The Project MintEgo has been thrust into daily use for a good while now. Don’t we just hate totally reliable cars? 0urs went on public display at the NEC recently and we were taken aback at the positive comments, but is it time for something different?
Allow Mike to explain…
The M&MOC stand just after setting up but before the swelling crowd
I knew it… I just bloody knew it; I was convinced there was a cracking car just waiting to get out. Well, keep it between you and me, but, after an initial – near vertical – learning curve, that seems to be the case with the Montego. Okay, I’ll admit there were one or two moments where selling my old Project 75 was regretted bitterly. But I persevered with the Montego, knuckled down, isolated each issue in turn and finally cracked it.
It’s now covered more than 3000 miles without fault since I bought it and, although that may not seem that impressive to some, just a few months ago, a simple trip to the paper shop could be fraught with fear and adventure.
Dependable cars don’t exactly make for good reading on these pages – you like to hear about breakdowns, puddles of coolant and other motoring misery in our incumbency. That said, though, I think a car that once had a reputation for being more fragile than a wine glass deserves one or two words of praise.
Not since I bounced around in a Triumph Dolomite many years ago have I been flattered by the comments and attention the Montego has received. Every journey or trip to the petrol station ends up in dialogue with someone who owned one or has a personal anecdote about Rover’s misunderstood Montego.
This was once more proved recently up at the NEC. The car spent a pair of days basking with glory under the spotlights during the Practical Classics -sponsored Restoration and Classic Car Show. As part of the Maestro & Montego Owners Club display, my Monty was one of four cars on our small but incredibly busy stand.
We had two of each that included a leather-clad VP Maestro that turned into a four-wheeled Burco in the long queue to enter the hall and a genuine barn find, ultra-rare Montego GTi estate. The latter had never been run for two years and came in on a trailer but drove out under its own power on the closing day.
‘So how long did it take to restore this?’ asks Ant Anstead. He was blown away with the
Montego when told it was all original – it turns out his Dad ran one, same exact model,
same exact colour!
Caption: ‘So how long did it take to restore this?’ asks Ant Anstead. He was blown away by the Montego when told it was all original – it turns out his Dad ran one, same exact model, same exact colour!
The ethos of the show is to undertake jobs or attention (where HSE rules allow) and our stand’s tasks included renovating a roof lining, fitting a Kenlowe cooling fan to the aforementioned VP and swapping a replacement rear wiper motor over on a 1.3 Special.
My Montego received another new timing belt and some old stock brand new KYB rear dampers during the weekend, so now it actually rides like a medium saloon should do – it’s a far cry from the rear end feeling like a water bed when cruising at high speed. What made the event all the more memorable were the visiting punters’ attitudes and comments about the Maestro and Montego.
To say that time heals old wounds is an understatement – not one single person was heard to be laughing at or dissing our bandy gang of clunkers. If I had been given a pound for every story or tale about Monstro motoring during the two days I’d have had enough to cover the fuel and accommodation costs.
The atmosphere was full of love and affection, not just for our display but for every single item on display. I spoke with former owners, mechanics, track workers and adults whose only experience was travelling in the back of Mum or Dad’s 1.6HL. Even Ant Anstead came over to speak with me and sat in my car – it turns out his father had exactly the same model in exactly the same colour!
John Batchelor, in split-personality mode, represented the SD1 and Rover 200 & 400 Clubs
Other BMC>MG Clubs were also in full attendance. John Batchelor was there in dual mode representing the Rover SD1 Club and Rover 200 & 400 Owners Club. It was here I swapped tips about K-Series engine rebuilds with a smashing bloke whose name escapes me. Personally, the only problem I have with this kind of event is that more time is spent gassing than actually meandering around the cars themselves.
Every year, I promise myself more time looking than chatting – every year nothing changes. I did, of course, get chance to sprint round the cars and the autojumble eventually. It was rather like a scene from Treasure Hunt – although an out-of-breath fat bloke doesn’t quite cut the same visual image as that of a younger Anneka Rice or Annabel Croft.
Anyway, the Montego performed brilliantly both there and back, the public seemed to appreciate it – as do I, but there is another problem. Again, I have gone as far as I can so far as mechanical integrity and reliability are concerned. It’s perhaps time for someone else to maybe enjoy the fruits of my labour.
Not only that but, with ‘er indoors moaning like a blocked-up Hoover about its lack of power steering and other items like cruise and climate control, I am now swinging towards another luxo-barge… and a type I have never actually owned before. Oh, and while I think about it, I’ve often been asked about the number plates, so click here if you fancy something similar for that all important attention to detail.
Watch this space!