Our cars : Alexander’s Rover 800 – Bangergnomics or madness?

Alexander Boucke

The Vitesse in all it’s glory – already dressed up and ready to go.

Will this be the direct way into mental and economical crisis? Come on, there is no way an old Rover 827 will be more economical to run than my trusty little Maestro, being a manual and on loan it shouldn’t hit the wallet too hard – at least that’s what I’d like to think. But let’s start from the beginning…

Last year my younger brother and one of his friends decided to organize a variation of the popular banger rallies, having a route from Munich to Barcelona in mind. Their sensible choice of company – and rally-car fell on a manual Rover 827 Vitesse offered on a big online auction place. In the end it was won for little sum of about 370 Euros, collected and driven to their place in Munich. Disaster struck on the day before the first rally set off in June 2009 – the ignition failed and, due to lack of time to have a tinker, the car was parked and a BMW 7-series of similar vintage was pressed into service…

However, ever since then, I’ve been hankering after a drive in the Vitesse – it certainly looks the part and would also fill my gap of not having driven either a manual 827 or one of the pre-grilled versions – so, in the end, we struck a deal: I’d take the car over for some time before this year’s rally starts and see what needs to be done to it to make it to Barcelona and back.

That explains why, a couple of weeks ago, I found myself behind the wheel of this once most expensive Rover. Ignoring the blowing back box, the luxury car still seemed to be lurking somewhere under the grime of two decades. The engine sounded fine, all fluids were where they belonged and most things worked – apart from the wipers. But being an old 827 things could be worse and the sun is shining bright from blue skies – so I set off for my 410 mile drive home.

Overlooking Würzburg on a first stop.

Luck was with me, lack of traffic jams and rain meant I made good progress, travelling at an indicated 85mph where possible. The trip computer showed I managed to average about 70mph, but also – quite to my amazement – an unexpectedly good 33.4mpg! That’s hardly less than my old Honda-engined Rover 216 GSi would have delivered at similar speeds.

The long drive enabled me to collect some first impressions. Ignoring the levels of grime the last owners managed to collect in the car, the interior still looked good. Only very few rattles marred the good impression. The only real damage seemed to be some cracks in the dashboard veneer and a split seam on the top of the rear backrest. All the comfort creatures worked, though some needed a bit of attention: sticky seat or sunroof switches meant some care needed to be taken to prize them out again after pressing them down, or the button would be pressed forever. I wonder how many spilled softdrinks were needed to get to this condition. The clock shows a relative low total mileage of about 140,000kms and the way the car rides seems to back this up. The A/C needs at least a recharge but, at this time of year, that hardly matters.

Something you don’t want to see when you know the wipers will not work…

As the journey progressed the rear silencer obviously decided to go on strike, as it seemed to have left every bit of ability to drown the deep, throaty noise the engine emits at medium revs.

Flowing with the traffic the Vitesse eats up the miles

Although it does look quite solid from outside, all the internals seem to have been emitted to the atmosphere together with couple of dozen kilograms of the CO2 which the engine has been producing. At speeds between 70 and 85 mph the noise gets quite tiring – whilst the car gets near silent once 4500rpm have been passed, but traffic conditions hardly allow such fast driving as well as the trip computer telling me about a drastic decline in mpg…

…soon to be home.

Anyway, the Vitesse and I made it to my place without any mishaps and I can now start to enjoy the ownership of an early 827 with all the toys – and try to find all it’s foibles…

I’ll try to keep you posted about the progress.

Alexander Boucke


  1. The SD1 Vitesse will always go down as my favourite of all sporting Rovers, with the 820 Vitesse Sport (built from 1994 and officially superseding the ‘lesser’ power 180bhp 2-litre version in early 1996) following in second place as “the car that carries Rover’s most evocative moniker.”

    However, there is still something quite appealing about the 827 Vitesse, even though Honda never allowed Rover Cars to fettle with the engine for more power and it never had the urgency of the SD1. But, in a strange sort of way, its more understated image was quite appealing. The Honda engine never sounded stressed when pressed hard and the handling was quite predictable. Admittedly, it handled and rode better when specified with the optional 16-inch Roversport alloy wheels and had the sports suspension package. The 827 Vitesse looked particularly enticing in Flame Red, Pulsar Silver, Black and Nightfire Red.

    If you really wanted to flaunt the aspirations of the Vitesse badge there was always the extra cost optional TWR exclusive body styling kit. A real shame that good examples are actually quite scarce to find now, even in the UK which was its strongest market. All in all, it’s a great car and well worth looking after.

  2. The stripes do help a lot, but that’s their purpose… 🙂 It does have 16″ wheels, but I am not aware that Rover offered a sports suspension here in Germany. The car feels very firm anyway – much more so than I expected. It really feels a bit like a big 216GTi.

  3. Alexander, I am delighted to advise you that your 1991 Model Year specification 827 Vitesse is fitted with the rare extra cost option of 16-inch Roversport alloy wheels. Standard ones were 15-inch ‘spoked’ (lattice-style) alloys.

  4. All 827 vitesses had the ‘sports suspension’ even those with the 15″ 5 spoke doglegs (latice alloys were never fitted to the 800). The Mk2 820 Vitesse however had the standard 820 suspension, the Sport reverted to the original 827 vitesse suspension, with the addition of uprated anti roll bars

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