Our Cars : Mike’s Rover 214SLi – racking up the miles

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Mike Humble

2000 miles down the road: The R8 feels like its never been away!
A couple of thousand miles down the road, and the R8 feels like its never been away!

I simply adore a car that requires a squirt of juice and a dab of throttle to operate. It is, after all, what we all need in a car – sheer reliability allied with a hint of character. There hasn’t really  been anything to report on since the Rover’s return, with the exception of the off-side driveshaft that sheared the moment I swung onto the drive barely 48 hours after collecting it.

Since then, it’s been pressed into the usual daily smoker mode, the miles clicking by on the huge speedometer giving no cause for concern – not now, nor in the near future. Normally I wince at the term ‘timewarp car’, as many motor adverts claim to be such, when all they really are is a banger/clunker  in decent condition. But my thoughts may be changing.

A few years have passed by since my last stewardship with the 214, and after a great deal of poking and prodding, there is very little to confirm the car had subsequently been passed on to two more owners. The paint still shines, while the mink-coloured interior still has that ‘Rover’ smell on a hot day. Only a droopy roof lining spoils the interior ambiance brought to you by the thick quality carpet, glowing burr walnut and those ever-supportive dual-density foam seats.

One or two items have been attended to however. The wireless had been changed to a modern Blaupunkt system which was, er, very blue. I say ‘blue’, because it was exactly that – a radio that was blue in colour. And it simply just had to go.

Being such a well engineered car - Getting to this stage takes less than 15 minutes.
Being such a well engineered car – Getting to this stage takes less than 15 minutes.

Prior to selling my old Citroen Xantia, I removed the Pioneer head- and changer-unit, and popped it into the under stairs cupboard (where all discerning gentlemen keep their illicit stash of automotive audio), with a view to throwing it into the Rover. In true Bangernomics style, when it actually came to doing the job, there was a snag. The fitted wireless is meant to be removed with the old ‘U’ shaped removal tool. Could I find it? Could I flip!

After destroying one of ‘er indoors’ coat hangers, cutting it with pliers and bending into a rudimentary tool in a Blue Peter style, it still refused to budge. All was not lost, however, as someone in the past had broken the cigar lighter barrel. Here was a good opportunity to whip out the centre console, and kill two birds with one stone.

Eight screws later the centre console and radio were removed, along with the wiring to the cigar lighter, and ashtray illumination. The cigar lighter had clearly been repaired before using super glue, so I remembered I had some bottles of rather good plastic repair glue called ‘Q-Bond’. If you have ever broken something trim wise and out of site (especially on something French), this stuff is top notch at repairing it.

You take your offending bits of troubled trim, add a drop or two of the glue then sprinkle the supplied magic powder onto the top of the glue and within five seconds they react with each other, make a little puff of smoke (honestly!) and then set rock hard. It’s not cheap at around £10, but if, like me, you drive an old dog – it’s invaluable stuff.

Broken a piece of  plastic trim that's out of site - Q Bond it!
Broken a piece of plastic trim that’s out of site? – Q Bond it!

No longer does pulling out the Sat-Nav plug also drag the whole cigar lighter and pop the fuse. So after popping in a new bulb to the lighter and ashtray, I ripped out the radio, swapped over the securing cage, and fitted the retro-looking Pioneer head unit. The CD changer was mounted as highly as possible to the back of the rear seat (away from out of control toolboxes), and the data cable was neatly tucked under the kick plate trims. And voilà – a car radio that plays all my chosen mediums of wireless, tape and Compact Discs.

The console was gently eased back into the car and secured – job done! But this is what I like about the Rover R8 – it’s very well-assembled, and engineered, thus making jobs like this simple and straightforward. I’ve spent hours on other cars fitting radios.

So, apart from that, not a great deal has changed really. The rooflining that I’d replaced a few years back has sagged in the rear again, the electric mirror switch occasionally plays up (but I have a spare one from a Montego – same item different button), and the rear dampers seem to be tiring. None of the aforementioned detracts from what is a really nice and straight little Rover to swan around in.

Neighbours remember the car from before, and have commented how nice it is to see it back and, best of all, ‘er indoors likes driving it, which makes my life so much easier. It’s roomy with a well-sized boot, starts on the merest flick of the key, and has used no oil or water since I’ve taken on the stewardship again.

Welcome home old girl!

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

20 Comments

  1. Mike could almost get a job as a salesman for Q-Bond.

    I’m on my way to the motor factors / hardware store on the way home to get some 🙂

    The R8 is looking good, still looks classy.

  2. Looking at the picure captions, I thought you said the engine was “non-cat”.
    I used to have one almost identical (car, not cat), and even though it blew the obligitory head gasket, and suffered a perferated water pipe I still miss it.
    Sad isn’t it.

  3. Mike Butler

    Thankfully, this one hasn’t even had the valve cover off, so if it does pop a head gasket – I think I can out it down to F-W & T

  4. Sadly I can never get any of my old cars back – it’s rare for me to sell one, they’re usually scrapped.
    I’d love to have G770NWJ (a 216GSi in the colours above)back, but when I dropped it in a Northumbrian ditch, I bent the RHS strut tower. Also, after 205,000 miles or so, the wiring was extremely tired – hence the dim headlights and ditchfinding!

  5. @6

    I miss my Caribbean Blue 1994 214Si, which I owned between 2000 and 2004, which in retrospect was a fine car. Pity that I fell out of love with it from late 2002, due to all the Heritage issues it started to suffer from.

    Its replacement, a 1990 Volvo 740 SE estate, is still with me and living a happy life as a little-used second car 🙂

  6. Nice to hear the stereo also has a cassette player. I have 250 casettes that I occasionally play at home as the last three cars have lacked a cassette deck.

  7. A fine example from a time when Rover seemed to have a chance.

    (Might be worth parking up the repeted Minder catch phrases!)

  8. Having owned several of these, with the exception of the odd head gasket they are indestructible up to about 220K miles at which point they start to suffer from electrical issues. Given the overall robustness I have switch to the diesel version. Current model purchased for £165 has covered 30K miles under my driving (120K in total)with only regular oil changes, I am determined to see quite how far I can push it, my guess with XUD engine is in excess of 300K. This type of motoring in not for those that expect things like electric windows to work properly, but if you just want easy MOT’s and Radio 4 LW when your commuting for minimal cost, its spot on.

  9. Glad you spoke about the cd player. Two things I look at to gauge a previous owner before delving further are the tyres (no name is a no-no) & if the cd has been changed. If it’s like the tacky blue thing in a Rover cabin you came across, I’d be very wary. But it’s a Blaupunkt, so I’d think they knew a little about sound & were willing to pay a bit more, but had as much style as a rat with a gold tooth (old Car GBU reference there).

  10. Looks very tidy.
    I’d imagine the satisfaction, appreciation in driving it is far greater than cars worth many times more.

  11. Please continue unabated with the Minder catchphrases. One episode springs to mind. Arthur answers phone, “Mr Daley? No. He’s on holiday. Sand in the carburettor? Surely not.”

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