Blog : Operation drive back, day three

Andrew Elphick

Taking a snap of a dead Rover does have its uses...
Taking a picture of your dead Rover does have its uses…

So while the erstwhile man in charge of AROnline typed away, his partner in crime got busy negotiating. Badly. My grasp of Hungarian is… Well… Er… You get the idea! However with some open network Wi-Fi, Google, pen & paper and some gesticulating worthy of the French Olympic gesticulating committee, we figured everything out. Three hundred Forint’s for a ride back into central Budapest, (The Rover having failed to proceed bang in the centre of town – think spluttering to a halt beside Eros in Piccadilly circus) extraction of the stricken R8 back to base, and a new distributor supplied and fitted. That’s about £100 all in, absolutely tremendous value.

Should you be in a similar situation, snapping a dead 216 with the bonnet open, a shot of the two or three things you think might be knackered, the street name and a nearby focal point (a church) will come in rather handy! Breaking down 7 miles from seemingly the ONLY MGR specialist within a hundred miles kinda helps too…

So off we went; three up in the Iveco recovery truck to central Budapest, witnessing the world’s quickest recovery – this must have been under two minutes from unlock to on the truck. If you’re ever stuck, bumping on the starter and the clutch will get you twenty foot easy, Keith being very impressed at this ingenuity, even if his injuries meant only two out of three of us pushed! Next we returned to base to let Keith hop off – literally – before delivering the stricken Rover to the fitter. Legislation seemingly meant the parts side of the specialist couldn’t legally fit the parts himself, so a local Rover expert inherited the car. Next we all swapped vehicles, (a Mitsubishi L200 pickup this time) for a trip to the central parts yard, purely to kill time. This huge yard keeping south-east Europe’s collective MGRs on the road, will be profiled by Keith later, so I will skip forward to our next change of transport – HGV this time! With Keith shotgun, and yours truly perched in the sleeper cab we got the call – “It goes!” One bemused conversation with Hungary’s number 1 MGR mechanic later (‘You took THIS over the border??? If a Rover dies in Romania, you BURY IT!!!”) a test drive and humble thanks to all concerned, we set off into the scorching afternoon sun.

Having passed one o’clock, and being driven by one driver whose dodgy knee (step forward me) meant long motorway stints had to be punctuated by half hour stops to make it work again we pressed on. Clearing the Hungarian border was a physiological break through as we entered Austria, even though the Austrian motorway network seemed to be punctuated by 80 & 100 kph speed limits and single lane road works. Several stops later and a “silent coast” across the border (did we mention we had lost the rear silencer and we sounded like a Chavved up Saxo?) and we were in Germany. Of course the lure of de-restricted Autobahn confirmed Keith would try give driving through the pain barrier a go, at least as far as he could. More than happily I hobbled to passenger side and belted up before he changed his mind!

The little Rover had been blessed with a 5 speed DOHC D16 heart in one of its many transplants (I think it was an automatic to start with) and luckily Keith only needed the clutch to pull away from the services. When people mention clutchless up shifts, they fail to recollect the screaming revs or the mechanical ‘THUD’ as 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th appear… However I did suppress a jealous frown as Keith expertly shifted up at the perfect precise moment each shift. As the light fell we pressed onto Nuremberg to meet our own personal knights in shining armour – Alexander and Rhyds in team “NOW were Motoring” who alas were suffering heritage when their trusty Montego’s water pump had given up the fight. We needed some drivers – they needed a lift – job done.

So at 11pm, some 10 hours after leaving Budapest, we set off four up for Calais non-stop. Alex and Rhyds making use of the Autobahn’s USP (even if they never topped the 121mph recorded earlier that evening…) myself and Keith dead to the world in the back. The only stops were to fuel up and hydrate, though I did give the trio of snoozers a break by taking the helm into Holland for an hour or so.

