Meanwhile, down in the south, AROnline’s other Rover 75 project receives some good old-fashioned fettling.
Mike Humble tells all…
Rather akin to what Keith posted recently, my own account of the trials and tribulations of Rover 75 ownership has been delayed until now because of other commitments. Our brace of copper-leaf Connies seem to share the same niggling issues that often forgotten and un-used cars always have – a list of things either not working as they should or not working at all. It all started with the ATC and the time-honoured load of old pony phrase; it just needs a re-gas or JNAR. Well, tickle my fetlocks with surprise as that’s exactly all it needed to provide lashings of icy old air. Usually, when the air-con on a twenty-year-old car goes JNAR, you tend to find they also require a dryer, bits of pipework – oh, and a reconditioned compressor pump.
I love the tripe you read in the small ads over stuff like the aforementioned on cars for sale – if the carneeds a re-gas then bloody well re-gas it then. Or you have the memorable old favourite; only requires a shock absorber for MoT – stuff like that really drives me crackers. Anyway, I digress and suffice to say, in the case of the 75, you tend to find the ATC system is quite hardy and very well made. Use it regularly and it seldom conks out – even growling compressor pumps go on forever before they finally pack up and renewing it isn’t as hair-raising as you’d think if you have access to the right tools and have a half-decent tool kit.
Thankfully, as my car had formerly been a magazine project car, all the nasties had been attended to. Items such as the timing belts and water pump had all been replaced – all with the proper XPart branded kit – yay! The previous jockey had an unsuccessful crack at sorting out a sunroof leak which left the whole glovebox and CD changer lying in the boot. Needless to say I wasn’t expecting the CD to function properly or work at all once it was all fitted back into the car. However, I was pleasantly chuffed to hear it whirr and click back into life and play all those hits from my favourite beat-pop combos – or, for those under the age of 35… wikeed ‘bangin choonz bruv.
Other required R40 fettling has included a damn good mop and polish of the headlamps as they were going a distinct shade of milky green. At the same time, I threw in (or rather crawled around on my knees to fit) a pair of uprated H7 bulbs. Often as not, the word uprated tends to also mean miserable and disappointing when it comes to headlamp bulbs, but the Ring Ultra-150 bulbs really do give out a crisp white light – a joy to drive at night you might say and they don’t annoy oncoming drivers either. Another bulb modification I like too is swapping the rear 5w 207 type sidelamps for a brighter 10w 245 – the standard bulbs always make me feel like the battery is going flat – anyone else think that or is it just me?
The temperamental door mirror and seat adjusting switches have been dealt with thanks to a puff of contact cleaning spray and the steering column, which would lower just by tugging on the bottom of the rim, was quickly mended by one eighth of a turn on the clamp bolt behind the column shrouding. As you can see, most of the aforementioned have been simple tasks costing very little or not much at all in terms of both labour or cost. That’s the beauty of 75 ownership – a great deal of the day-to-day tinkering you come across with elderly cars isn’t beyond the scope of anyone with average fettle prowess. So… all has been pretty good so far – oh, did I mention the clutch went barely a month into ownership?
It had the usual heavy clutch pedal – as many early 75s do and the bite point was slightly high too, but I was convinced another 10,000, if not 20,000 miles, could be eked out of the clutch. They say to assume is to make an ass out U and ME and how correct that was when, without warning, half a mile from home, the clutch slave cylinder/thrust bearing seal blew leaving the pedal lying on the floor. To be fair this component had done rather well for twenty years and, in my dealership days, it wasn’t that uncommon to see this part actually fail inside the car’s warranty period. That said, I wasn’t impressed when it happened and mentally weighed up the complexity of the repair.
Having no spare time nor the right premises to sort it, I rang around a few mobile mechanics I know and a couple of trusted local garages, but nobody could sort the car at barely five minutes notice. Sourcing the parts was easy enough but not the labour as I needed the car back on the road like yesterday. My only option was to contact a chain outlet in nearby creepy Crawley and which claimed to specialise in clutches. An on-line form was filled in and they came back in minutes with a price I thought wasn’t too bad considering it included everything parts, VAT the lot – even a two-year nationwide guarantee and they could do it the following day. What, to quote the time-honoured saying, could possibly go wrong? Erm… lots.
Well, to keep a very long story short, after just 19 miles the hydraulic pipework turned out to be poorly fitted causing the interconnecting join between the slave and master cylinder to blow apart bringing the same issue as when the clutch first failed. The car was taken back, they sorted the pipework but, driving home, I noticed the cruise control no longer worked and the pedal seemed to be getting spongy. When popping out for a take-away later that evening, the pedal was so floppy I could barely select any gear cleanly. By now, I was rather annoyed but, rather than drive back to the garage once again to roundly thrash the manager, I simply bled the bloody thing myself and repositioned the cruise control switch.
Since then all has been good, but I’ve been pondering over the car’s fuel efficiency – or, more to the point – lack of it. The car is very low mileage (80,000) and hasn’t been used a great deal over recent years and had been suffering a distinctly fluctuating idle speed when cold with a slight hesitation when throttling up a long hill or when driving hard. A few fuel treatments later and things improved somewhat, but I was convinced things could be better still. The throttle body was given a good going over with a toothbrush and a can of carb cleaner and the front three spark plugs were removed to see what sort of condition they were in. To err on the side of caution, I ordered some new sparkers.
It’s been a long time since I changed some plugs on a V6 Rover 75 and I had forgotten just how fiddly it is. After removing various bits of under bonnet trim, you can eventually reach the rear cylinder bank. You have to be really careful as the risk of dropping one of the little 8mm bolts that secure the coil packs to the cylinder head is very high. With mine being being a pre-Project Drive car, the wiring and the rear coil packs are vastly superior to later V6-engined models, so there were no brittle plug connectors to fall apart in your finger tips. Cylinder No:2 plug looked like it had never been checked before fitting as the gap was monumentally huge compared to the other five – it’s also by far the most awkward plug to access… Hmm, funny that, eh?
One set of premium NGK Laser Platinum plugs along with a fair bit of shouting, swearing and stretching later and the difference is incredible. No fluctuation on idle and no faint spluttering when you want the power – the latter, for sure, being down to the over-gapped plug. Never believe what you read about spark plugs when the vendor says they are gapped for the specific vehicle. Always check the gap against the vehicle’s spec before fitting with a feeler blade – too small a gap means an incomplete burn of fuel whereas too large a gap can, at worst, overload the coil or coil packs causing either total ignition failure or a total misfire on one cylinder. The one in the picture measured an astonishing 1.7mm – Rover quote 1.0mm.
Right… Time to crack on with other stuff!