Our Cars : Craig’s ‘new’ Rover 214Si

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Craig Cheetham

As is always the way, I had no intention of buying another car. Indeed, in recent times, I’ve been trying to downsize the fleet to more manageable levels, but sometimes one comes along that just needs saving – and this is a perfect example.

He's only gone and done it again... AROnline's editor buys (yet) another car
He’s only gone and done it again… AROnline’s Editor buys (yet) another car

Had I not intervened, I fear this lovely 32,000-mile from new 214Si would now be nothing more than a cube of metal. What’s more, I’ve always loved R8s and, although I already have a 1995 214SEi, there’s something about the earlier models that has a real purity – even when they are in a pretty basic spec.

This one’s story goes as follows: I first spotted it on eBay, local to me. I watched it, and watched it, and watched it. Nothing happened… So I made a tentative enquiry.

It turns out that I did so just in the nick of time, as the seller was a breaker. He’d done the decent thing and not processed it the minute it came in, recognising it as far too good to just chuck into the crusher, but with no takers and a business to run, it was days away from being consigned to history.

Craig's 214Si was just days away from being crushed
Craig’s 214Si was just days away from being crushed

Apparently, its one and only previous owner, an elderly lady, had decided to hang up her driving gloves, and (quite understandably given some of the idiots I’ve had to deal with over the years) didn’t want the stress of selling it privately, so called up her local breaker’s yard to take it away.

I knew as soon as I saw it that I was going to buy it. A deal was negotiated there and then and, having established via the DVLA Online Vehicle Enquiry Service that the Rover even still had a valid MoT, I insured it, taxed it and drove it back out of the gates of the yard. That’s how close it came to destruction…

Lucky to survive, but hasn't it survived well?
Lucky to survive, but hasn’t it survived well?

And I’m extremely glad I saved it. Given the choice, I’d have had a higher spec and definitely a model with power steering (but then, I already had an SEi!), but this car wasn’t just a good, solid, worthy example. It had clearly been extremely well looked after for over 22 years, garaged all of its life, and with all of the original books and manuals, plus a couple of nice touches such as a rear-view mirror hanger from the supplying dealer, Marshalls of Peterborough, that dated back to its second service.

Dealer service hanger was tucked inside the service history wallet
Dealer service hanger was tucked inside the service history wallet

Despite still having a valid ticket, I put it into my local MoT test centre when I got it back, primarily to get a good understanding of what it was like underneath. The verdict – mint. Apart from a couple of tiny bubbles at the trailing edge of both sills, the shell is rock solid, and the paintwork is only marred by a couple of small trolley dinks and some small marks on the driver’s door and top of the tailgate from bashing against the inside of the owner’s garage. The MoT? A pass with no advisories whatsoever. The tyres are all nearly new, the hubcaps scuff-free, and it has all the original dealer stickers.

According to the odometer, the 214 has covered just shy of 31,882 miles in almost 23 years and, since 2011 until I bought it, had covered a mere 592, according to the MoT history. The 200-mile trip to Pride of Longbridge this coming weekend will, no doubt, be its longest run in years, though I have started to use it locally to iron out any potential problems.

Cabin is in excellent condition...
Cabin is in excellent condition…

 

...and cliched as it may sound, I don't think the back seats have ever been sat in
…and, cliched as it may sound, I don’t think the back seats have ever been sat in

The interior is exceptional, with none of the baggy seat material that tends to afflict older R8s and spotless carpets and headlining – indeed, the only faults other than the minor marks on the bodywork appear to be an annoying whistle when cruising (door seal?) and extremely stiff window winder handles, most probably due to lack of use. When I next get half an hour, I’ll take the door cards off and grease the mechanisms – there’s a certain pleasure to be had in working on such simple, mechanical systems.

