a good home. The journey back to Sussex went without a hitch with the exception of the CD auto-changer magazine jamming before we had even reached the Severn Bridge and the chrome trim from the driver’s side interior door handle falling off in Cobham services car park. A sign of things to come maybe, but I very much doubt that. Anyway, the Rover has indeed returned for a third time – at least, on this occasion, it doesn’t need mechanically rebuilding again.

All it needs for me to say for the time being, is that I hope Neil and Tracy get the same enjoyment from the Focus that both Keith Adams and myself (albeit briefly) did. Oh, well… here we go again folks!

Mike Humble


  1. My sister has an 04 plate Focus 1.6 Ghia, to follow on from her trusty Rover 420 SDi, which had become too expensive for her to maintain at 12 years old, and the second generation Focus is a fine car if a bit thirsty around town. Most of the toys still work, it will cruise happily all day on the motorway and has a fair amount of go and looks good inside, the wood obviously being a way of trying to win trade from Rover. Also unlike the egg like original, the second generation Focus had softer detailing and looked less severe. No wonder they’re still so popular and are light years ahead of the Escort.

  2. How long my own self imposed Rover sebatical will last time will tell, but the 75 will be missed as it is very comfortable old thing and it does get comments from those who appreciate a fine looking car.
    But its nice to have a change for a while plus the Focus is not too shabby when it comes to prod the loud peddle unlike like the 75, which is more sedate and takes its time to wake up after the gas peddle is buried into the carpet, but that’s not what the 1.8 75 is about, if I wanted that from a 75 then I would get a MG.

    Who knows what the next few months will be, but the focus has had the seal of approval from the boss after a drive, so I might have in advertently treated Tracy to a new car.
    So you know what that means! Maybe another Currie in Horsham???

    What’s this space.

  3. Keep that Rover 75 in good shape for me. It looks like I can have it in about a decade!

    Meanwhile: I’ve learned that the Rover 214GSi (mentioned above) was built 10 January 1991. Which means it will be on a boat headed for the Port of Baltimore Baltimore by about 15 December, some 10 months or so from now.

    I can’t wait to have it. There are exactly none of those here in the USA.

    • Interesting! How will you get service parts – rely on Honda / Land Rover dealers / UK/Europe parts sites?

  4. Mike, you certainly change your cars frequently! I like the ‘nice to have a change’ bit, but parting company with the old one ain’t so easy.

  5. @ Hector da Tax Inspector, HTV is dead, it’s called ITV Wales now and is the same as any other ITV region, showing a local news bulletin and that’s it, most of the schedule these days is made in London.

  6. I’ll get my spares for the 214 from Rimmers and eBay UK. I have had Dolomite Sprints and other odd birds over here. So, I am not worried about keeping the 214 running well.
    Above all, It’s a Rover.

  7. Just to add re 75 /zt in the US:

    A member of the development team stated in the past that in late 2004 3 vehicles were taken to the US for cold weather testing. In early 2005 they were parked up, their engine ECUs removed and brought back to the UK for reprogramming to be taken back out to the US, refitted to the cars and hot weather testing carried out. However, Rover went pop and the cars, without their ECUs were left in the US.

  8. @ Glen Aylett,

    The Focus in the photo above is an ‘egg-like’ Mk1 Focus with a mild makeover, not the Mk2.

    @ Mike,

    Bit surprised to see you fitting a wood-effect dash panel to your Focus- I used to run a 2.0 Ghia (best car I’ve ever owned by far) and the part I liked least was the ‘wood’ trim- I was actually planning to replace it with a standard non- Ghia part, but never got round to it.

  9. and what become of those testing cars? I read that the seller who acuired them originally after MGR went was selling each car for 1000 USD each, obviously as non runners as they were ECU-less and rigged up with testing thermocouples. I doubt they’d even work with existing ECUs anyway as they were for wired for up later ECU with different maps on them etc but would be interesting to know what became of each car

  10. So often Rover folk realise now how good Ford products are ( and were )when they use them, unlike many ARG manufacturing and PD managers who never drove anything but their own stuff….
    Try back to back a 1985 Fiesta with a 1985 Metro…why did anyone ever buy a Metro? Only because most buyers never try out anything else but their first choice. Thank goodness: ARG would have gone down even faster.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.