Our Cars : Alexander’s Rover 800 – Orient Express

Alexander Boucke

Heading south with the Black Sea on the left

Our trusty Rover 827 Vitesse has been out on the road again. This time my brother Cornelius and his mate Thomas wanted to see some sandy beaches – on the shores of the Black Sea!

Having had the slightly mad idea of running a banger rally to Istanbul, the guys took a couple of days off to explore the possibilities of covering as many of South-East Europe’s capitals as they could within one week – the connecting journeys  were intended to take them through some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes. Not an easy task for car and driver but, as the 827 Vitesse has performed so well when doing Munich-Barcelona in the summer, it was deemed fit to cope with the new challenge. A set of new shock-absorbers and brake discs for the front were needed, as well as the blowing exhaust (finally or sadly) replaced.

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Loaded with digital camera, mobile phone, credit card, international breakdown cover and a gas cooker for fresh coffee whenever needed, they set off to follow a roughly sketched route that should include Prague, Krakow, Belgrade, the Faragas Pass in Romania, Bucharest, the Black Sea coast and the final destination in Istanbul.

It wasn’t all plain sailing though – about 20 miles into the journey the car stalled and failed to restart for the first time. A quick effort to diagnose the problem via ‘phone lead to a diagnosis of either main-relay or ignition module failing. Bugger… but, as the car restarted after a short rest, they took the plunge and decided to carry on. A broken key – needless to say they only had one – and some punctured tyres did not manage to lower the spirits.

What do you think when people open a car like that?
Solution… Broken flappy key.

Indeed, the sequence of historic towns, several ranges of mountains, open plains, snow and fog on the Faragas changing with beautiful autumn sun kept Cornelius and Thomas from thinking too hard about the car’s troubles.

Well, at least until leaving Bucharest, when the Vitesse’s breakdowns were getting more often. The guys pulled out the main relay, but did not see anything wrong with that. Istanbul was reached including four breakdowns in the town’s busy evening rush hour… However, as no garage would have been able to supply a new relay or ignition module with less than 3 days waiting, they decided to carry on again.

Faragas Pass in snow and fog on the north side.

Unfortunately, on the last leg of the return trip the car finally died on the Autoput near Belgrade and would not restart. Towed into a garage the diagnosis lead to the conclusion that the ignition module was not switching and, since wiggling on the connector made it work again, it’s most likely to be a broken joint inside the unit. Again the garage was not able to find a new or used replacement unit – and they tried hard, driving to scrapyards as far as 30 miles out. Anyway, as a result, the Vitesse is now having a rest in Belgrade and will be driven home next week while our adventurers are returning by rental car thanks to the ADAC’s international breakdown cover.

Cornelius sent me a large selection of nice pictures from Istanbul – I’ve included some of them in the following Gallery.

Alexander Boucke


  1. Ahh yes, a Rover car and a tube of superglue go together like a pint and Castella. Superb blog and some great pictures!

  2. Right now the guys are staring up their Serbian rental car to get back to the Vitesse – in their luggage two sets of used ignition modules and main relays, both unplugged from working cars. So I hope all will be well with the Vitesse running the remainder of the return leg tomorrow. It’s only 600 miles…

  3. Nice to see you ‘ve got your winter tyres on as well. Must dig mine out and stick them on the Maxi as it’s starting to get a bit chilly up here in Hameln now

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