Our Cars : Mike’s Rover 214SLi

These boots are made for driving

Rover 214SLi

From the outside, the only visual aspect of my R8 214 that I have never got used to are the spindly 14-inch wheels, shod with laughably skinny 175/70×14 tyres. It makes tyre replacement cheap, even though as time passes, a decreasing number of vehicles have tyres this size fitted. When driving at moderate pace in drier climes, the turn-in and grip is acceptable by today’s standards. But the car cleverly senses rain in the next County, and it’s very easy – sometimes without warning – for the handling to go all rather wonky should things get, as Top Gear describes, mildly moist.

Quite a few people have remarked about how small the wheels look and I reckon, with a bit of practice, I could change a front flexi-hose without removing a wheel, such is the space between the tyre and arch. Going right back to my first period of incumbency with the Rover, the thought of beefier wheels had been on the wish list. But it just never happened because of the usual time/effort/financial constraints. Well… fast forward to now, and the phrase ‘the best things in life are free’, comes to the fore, as the ancient first generation R8 now sports some new footwear that came free of charge.

As you will now note, she now tramps the highways and byways of leafy Sussex on a set of MG 16-inch ‘Active’ alloys that came up rather well after a damn good soaking with a mixture of Fairy liquid*, Washing powder and hot water. I did have to collect said wheels from North Devon, but my daily hack, the company Volkswagen Golf, did the work – and it was good to catch up with old friends at the same time. Some spigotted wheel nuts, and the correct centre caps were sourced, and off came the original steel rims. In no time, and part thanks to ‘er indoors providing some steaming hot tea, the wheels were swapped over without fuss.

My only concern was the worryingly close proximity of the top of the front tyre to the bottom of the strut, but a damn good session of hard cornering has proved there is no contact between the tyre and suspension. That said, 205mm is the absolute maximum width you would want to go to without using a spacer. I quite like the overall appearance of the car now the job’s done, and my fears of brutally heavy steering were unfounded. It’s actually lighter now. No real upset of the ride is noticeable either – it’s a fraction more nobbly at very low speed than before, but nothing to make your teeth clatter!

Cornering is transformed. Yes there is still some body roll when dialling-in some lock with vigour, but it no longer squeals like a stuck pig, or gives the impression that the tyre bead is about to pop off the rim at any moment.  I have now decided to lower the ride height by about 40mm, and had the chance of some 216GTi struts, but I want to keep the standard dampers. So a set of lowering springs have been ordered. Other recent additions to the ongoing fettling programme have been the fitting of an MG ZR leather gear gaiter, and a heater surround liberated from a scrapped Rover Streetwise – the old ones were getting tatty.

So the Rover Sport programme lives on, if you like, and should anyone be looking to re-tyre their pram or racing cycle, I have a set of four steel rims with tyres going spare – buyer collects only!

* Other on the cheap alloy wheel refurbishment products are available.


Mike Humble


  1. The 16-inch alloy wheel design was also known as the ‘Active’ when fitted to the rare Rover 25 GTi and 45 2-litre V6 Connoisseur up until the Summer of 2001.

  2. That’s right David. My ZS had the same 16″ Hairpins. They usually managed to avoid build up of brake pad dust… better than 15″ Fissions. I have the 2004 Rover catalogue which lists Active wheels on the R25.

    They suit Mike’s R8 a treat.

  3. Looks absolutely great, Mike!

    My ZR has the same wheels and I’m still admiring them 18 months after buying the car. I note with interest your cleansing solution – I use a similar brew on mine and they look mint.

    I do hope ‘G 776 RGC’ is coming to POL

  4. They do look absolutely fantastic on the old girl Mike, hard to know what more you could do to improve that now really

  5. Those wheels were known as ‘Hairpins’ when fitted to MG zed cars.

    Incidentally, my R8 214Si passed its test today;-)

  6. Amazing to think the shape dates back to 1989 – still looks pretty contemporary. As I recall, the R8 brought the quality feel to the mass market – when launched everyday family cars were evidently below more premium brands. Now the difference seems less.

  7. Glad it has improved the handling.

    Not a fan of “wrong” wheels on cars, TBH. Would have been nicer if you could have found some cross spoke alloys from a 216/416 GTI…

  8. Don’t lower it!!! You will ruin the ride.

    You will also need to start wearing your jeans round your knees and showing off your underwear. Then you’ll want a bigger stereo, more speakers and and and …..

  9. I firmly believe wide tyres are a substitute for a good suspension system to control the tyre/ road surface interaction

  10. I saw a K reg Rover 214 SLi today that looked immaculate. The early nineties really were a golden era for Rover with the 200, 400 and 600. All these cars still look good today.

  11. #12 the USA gvmnt funded project reporting on world car manufacturing published their findings and a book “the machine which change the world” was published. It was through the book that japanese ideas of lean production and quality came to the public attention, the Rovers you mention scored high for quality and efficiency.
    VW were panned by the authors, low productivity, complexity and poor quality control, a sharp contrast to their perceived images of Rover and VW in the public mind

  12. Glenn @12

    Yes, at this time it was almost incredible how quality, image, popularity had been turned around from that of the late seventies, early eighties. Still not financially strong in terms of funding new models. So when BMW bought Rover in 1994 I thought “Great! Surely the path to recovery can only continue”. Not one of my more accurate predictions….

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