For sale : SD3 with 12, yes 12 miles on the clock!

Keith Adams

Hyacinth Bucket wannabes step this way...
Hyacinth Bucket wannabes step this way...

If you’re in the market to re-live a prime slice of 1980s motoring (or indeed 1990s BBC sitcoms), then this Rover 213S, which  has just popped up for sale on Car and Classic will be right up your street. Claimed by the seller to have a mere 12 miles on the clock, it’s the ultimate barnfind car for fans of Austin Rover’s ’80s output.

The seller describes it being, ‘found unused in a dry under house garage with only delivery mileage! It’s in new condition, and the tyres, belts etc., are in perfect condition.’

The big question for the new buyer is whether to recommission what must surely the lowest-mileage Rover 200 in the world, and use it as a cherished classic, or just store and display it as-is, keep the mileage as it is, and accept it’s never going to drive again. If it’s the latter, that would be a shame, because as genuine 1980s experiences go, this is going to be up there, right down to the smell of the unused interior.

We’d be tempted to recommission and use – and take away the car’s greatest claim to uniqueness. But at an advertised £3950, whoever buys it will have thought very hard about that decision. If anyone from AROnline buys this car, please get in touch – we’d love to hear what you do with it.

Keith Adams


  1. Tempting. I used to have one of these. Rover gave it to me in exchange for an MG Metro that defied all attempts to make it work properly (after a letter to Graham Day). It was a cracking car – and, mercifully, didn’t have the beige/brown interior.

  2. Had one in 1989-1990. Great car, good Honda engine and top-notch build quality. Only sold it because I qualified for a company car (a Vauxhall Astra – a total hat full of crap!)

  3. My Missus had a 216S many years ago. Great little motor! I hope this one finds an appreciative home.

  4. The best of all the 1980’s bunch the only model true to it’s Honda heriatge , when I sold Austin Rover in the 80’s we had long waiting lists for them and we had conquest sales from Japanese marques I always felt confident when I drove them that I would not have to use “Supercover” to get home .It is worth every penny of the asking price.

  5. Very nice too and a Devon plate. I loved mine very much. A cracking buy for someone, Shame I don’t have the cash spare!

  6. A work friend had a early 213,I remember it didnt have Rover wheel trims fitted, nice drive and comfortable, also another work friend had 216SE on 89 plate, very nice car, I do fancy a Vanden Plas though. Am ammazed to find a excellent example with delivery mileage,it be nice if it went to Motor Hertitage Centre, well who ever buys it will have piece of Rover history. Regards Mark

  7. I wonder how it came to be like this? Someone buys it for themselves in 1987/8 as a retirement present perhaps, drives it home to their garage and then never looks at it again? Be interesting to know it’s history.

    We had a 213S back in 1988, and unreliable it was too. Carburetor problems meant it ran lean, and regularly cut out at speed – a backfire followed by coasting to a halt on the hard shoulder. Back and forth to Rover numerous times, but never fully cured it. Still, I considered it a very lovely car as an eight year old, and recall being quite upset when my dad sold it! Replaced by a 1990 Toyota Corolla, which never ever broke down.

  8. The British Car Heritage Centre has a habit in selling off the ARG, BL,cars, I didnt know that had a 216 Vitesse, they sold of the very last Maestro some time back, its seems when Ford bought JLR, their cars were promoted within the centre intead of BMC, BL, ARG, MGR cars. Regards Mark

  9. Why do BMH need to sell off stock? surely they have what they have because they need on in captivity? I know we will never need a breeding pair of SD3 VDP’s but if you keep a car long enough it will become interesting.

  10. I’d like to see more pictures of that. The steering wheel has a nice shine to it and the drivers seat looks a different shade (could just be a poor picture though)

  11. My Gran one of these for many years.

    The history of this one will be interesting, I’ve heard of owners buying cars then having to give up driving shortly after & putting the car to one side.

    But 12 miles sounds a very low figure for this!

  12. There’s something very spooky about this…A car bought and then never used, hidden away for nearly quarter of a century! Underground garage!? Would love to know the full story behind it!

  13. Liam, above

    Yes, you can’t help but wonder what the story is behind the car. It’s the same with all old, extremely low mileage cars. But this one!? Only twelve miles in twenty something years……

  14. “Why do BMH need to sell off stock?”

    Storage space. They sold off a lot of duplicate models, they also looked at a lot of other collections around the UK and sold off cars where they had cross over with other collections.

    Ford moved their own heritage collection (which wasn’t really displayed) to Gaydon when they bought LR, i think they’re still there on permanent loan even though it’s now owned by Tata.

    A lot of the cars had to be stored outside, it doesn’t do cars good to have them sitting around idle outdoors, better if they went to other collections or to an enthusiast owner.

    It’s a lot like your own personal cars, you can’t keep every one of them, sooner or later you have to get rid of one or two.

    You have to bear in mind though, that the BMIHT was originally set up to preserve the history of all motor manufacturing in Britain, however because the majority of the funding came from Rover Group they did establish dominance in the collection.

  15. With regards to Ash coments, I been told they sold quite a few AR cars, an Ambassador, Montego, Maestro as already mentioned and more. Perhaps they short of cash, or not having the same air as a Jag or Landrover, they all forget it was all part of BL. Regards mark

  16. Re: Sell-off of British Motor Industry Heritage Trust cars.

    A number of cars were sold off in one auction which took place in July 2003, with some of the lots including the last ever Rover SD3 (the 216 Vitesse finished in British Racing Green), last Maestro and the last MG Metro. Also the first HHR Rover 400 Series and last 38A Range Rover, to name but a few.

