Some holiday and decent weather creates a good oportunity to get the masking tape and rattle cans out. Some minor bodywork matters have been finally dealt with…
Well, I have been taking full advantage of the superb weather we seem to be blessed with in leafy West Sussex and, following a well-deserved week off, I have crossed out a few more of the little items which I deemed necessary on the Project Rover 75. The interior has now been scrubbed and dry foamed (twice) which has brought the speaker covers back to their lovely Sandstone colour, while a blast of Pledge has brought a stunning glow to the burr walnut veneers. I have also found a replacement Rover-branded spark cover too, which I cleaned thoroughly using an old toothbrush, and that has now been swapped over after I clumsily trod on and cracked the previous item I had fitted during a recent spark plug change.
As mentioned before, the wireless now works crackle free and the heated rear screen functions just as it did when leaving Longbridge in 2002. Also, I am pleased to report that the engine which benefited from a damn good service and upgraded gasket modification continues to provide a decent drive considering the cars bulk and only 120bhp on tap. Coolant consumption is zero and, in 5000 miles since the rebuild, she has just had her first drop of oil to the tune of a pint. Everything mechanical continues to be problem free and, on the whole, I am pleased and proud to be a Rover owner once again. Oh, and I have finally made a choice over one niggling item – the body sills.
As many of you know, the Cowley-built models featured satin black coloured sills and bumper edges but that was deleted when production moved to Longbridge in 2000. Some have said they look better in body colour, while many say satin black looks best. This proved a tricky choice for me, on the one hand, my car is a Longbridge-built model and black detailing removes some originality, but I think it adds a touch of class while accentuating the lovely curved styling and the chrome plating. Well, after due consideration, I have opted to go back to black – as the late Amy Winehouse crooned, mainly due to the fact the previous owner(s) were not exactly been caring drivers.
The reason the last owner had sold the car was mainly because the lady of the house was only 4ft 10in and had some difficulty parking and manoeuvring such a bulky car. She had clipped the gatepost on more than one occasion which explains the minor scrapes on the rear wheel arches and some heavy grazing to the lower edges of both bumpers. This prompted me to go for the satin black treatment rather than expensive paintwork rectification, but I had been in two minds for a few months over this idea. You can’t beat getting overspray in your eyes, ears and nostrils, and it certainly takes you back to those halcyon teenage years repairing minor crash damage armed with only Plastic Padding, some 150 grit wet & dry and red oxide primer!
Rather than try to paint the scratches over (a skill I admit to be hopeless at) the satin black treatment nicely hides the imperfections and, besides, it’s my bloody car and I’ll do as I please. From a distance, it looks like a Cowley-built example anyway. The chrome bullet mirrors, torpedo badges and Rover decals to the C posts have all been added since my ownership. The faux wood trim was going to be swapped over to pre-2000 real walnut, but I find the veneer to be a touch too dark so I have kept the Project Drive walnut on the grounds that you can seen the grain effect better and of originality.
During this glorious weather, the wiper arms were quickly unbolted and thrown onto the special finessing and detailing jig – or, in other words, the rotary washing line – for a spruce up by means of yet some more vigorous rattle canning. Funny, isn’t it? Once you start on something, the next thing you know, `er indoors is due home and the driveway looks like a scene reminiscent of the aftermath of a crashed Spitfire. One comedic thing though, imagine my surprise to dash out to the shops only to use the washers and realise the wipers arms are still back at home drying out – oh, I did chortle, even though I couldn’t see anything for overspray and washer fluid.
Anyway, without spending serious cash on other minor gripes such as the small dents in the wheel arches, I have now just about wrapped things up with the 75. It’s all worked out quite well, with only the parts for the head upgrade, paint materials and other odds and ends totalling a whisker under £200. Add that on top of a genuinely refined cruiser which cost pretty much next to nothing in the real world, and I feel proud of the achievements made with only a driveway for a workshop, an understanding spouse and a hard-working kettle to stem that well-known medical condition known as Mechanics’ Dehydration.
The 75 was caught just in the nick of time from falling into banger territory as the last two owners could have cared a little more – you simply would not have believed the colour of the water in my bucket after cleaning the upholstery and carpet. The car is far from perfect, though, nor do I wish it to be, but, for the time being at least, it’s clean, tidy and above all – utterly reliable. The 1.8 version of the 75 may not have the best of reputations, but it’s the only model in the range you can truly run on a pure DIY basis. Everything service wise is total simplicity and, of course, do the head/oil rail upgrades and you have a trustworthy engine which is surprisingly thrifty to run.
Your average Vauxhall Vectra or Ford Mondeo simply fail to hold a candle in terms of style, looks or feel good factor. Only a SAAB comes near for that certain snug feeling of budget luxury motoring but, when they go wrong – and they often do, they can not only break your bank but your heart too. A perfectly usable 1.8 Rover 75 can be purchased for a grand but, the funny thing is, they still feel and look like a million dollars and you will never tire of those curved and chrome adorned panels. That’s why, if you have been tempted, I urge you to take the plunge on a sorted 1.8 Rover 75 should all you require be a comfy, handsome cheap to run car – they’re great, but don’t hang about – values seem to be creeping up partly due to imminent cult status!
The MoT test is coming up soon and, sadly, my tester of choice Steve Anderson was forced to close his Gatwick-based premises not long after testing my 420 IL and Keith Adams’ SD1 last year. However, by a stroke of luck, I have managed to track him down to his new place of employment in Crawley where he is still testing, so the 75 will be once again subject to his weary, yet eagle eye. Some adjustment is required to the handbrake and I will also be crawling around underneath too with a torch and a pry bar but, to be fair, I’m quietly confident the Rover 75 will be fit for another year of Bangernomics motoring.
To conclude, I am still on the lookout for some mud flaps too – even used ones, so if anyone knows of some, please do give me a shout!
For those interested in the oily bits, here is a rundown of the work done or items which have required attention since ownership:
- Victor Reinz multi-layer head and inlet gasket with later spec long bolts
- Gates timing belt and tensioner kit*
- Modified bottom oil rail*
- Full service including O.E spec Iridium NGK spark plugs*
- Early type Rover branded spark plug cover fitted*
- Part throttle flat spot cured via MGR T4 software (stepper motor outside working parameters)*
- 2 x part worn tyres
- Earlier type boot plinth with ‘Rover” lettering
- Chrome-plated door mirrors covers
- Door edge torpedo badges*
- Rover shield badges fitted to rear C pillars*
- Union Flag badges fitted to front wings*
- Replaced Radio/HRW electronic filter module
- Leather gear knob and park brake lever fitted
- Made good non-functioning cigar lighter*
- Make good non-functioning heated rear window*
- Plenum drain modification*
- Replacement N/S/R lamp unit
- Repair faulty wiring to number plate lamp unit*
- Repair broken rear console air vents*
- Replace horn ‘low’ tone*
- Full interior valet including roof lining and carpets (twice)*
- Paint body sills and bumper edges in Cowley spec satin black
* = Cost of job zero by means of parts already in stock or no materials required to undertake the repair/upgrade
Average Fuel Consumption: 36 – 38mpg Oil Consumption: 1 pint (over 5250 miles)