The Project HHR 414 lives to die another day as she sweeps through her MoT. It was also nice to see the bug of saving tired old Rovers and MGs is spreading throughout the Sussex South Downs…
Moments before the journey to the testing station… The Project HHR was washed, vacuumed
and ready for inspection then, typically, it decided to rain – pah!
Well, the Project HHR 414 lives to die another day. The car just seems to refuse to give in despite coming so close to its fate during its last owner’s reign. The uprated MLS-type headgasket has once again proved its worth and the life-expired front pipe, which made the car sound like something from Santa Pod Raceway, has been replaced by an absolute bargain sourced from a contact in the trade for just £25 including the two gaskets. With barely more than a token pre-test kick the lights and flash the tyres routine, a ‘phone call was made to book the old girl in for MoT.
My tester of repute is a good 20-mile journey south so there was a good opportunity to get that front pipe and catalytic converter glowing red hot. Arriving a bit late for my early morning test there was no mincing around as the car went straight into the bay and an emissions reader pipe was rather unglamorously rammed up the tailpipe. However, there was nothing to worry about, the data was spot on and well within test limits – my man Craig mutters that he was impressed at the figures for a car nudging seventeen years old.
A mate in the trade sent me this new downpipe with gaskets for less than the cost of a take-
away meal for two. No longer does the car sound like a Rolls Royce Merlin on start up.
Is it just me or does a new exhaust component initially smell fantastic when it warms up?
Even more impressive was the fact that, just a couple of weeks earlier, the engine was clogged up with emulsified oil and coolant not to mention a breather system in a very poor state of affairs. After the data was logged and the emissions were recorded, the proper test got underway – but not before the kettle was checked for function and form as some tea was brewed. All human parts lubricated, the car was drawn a few yards forward onto the brake rollers. I was not expecting any dramas here, the brakes on this one are very good for a basic disc/drum set-up.
With eagle eyes, I watched the dials fluctuate as all four corners were anchored up together and individually – no problems there, but nor was I expecting that as mentioned before. Onto the test ramp next for the usual poke, prod, rock of the steering and check for corrosion. Once again, everything was okay, I’d had a chance for a glance during the exhaust job and didn’t spot anything to worry about – in fact, I hadn’t felt so quietly confident during an MoT test for a long time. Even nicer, too, when you consider the car still stands me at less than £200, including parts.
Total expenditure so far is still under £200… just. It’s looking like one the best buys I’ve
made in a while
And the verdict? Straight through… she’s passed. Even though I am ashamed to say the prior inspection was nothing more than a token peer underneath and the obligatory kick of the tyres, the car battles on for a while longer, probably unaware how close it was to becoming recycled into a baked bean tin or the name on the world’s finest blade. Craig Holt runs one of those nice garages that sits in the corner of a little industrial estate located a few miles from nowhere of significance – Burgess Hill, actually.
Last time I ventured that way, he was cooing like a contented pigeon over his recently-purchased MG ZT 180. My latest visit there showed that he hasn’t learned, as he now pilots a ZT 260, which he is totally in love with. Indeed, just to make matters worse, daughter Rachael, who assists with the business and has recently passed her test, is now nipping around the South Downs in a Trophy Yellow ZR 105, which was bagged for the sweet sum of £85. A driveline swap from a redundant Rover 25 saw Chris and Rachael have a fully-operational and half-decent ZR back on the road for just a weekend’s work.
Craig Holt and daughter Rachael with their his ‘n hers Z car combo: a ZT 260 and ZR 105
That made me think that saving old, broken Rovers may not be the quickest or most lucrative way to fund your early retirement, but it isn’t half satisfying when a little bit of graft and loose change money can earn you a decent and reliable daily car. Anyway, to the present, I’m pleased to report that all is good with the HHR 414 so far. She’s using no oil and no water, but I am planning to fit a new set of lifters very soon – I just cannot seem to silence a couple of noisy tappets. Not to worry, it gives me chance to re-seal the cam carrier and change all four cam seals just in time for mid-November.
And what’s the significance of November, prey tell? Well, it’s the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show at the dear old NEC, of course. The chaps from the Rover 200/400 Owners Club have asked if they can borrow the old girl for the duration of the show. It did make me wonder whether this car has any inkling of just how fortunate and lucky it is.
Old Austin Rover adverts used to tell us how Minis had feelings, too… I wonder if that applied to the newer models as well?