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.
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!