I have said it before so… I`ll say it again, without a shadow of doubt, the R8 and R40 models are possibly the highest watermarks that Rover Group ever reached in terms of quality and image perception. In the case of the R8, the combination of a well engineered body, impressive trim (especially with the earliest examples) nimble handling and a platform that went from a pretty 2 door coupe to a classy touring estate I think were never bettered – for those who were not around in late 1989 – Rover blew away the competition.
Of course, the 75 was handsome enough to win praise from all around the world and the estate version even to this day looks a million dollars in the metal and still cuts a beautiful dash when majestically passing by. Events of its launch pretty much torpedoed its long term future and the smaller 1.8 models could be troublesome, where the R8 just worked straight from the box. I should know by now having owned both examples from both ends of Rovers last decade of hope – the `90s.
Well, after a period of settling down following the project 75 having to undergo surgery after a failed manifold almost blew the engine up, its behaving nicely. But a dark cloud is on the horizon and its silver and grey in colour. Before you jump to the conclusion that I’ve bought the G reg 214 back again, I haven’t, but I have been tempted to move the 75 onwards again.
You see, back at the last PoL gathering in April this year, I was parked alongside regular reader and contributor Neil Rapsey and his lovely 1991 R8 GSi. These top of range models are rare enough nowadays but the fact that it’s the 1.4 SPi 16v model makes it even scarcer to stumble upon. It’s a doll of a thing right down to the optional cross spoke alloy wheels and accessory front fog lamps. In fact both myself and former editor Keith Adams were utterly spellbound by this J plate example of Longbridge loveliness.
Unlike some people who give brand enthusiasts a bad name, I never mess about with false hope offering to buy or sell a car unless I am 100% happy to commit to the deal and I suggested to Neil that if he ever wanted to sell the car he should tell me. Even Keith was considering an offer but shush… between you and me folks… he’d only become bored after a month and sold it on to me anyway. After a flurry of phone calls between Sussex and West Glamorgan, he decided he couldn’t part with the car – sad but totally understandable.
Fast forward a little while and the G plate R8 is moved on to young Benjamin Adams and the 75 comes home once more… you know the rest of the story here. But a few flattering and complimentary comments (of which I’m chuffed about) came through about the 75 as it slowly regained its strength and health, but one or two of them were of notable mention. But just who was the secret R40 admirer in question and who seemed to be making a takeover for my motor?
Step forward again Mr Rapsey. We have kept in touch since April and it soon transpired he would be interested in buying the 75 should I ever decide to sell it. He counter suggested a swap for his 214 which I achingly wanted to purchase a few months back, so I thought about this… for all of about 10 seconds. All in all it’s a good battle plan for I’ve gone as far as I want to on the 75 without unnecessary expense and there is a small list of odd jobs to undertake on the 214.
So the deal has been done and far as I am concerned, the 75 couldn’t go to a more fitting owner. Neil is both passionate and knowledgable about Rover’s and the only criteria of a potential customer when I sell a car, is that they appreciate and love their new steed – he certainly fits that mould. So what of the 214? Well, the summer is here and its perfect weather for spending the long evenings with an open tool box and a cup of sweet tea.
If you are attending the B.L show at Peterborough next month, both myself and Neil will have the project cars on display (ARO may be having a little pitch for ARO site fans / exhibitors) be sure to say hi if you’re passing – or better still if its a class member… book up and join in!