Our Cars : Mike’s Rover 214SLi

Mike Humble enjoys another year’s trouble-free motoring with his early Rover 214.

…with the added bonus of an MoT pass.

Another year with my mate, R8

She lives for another year - The 214 SLi is staying put.
She lives for another year – The 214 SLi is staying put.

I may be many things – overweight, over opinionated, underpaid and overworked, but indecisiveness doesn’t really apply in my world. Rightly or wrongly I stick by my guns and try to make the best of the situation I have put myself into – often with mixed results. Like an ‘on the wagon’ drinker temptation often gets the better of me and with that in mind I try to avoid drooling over internet sites selling car and clunkers just in case something jumps out and strikes a chord on my heartstrings.

A friend of a friend in the trade called out of the blue – plectrum in hand to advise me of a car that was not only right up my street, but just the motor to park on it too. Further investigation brought information on a fresh out of the box 2002 Rover 75 Tourer Club SE that required a little bit of TLC under the bonnet – taxed, tested, able to run under her own steam all for the cost of £500.

The car was logistically fine too being situated in South London and I knew the vendor well enough to take him on his word. So the 214 SLi was put up for sale – rather reluctantly owing to a lack of space and a missus with limited tolerance towards a driveway full of old knackers. After receiving almost a dozen enquiries and more than a gut-full of those dreaded texts from people who never commit to actual dialogue, my patience started to run out.

I have no time for messers, and when the Rover chap came on the phone saying that his wife was putting the block on the 75 sale, my mindset changed about letting my labour of love drive off into the sunset. Being parked up in a dingy corner of our massive yard for weeks in all that frost, wind and torrential rain, the damn little thing fired up first time.

My valeters went through the car like a bad curry bringing out the gleam and smell of Rover cut pile carpet – I never submit a dirty car for MoT. In the advert I had stated that the asking price would get a full MoT – besides which, its due to expire in a month anyway. With only a thorough valet and obligatory check of the lights, she was submitted for test.

Despite my usual angst and fretting, shes gained her 21st MOT certificate.
Despite my usual angst and fretting, she’s gained her 21st MoT certificate.

Arriving at my trusted and respected West Sussex Garage situated on a hidden industrial estate half a mile from nowhere early on a Saturday morning, the kettle was switched on, the fags were shared and then it was game on – down to business. Emissions were checked then onto the rollers for the brake test both of which were spot on, it was reversed back out into the daylight and placed onto the ramps for the real acid test. After much pacing up and down with nicotine to ease the stress it was all over and Colin placed himself in front of the PC terminal and started jabbing at the keyboard. Looking back over his shoulder at me he asked if I was keeping the car with a cheeky grin – I thought for a moment and nodded.

Well, its passed the test albeit with a couple of advisory items the most important being some wear in the steering rack joints but apart from that a Butchers Dog would be a suitable description for the very early first phase Rover 214 SLi. Once again, it proves the fact that Rover’s R8 range in launch form is without a doubt one of the finest engineered cars ever to leave Longbridge, just think when you last saw a G-reg Astra, Escort, or even a Golf for that matter, still rattling down the road. Some money exchanged hands and then it was round the corner to see Ashley the tyre man at Re-Tyred to cure an annoying wobble that started when I fitted the 16 inch Hairpin alloys – it was here I finally decided the Rover is to stay in my incumbency.

My tyre centre looked like an MG Rover club outing.
My tyre centre looked like an MG Rover club outing.

Parking outside the fitting bay, there was a slightly battle scarred MG ZT-T having a wheel changed and as I was chatting to Ash we noticed two chaps looking round the car. He went inside to carry on with the increasing queue of motorists when the owner of the MG firmly shook my hand and proudly introduced himself as an avid reader of the site and continued to pour compliments of the Rover. Don’t get me wrong readers, my car is far from factory fresh and I was flattered by this but it cemented the affection towards the car once again. Driving home from Ditchling in lovely sunshine with the roof open, no speed wobble and an MoT certificate on the passenger seat – life was that little bit closer to perfection.

I called into Express Car Parts – the official supplier of AROnline K-Series head sets and ordered up a pair of steering joints and purchased a new valve cover gasket as the current one was starting to weep at the rear of the head. After arriving home again, the kettle was checked for function, the weepy gasket was swiftly changed and it while doing this the car made me smile in admiration for the third time in so many hours. Amongst the vast heap of bills and paperwork there is nothing to mention of a head gasket, yes there is a mention of a new cooling rail and more recently a water pump but nothing telling of the infamous HGF. The valve cover was stuck fast and needed a swift clout with a rubber mallet before the camshafts saw the first daylight since assembly.

Date markings and factory assembly clues confirm the last time the innards saw daylight was back in 1989!
Date markings and factory assembly clues confirm the last time the innards saw daylight was back in 1989!

The gasket itself was riveted to the alloy cover which confirms the head has never been touched for it was only the earliest of K series engines that featured this build technique. Despite the car being registered in 1990, the date stamps of the camshaft carrier show an engine build of 1989. There is no carbon build up, only the slightest of appreciable wear on the cam lobes and here and there you can spot the Austin Rover wing symbols in the castings. Completing the task, a little de-greasing took place and the engine is back to looking like brand new – it really has to been seen to be believed.

So there we are, some other jobs are in hand before the Pride of Longbridge show next month but one thing is for certain – I`ll be taking her up there!

Mike Humble


  1. So glad you decided to keep it mike, I’ve almost come to making a decision to sell mine bit then all of a sudden after the mot where the tester comments “your car is cleaner underneath than most 5 year old motors”, it’s then I feel its my duty to keep it,being an eary model with a 3 year old car mileage. If your going to POL next month then I will see you there and maybe we could park side by side to compare the heritage.

  2. Good on you Mike, keep the R8, you know it makes sense 🙂
    My Mgf is currently sat at the local garage awaiting an Mot test.
    I’m dreading tomorrows phone call….

  3. The first generation 200 was such a good car and I still see the odd one now. Compared to the dated and unpleasant Escort of this era, the 200 was light years ahead.

  4. My 216 did 205,000 miles, and I sold the engine and ‘box in running order after writing off the car on a dodgy back road in Northumbria. A few years later, I bought an Astra estate – roomy and practical, but it threw a rod at 105,000 miles. That 4-inch diameter hole in the side of the block – not a good sign.
    R8’s are great. If you can find a good one and get the parts it needs, it’s a keeper. How long before they start to appreciate? Arguably, they were just as seminal as the P6 was in its day.
    A key point in looking after R8’s – remember that the service intervals were set for marketing reasons! I found the Honda engine ran much better if the air filter and spark plugs were changed every 20k, rather than 24k as per schedule. Buying parts from motor factors, I probably got my money back in improved mpg!

  5. No stains on me Samuel…. I use a Terry Thomas style holder Samuel.

    Anyone for pink gins what?

  6. Mike’s Rover is a credit to him. The R8 was built in one of Rover’s better periods in the early 90’s. Oh how long ago it seems now…

  7. Still see the occasional R8 in the wild, they have aged well compared to the mk5 Escort, mk3 Golf or mk3 Astra.

  8. Exasperating that the innards look exactly as the 2005 Streetwise. 15 like years, they did not change it a bit? The outlook? Yees…

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