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.