Car of the Month : November 2008

Another of AROnline‘s international readers dazzles us with their sensational Rover. This time, it’s a 216GTi and it lives in Buenos Airies in Argentina – not exactly your typical stamping ground for the R8.

Its owner, Alejandro Cáceres tells the story of how he fell for Rovers, and why he’s now the proud owner of this Twin Cam…

Words and pictures: Alejandro Cáceres

Roving in Argentina

I HAVE always been very fond of Rovers – they’re classy and understated, reliable, well appointed and equipped, with high tech engines, and so on. Here, in Argentina, Rovers are seen as reliable and high quality but they always carry the stigma of supposedly hard to get and expensive spares. However, as I have now found out, this was not actually a problem.

About two years ago my father bought a gorgeous BRG HHR 416Si saloon. I fell in love with the car’s smooth ride (I’ve yet to find a car, no matter the price, with a ride quality and refinement that matches the HHR one) and classy looks but found it a little on the ‘old man’s car’ side. After a minor accident which punctured a coolant hose, the car suffered the much maligned headgasket failure and, even though the repair bill didn’t come cheap, it wasn’t any more expensive than a domestic 16v car of the same age. So, we debunked the ‘expensive spares’ myth on Rovers.

Fast forward to July ’08, and I was looking for my first car – I moved out from my parents’ house with my girlfriend and that involved a daily 60-mile commute to work so public transport was out of the question. I was quite convinced about buying a Rover, but I wasn’t quite sure which model to buy.

Most ARG cars in Argentina are the ones from ’90 to 2003, mostly R8 200/400s, HHR 400s, R3 200s, R17 800s, 75s, 600s, and the occasional R6 Metro, Montego, or Maestro. I was deciding between an HHR 400, a R3 200 or any R8. HHRs and R3s were pretty much out of my price range so I started looking for R8s. After a full month of quite sad-looking 414SLi and 214SLi examples, I landed upon this one. It was the most unmolested R8 I’d seen up to that point, with all of the electronics working, totally rust-free and with a not unreasonable 80k miles on the clock.

The owner was an 80 year old senior citizen (apparently ex-army or similar) who was very fond of the car but couldn’t drive anymore because of his age (or so he said). After a quick spin around the block, I knew that this was the one for me… The sharp turn-in, the grip and handling of the chassis, the rev-happy engine, the striking 80s/90s look (raven black on red pinstripe, brilliant!) just won me over. All the car needed was a little TLC to reach A1 condition…

Problem was that, being a rare GTi (for my country), twin-cam, Honda-engined, three-door hatch, the asking price was again out of my reach (and, actually, into R3 money). However a combination of price-haggling, money borrowing and the depletion of my savings accounts made it possible for me to buy my first car, a Raven Black ’93 Rover 216GTi, on 12th August, 2008. Soon after that, I started doing some heavy servicing on the car – very few of the car’s original parts had been replaced. A new clutch was installed while new front brake discs and rotors, a new front silencer and a new set of front shock absorbers have also now been fitted. The original tyres have recently been replaced with a set of V-rated 195/50-15 Michelin Pilot Exalto2 high speed radials.

I reckon that the car now feels like it did back in ’93 when it left Longbridge and arrived at our shores. It certainly keeps up with newer and more powerful cars in the street and on the motorway (blokes in A4s and Passats can’t believe that a 15-year old car can overtake them easily at more than 100-120 mph) and it’s really getting close to how I want it to be.

The front and rear bumpers need to be fixed/replaced (lots of minor dents and dings and scratches) and the headlining re-trimmed but then the car will be as good as new!

I really couldn’t get a better daily driver for any money…

Keith Adams

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