The MintEgo has moved on to pastures new so the chase has been on to find a suitable replacement. Even something as simple as finding a car was almost as emotional as selling the last one.
Mike Humble explains…
1.8 Connoisseur SE Turbo in Firefrost Red – not perfect, but very sound and solid
Who was I trying to kid? But I’ll be honest, I genuinely did want the Montego to use as a daily smoker. However you try to cook it round the edges or make it fit, I missed the creature comforts of 21st century motoring like climate control, power steering and so on. Although the Montego did drive like a almost brand new car, it wasn’t fair to pile on the miles like I was regardless of the fact it became as dependable as any other car on the road – eventually. Some serious enquiries came my way after the recent Restoration Show at the NEC, some serious thought was given and it quickly became a case of “first to enquire will buy” – an effortless sale.
I had to keep things fairly low key when I decided to part for obvious reasons. My allergic reaction to dolly daydreamers, picture collectors and time wasters is getting worse these days. When a very serious prospect, who promised to admire, cosset and take care of the Montego, came on stream and offered the right kind of bunts which reflected the serious graft that’s been invested, the deal was done. . The handover went without problem, all parties were happy and, armed with a nice collection of high denomination bank notes, the next chase began. As is often the case, buying a car is just as much grief as selling one.
Just as the late George Turnbull quipped in the BL film about the Marina development, I kept an open mind about the replacement. Options included a very late Cavalier that was fairly local to me, a Cavalier Mk2 that was an hour’s drive away and a brace of Jaguar X-Types – none seemed to whet the palate or hit the spot. One thing that became apparent very quickly were the rock bottom quality of the current vehicles out there on sale not to mention the lowest of the lows in terms of the traders I locked horns with. There were a Rover 75 diesel with a bad paint job and a broken gearbox and a Jaguar that looked like it had rolled down a cliff to name but two.
Anyway, in the end I heard from a trade contact about a late Rover 75 on the south coast that was “honest, straight but needs some TLC” sourced from a local group with prestige dealerships scattered around the local towns and cities. It had been part exchanged for an Evoque and, with a genuine 57,000 miles not to mention just a small number of previous owners, I thought it would be worth a look. Fast forward to the viewing it was everything as described – honest, straight, without previous traumas – even the part-time trade vendor was a decent chap. He mentioned he’d taken a punt with the car but had little interest in it – had Christmas come early for me here?
A thorough look over and a decent test drive revealed a small list of items that require attention but nothing to have me running away in fear. The pleasant pass-the-time small talk quickly evolved into the more serious tone of conclusions and number crunching. I was asked if the car was for me, I thought it was, I asked for a minute or two to collect my thoughts, he wandered off and I pondered and mentally totted up the work and costs involved. Making it clear I wasn’t here to mince or mess and that I was happy to drive away if the offer didn’t meet universal acceptance, I put my bid in with a pair of size nines… and waited for his response.
I didn’t have to wait long and he didn’t even mutter a word at first, he just slowly extended a hand to shake and muttered “Sod it… Let’s do it“. The car was a fair(ish) price to start with and, even though my offer reflected the fact it needs some input, the deal wasn’t exactly a steal – it has, though, very much worked in my favour and, my word, the car drives so amazingly well. It’s a facelift Connoisseur 75 1.8 Turbo with the SE pack in the optional pearlescent Firefrost Red colour – it does look a canny Connie when the sun shines. Except for one door lock, everything works and, at least, the hide and half-timber tiller are both in good condition.
It’s far from perfect and there’s a lot to be done – that includes worn-out rear brakes, some minor top end oil leaks and those legendary cloudy headlamps but, out on the road, it drives just right. Being pushed straight into squadron service with not such much more than a local mini valet has brought up no gremlins. A recent sprint round the M25 to visit a newly-retired Derek Ketteringham saw the 75 get gridlocked in Bank Holiday traffic – the temp needle never even twitched from just below midway… Phew!
Normally, I would not have entertained a facelift 75. For sure they look a bit more business-like round the gills over the pre-2004 examples but some of the cost cutting and quality of components under close scrutiny are quite rubbish really as Project Drive really took hold. That said, it rides so beautifully well – even better than my last one before I swapped the alloys over and the gutsier engine brought a taller final drive – 70mph now shows 2800rpm rather than a busy sounding 3250. Other betterments include door cards trimmed in a decent wearing faux Alcantara fabric as opposed to the velour stuff that gets really grubby very quickly
As mentioned, it was one of those nice easy-going sales that hammers home the time-honoured showroom saying that people only buy from people”. Had I not bought the Connie on the spot, both parties would, at least, have enjoyed each other’s company for half an hour or so. The 75 was very much bought on a gut feeling – only time will tell if that feeling, albeit backed up by many years trade experience, was right or was just down to trapped wind!
So raise a glass to the new project car. Perfect timing too, as the clocks alter – ideal for some serious late night weekend fettling!