Our Cars : Project HHR – it’s showtime!

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

With most of the niggles ironed out and the jobs to do list getting ever shorter, the Rover 414 is proving to be a faithful daily driver.

Not only that, but it’s going on show at this year’s Classic Car Show at Birmingham’s NEC – and, in true AROnline style, getting the car ship shape and Bristol fashion has caused one or two incidents along the way.

Blood, sweat, tears and tea have been spilled or consumed in order to make the 414 a decent daily driver... I think we've got there too.
Blood, sweat, tears and tea have been spilled or consumed in order to make the 414 a decent daily driver… I think we’ve got there, too

It’s been all go down in leafy Horsham these past few weeks I can tell you. Firstly, after working nights for what seemingly felt like forever, I’m now back in the world of the living on traditional day work and, secondly, I now have the energy and motivation to do things at the weekend that I never had before.

Apart from the missus benefiting from the aforementioned, the Project HHR is also receiving some much-needed attention in the fixing, fernurkling and fettling departments. After racking up a healthy 1500 miles or thereabouts since the head gasket was changed, it was time to crack on with some of the other items the car required.

The hydraulic tappets have just been renewed as a couple of them had a rather unhealthy sounding rattle. After turning my mini Parts Department inside out, I found 16 brand new ones sleeping in their little plastic air tight packaging cylinders. A nasty oil leak from the cam carrier (right above the alternator too) meant that the aforementioned task was killing two birds with one stone.

Besides, engine oil and alternator carbon brushes are not exactly the best of friends. Personally, I don’t use the yellow goo that MG Rover used to recommend when sealing the carrier to the head – it’s rubbish, so try Loctite 518 if, that is, you can find some without going on-line.

The parts store was turned upside down to find sixteen brand new tappets. Its a messy and labour intensive job too, but its also cured a rather nasty oil leak in the process.
The parts store was turned upside down to find 16 brand new tappets. It’s a messy and labour intensive job, but it’s also cured a rather nasty oil leak in the process. The 103bhp 1.4 K16 has responded well to the head gasket replacement having now covered over 1500 miles since it was done

The service history shows that a former Rover dealer – Caffyns – replaced the timing belt not that long ago and, indeed, it was obvious when the top cover was removed. It was good enough to re-use so, when the head came off, the bottom pulley and timing cover were left in situ. Because the cam sprockets and belt were removed again to replace the tappets, good practice dictates you replace the cambelt.

That was just as well because a rather nasty surprise emerged when setting up the crank and cams to the safe position. When doing the head job, I simply set the timing by the camshafts – after all, an ex-Main Dealer had done the timing belt only a few thousand miles ago.

After loosening the bottom pulley bolt, the camshafts were locked into position. However, shortly afterwards, my heart sank at the sight of the crank sprocket being two teeth out of its markings – now I realise why the car felt a little lacking in performance but, fortunately, no harm was done.

I did, though, manage to drop an 8mm socket down inside the lower timing cover after almost everything was refitted (oh, how I laughed) but, at least, the car does now have a nice new timing, alternator and PAS belt – and the performance is back, too. Having been so long since I last drove a 1.4 HHR 400, I took it as gospel this was the expected performance – it’s actually quite perky now.

The car came with a dreadful looking Sony head unit. A nice original second hand Philips R760 unit now resides in the centre console.
The car came with a dreadful looking Sony head unit. A nice original secondhand Philips R760 unit now resides in the centre console

So what else? Well, a chap who runs a garage in Surrey I know which used to operate a retail Rover dealership kindly donated a new old stock Philips R760 head unit to replace the awful Sony aftermarket garbage that was fitted by the previous owner. Sadly, it was dead when I fitted it so a quick look on the bay of E sourced another one locally – uncoded, fully working, in good condition – and a snip at £20.

Oddly enough the seller and her husband read the site from time to time and the radio came out of their own HHR 400 series which had sadly rusted away – small world isn’t it? Anyway, thanks for the radio Sue – much obliged and it works a treat.

However, it’s not all wine and roses. Even though there’s been some serious time and effort spent on the engine of late, it’s still a little bit noisy. The new tappets have certainly made a difference but some piston slap is evident, especially on cold start up. Once warmed through though it quietens down although the slightly clattery nature of the engine means there’s more to do.

I’m really impressed with the fuel consumption and it’s nice to lift the bonnet to reveal an oil leak free engine. It’s never going to be a concours show car (what do you want for £100) but it’s clean, tidy and nice to drive – the ride comfort is truly amazing even by today’s standards.

As I type this, I’ve literally put the tools and valeting gear away and the last little bit of betterment before the drive to Birmingham has been a nice new pair of number plates. The journey up there should go without a hitch, it’s the first long haul drive the car has had to undertake, so fingers crossed and don’t forget to lend a hand if you spot it on the hard shoulder of the M40.

If you are vising the Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show between 11 and 13 November, you’ll find the car residing on the Rover 200/400 Owners Club stand P1-510. Both Keith and I will be mooching around at some point over those few days, so don’t be shy and do say hi.

Details of the show and admission information are available by clicking on the highlighted link above.

See you there?

*UPDATE*

Well, it didn’t explode on the M40 or M42 but arrived at the NEC with no fuss whatsoever. Here’s the old girl slumbering on the Rover 200 / 400 moaners club stand which you’ll find in the Rover zone in the pavilion area.

hhr-nec

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

8 Comments

  1. “Apart from the missus benefiting from the aforementioned…”

    That is too much information!

    Glad to hear the car is (almost) back to full health.

  2. Look forward to seeing you at the NEC. My Zircon blue Rover 2000 will be on the RSR stand, assuming it makes it there later alright

  3. Looking good Mike. Your 414 brings back good memories of my own HHR Rover from 14 years ago. Great that you have extended the life of a car that might have been scrapped prematurely

  4. ‘Here’s the old girl slumbering on the Rover 200 / 400 moaners club stand which you’ll find in the Rover zone in the pavilion area.’

    I trust that it’s getting no complaints from the club members.

  5. No one seemed upset by the presence of 3 Rondas and there were many positive comments about all of them.

    They may not be ‘proper’ Rovers but they came about for a reason and are part of the rich tapestry that makes up the British Car Industry’s history.

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