The ancient Greek Philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 BC), reputedly said “the only thing constant in life is change.”
How very true – and, in the spirit of AROnline bangernomics, Mike Humble and Neil Rapsey have been posting yet more V5 documents to Swansea in a scenario that’s very familiar to readers…
I won’t try to dress it up or beat about the bush here but I just couldn’t bond with the recent Rover 75. I’ll argue the fact till the cows come home, but the post-2004 Rover 75 is a tragically inferior car to the models and versions that came before it. It seems that anything and everything had been cut out, trimmed back or deleted in order to save MG Rover massive savings in production costs. From a business point of view you cannot blame them, the company was bleeding more money by the second than a novice in a Las Vegas casino – and we all know the outcome that followed in April 2005, don’t we?
Anyway, as much as I really appreciated the gutsy performance of the 148bhp 1.8-litre K-Series turbo and the fact that it seemed to use barely any more fuel than the 120PS version, the love just wasn’t there even after a few months of ownership. My reasoning was that maybe I set the bar too high. The 2002 75 Club SE most of you will be familiar with was pretty much as good as one could get mechanically speaking and all of the cost-cutting Project Drive items had been lovingly put back into the car. Plainly put, I simply couldn’t put my heart and soul into going through the same time-consuming toils on the newer car.
Meanwhile, some many light years away from leafy Horsham, way out west in South Wales, Neil Rapsey had bought an unloved and slightly tatty Rover 400 saloon from a trader. He had brought the car back to life after a considerable period of being parked up – and done a damn fine job of it, too. The other half and I recently spent some time down there celebrating his wife’s birthday and this was the first time I had seen the car since last year’s Peterborough show. Being a total sucker for a pretty-looking R8 and, despite the fact this one’s an auto, I quietly fell in love with the little thing that I have always jokingly called the model the thinking man’s Montego.
Throwing an idea out there, I half-jokingly mentioned we could always swap cars for a giggle again – our respective partners both sighed and slowly shook their heads in knowing what may lie ahead. So fast forward a few weeks, and we both find ourselves taking another hand-over picture on the driveway. Neil never really recovered from parting with his last 75 so he is happy, while I get back into the seat of what was possibly Rover’s high watermark – the R8 Series Rover 200/400 model. It marks a change of direction for myself as it’s the first Honda-powered Rover I have ever owned and the second automatic – despite the fact it’s also my 70th BL – Rover branded car.
So, what’s the score so far? Well, it’s been pressed straight into daily smoker mode and required no further expenditure than a few gallons of petrol at the moment. It’s got a few squeaks, creaks and rattles though nothing that a fettle session with a small tool kit can’t sort. Performance could be better though, with every commute to work it becomes that little bit more lively – it spent many years parked up idle in a past incumbency. I’ve just thrown in a bottle of fuel treatment and a damn good hiding to and from work locking out top gear has transformed the drive in just over 50 miles. An endoscope view shows some carbon build up on the valves, though this will be sorted before long.
Other items which require attention include some minor fettling on the rear brakes, an annoying rattle from the sunroof blind, some slight adjustment of the boot lock and a general tidy up of the bodywork. All in all, Neil has done a cracking job so far and I can’t wait to get stuck right in to take it to the next level. Being Honda-powered, it’s a hoot to whip around in and, when you mash the pedal into the cut pile it roars like hell, sounding just the same as a mate’s old Honda CRX – mind you, it should do as it’s the same engine type. Even though its a four speed giffer-matic gearbox that saps a fair bit of the available 115PS of power, it’s nippy – really nippy, in fact.
However, to conclude, all the usual R8 qualities are there, and that revolves around the quality. A nice rigid body shell, sumptuous colour-coded interior trim, tactile textures to most of the plastics and fabrics not to mention superb steering turn-in despite the suspension travel being longer than a whippet’s hind leg.
It’s all looking rather good… so far!
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