Our Cars : Friends re-united at the Peterborough BMC Rally

Mike Humble

Neil Rapsey, Me and Benny Adams with the three ARO project cars at the Peterborough BMC / BL Rally.
Neil Rapsey, Me and Benny Adams with the three ARO project cars at the Peterborough BMC / BL Rally.

Another year… another show, and this time it was the BMC and BL Rally at Nene Park in Peterborough. This particular event is one is one I have never attended until now, and I`m glad that I did because the sun shone almost as brightly as the cars on display. This year, AROnline had our own little pitch of land, and the site turn out was far better than we thought, and by 11.00am we had `em packed in like Sardines – to all who came along… thanks!

The Project R8 almost failed to make it following an incident involving a dud coil lead at 7.00pm Saturday evening that caused much swearing and frayed tempers. After turning the shed inside out looking for something – anything… to be used as a substitute, there was no other option than to creatively “lash up” the existing lead and make sure the R.A.C card was safely inside my wallet. The drive via the M25 / M11 / A14 and A1 went swimmingly early the next morning.

Stopping at Cambridge services for a plumbing check and a breakfast, the remainder of the journey went without fuss or drama, the new project R8 seems to be a well sorted little car – its previous jockey, Neil Rapsey, has done a cracking job prior to our recent swap-a-thon. With the exception of a pair of new tyres and some engine detailing, this ultra rare GSi variant has even been blessed with the official thumbs up from she who must be obeyed.

But my own personal highlight of the day (excluding the foraging around in the massive autojumble trade stalls) was seeing the three project cars all together in the same place. Site fan Benjamin Adams trundled down from Staffordshire in the G plate 214 SLi and the Wild West was represented with the aforementioned Mr Rapsey travelling way up from Swansea in his resplendent looking former Project Rover 75. Its nice to report all three of my little babies made it both there and back with no fuss.

But as mentioned earlier, the current R8 had an issue with a wonky coil lead so the first priorities once the usual meet and greets took place was to delve into the stalls of the auto-jumble. After a while of plodding about in the searing sunshine, a complete set of K series leads are purchased for a rather agreeable sum of £6. Hot footing it back to the car, the task of swapping over the slightly bodged up coil lead took place – simple huh?

The single point K16 still feels tight so needs bedding in gently before really enjoying it - its averaged just 1350 miles per year since 1991. New coil is waiting to be fitted too.
The single point K16 still feels tight so needs bedding in gently before really enjoying it – its averaged just 1350 miles per year since 1991. New coil is waiting to be fitted too.

Well, in true AROnline fashion nothing is ever that simple or straightforward. The lead came of the distributor cap with a reassuring “pop” noise but after pulling said lead off the coil had me rather hot, bothered and full of colourful metaphors. A sizeable chunk of the copper clip had snapped off the end of the lead and wedged itself in the tube that emits from the top of the coil, and as for my language… it almost drowned out the house band that was playing some 400 yards away.

I tried a magnetic extending thing-ummyjg tool, ultra thin pliers and even Blu-Tac to retrieve the bloody thing – nothing worked. Eventually, Neil Rapsey came to the rescue with a brace of long thin screwdrivers and like a Bull in a china shop I started digging and flicking. My sheer lack of patience and pent up frustration eventually saw me snap off a decent chunk of the plastic nose that insulates the high tension part of the coil – oh… and I stabbed my hand with one of the screwdrivers too!

After huffing, puffing and more obligatory mutterings of “Northern Man” as the other half calls me, I pause to get my head in order, calm down and do my bit for Imperial Tobacco. A few minutes later that random piece of copper catastrophe flies through the air and looses itself in the grass. The coil is deemed to be in a “yeah she’ll get you home” condition” and the new lead is fitted – job done, another example of how the simplest of tasks easily turn into a nightmare.

Some may recall the 16” Active / Hairpin alloy rims fitted onto the G plate R8, well they are now on the current motor after Benny agreed to do a swap for the 14” cross spoke items. Ok so they are not original, but I like them and after Neil donated a GTi rear spoiler to the cause. Some lowering springs are in the offing and I have just secured a deal to have the spoiler painted, fitted and the tailgate touched in for a most splendid £140. Before you think chav special, this is not the case at all, the lowering will be by about 30mm and I haven’t ordered anything in Burberry either.

Project R8 has a nap after a fast run to Cambridgeshire and back. My old 16" active alloys are back and there's plans afoot to subtly lower the suspension too - all done in the best possible taste, trust me!
Project R8 has a nap after a fast run to Cambridgeshire and back. My old 16″ active alloys are back and there’s plans afoot to subtly lower the suspension too – all done in the best possible taste, trust me!

Apart from the coil lead being fixed with a wing and a prayer, both ends of the journey went without any problems and my fag packet calculator shows around 40mpg.  Because of the amazingly low mileage (31.000) its going to be a while before I can really open the taps and enjoy that well respected K series zing to full potential. The average mileage per year is barely 1350 miles and the driveline still feels tight, rest assured that I will bed her in gently – so far, oil consumption is zero.

So in a nutshell both 214’s and the 75 are performing admirably and my new coil is winging its way as I type. It was great to see them all in one place with some terrific company too. The BMC / BL Rally was a huge success and we offer our collective thanks to all who attended – especially those who travelled the distance to show their cars on the AROnline pitch.
Same time next year then?



Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications


  1. All great looking cars! I note Mike refers to his wheels as 16″ Active. These look the same as the Hairpins alloys on my former MG ZS. I guess Rover chose different marketing names depending on the brand.

  2. Definitely a great show, with the weather helping a lot, it was also good to meet with fellow AR Onliners, also it brought a glow to my heart to see my old Gsi standing once more before me.

    The plug lead/coil combo problem did cause a few head scratching moments, but luckily for Mike whenever I travel long distance I always have a boot full of tools for the” you never know moments”.

    Also the rapid wheel changing that took place between Benny’s Sli and Mike’s Gsi did cause me doubting Mike’s sanity and almost brought a tear to my eye, as those Gti spec wheels are the correct 1991 items, and it brought back memories of me spending almost every evening after work cleaning them with a tooth brush, as they were in such a bad state when i bought them about 8 years ago.

    But I must admit the Active 16″ wheels do look good and are far easier to keep clean, that combined with the sympathetic upgrades that that Mike has planned, I’m sure it will look so good I might want it back.

    As for the ex project 75, well that preformed admirably on the round trip of 430 miles from Swansea and back and I was also glad of the Air Con. I think Mike was secretly jealous of how well it looked especially as the day before I had given it a damn good polish to make it glisten even more in the Peterborough sunshine.

    All in all it was a great day and I trust Benjamin Adams will take care of those ultra rare cross spoke alloys (they went to Romania and back you know)

    Here’s to more AR Online shenanigans

  3. I must say about those wheels Mike.

    I’m glad you have gone to the MGR parts bin to transform your motor. They always look COOL with genuine OEM upgrades.
    I must congratulate you with great taste.

  4. Could be worse you know. My last visit to Cambridge services was to inspect a four inch circular hole punched in the side of an Astra block by a conrod. Not a good sign, especially at a mere 105,000 miles.

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