    The comments about some cars being duplicate is true but then, you have to ask yourself about the future benefit to future generations of car enthusiast of comparing the changes made to some of these models between 1st and last examples (I presume the first SD3 was retained?), particularly over a relatively short production period, in some cases.

    These sold-off lots are now in private collections and many will never been seen by the public again, but just by a privelaged view. This serves no benefit to future generations of vehicle enthusiasts, historians or even car designers. Even more so when you consider what happened with MG Rover Group and there is now no direct historical reference to the last chapter with Honda in the form of the first of last HHR, regardless to whether or not current enthusiasts have a liking for them. Thank goodness the Heritage Motor Centre finally put its hands into its pockets in June 2005 and bought a very important momento of our motoring heritage to be preserved for all to enjoy – the very last ever Rover 75 from the administers, rather than allowing it to be sold on through the usual channels.

    I am aware that there are a lot of people on here who do not share the same sentiments towards the Rover brand as I do and possibly hope we will never see the same rise to such splendour again in the future. But this last Rover really is something I never tire of making a three hour trip to go and view every few years and reminisce over. This is what a collection such as that at Gaydon must be all about – a chance to reminisce over vehicles we truely have an interest in, but which can help educate those who are not that knowledgeable about British marques, and of course aid in educating the next generation of car enthusuasts.

    The comments about poor storage problems prompting the sell-off of some exhibits could have been solved as back in 2003 there was undercover storage space at the nearby Gaydon Design and Engineering Centre. Why this option was never actually utilised is beyond me, although I was one of those who wrote to the Heritage Motor Centre expressing my disgust over the way they were managing cars that had been entrusted into their supposedly safe custodianship. Hopefully the impending expansion of the museum will ensure we never have to see ‘our’ prized reminders of British motoring heritage left to deteriorate with such indignity.

  17. Sorry, but I forgot to add that with the closure of the Jaguar Heritage Trust at Brown’s Lane in the future, all of these cars together with the production records will be transferred to the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust at Gaydon.

    Personally, I would hope that any proceeds received from the sell-off of the Brown’s Lane site are ploughed back into the museum at Gaydon so that along with the current plans to expand the museum for the current collection of cars, an additional display area can also be built onto the existing building to enable the Jaguar and Daimler collection to remain together as a separate stand-alone display.

  18. @20 has that place been levelled yet? – I can remember when I first worked there. I walked into (what I think was) the admin block, after a long minibus ride around the plant, and I thought that I’d stepped back in time because of the early-mid-century modernist decor. Then in the middle was a phone.. no receptionist – felt like I was in a scene in The Matrix.

    On topic.. I was amazed at the little 213S my mate’s mum had – we went storming around the Essex country lanes in it and I was impressed with how spritely it felt. Was never massively impressed with the interior though – always felt that the Montego (after D-reg?) looked better at this point.

    The low mileage? Well one possibility is that the owner might have bought it and died very short after. A friend of mine had a very low mileage FD Ventora still with the air in the tyres from the factory for the that reason – Apparently the owner’s wife could never bring herself to drive it and kept it stored away for years until she needed to sell her house and move on.

  19. “These sold-off lots are now in private collections and many will never been seen by the public again, but just by a privelaged view.”

    Although many of these cars are bought as an investment, at some point any private collection gets sold off or sometimes turned into a museum in it’s own right.

  20. @ Dennis:

    A good point, although how long do members of the public have to wait before we get to see and appreciate them again?

    Such decisions which lead to this happening rarely have benefits for the wider enthusiast movement or have the best interests of the public at part. Even more so when some of these vehicles will inevitably have left these shores.

  21. Ziebart is a good idea on that car as they rust badly against the elements same with all cars from that time not just Rover.

    After what I saw of one Rover 216 VDP (D517VRS) over a 11 year time line on a driveway which I didnt take photos of it dissolving into the ground. (an interesting timeline) if I knew it would stay there long as coast and sea air of my home town has that effect on things.

    However the mint 213S for sale still looks up to date and if used daily it will look tiny next to todays modern cars on the roads.

  22. Re the low mileage, I recall reading of a Mk1 Granada that someone picked up a dozen or so years ago with practically no mileage. The owner had driven it home, decided he didn’t like it, and had promptly gone out and bought an SD1 Rover instead. I reckon more than a few of these low-milers have the same reason behind them – embarassment!

  23. They are a nice period model and this one will be well worth the asking price, if it has been properly recommissioned. I have a one previous owner 1985 216S which has just reached 43000mls. It’s in very good condition with surprisingly little rust, which has now been treated. Sadly though, they don’t seem to be very popular at present. When I bought mine last year I paid less than £400 for it and a 213S with 52000mls sold on eBay recently for £560. They are also disappearing fast. Last year there were four 1985 216S’s shown as taxed and three on SORN, now mine appears to be the sole 1985 model recorded. It was also the sole SD3 at Pride of Longbridge this year. Is it time to put them on the ‘endangered’ list?

  24. Was Oporto Red metallic an exterior colour option for the 213?

    Was the brown dashboard fascia called bitter chocolate?

  25. Did this car get sold?
    I have a 1986 Rover 213S and have had it from new. Reluctant to part with it. Have done 150,000miles and the Honda engine still sounds good. Probably buy a new car. Spruce the Rover up and go to shows. Getting difficult to get the small parts though.

  26. I’d buy it an use it as a daily driver, but bearing in mind it will take a lot of work beofre it will be reliable. If its sat for that long the engine will need stripping (bores will have rust in them) brakes as well. The exhaust will be shot, not to mention chasing down any electrical issues it may have due to corroded termianls and concectors, it’s not worth that sort of money due to the work needed to get it back into a useable state

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