Opinion : What would you do with a ‘delivery-mileage’ classic? I’d use it!

Rover 216 EFI

Scanning though the classified ads during the Christmas break is one of my guilty secrets. While friends and people with lives crack on with social stuff, like meeting friends, or drinking mince pie-flavoured gin, I try and find myself an off-season bargain, with the intention of fixing it up in the spring.

So, imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this wonderful example of the highly underrated Rover 216 Vitesse EFI located in Holland. It has a mere 46 miles on the clock and, as such, could be described as factory fresh. You can find the advert on the Autoscout website, and with an asking price of €10,000 (around £8900 at today’s exchange rate) isn’t exactly expensive in the era of £100,000 Peugeot 205 GTIs or £500,000 Sierra RS Cosworths.

(Very) long-time readers of AROnline might recognise the car. It’s an ex-British Motor Museum exhibit, sold as part of a sale of cars way back in 2003, when the facility was under space pressure and needed to rationalise its collection. The Bonhams sale, which is detailed here, attracted huge interest – so much so that when the hammer fell on this Rover Vitesse, I later described the £3600 (£4140 after fees) it went for as ‘impressive’.

Twenty years on, and the car’s mileage hasn’t changed, and its condition would appear (from the very nice photos) to remain as it was when it was wheeled out of Gaydon. It’s clearly been wrapped in cotton wool by its owner – away from the madding crowd – so that it can remain pretty much as it was when it emerged, blinking in the sunlight, from Longbridge.

Now, I must admit I am very interested in this car. I could see myself buying it. I am a fan of the Rover 213/216 (SD3) range, as it represents a small, but significant, part of our automotive heritage. It kick started a shift in the focus of the Rover marque (for better or worse) as well as cementing the excellent relationship that the firm enjoyed with Honda.

More than that, a great mate had one at college which I loved driving around in, and it was the car I learned to drive (and passed my test) in. So, lots of fond memories. Also, amazingly, in all of the cars I’ve owned, I still haven’t had one of these.

Here’s the thing, though. If I did buy this car, I’d get it recommissioned and then bloody well use it. I’ve thought long and hard about this and, although many of you might think that it deserves to be in a museum (and it does!), now that it’s in the wild, I’d rather like the idea of having a ‘new’ 1980s Rover as my high days and holidays classic car.

I’m kind of there already. Back in 2021, I bought an 18,000-mile Audi 80 CD from the firm’s heritage fleet and have continued to add miles to it. Not loads, admittedly, but then I have newer cars kicking around to take to the supermarket or hammer down the motorway to the office in, but as a thing to drive around in on a sunny weekend, the Audi takes some beating. Now, it has 20,000 miles on it – does that dilute its appeal or devalue it? Of course not…

The Rover would essentially be used in the same way. Polished and maintained, but essentially used and enjoyed – and if, after a couple of years of owning it, there were 2000 miles on the clock, would that be a bad thing? Would it be worth less or be any less interesting? I don’t think so.

But is it the right thing to do? As this was the very last Rover SD3 off the line, should it be preserved for posterity? I suspect that, had it never left the protective bosom of the BMIHT, generations of people would have enjoyed this car as a talking point, and that would have been the correct fate for it. But it did, so it should be enjoyed on the roads and at events.

And for me, that would be sticking it to the man in my ‘new’ Rover, which is looking increasingly lovely in a world dominated by increasingly large, complex and obnoxious-looking SUVs.

Don’t be too surprised if you see me putting this car up for sale in 2026, with 4000 miles on the clock and some much-needed patina!

Keith Adams
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)

16 Comments

  1. Howmanyleft shows that there are 3 (three) of these currently on the UK roads, with another 20 SORNed.
    This could be number 4 !

  2. I think if it was used as suggested – lightly, couple of thousand a year and looked after that wouldnt detract from it at all

  3. I think if it was used as suggested – lightly, couple of thousand a year and looked after that wouldnt detract from it at all

  4. With so few 216 Vitesses left, especially of the latter (and rarer) 1989 Model Year spec, and also some of the final Rovers built not being secured for prosperity (e.g. the last 25, 45 and 75 V8, it would be more fitting for the first Honda-based Rover model (an important chapter for the marque) to be saved as a museum exhibit only.

    Imagine if it was involved in a crash going to an event etc. That important piece of history would potentially be lost forever along with its ‘historic’ status.

    The gaps in the Rover heritage line through some of those ‘first’ and ‘last’ examples being sold off by the British Motor Museum in 2003 is infuriating for historical and research purposes. The hypothetical question I often consider is: What would happen if someone was to buy it with the aim of not using it, but instead offer it on long term loan to the British Motor Museum? Would they welcome it back with open arms or not?

  5. This is where I differ, with Keith and with those who have commented above. I don’t get all the talk of this being a”historic” vehicle, or a significant one come to that.This sort of stuff only matters to those to whom it matters, i.e. BLARG fanatics. And while I love this site I’ve never been one of those. To me this is a deeply ordinary, rather unattractive wee car. Never wanted one then and I don’t want one now. This example is certainly in amazing time warp condition, and that’s what makes it noteworthy. Use it and you risk losing the thing that makes it extraordinary.After all, it’s just a Honda Ballade with a S-series engine and some Rover badges.I can’t get excited about that. It’s the “as new” condition that matters.