Driving into daybreak we barrelled up to the P&O ferries check in at just after 7am (who really were helpful, when having learned of Keith’s predicament, giving us priority loading complete with spot right out side the elevator’s doors). A small thank you speech by the gaffer to his Rover crew as we silenced the engine and locked up the little Rover whose mileometer had now climbed by over 4600 miles from the previous week. Sailing into international waters scoffing a fry up never felt so good.

Operation drive back, day two
Operation drive back, day three



  1. So good to see it made it back maybe one day i’ll get to sit behind the wheel again some day, and it’s aleays been a manual but it’s tha second engine and gear box transplant, and i never thought i’d see Keith sat in the passenger seat 🙂

  2. You chaps were as much as Knights in Shining Armour to myself and Rhyds as we were to you. I am so pleased we could help, and we are both eternally grateful of the ride home with you. 🙂

  3. But where did the automatic instruments come from Neil? As a footnote the exhaust I rescued from my terminally rusty GTI (and donated to Tim in Surrey) now resides on this car!

  4. Well Andrew, when i replaced the interior(which was from an auto) i scratched the intruments so the only replacment i had to hand was the one from the auto car i stripped, but the seats were replaced with sei items hence the different pattern to the doors.

  5. While I am glad Keith has finally got treatment for his accident, I am at a loss as to why driving an old Rover 200 across Europe means passing by Frankfurt and not popping into the show.

    For years I have seen AR as the best place for news on new British cars – not just regurgitating press releases but really looking at things in depth. Maybe next time arrange such a jaunt for a quiet time?

  6. mike,

    While I admire your passion, it now transpires that such is the severity of the damage to my foot (five broken bones, two of which needed wiring) I would now be permanently disabled. As it is I will be off my feet for months… I’m sending this from my hospital bed…

  7. I still can’t believe you two got the 216 to Nuremberg at all and also the perfect coincidence of our car failing at a convenient place (the hotel was 5 mins from a breakers) and me buggering up our last hotel booking meaning that a straight run to calais “just worked”. I say the old boys of BMC/BL/ARG/Rover group were keeping an eye on us from somewhere..

  8. I can beat that Rhyds. Upon my return to the UK there was an email waiting for me. From the man who designed and honed the R8 chassis no less. “What did we think of it” was the question. Class.

  9. Great story, great car! I thouroughly enjoyed reading all three parts.

    I recently turned down a K plate Rover 414, full MOT, loads of tax, lots of new bits fitted, zero rust, very low miles and tonnes of service history. Also one elderly owner from new…

    Couple of hundred notes they were asking, but I turned it down because of the lack of PAS (wimp). I need my head looking at! 🙂

  10. Well done lads! Getting a Rover back in one piece is always a worthy achievement 😉 (but Alex & Rhyds – ditching a beautiful Monty… for the sake of a water pump…).

    Crikey Keith, did that manhole have crocs down it? Get well soon. Perhaps a rehab stint in Italy is called for, where clutchless gear changes will be positively encouraged?

  11. @Bob

    Look at it this way. Said monty’s water pump was new just before leaving (professionally fitted) and had suffered a failed bearing, meaning that no bodge could fix it, and any further failure would have left us on the autobhan/autoroute with a thrown cambelt and an immobile car. That would mean a recovery bill very much in excess of the car’s value, and I doubt that you’d get a montego water pump in Germany in a hurry (the nearest one would have been Alexander Boucke’s place 5 hours away, if he had one spare). Add to that a fuel leak, suspect brake master cylinder and suspension that had more play than the royal Shakespere Company and the decision was made to take it to the dismantlers. The car was a £200 shed to begin with, and would have needed a lot of cash to get it through its next test. If you want to save it I can always pass the details on, flights are only £200….

    • To be fair, they offered the Montego to me – and I had a waterpump here ready to go in. But as it is, I couldn’t do with one more car needing more TLC than I am prepared to give and it was still a long drive away… (I didn’t say that I don’t like Montegos, did I?)

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