Our Cars : Mike’s Montego 1.6 LX

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

In a surprise chain of events, Mike Humble has parted with the Rover 75 and plumped for yet another sensible and quintessentially British four door saloon.

But this one has that all important ‘X’ factor…

The obligatory hand over picture of the sealed deal involving the Rover 75 and the Montego 1.6LX

The obligatory hand over picture of the sealed deal involving Mike’s Rover 75 and John Pollard’s stunning Montego 1.6LX

It wasn’t supposed to happen, nor was it ever planned, but I am now the proud father of a 1991 Montego 1.6LX.

Well, to say it wasn’t planned isn’t strictly true as a recent high-powered meeting at AROnline Towers brought about the possibility of running two project cars of differing manufacturers – a twin test if you like. This still has yet to be confirmed but I had been keeping an eagle eye open for either a later model Montego or a Vauxhall Cavalier MkIII regardless of the outcome.

Why? Simple really… Without spending buckets of cash doing the imperfections on the Rover 75’s bodywork, there is very little to do in terms of making it 100%. Besides, there is also the fact that a sorted and reliable car doesn’t exactly make an interesting read for the many readers who clamour for some automotive mayhem.

The last Montego I owned was many hot summers ago – that was a dog rough 2.0 DLX estate bought for shirt buttons from a mate in the trade who took it in as a part exchange for a new Hyundai. Needless to say, it received the treatment and soon became a Trojan of a motor that eventually went to the great car park in the sky with a credible 274,000 miles on the clock – only a rear end shunt killed it off.

This is my second 1.6LX saloon. I owned the first one some time before the estate and that was an H-plate example, too. Again, that one only got scrapped after the person I sold it to fell out with his local residents, who seriously vandalised it with buckets of paint and then set the poor thing on fire.

Every inch a fleet special. The LX is well appointed for 1990 with electric mirrors, windows, roof and a half decent Philips wireless. Its very erm... blue too but those multi-density foam seats (award winning too) have no sign of sag and a super snug to sit on.

Every inch a fleet special… The LX is well appointed for 1991 with electric mirrors, windows, roof and a half-decent Philips wireless. It’s very erm… blue but those multi-density foam seats (award winning did you know?) have no sign of sag and are super-snug to sit on. It genuinely feels and smells like a brand new Rover!

Okay, so what’s the story then? It was spotted at the BMC/BL Rally at Peterborough just the other weekend. Keith and I were mooching around looking for photogenic vehicles to snap and I literally fell in love at first sight. We both agreed it was a more than worthy Car of the Month – and I found myself chatting to the owner, John Pollard. He let it slip that he didn’t think it be a long-term vehicle for him. Further discussion took place both face to face and via email during my holiday to Norfolk, whereby I offered my Rover 75 as a solution to his uneasiness for smoking around in such a nice Montego on a daily basis.

That’s when events gathered pace – John requested a visit to leafy Horsham to examine the Rover thoroughly. The deal was struck there and then and we parted company owning each other’s wheels.

I’ve not even had chance to swap the insurance over as I type, but have attended to a few minor jobs to do so far, such as a non-illuminating clock and some rear lights that only work if you thumped the clusters. Out on the road, she runs quite well though there is a slight hesitation that seems to be caused by an over eager MoT tester who has set the HiF44E SU carb so lean that even Jack Spratt would complain about it.

The central locking refuses to do anything but make strange farting noise, and there is an odd squeak from the suspension somewhere behind – all in good time, as they say, but for a 25 year old car she’s in a shockingly good state of fettle. The only oily job seems to be the start of a minor oil leak from the camshaft carrier – can’t wait to sort that one out. I simply adore the S-Series power unit, especially when allied with the later PG1 gearbox.

The S series 1.6 is in my view a cracking plant and this one has done merely 20,000 miles. Runs happily on lead free but seems a tad hesitant owing to the mixture being very weak. Slight top end tap and the start of a cam carrier oil leak but I'll soon have it fettled to perfection.