  6. I was at the press launch of the SD3 in 1984 and liked it then and even more when the S series engine was added. A friend had a Vitesse 216 as his company car. This example looks great in BRG and I can see why it appeals to Keith as either a daily runner or preserved as a collectors item.

    This sort of story is another reason why I like ARonline so much!

    • SD3 was not the project name!
      As young lad I worked in the AR Design studio.
      My first job that I was entrusted to after finishing my apprenticeship as a Clay Modeler was to Roverise the Honda Ballade.
      A minor job just a new front and rear end,bumpers, grille rear applique and mirrors.
      I had to model these changes in the storage hall as the project was top secret at that stage as AR did not have an agreement with unions for a follow on Japanese based car after Acclaim.
      I personally would like this car to come back home and be used just so that I could see it, touch it and remember old times!

      • I know it’s not the project name. Never way. But as I’ve recounted in the Rover 213/216 development story, it is the nickname that was applied to the car during development, leading to much confusion for the Honda team!

        Would love to hear your recollections from the project and add them to the main story

      • Thank you for making the point about using the fictitious “SD3” model code. It is historically wrong, it grates and detracts from the credibility of the article.

  7. I’d use it.. daily. It would need a lot of going though first as it will almost certainly be troublesome due to lack of use

  8. It is a conundrum. Who is really going to pay £9,000 plus any import taxes and then park it up in a garage. At that price, i don’t believe you would buy it as an investment. It is a rare beast and not just because it is last of line. It needs to be looked after but any owner needs to be able to enjoy it and take it to shows for others to enjoy it. As the current owner of R8 no.1, i rescued it eight yrs ago. It was sold in the second Bonhams sale in 2006 with less than 2k miles and sadly used as a daily car for a number of years, racking up a 68k miles in 5 yrs, before being left at a garage for them to dispose of. The garage didn’t initially know the significance of the car and it could easily have been scrapped. It was very down at heel when i bought it and even after spending a considerable amount of money on it, it will never be as good as an original low mileage car. It would be good to see the Vitesse back in the UK and doing the show circuits for people to enjoy it. And 2024 is the 40th anniversary of the SD3 launch.

  9. Classics no longer mean E Type Jaguars, MGs and Morris Minors, like they did wnen the scene kicked off at the end of the seventies, to me, it would mean any car that was popular or influential from the last century. The Rover SD3 is significant because it was the first of the small Rovers and the father of the well loved R8 model that really turned round Rover’s fortunes in the nineties. it’s interesting on the roads now I see cars classic fans would have sneered at 30 years ago being treated with reverence by other road users because of their rarity these days and the fact someone will always have a story about owning one when they were younger, hence the interest whenever a local Y reg Cotina Crusader pulls up in a supermarket car park.

  10. Would I be burned at the stake to suggest a recommissioning to OEM+ status with slightly lower ride height and tighter springs?

  11. Buy it for £9K, spend £1K on recommissioning it [new tyres/belts/battery, a full fluids-and-filters replacement] and then it becomes a brilliant “Daily-driver Classic”, happily capable of pootling down to Waitrose on saturday morning, doing a 50-mile-a-day A-road/motorway commute and weekend trips to the likes of the Festival of the Unexceptional.

    Only issue for me would be maintenance: if you’re using it as a daily-driver and something goes wrong – let’s say the ECU packs up a radiator hose blows or the exhaust drops off – you can’t just call Partco for spares or book it into your local Rover dealer to get them to fix it; you may be faced with scouting round for secondhand parts of unknown provenance, or having stuff made-up specially.

    Either way, for £10K you could have an interesting and eminently usable car, and it would still be cheaper than buying a new Dacia!

  12. It isn’t worth the asking price. It was a rubbish car when it was new, now tainted by the Hyacinth Bucket connection, An old Honda badged as a Rover. The Vitesse badge is just embarrassing. What was Vitesse about it, compared with a genuine GTi of the period?

    The seller is just chancing their arm, waiting to see if some fool will turn up to pay a ridiculous price for old, but unused goods. It’s a Rover, not a Ford.

    £1K won’t be sufficient to get it recommissioned. You will need to replace so many parts, and where are you going to find them from? Everything will have degraded from rubber to electrical connections.

    Would you fancy using the fuel hoses and seals in an injection system from the 80s that have only seen 46 miles in nearly 35 years. How many fuel leaks and fires do you fancy?

    Unless you rebuild everything, it will go wrong every time you use it as unused stuff suddenly gets used and fails.

    For the same money you can get a much better car to use every day. In fact you cannot really get a worse one. For that money, you can get a much better classic to use occasionally.

    All you could do is waste your money on it, trailer it to the Festival of the Unexeceptional and win every year!

    • What a miserable reply. Did you get out of bed the wrong side? BTW a lot of your comments are incorrect too!

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