Our Cars : Project Tomcat Turbo

Update: 23 March 2009

Project Tomcat Turbo is proving too enjoyable to restore!
Project Tomcat Turbo is proving too enjoyable to restore!

The trouble with taking on a ‘rolling restoration’ is that there often ends up being far too much rolling and not enough restoration. As a driving enthusiast, Rover’s 200bhp 220 Turbo Coupe offers rather too many sinful pleasures not to enjoy on a daily basis. Now it’s true that my car fleet does tend to change with more regularity than our wonderful transport and justice secretaries, but it’s only because I’m a sucker for a bargain – the only problem is that it makes focusing on one just a little bit difficult.

But back to the Coupe. Former owner Kevin was a lucky boy – because right on his doorstep in Scotland are some wonderful driving roads, and plenty of opportunity to stretch this car’s legs. And jumping into it from almost any car you care to mention, this feels fast – and long-legged. Acceleration to 60mph is almost shockingly fast, with the front wheels scrabbling for grip as the turbo spools up, and the torque and power builds up. Long gearing means you’re well beyond 70mph before you need to change up to third – and long enough road (and legal circumstance permitting), the Tomcat will scorch on to 150mph.

As for the handling, the Tomcat came in for a lot of criticism from the motoring press, but truth be told if you don’t take liberties – and I tend not to – it’s an accurate and safe handler with a touch of understeer. On A-roads, and the quick bends they throw up, you’ll be surprised at how stable it is, even if there’s a fair bit of body roll, and the lifeless steering doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. But all those terror tales of fatal torque steer and tyre chewing antics are more than a little overstated…

Unless, of course, you’re a particularly aggressive driver.

But despite all the fun I’ve been having, the list of things to do has been nagging at me to be done, and I’m already on the case when it comes to fixing the ABS fault. The brakes on the Tomcat aren’t quite as, er, inspiring as they might be, and without the benefit of anti-locking, you feel even less inclined to lean on them. But, still, it’s good to know that all the parts you need to buy are readily available off the shelf from Rimmer Bros.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off for another fun run!

Keith Adams
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