The 1.6-litre S-Series is a cracking power plant, and this one has just 20,000 miles on the clock. It runs happily on unleaded, but seems a tad hesitant owing to the mixture being very weak. Slight top end tap and the start of a cam carrier oil leak but we’ll soon have it fettled to perfection

The car is in timewarp condition otherwise (although I loathe that expression, along with ‘Barn Find’). It has rock-solid wheelarches, no rust bleed in the rear three-quarter paintwork area and the dash has only the tiniest amount of warp. The paintwork is deep and glossy, and it smells exactly like a brand-new Montego. Despite lacking power steering, it shuffles from apex to apex surprisingly well – I never liked the method of the PAS, anyway, as it works via the camshaft pulley.

The brakes are decidedly average but work nonetheless and could do with a bleed up session. She’s far from perfect but a damn good 70 per cent of the way there [it’s more like 90 per cent, Mike – Ed], which is just how we like it on AROnline. All in all, it’s a beautiful car in a truly nice condition. I have promised John that I will love honour and cherish it, and all I can add as a suitable retort is that he does the same with the Rover 75 – but I have no doubt he will.

By the way, does anyone have a set of GSi or Countryman door timbers lying around? If so, please get in touch.

 

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

11 Comments

  1. Well Well I didnt see this coming!!…. Of course I did, you were drooling like a Rabid dog during the closing minutes of the BMC show in Peterborough.
    To be fair its a fine specimen of a motor and I don’t think you could have found a better one, it’s a car I would gladly own myself if I was allowed.

    Now lets see how you can improve on what is an almost perfect Montego and when your done we’ll do a swap for my 416 🙂

  2. Must have been hard to let the 75 go, but the Montego is so relatively simple you’ll be able to keep her on the road for decades more!

  3. Looks great and the enginebay shot shows something you just never see in a modern car – the ground!

    This is handy when you fumble a spanner, nut or bolt as you’ve got a chance of finding it again.

  4. I’m sure you’ll miss the 75, Mike (but it will likely return one day ?!) The Montego, though, is simply great. It’s just so…… what’s the word…. AROnline.

  5. Good luck with the Monty… As stated in my previous comment, I was familiar driving a company H reg blue/grey 1.6LX Estate similar to this one. The interior was nice and performance decent aswell.

    Personally I preferred it to the equivalent MK3 Cavalier (The MK1 Cav’s were always my favourites.) Look forward to hearing “Pilgrim’s Progress” with this car.

  6. Rest assured I will be looking after the Rover 75, …. it’s great!

    Drives superbly, and all the work that Mike, and Neil, have done over their various ownership(s) has made it into a wonderful example.

    With all the available history of Mike’s earlier ARonline “Project 75” blogs, I felt I knew his car before I even arrived at Mike’s house – or should that be called the “Swap Shop” from now on?!

    What Mike didn’t mention was that I came armed with two A4 sheets full of questions, and at one point it was like Mastermind across his garden table.

    Unsurprisingly, Mike answered all questions correctly, with no passes….. but the answer “no concerns about the life left in the clutch” is still with the adjudicators 🙂 🙂

    Someone else who deserves mention is Mike’s wife Jackie. The patience she showed whilst two middle aged car nuts sat around chatting, or ambled around outside car prodding and testing, whilst drinking all the Pepsi Max in the house, was REMARKABLE. Must have been the longest SIX hours in her life!

    Come to think of it Mike, after drinking all that Pepsi Max, that “strange farting noise” you mentioned may not have been the Central Locking after all…..!

    Looking forward to future reports on my Monty.

    Will keep in touch!
    John

  7. Well done Mike,

    Interesting, like you say.

    Does this late carb car still have ERIC or does it have some form of MEMS?

    I seem to remember they updated the carb control on the later cars, although I could be wrong.

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