Events : Report – Rover 200/400 R8 25th Birthday gathering

Mike Humble

R8 celebrated 25 years at Gaydon - AROnline attended.
R8 celebrated 25 years at Gaydon – AROnline attended

So that’s another long distance proving trip undertaken with 100% reliability in the 214 GSi – and even ‘er indoors did her whack behind the wheel too. I am, of course, referring to the Rover 200/400 birthday gathering that took place at the British Motor Heritage Centre in the sleepy setting of Gaydon, Warwickshire. Can it really be a quarter century since the Rover Group took the industry and customers by storm with their third (and most involving) project with the Honda Motor Company of Japan – and what a turn out there was too!

We booked a room at the Warwick Hilton, packed an overnight rucksack and drifted in a North Westerly direction, eventually landing in the thickest traffic jam I have ever seen on the M40. Not regretting the comfort and serenity of our company Golfs or their respective fitted climate control (too much) as the traffic crawled for mile after mile, we arrived in Warwick three and a half hours later. Right away, the race was on to remove the dead bugs from the nose of the Rover as well as the brake dust from the wheels as the light faded – and that was before booking into the hotel… that’s commitment for you eh?

After an evening meal in a local Warwick restaurant and a brisk wander round this incredibly pretty county town (if you have never been, you must visit it), it was back the digs for a good night’s kip. Wide eyed, bushy tailed and a good breakfast inside, we sauntered down the road a few mile to Gaydon and upon arrival there was already a lot of vehicles on site with many more to come. John Batchelor was busy erecting the Rover 200 owners club banner with some curious looking under sink drainage pipe – a man on a mission in every sense. Initial indications had shown that there was about 30 R8 Rovers due to be on show, but they just kept coming.

In the end there was over 50 car of the class which included hatchbacks, coupes and the tourer version – all models in all conditions too. Not only that, but the TR Register were there with more wedged wonders in one space than I have ever seen – even the 200 BRM Club had a healthy sprinkling of bubble bombs. Other class included a soupçon of SD1 Rovers, a brace of immaculate early MG Metros, an impressive collection of Triumph 2000/2500s, an Austin Maxi and even a brace of Rover SD3s in the form of a well used 213 and a pretty 216 Vanden Plas EFi – it really was a splendid turn out.

Well in excess of 40 examples turned out - all models in every condition too!
Well in excess of 40 examples turned out – all models in every condition too!

A discounted entry into the museum for a very reasonable £5 was available for those who needed to take a break from the smell of silicone polish. Inside, John was keen to show me a sectioned 214 GSi built by the Longbridge apprentices for the 89 motor show detailing the then impressive technology such as the multi-link rear suspension, K-Series engine and other technical features. I stood there dumbfounded as ‘er indoors stated how I would like that in pride of place in the living room at home given half the chance. There was plenty of fat chewing too as mechanics, engineers and Longbridge workers shared their stories of experience with the 200 series with each other.

The Gaydon bash was a truly brilliant day out – even if it did dent my wallet after a thorough wander round the retail shop inside. There was even a competition for the earliest, best, best modified R8 car and everyone took it all in good spirit so many thanks to John Batchelor and co from the Rover 200/400 Owners Club for organising a cracking event – everyone was made to feel up where they belonged. I felt proud to attend and of course my own little GSi (one of 85 left in use) gained one or two favourable remarks – if you were one of the few who stopped by and chatted about the car and the site, I thank you.

Will there be another event in five years time to celebrate 30 years? Who knows what tomorrow brings!


Mike Humble


  1. It’s still hard to believe that the R8 is 25 years old, I still remember reading Auto express in the late 80’s showing the new Rover, where has the time gone.
    It was a great turn out of R8’s probably the most I have seen in one place since they were stacked the the showrooms in the 90’s.
    There were two of my old cars there too, Mike’s Gsi, which he somehow managed to prise from my hands a few months ago and a red 220GTI that I owned back in 2010.

    Plus the amount of TR7’s was a pleasant surprise as I honestly didn’t think there were that many still left on the road.

    Apart from the various cars outside the centre was worth the drive up from Wales just to see the one off prototypes and cars that have long disappeared from our roads, all in all a good day out.

  2. Twenty-five years since the Rover 200 appeared on the front cover of Car, beating the then 3-Series (albeit long in tooth. Rover Grp really had its mojo in the days it was chasing BMW, before it got swallowed up.
    That ‘Up Where You Belong’ commercial still looks good today. Not many of them age so well.
    Can’t decide if the ‘grill’ that got added later was a good idea.
    Pity so few SD3s around now.

  3. The other reason for the large Triumph contingent was that it was also the Club Triumph’s Round Britain Reliability Run Drivers Briefing in one of the conference rooms inside the museum.
    For those who might not know next friday (3rd Oct) 115 Triumphs (all makes and models from a 1950’s Renown to the Acclaim) will be leaving ‘The Plough’ Crews Hill, Enfield embarking on possible the toughest driving event in the UK – The Club Triumph 24th Round Britain Reliability Run. Enfield to John o Groats to Lands End to Enfield- 2027 miles in just 48 hours! Thats an average speed of over 30mph. There are 17 control stops all over the UK – so if you see us please give us a wave! The event runs every 2 years and last time out we raised £65,000 for Children with Cancer and this time we are hoping to raise the same for Macmillan.

  4. Had a 1991 214Si as my first car back in 1997 (although what I really wanted at the time was an EJ-shape Honda Civic Coupe). The Rover was a great car and never let me down in the two years I had it, despite taking a beating on regular trips up and down the M5.

    Never thought there would be an owners club for the R8!

    • Every car has an owners club – some of them are just quite small 🙂

      In fact there are 2 specifically for the R8 – the Rover 200 OC and the Rover Coupe OC.

  5. Alas, I had to drive my mother-in-law half way across the country on Sunday so couldn’t attend. Does that mean I need to keep hold of my Nightfire 214 SEi for another five years in order to fit in next time?

    Great turnout by the sound of things, and thanks, Mike, for the report…

  6. ‘Up where we belong!’
    Twas a great day, so many nice cars to look at 🙂

    Good to see some excellent examples of the ‘superior’ early models.

  7. Can’t believe these are 25 years old. Great cars. Had 3 as company cars, a 1989 214si, a 1991 218sld and a 1992 218sld all reliable and all did over 50,000 miles with no trouble. The 214 was given to another employee and was run for over 100,000 miles without incident. The 1991 218 was written off when a Cortina crashed head on into it, I climbed out of the passenger window whilst the Cortina driver was cut out by fire crews. The 1992 had 75,000 miles on it when I left the company in 1995.

    I recently went to a Spedeworth Stock Car meeting and it seems the R8 is a favourite car of banger racers. I am trying to find one as a “station car” before they all disappear.

  8. I remember seeing the sectioned one at Gaydon back in the day. Any more photos of it?

    Between my father and me we had four R8’s. Two written off and they protected us well. Great cars and would have an early 214 GSi in a heartbeat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.