Once a doyen of the remanufactured engine industry, Unipart in automotive guise has now sadly left this parish to join the great defunct names of old but imagine my surprise when I spotted this cheeky little number on eBay recently.
Here, we have an unused new old stock Gold Seal S-Series power unit which still slumbers in its period metal fame and polythene packaging. Produced from 1984 to the early 1990s, the S-Series only ever came in one capacity and three states of tune. It wasn’t a bad engine really even if it was known for wetting itself now and again with early variants suffering from crankcase breather problems – especially on low mileage examples. By the time the 1989 model year Maestro and Montego came along, the 1600cc engine fared quite well in the in-house reliability charts but it was doomed owing to K-Series coming along.
Lovely to work on, and offering a credible balance of power and efficiency, the S-Series was loosely based on and replaced the rather poorly received R-Series engine. Although it was an all-new engine, the S-Series can trace its bloodline back to the Maxi’s E-Series unit of 1969. Its 1598cc configuration came in low and high compression SU carb-fed tune and a Lucas fuel-injected 105bhp version which was only ever fitted to the Rover 200 VDP EFi and Vitesse. Why they never offered the 1.6 EFi unit in the Maestro or Montego remains a forum debate to this day…
Unipart used to proudly boast that a Gold Seal was a better-than-new engine. There was a simple reason for that claim. All Unipart Silver and Gold Seal-branded units featured every possible manufacturers’ production/specification upgrade at its point of build and they were pretty much regarded as one of the very best remanufactured engines money could buy. Unipart also offered non-BLARG engines in their once impressive brochure and my former Workshop Manager would quip that, if Austin Rover fitted Gold Seal engines on the production line, they’d halve their warranty costs! The engine in the advert is most certainly for a Rover 216 produced after 1987 – the right-hand cam cover being the obvious clue.
What isn’t certain, though, is whether this engine can be used with unleaded petrol, but it’s worth mentioning that an earlier engine, if remanufactured after 1990, came with upgraded valves and hardened seats from Unipart. Owing to its raw state, it would also suit a Maestro or Montego and these period remanufactured engines are getting thin on the ground as Unipart closed their own in-house reconditioning facility many years ago. Providing the engine will turn over by hand, an unused Gold Seal for a reasonable £125 is most certainly a bargain.
Oh, and I don’t think it matters if you forget to send your own life-expired engine back to Unipart in the metal transport frame provided either – it’s most unlikely anyone will chase you for the surcharge fee!