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…
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.
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!