Mike Humble buys himself a prime slice of 1990s two-door coupe prestige. How will he fare with AROnline’s latest project car?
So far the signs are looking good…
A Rover returns
Yeah, yeah, I can almost hear what you are saying to the monitor: ‘well, that didn’t take long before you got another Rover’. And you may be quite right, but this was very much a spur of the moment happening. Just like dear old Annie Walker – the respected pillar of the Weatherfield community and feared Publican down Coronation Street used to – I hold the keys to a big old Rover. Sure, I have driven many an 800 series – some good ones and some simply dismal – but owning one has eluded me, even after some 14 years since the deletion of the range.
Wow, can it really be that long since Rover called ‘Time gentlemen… Please!’ on the R17 Rover 800 series and subsequently replaced the model with the Rover 75?
My new car is a 1997 White Gold Vitesse Coupe, though owing to a wheel swap, it looks like a Sterling. I feel the mobile Gin palace image is better suited to the current 16-inch alloys than the 17-inch starfish type. It features the time-honoured package of T-Series engine (turbocharged, of course, Sir) and PG1 gearbox – a drivetrain many consider to be Rover’s finest.
Compared to my previous 75, the Coupe feels loose and flimsy to the touch whereas the 75 felt engineered and solid but where the 75 felt just ever so slightly too retro, the coop’s abundance of hide and dare I say – elegance – fits the image of heritage and class. However, it wears so many caps too, it’s a mobile drawing room, an executive long-distance tourer, a blisteringly quick 200bhp gold brick and, of course, they were shockingly expensive when new. I prefer to look upon it as my recently acquired, secondhand smoking jacket.
Faults, Sir? Well, yes there are some, of course; it is an 800 after all. The bumper brackets need attending to, the dash is lifting around the instrument pack and the exhaust manifold gasket is spitting when cold. Having not had the chance for a roll around the floor, the underside so far is an unknown quantity but I can confirm the rear ends of the inner sills are okay. The expansion tank is showing signs of distress while the whole car needs a damn good clean after being parked up for nearly three years. Mind you, after all that, she starts on the button and is mechanically tip top with a silent gearbox and sublime burble on idle.
It’s caused a stir locally, too. My elderly neighbour, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday, was crawling all over the car not half an hour after my trusty recovery guy Steve from SLS in Eastbourne untied ‘Connie the coop’ from his beavertail pick up truck – what the other neighbours must have thought about an old Rover covered in grime and plant life I wince at.
Anyway, there we go… another AROnline project car, the Rover 800 Vitesse Coupe – the car Alan Partridge aspired to own, I can’t wait to slip some Clannad into the boot-mounted CD changer!