CRX 2008: When a Rover turns into a Skoda

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

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SO, there I was telling everyone that I was looking forward to Rover 800 ownership after a period in the wilderness. The car in question, offered to me gratis by sometime site contributor, Achim Kuepper, looked honest enough – and although he warned me that there was a fuel leak and a couple of other bits of heritage, I was more than pleased with my choice to ditch the Primera and re-join the Rover bangwagon.

An early start on Saturday morning is in order – I live in the East Midlands and the 800’s up in Whitley Bay, north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. No worries, some things are worth it, and I get a chance to spend time in the family Citroen BX. So, a leisurely run up the M1 and A1 saw me hit the coast at 11.30, and minutes later I was chewing the fat with Achim about his BL collection (of which you could say there’s quite a bit), before swapping paperwork on the Rover 827.

The car in question looks the business, and purrs like a kitten, and apart from a slow puncture, the dreaded fuel leak, and an ABS light that stays on, it’s sound, and looks straight. We jump in the 827, stick a snifter of fuel in, and head South towards Washington, and a date with the ramps at Village Lane Garage. However, I know it isn’t going well before we get to the Tyne… yup, as I pull away from the petrol station and join the grinding South-bound traffic queue the strong smell of petrol seems to stick with me.

Ah. Still, that could be something on my hands…

The tunnel tolls, and irritatingly, the machines don’t give change, and I have to pull in to the lay-by and grab some coinage. The now hot 827 is idling smoothly, albeit with a manly exhaust rasp, but the rapidly growing puddle underneath confirms my worst fears – this is going to be one expensive trip home.

With Achim ahead of me in his Maestro Automatic and a family member acting as rear gunner in the BX, this was one class car caper that must be turning heads in the Teutonic dominated traffic queue. I figure that with fuel leaking at a rate, the best thing to do is put my foot down, and get there as quickly as possible. I snicked the 827 into Sport mode, and made liberal use of the loud pedal – and after weeks of 1.6-litre power, it was a wonderful experience, soundtrack enhanced by the blowing exhaust, and being pushed into the back of that supportive driver’s seat. I love that V6, I really do.

I figure that with fuel leaking at a rate, the best
thing to do is put my foot down, and get there as
quickly as possible.

Anyway, my sat/nav guides me into Washington’s village centre, and I meet up with VLG’s man, Steven Ward. He whips the 827 on to the ramp, and the prognosis isn’t good – not only is the tank seam leaking, but one of the pipes has almost turned to dust. The fuel is now almost gushing out, and Steven’s mechanic condemns the fuel system on the spot. ‘How far do you need to go,’ he asks… ‘Oh, only about 230 miles,’ I reply. A laugh is his retort, followed by the statement, ‘not in that car’.

Ah well. And to make matters worse, with the Primera now sold, and happily being punted by its new owner, I’d be without wheels next week. Eeek.

However, Steven smiles knowingly, points to an old Skoda sat in his yard… and mentions the CzechWrecks event I’m signed up for. ‘Take the Felicia home, and get it ready for the event,’ he laughs. Shaking my head, and trying to ignore the inevitable social death and weeks of being in a car I really don’t want to be in – again! – I reluctantly agree.

So, it’s an amble home in another 1.6-litre car that I can’t summon up any enthusiasm for (and I like Skodas a lot – it’s too new to be interesting, and too old to be any good) – and regrets over my 827 that couldn’t be. Still, as the miles roll on and the A1 gets quieter, the Felicia manages to do a reasonable job – and although it’s gutless, and getting more so with each passing mile (that noisy camshaft will need to be replaced as well as the binding brake that needs sorting), I have to say that it’s a reasonable travelling companion, and it should be a laugh forcing it over the Stelvio Pass on two wheels.

Read more of that in coming weeks, assuming I don’t kill the engine in the meantime.

What of the 827, I hear you ask… well, it’ll be fixed, and I’ll make another trip to go and fetch it. And do you know what, I’m still looking forward to collecting it, and the ensuing adventure. Whoever says that Rover 800s are boring needs their bumps feeling.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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