Blog : Wounded in action – the 75 returns!

Mike Humble

During happier times - The 75 gets one last chance.

A little while ago, I added a scribe telling you all of the project 75 that was sold to a couple in Suffolk and about how it had become rather poorly. Some caring sharing MG Rover “specialist” garage had quoted over £1700 + VAT to repair a blown cylinder head gasket following a failure of the equally well documented problem with the inlet manifold. There had been a sketchy plan to recover the car down to me in leafy Horsham in order to fully assess the carnage and hopefully put right once again.

Well, the situation has changed slightly since the last time the car was featured on here and owing to a hectic home life at the moment, Richard and Jill have decided it would be better to give the old car a chance of survival with a new owner. After much soul searching (for both parties I may add) and a few lengthy phone calls, I have decided to purchase “Thumper” – as they had affectionately called it, another lifeline. After moving on the project 214, it kind of made sense.

There was a few other potential bangers in the running though. There was a personal line trimmed 75 Connoisseur 2.5 I went to view near St Albans that sadly had a a partially seized water pump and an expansion tank full of K seal. A brace of Maestros were scrutinised and a lovely red 2.0 TD Clubman with the added luxury of power steering nearly came home to roost. But the missus well and truly put the block on that one so I thought about the 75 I had sold and if there was ever a decent project… this was the one. Besides, it was told that if I must have a non functioning heap on the drive, get one you know inside out – an official blessing maybe from she who must be obeyed?

In all honesty, as the cliché goes, it was a very reluctant sale last year. At the time, I needed to free up some capital and after finding myself getting rather bored with its flawless comfort –  selling was the only way forward. Not being one to normally keep abreast of events post sale, we kept in touch fairly regularly and a warm feeling was felt whenever the latest update came through about how well the car was performing with its new parents. You do become emotionally tied now and again with the Rover 75 being one of only two cars my patient better half has sorely missed after moving on – the other being a fresh out of the box Rover 620 Ti.

Having ring fenced the capital for a possible re-power and with tools and coolant a-plenty in the boot of the back up vehicle, the missus and I jabbed the all important address into the old Sat Nav. For the second time in so many months we soon found ourselves in a little stunning hamlet situated a stones throw over the other side of the Essex border. Armed with a replacement modified inlet manifold gasket and my RAC membership card safely nestled in the back pocket, I started to undertake the awkward and back ache inducing task of swapping over the manifold gasket.

The inlet manifold locating ferrules have failed. The temporary fix got the car back home and a replacement one awaits fitting.
The inlet manifold locating ferrules have failed. The temporary fix got the car back home and a replacement one awaits fitting but the head is also coming off too.

I visited them a few weeks back to assess the damage and found the inlet manifold gasket to have failed mainly because two of the brass ferrules that are sealed into the manifold had become loose. In this case, changing the gasket is rather pointless as no matter how tight the locating nuts are, the manifold itself will still move. As a temporary measure, the ferrules were bonded into place with some secret miracle in a bottle in a bid to get the car running on four cylinders and a new gasket slotted into place. An OBD scan to erase the current stored fault codes and it could be put off no longer… it was time to bite the bullet and head home.

So with the coolant level checked and double checked one last time, an emotional farewell was bode by all present and we gingerly made our way to the A12 south for the return journey to Dr Mike’s Rover 75 Sussex surgery. For those who have never piloted a poorly car back home locally never mind across three counties via the bear pit that is the M25, its one of the most stress inducing experiences imaginable. No opportunity to enjoy the dulcet tones of the radio / cassette / CD auto-changer or revel in the sublime comfort of the hugely proportioned driving seat either – your eyes are glued to the dials while your ears are trained for odd noises.

Small bumps in the road are subconsciously mistaken for a misfire with long uphill climbs that add extra load onto the cooling system make you silently will the car forwards just like the children’s story of The Little Engine… “I know I can I know I can” goes through your mind. A couple of decades back, this kind of adventure took place with such regularity it was almost deemed as fun myself and old chum Richard got up to all sorts of mischief dragging crippled Cavaliers or limping Lada Riva’s on a tow rope all around the South Midlands in all weathers – not now… there’s a great deal to be said for a comfy dependable car once you’re at the wrong side of 40!

Well… there were a few random misfires and gut wrenching stutters along the way – each one causing me a mild heart attack. As I neared the Dartford Toll bridge there were another couple of worries I hadn’t taken into account – the long climb over the bridge itself and an epic Saturday queue for the toll booths. With windows down and the heater notched up to alleviate some of the heat away from the engine, it waltzed up the hill with not even the slightest twitch of the temperature gauge. Then came the obligatory 15 minute crawl to the toll booth with the air-con turned on to kick the engine fan in constantly.

