Remind me why I do it…

Keith Adams

Rover 214Si - £175 to me. Oh dear...
Rover 214Si - £175 to me. Oh dear...

What did you do this Easter? If you were particularly lucky you might have ended up buying a car. Well, double that, and you’ve got what I found myself doing on Easter Sunday. It all started with a post on the AROnline forums – its title, ‘Rover 214 bubble, 1996. Tax and MoT £175’, proved to be irresistible for a serious car hoarder like me… So, I sent its seller, Tim, a message and the deal was done. Oh dear.

In the meantime, my Project Tomcat Turbo, which has been languishing in my garage since I applied a bunch of Bilt Hamber products to the rusty bits, was begging for some attention. As it happens, Trevor Hallworth, the owner of my former Staples2Naples 216GTi got in touch – ‘I want to sell the GTi and I was wondering if you fancied letting me finish the Tomcat project?’ You know the rest.

So, on Easter Sunday, I hitched a lift to pick up the 214Si from Stoke-on-Trent. I collected it up and enjoyed a thoroughly competent drive back. It felt more grown up than the R8s I’ve been brought up on and the muilti-point K-Series lump under the bonnet appeared willing and unburstable. After my record with Ks (three owned so far, three knackered), this was good news. By the time I’d got the car home, I was impressed. How was it possible to pick up such a competent motor for such little money? Oh yes, it’s a Rover with rusty rear arches…

Stage two of the day unfolded. My Tomcat sat on RoverSport alloy wheels, which to me, look great, but aren’t original equipment. However, although the set of wheels which came with the car all had new tyres, they were porous and dumped their air within a week so wouldn’t be much use to Trevor. Trevor wanted originals anyway and, as luck would have it, the 214Si was shod with a full set of Turbo Tomcat alloys – so, to solve the problem, I’d sling them on the Tomcat before driving it down to Trevor’s. Job done.

Eventually, as the afternoon passed by I got round to changing the wheels. Ordinarily, this would be half an hour’s work but, thanks to the Tomcat’s cheese-like wheelnuts, it took rather longer.

Time for a 'quick' wheel change
Time for a quick - ha - wheel change...

However, in the end, the Tomcat and 214Si’s wheels were exchanged and I was on my way to Kent to drop off the Turbo. Initial thoughts on this longish run: how effortless this car is to drive; how quickly it picks up speed without you noticing; and how inappropriately weak the brakes are. Trevor’s going to have fun while he licks the car back into shape for AROnline (and, of course, himself).

The exchange was quick (I get to have a look at Trevor’s own 220GTi – what a car) and hopped into my old 216GTI. Hmm… it’s like being back in 2004. The smells are all there (despite the new interior), as are the same rattles, squeaks and foibles. The unburstable Honda that I fell in love with on the banger rally is as it was and its performance is still there. I’m a bit older now, of course, so plumbing the rev range as much as you need to in order to make it really go is a bit of a hassle – but the clean power delivery and low gearing mean its easy (if sluggish) to waft along in…

The 120 mile drive home was uneventful and I couldn’t help but feel that I was in a car that fitted me like a glove. My friends think I am mad for bringing the old girl home but those who really know me understand. Maybe. Compared with the £175 Rover 214Si, it’s raucous and unrefined but the build quality is excellent in the older car and I wonder if Rover made a number of retrograde steps in this area during the 1990s.

The following day, on Easter Monday, I swapped the 214Si and 216GTi’s wheels so the newer car now sits on cross-spokes while the GTi now has those gorgeous five-spokes – I happen to think that they are one of the nicest alloy wheel designs ever. Is there any logic in what I did? Of course not. I am now left with a 1996 car I don’t need and a 1990 car that I’m seriously attached to but which doesn’t really make any sense at all. The R3 needs to go – and, from what I can see, it shouldn’t be too difficult to sell, rusty arches, an iffy front wing fit and all.

And yet, I am already wondering about doing it up to keep. But why!?!?!?!?!?!?

Rover 216GTI has come home
Rover 216GTI has come home
Keith Adams

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