It’s been a funny old week and one that will go down in my life as a landmark really. Why? Well, in the space of a couple of days, no less than three Rovers have been added to fleet… by anyone’s standards, that’s impressive/stupid/obsessive enough to have the boys in the white coats coming round to take me for a ride in the back of their nice van.
Mind you, as regular readers will know, one of those cars is a most welcome addition. The white SD1 3500, freshly restored in Poland, is quite literally a magnificent beast and one that – I hope – will help affirm the breed’s position in the Classic Car Hall of Fame. It really does have everything: style, performance, practicality and, most importantly, condition. The paint quality is near flawless, the shell is agreeably rust free and waxed up to the hilt and the spec is just right. What’s not to like?
The four-day trailering epic to get the SD1 back here wasn’t one of the most enjoyable journeys of my life, but it certainly felt like we’d achieved something special by the time we’d got back – until, that is, the car started on the trailer and then promptly ran out of fuel, leaving me to push it quite a way in order to get it into the safety of my garage. Nice. Next time I’ll listen to Andrew Elphick when he suggests putting some fresh petrol in on the way back from Poland…
That’s one of the three Rovers.
The other two came to me from Hyundai Motor UK Limited of all places. The company had been running what it described as a fleet of ‘snotters’ in order to give the UK’s pampered motoring journalists something to drive by way of a comparison with its new cars. The message was clear – would you want a new Hyundai or one of its weather worn Rovers? That PR exercise had lasted a few months, but once the journos had done their bit in the Rover 200, Metro and Maestro, it was time to get rid. That’s, as you might have guessed, where I came in…
Yes, when Hyundai Motor UK’s PR Manager, Tom Barnard, approached me asking if I wanted to buy his Scrappage fleet, I found myself unable to refuse. My main reason for accepting Tom’s offer was because I could do with something usable for the winter to replace the Saab 9000 while it’s in storage for the winter. However, there’s another reason – I’ve been a strong opponent of the Scrappage Scheme, venting my opinions wherever anyone’s prepared to listen, and I thought it was time to put my money where my mouth is.
That’s why, last Friday, while I was on my way to Poland, the Metro 1.4LD and 214Si were delivered to the office and were, reportedly, greeted with knowing smiles by several of my colleagues. Anyway, with the Poland epic now behind me, I’ve had a chance to drive both cars.
The 214Si came first and, although the badly dented driver’s door does it no favours visually, it actually drives amazingly well – so much so, that I kept checking the mileage – at 70,000 it feels as tight as a drum and brakes, stops and steers exactly as it should. The gearbox is slick, the seats are nice, the ergonomics and visibility are fine and performance willing. Given that this is being touted as a car to chop in under the Scrappage Scheme, I found this very sad indeed because, for me, it feels as easy to drive as any modern supermini and potentially has years ahead of it… or it would if it had a decent resale value.
Then there’s the Metro. Here’s a car that raised smiles in the car park and, if I am honest, isn’t great shakes to drive – and yet there’s some charm and character there. Fuel consumption will obviously be excellent and that small fuel tank has some psychological benefits, too, when it comes to filling up for £30 from empty.
I’ve already been offered a great deal on one of the cars, while the other will be staying throughout the winter, so that I can save as I drive. Here’s the funny thing, though: as much as I think the 214Si ticks the modern car boxes, it’s the Metro that stays on. Go and figure…
Either way, all three of my Rover stories are one in the eye for the Scrappage Scheme. The SD1, by all rights, should have been scrapped years ago, having cost me £200 to buy back in 2005, while the other two would be passed-over by most people for a) being old, and b) being Rovers but what do they know?