The car got home safe and sound. The big pull apart begins - with a little help from Stella the AROnline workshop cat of course!
The car got home safe and sound. The big pull apart begins – with a little help from Stella the AROnline workshop cat of course!

By now, I was taking no enjoyment from the situation and all I wanted to do was get home for a cuppa but I was still barely half way. Clinging to the inside lane like a limpet, the rest of the journey went with no fuss and by the time I reached the final furlong that is the M23, I was finally beginning to enjoy this mission of mercy. A snatch over half an hour later, Thumper was parked in the same spot it last graced in early 2013 and with cobwebs and dust gracing every corner and orifice after a month in disgrace locked inside Richards garage, the bucket and hosepipe came out. An hour later and after going round all the chrome with a toothbrush, it was almost like its never been away.

So where are we at so far then? Well its in need of a replacement inlet manifold and there is a very slight external water leak from the head / block area – symptomatic of MLS gaskets sometimes so the head is coming off to check the liners and warpage. Wear and tear items include a pair of front brake discs with more lip on them than a bus full of moody school kids and an exhaust back box with a hole that a Badger could climb through. All the engine components have all arrived as I type and I even have a spare engine standing by in case the liners have dropped lower than Torquay United FC.

Some may say I’m mad to go through all this again, but those who know the car will agree that its way too good to scrap off… besides, I like a challenge and I have a feeling in my water the car will recover to its past former glory. But I’d getter get a move one as the MOT is running out – time to make use of the ever longer evenings.

Oh well…. here we go again eh?

Mike Humble


  1. Well Mike, as you said at PoL, too good, too special to scrap. Richard’s comment sums it all up perfectly!

  2. I know exactly what you mean re the limping home experience. A thought occurs however. Since you are pulling it apart might I suggest Evans Waterless Coolant? Admittedly its expensive but it doesn’t pressurize (it wont boil so no pressure) the cooling system, so the head gasket will be less stressed and its entirely fit and forget for the life of the car. Plus no more of the potential spinal injuries or horrible bills.
    From what people have said it can also deal with hotspots and provide better contact cooling. If you look on Allpar. com the 4th part of the cooling system article mentions it and tests done by the writer. If you plan keeping the car it might be a worthwhile investment..

  3. You’re making a habit of taking cars back to the Mothership! It warms the cockles of my heart though…and it makes great reading.

  4. #3. The waterless coolant may not boil , but if it does not create pressure when it heats then it is one of the first substances known to man ( Invar excepted ) that has no measurable linear/ volumetric coefficient of expansion . It must rival snake oil in that respect

  5. #3: The stuff may create less pressure (as it does not boil locally, depending on car and engine) and may prevent hot spots (depending on the car), but it will surely not correct the problems the K-series has. The biggest problem for the head gasket is that it is loaded with the movements of head and (vs.) block. Or overheating of the engine due to a failed (and failed to notice) inlet manifold gasket.

    I dare to say that on a car with a well working cooling system there will be no difference between this waterless coolant and using the recommendet mix. On a car with a marginal cooling system (say Jaguar XK120), there may be some advantages as the temperature level can raise without negative side effects.

  6. I obviously have missed the subtle meaning of “lovely” in the desription of the red Maestro Clubman TD with PAS!

  7. Mike, given the surprisingly strong prices (£3k+) commanded by top condition Rover 75s versus the very low prices for sick ones, it sounds like there is scope for a nice profitable little business buying up sickly 75s, fixing them properly, and flogging them to the grey-haired population of Sussex for a substantial profit. Presume you’ve already considered this?

  8. Andy (Comm 9)

    I kind of think the current market for “re-engineered” Rover 75’s down my way is as buoyant as a car boot stall selling bootlegged Rolf Harris CD’s

    As Duncan Bannatyne says…

    “And for that reason… I`m out”

  9. Maybe that could be your Reginald Perrin business?

    Selling reconditioned cars that nobody wants – 75s, Xantias, Saab 93s, Honda Legends etc.

    Which, despite your best efforts, inexplicably becomes a success as the public start to rebel against SUVs and germanic saloons… 🙂

  10. Mike Humble, our gallant and quixotic hero!

    Hope the work goes well- good weather on the way, so you can get a well-tanned bumcrack as you delve into the bowels of the K Series…

  11. At least it’s been otherwise well looked after – I stupidly sold an excellent, totally reliable mint Citroen XM for the “crime” of being a manual. A year later the buyer contacted me and asked if I want to buy it back – YES! I thought. I went to see it – every panel was dented – the windscreen cracked and the idiot wanted just £150 less than I sold it to him for! I just said “scrap it – you’ve wrecked an almost perfect car in a year”.

    Even though I didn’t do the damage myself, I feel responsible for a good XM dying – it could and should have lasted years.

  12. Plenty of 75s still running in Cumbria. I see a metallic green 51 plate one every day, which looks like it’s being cared for.

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