The best used car in the real world?

Roger Blaxall

Rover 416SLi
Rover 416SLi

Friday, 30th November. It’s a very special date for me – two years ago I took the plunge and invested all of £150 in a Rover 416 SLi saloon. A foolish move? Well, so far, so good – it’s been one of the best cars I’ve ever bought*

It all started so predictably – I simply circled cars in the classifieds section of my local freesheet – and, as anyone who has a predilection for buying bangers knows, this is where things can start to get interesting, depending on how cars are classified – by price or by make.

My local paper does the latter so everything under £500 is lumped together – a veritable ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ (with apologies to CAR Magazine) of the flotsam and jetsam floating around at the bottom end of the market. Once in a while though, you’ll unearth a gem which is why a 1994 Rover 416 SLi with ‘scrapped’ doors took my fancy at £200. That ‘scrapped’ should have read ‘scraped’ but, sensing there was a good car to be had at a very reasonable price, I rang – and rang, and rang, and rang.

A week later, I called for one last time. The lady who answered couldn’t have been more apologetic, explaining that BT had just fixed their phone line. I thought that by now I’d have missed it anyway and rather lamely enquired about the Rover, wondering if it was still for sale.

‘Oh yes, you’re the first caller who’s got through. Would you like to see it this lunchtime?’

Half an hour later and I arrived at a very posh address in Formby, West Lancashire. I clocked a three year old MG ZR and early Jaguar S-TYPE on the drive with her discarded 39,000 mile Rover 416 SLi in Nightfire Red parked at the corner with said scraped door – and a dented wheel arch.

Turns out she’d hit the gatepost twice while reversing off the drive so her husband had decided to buy her a smaller car and she wanted the Rover sold pronto.

The car started on the button but was damp inside (both drain channels needed clearing of accumulated crud) and needed a good wash and brush up. She had left it for a month or so since last using it but it boasted a decent test and tax – and that all important FSH along with the original bill of sale.

I explained that I worked for a local hospice fundraiser and needed a roomy, reliable car. That swung it – £50 came off the price just like that and we agreed £150 for what’s proved to be a great buy.

Over the past two years it’s needed a new battery, an exhaust back box, some attention to the track rod ends and a tyre or two but, all things considered, it’s been a little belter. Having the Honda engine’s helped of course – and the fact that there are still so many 200 and 400s on UK roads got me thinking…

This isn’t the most scientific of surveys but, when I’m travelling around West Lancashire and Liverpool, I still see my fair share of older Audi 80s, Cavaliers, Mondeos, Passats and Primeras. I’ll see a Montego or Maestro once a month perhaps and a Rover 213/216 even less frequently.

Why is that … were some ’80s and ’90s cars better made or did their owners look after them more lovingly? What of the models which have simply disappeared off the radar – when was the last time you saw a Fiat Regata, Lancia Dedra, Yugo of any description or early Lada?

Rover 416 SLi
Rover 416 SLi

*Since 1974, that’s car number 27 for me, not counting the ones I have bought for the wife. The Rover is still doing sterling service with an L reg Daihatsu Mira bought as a Christmas present for my wife (and to satisfy my curiosity) for Christmas 2007.

Keith Adams


  1. It cant be as bad as the Sh*te Citroen ZX i currently have sat on my driveway. I bought it thinking it would be cheap motoring as that’s all i need at the moment.(just to get from A to B) But what a pile of french cr*p.. it has turned out to be.
    I wont go into details simply not enough room here! and i will get angry (lol)
    I will never call a Rover car ever again.(K series or not)Compared to the ZX that i own – It makes Rovers look like a masterpiece of design and engineering in comparison!

    Mr Angry from Lancs..

  2. ah, the K engine.. responsible for both my 216 cabby to be sent to scrapyard heaven prematurely, (bought a 3rd with the T16 from a chap in nottingham, had to give it up for a 4 door sedan,and the fact that it was too powerfull despite complete tomcat running gear, has anyone tried to put the m-16 2ltr or the kv6 for size?) but soft top driving caught up with me again last summer.. was looking for a 216 with honda engine, most are auto’s with the old dashboard add-up equity and i have a porsche 944 S2 cabby in my drive and after selling the Xedos 6 i got a honda HRV 4X4, so i have a d-16 engine but in the wrong car!

  3. Good cars if you look after them, i’ve had a 414SLI since new in 1993, it had one h’gasket (coolant leak from a pipe went unoticed) and has been fine since. Honda engine is a bit stronger.

    Any tips for clearing the drain channels ?

  4. Hey, looking at the registration we have the little brother to this car, a Silver 214 SLi! Great car to drive, and still looking great too!

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