Minor bubbling on the very end of the sills is the only real problem, and this is the worst side - I'll nip it in the bud now to stop it spreading
Minor bubbling on the very end of the sills is the only real problem, and this is the worst side – I’ll nip it in the bud now to stop it spreading

My original plan was to rescue it, give it a good service and going over, clean it (for it was utterly filthy) and find a new home for it within the Austin-Rover community, but something about the car, its backstory and the fact that I was the one who rushed to its aid as it stared death in the face has made me think otherwise. Keeper status? Maybe… Let’s just say that, on the back of acquiring it, I sold my 214SEi instead, to fellow AR enthusiast and site follower Matt Whiteley. It was always going to take a lot to make me sell that car, so maybe, just maybe, there’s something a little bit special about it. Come and give it a once over at Pride of Longbridge, if you’re there, as I’d be keen to know what you make of it.

newiphone 13 april 306 (800x600)

What started out as yet another cheap, old Rover that needed rescuing from almost certain death and needed a sympathetic, soft-hearted buffoon to offer it salvation (a set of circumstances so frequently familiar to me) may well have become a keep-it classic. After all, I do love my R8s, and there can’t be many early ones left that are this good – especially not in such an ordinary specification. Plus, the lack of power steering is good for my biceps…

Much as I loved my SEi, it's gone to make way for the Si. It was the nicer car to drive and sit in, but the Si is rarer and less likely to survive otherwise
Much as I loved my SEi, it’s gone to make way for the Si. It was the nicer car to drive and sit in, but the Si is rarer and less likely to survive otherwise

 

 

 

Craig Cheetham

A serial impulsive car purchaser, Craig has had his name on over 200 V5s over the past 20 years. 10 per cent of those have been either 800s or Austin Allegros, with between 10 and 20 cars usually owned at any one time. Started out as a local newspaper journalist then worked for car mags including Auto Express, Classic Car Weekly and Land Rover Owner. Worked inside the car industry for a decade as an employee of General Motors, now works for a news distribution agency. Home based, which is dangerously convenient for further irrational heap purchases. Lover of all makes of car since childhood, with a particular leaning towards Austin-Rover... Father of three boys, so hoping to spread the car love. Other passions include rugby union, travelling and eating out.

16 Comments

  1. Looks in great shape? Identical spec to the 1991 214Si that I ran for 18 months as my first car, right down to the unassisted steering (every car I’ve owned since then has had PAS).

    What colour is it? Solid dark blue? Along with the hearing aid beige 820 you bought last year, you do seem to have a bit of a thing for unfashionable colours!

    And being nosy, which cost more to buy? This or the gold Maestro “project car” that was featured recently?

  2. It does look VERY tidy and that low mileage! To think it could have been crushed – what a waste that would have been!!

  3. It is a fantastic looking car for its age. Thank you for saving it. It reminds me of my own J-plate 214Si which gave me 5 years of highly enjoyable, trouble free motoring. A fantastic car. In my view the 214 looked better with 2 tone paint and before they stuck a faux chrome grille on the front.

  4. A nice looking little car – too good for scrapping so congrats to Craig for saving it. Despite an entry level trim, Rover 200’s had more going for their appeal in those days than an Escort or Astra base level car. I liked the two tone paint on earlier models, which was copied by other makers like Ford.

  5. No PAS. How would most of us survive without it. Also, what are those funny looking handles on the doors? Anything to do with the windows?!

    Great car though and really good to see it has been saved.

    • My children are amazed and delighted every time they are in a car with manually winding windows and love to play with them, much as I was amazed and delighted at their age with the first car I was ever in with electric windows, it was early 80s and a Renault 18 or possibly 20?

  6. Great story, Craig. How many other ex-elderly-driver good condition R8s have met their demise due to ignorant (not this breaker) or too busy breakers? (Also the acknowledgement that private selling is a real pain)

    One question – with so many cars in your fleet – how do you organise insurance? Does your NCB count on only one policy?

    • I’m lucky in that, through my broker, I found a motor trade insurer happy to take me on as an ‘enthusiast’. I go through enough cars… Whilst fully comp, the downside is that I’m only covered for whatever the car’s perceived ‘trade value’ is supposed to be. But then, I never really pay much more than that for them anyway, and if it allows me the freedom to enjoy my car collection, great stuff. I’ll take the risk.

  7. Agreed. Well done Craig. Perfect example of a cheap useable classic, hope it lives on for many years to come.

  8. Well done Craig, in our “throw away” world you attitude is praiseworthy. I always thought these R8’s were amongst the best cars in its class for that period.

  9. Absolutely love R8’s. My late dad bought one branded new in 1991, a 414si, which is still in my possession. Comfortable, well built, great engine and very nice to drive.

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