Words and pictures: Mike Humble
After selling on for a small profit, the SAAB has gone to live in deepest Kent – So not being a person to think for too long, a surprise replacement now resides at Swiss Towers.
Well, the SAAB has moved on to pastures new and yes, I do kind of miss it with its mix of oddness and smooth Swedish efficiency and thumping torque curve. I’m sure Rebecca and Mark will enjoy the car and they are no doubt pleased at grabbing a bargain, considering a lot of man hours were spent on the car – I managed to make a slim profit.
The other half was not impressed at first of my idea of selling it, but after seven years of seeing me chop, change and finesse – she’s more than used to my spare time antics. Then came the thorny matter of what to try next and the all the usual suspects were evaluated and considered, Alfa 156, Saab 9000 and even a ’99 (T) Rover 825D were considered purchases.
I almost came within a cats whisker of yet another early G plate Rover R8 GSi, but it was a Honda powered car and the only R8s that do it for me are the single point injected 16v K-Series. As good performers the Honda 1.6 D series may be, the earliest of K-Series examples were in fact pretty good and robust, and still shine as an example of when Rover hit its “Cool Britania” period.
Some trader contacts had very few cars to raise an eyebrow, though I was put onto a chap with a 114GTa but upon viewing it, it quickly became obvious we were counties apart in what we thought was a fair price for an ultra low mileage yet scratty example. Both myself, Keith Adams and fellow Rover freak Steven Ward simply adore the Rover Metro and 100 series, but after driving one for a short while it’s shortcomings changed my mind regardless of price and I’m a bit old and creaky for wind up front windows and falling out of the car thanks to the three fathoms deep inner door sill.
I even considered a Ford Sierra GLX 1.8 in Tasman blue, a car I owned some years back and one I still consider to be an effortless mile eater but nope, I just couldn’t do it, besides, it’s getting way to cold to be replacing bone hard valve stem seals or hammering home lower arm compliance bushes. Another trader got in touch with the chance of a Cat D but you would never know it 45 Impression S diesel for shirt buttons, but I remained emotionless at the thought of another HH-R or 45.
But sitting there at my office desk with a brew during lunch, I stumbled upon a car on a leading internet auction site and it seemed to whisper my name every time I clicked on a photo. Sitting there on its driveway resplendent in it’s shade of Moonstone or as a work mate once described as senility green, was a 2002 Rover 75 1.8 Club SE with very low mileage complete with a useful chunk of test & rent. I can hear the cries of NO NO NO, but hold on there dear reader, this car looked okay, showed HPI clear (perk of my job) and was cheap – and yes, I do mean cheap and complete with 80% service history.
Now the 75 is a car I know well having sold, worked on and driven many since 1999, but also, a car I have never owned or bonded with but has been on the list many many times. The swooping shape, splashes of chrome and eyebrow frown frontal view has always been liked by myself and the lovely seats with those dials which illuminate at night like the glowing embers of a log fire seem to hark back to the days when everything was ok with the world.
But they can hardly be called exiting cars, certainly the V8 75 or ZT could certainly blow the froth off a Horlicks, but the 75 on the whole is a nicely crafted, retro styled comfy old Hector – but both myself and the 75 are built for comfort and certainly not for speed. Four hours later, the car was mine and off to the seaside town of Peacehaven we dashed to collect my prize.
I certainly bought in all the right circumstances (sarc) as it was dark, wet and blowing a gale. A quick crawl around with a high powered torch, MOT history check on the lap top and whiz round the block saw me part with my bunce. The journey home – in true Rover style was not without incident, the nearside dip beam failed after stopping for a cheeky McDonald’s.
Anyone who has owned a 75 or ZT will be in total admiration of Rover engineers over the method required of changing a bulb – NOT! To bring matters up to speed, the engine seems fine, everything works (even the dual zone climate) and it drives like a car three times it’s price. Before the inevitable happens, I shall fit a Victor Reinz head gasket and flush out the fluids soon along with one or two minor titbits and tomorrow I’ll be taking it up to Brent Cross via the M25 on a proving run!
They say that cars reflect their owners, that being the case then, the Rover 75 1.8 is a tad portly, well made, no good at going up steep hills and has an alarming habit of blowing a gasket without warning – (rubs chin, ponders and gazes skyward) seems like I have my ideal spiritual car then!
Right… where’s that ruddy RAC card gone?