Our cars : Alexander’s Rover 800 – You Only Live Twice

Alexander Boucke

I’m sure you think there must be an abandoned, dead 827 Vitesse in front of my place – given that, when I last wrote about the car around four months ago, I said that the car was so unreliable that I had simply stopped using it. But no – it’s gone. Under its own power the Vitesse went on to compete in the Rally Munich-Barcelona, which was why it had been bought in the first place.

However, as you can guess from my previous ramblings, there were still some tasks to complete before this could happen. Once I managed to free off some spare time, I finally got things rolling. First was a visit to a local testing station who offered a free safety check as part of a road safety campaign. No bad thing – seeing this was my first chance to have the car up on ramps and also to get brakes and suspension properly checked before deciding what needed to be done mechanically.

Anyway, as it turned out, it looked pretty good: no rust on the lower panels, all the suspension joints free of play, perfect front brakes. But also a torn CV-joint rubber and sticky rear brake calipers (not surprising – having seen the rusty brake discs). Lucky as I was, the car did not fail to start that day!

The Vitesse was then booked into a garage for a new CV gaiter, a set of rear discs and pads, freeing off the rear brakes, new belts (apart from the timing belt that looked recent) and a new thermostat. I kept my fingers crossed that they did not need to push it all the time due to it not-starting (as it turned out to happen quite often).

With the car in good mechanical condition, it was now my task to finally dive into the electrical problems plaguing this car. The PGM-FI main relay was believed to be the major culprit, so out it came for some fresh solder. Unlike on the R8, the removal of the relay is not really a 5 minute job so, while I was at it, I made sure all those connectors and multi-plugs on and around the fuse board were clean and connected safely. It made a major difference, the main relay clicked away as it should on the first try and many of the minor faults, like an erratic interior light, were resolved in one go…

Finally, in true James Bond-style, the car was just ready as my brother turned up to collect it. He had to leave without any further testing – just like BMC left many a car to be tested by the customer…

Oh, and, I hear you ask, did it make it to Barcelona? Yes, it did – and back. Without missing a beat, no overheating and no fluids that needed replacing – unlike the seemingly reliable competition from BMW or VW which suffered all sorts of problems, but that’s another story.

To cite a well known TV presenter: “The most unreliable car is the most reliable car in the world!

827 – in front of unreliable competition
Alexander Boucke


  1. British car fans get fed up with such clichés: “He had to leave without any further testing – just like BMC left many a car to be tested by the customer…”

  2. Is it really a cliché? It’s certainly the truth that Maxi and 1800 (and probably others) were released for sale in a state that should have been considered not ready yet but Issigonis and Harriman said “that’ll do” – and so the customers had to find out. With the 3-Litre it was made official policy: The first batch of 100 cars was made available to “selected customers” for “evaluation”…

  3. It is a cliché. The author made no attempt to put any substance behind his writing. He didn’t say how many cars were left by BMC to be tested by the customer. Why can’t some people tell it like it was, not play for laughs. We might expect this of such ‘journalists’ such as those found on BBC’s Top Gear programme, but visitors to the world’s best car website deserve better.

  4. It’s not a cliche. BMC and its successors all the way to MGR only did 90% of the job. That’s why none of those brands exist anymore. I think Alex’s stable of cars proves his fondness for BMC>MGR more than most.

  5. The main picture of the Fastback covered in dust and glory looks great, well done Alexander. For some reason, I find those XXs with the US-spec bumpers to be the pick of the 800 range. Well, except for the KV6 cars coupled to the JATCO unit. If only they hadn’t released the KV6 without properly testing it…

  6. @Lord Sward
    Somehow the pictures of the car covered in beige muck reminded me of a styling buck in clay – shows the shape even better…

    Anyway, as I write, the car is in a garage in Munich to replace the – erm – slightly worn front brakes and front dampers with new items. My brother will then drive it to Istanbul on a recce for a new event (and back of course!). To be continued…

  7. It’s just dawned on what that XX reminds me of: the British Army used a pair(?) of them to race around the world to raise money for charity. They were eventually auctioned off – for my than my budget. I’ll see what I can find on that story for you.

    • Blimey – that story is now 6 years old. BUT: The car is still alive and (mostly) well. It is – again – with me, since it was retired from rally service. Due to necessary boot space, it was replaced with two(!) Volvo 850 estates…

      This is how it looks now:Ex-Rally 827 Vitesse

  8. The early sd1-esque coupe XX 800s are such a pretty looking car. I think they’re better than both the SD and the R17 800.
    Oddly enough I’ve a dead interior light in my landcrab and a main junction box in the drivers side bulkhead, would pulling and reseating the two connectors cure it or cause more problems?

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