Our Cars : Rover 216GSi’s second Life

Today, our old Rover 216GSi starts into a new lease of life – hopefully a successful one…

Words and photography: Alexander Boucke


Three years and almost two months ago, the useful life seemed over for our beautiful 1991 Rover 216, not without reason – although reliable, the Honda engine used rather inconvenient amounts of oil, and for more than a year we had a replacement in shape of a much younger K-series powered 416 Tourer.

Not being too fond of the Tourer I felt very reluctant to decommission the 216. Some half-hearted attempts to sell the car were undertaken – rather less successful I’ll hasten to add. So, the former AROnline Car of the Month April 2005 was parked in my back yard, the battery on permanent charge – but as it happens the intervals between warming up the engine, cooling down the air-con and exercising all electrics grew longer as the dirt and moss accumulated. A sad sight.

That changed when a friend of the family showed interest in purchasing it as a daily driver…

From the last run-up a year ago I vaguely remembered an empty tank – so some fresh fuel and a little bit of cranking saw her back to life. All electrics, air-con still worked well, even the battery has survived the time well. On closer inspection all that was needed was a new rear ABS sensor and a little welding to the rear end of both sills.

Thanks to a good friend in Cologne I was able to complete this work in a nicely heated workshop, as I was not too keen on doing this work outside in sub-zero conditions with the odd snowy shower in between – and the Rover got a decent test drive of about 90 miles this way. A quickly booked test was passed afterwards with flying colours earlier this week.


Today the 216 drove off in the hands of a very happy new owner, hopefully giving him the same good service we always enjoyed – if he keeps the oil topped up!

Alexander Boucke


  1. good story these were very well made cars. just check the thickness of the underseal on early ones. you dont see a lot of even these on the road now..

  2. Could just be the valve guide oil seals – a simple top end overhaul. These ‘2’ series were really good cars, so where did it all go wrong for AR ?

  3. All the best!! mine 216SLi is mint. I get the servos to clean it each week. Just keep a eye on the rust. I got a chap who sorts the body out. I wax it all the time its the cleanest rover in Salford. Its got 60k on the clock now so any recomendations for engine work?

    berny 216SLi in red. A real dream machine!! xxx

  4. The R8 was a pretty amazing car. Go back to 1989 and compare it to rivals of the time – it was in a different league. It brought a previously unseen level of quality to this market sector. Suddenly it seemed very possible that the once troubled BL could become a successful, quality brand. What a turn around from the 70’s and the below target 3 M’s recovery plan. Just how was this promising position lost? The eternal question…..

    And, hard to believe it’s so long since the R8 was everywhere!

  5. Sorry forgot to post can I get a aftermarket aircon for the 216? I get a bit sweaty and the misses keeps complaining!! So may stick one in? Well if i have sweaty bits hey ho!! we are now in our 70’s and things happen to your body!! Last year had a plastic hip replacement!! And the year before had a pace maker!! So plastic hip and batteries!!
    Well let me know?

    berny 216SLi

  6. I still have got the oldest Rover 216 GSi with all features you were able to order from the factory exept a metallic paint. My car is an original factory prototype with the number 14 and on most panels is standing a very low number and prototype for LHD model.
    I bought the car as it was six month old and since them it belongs to me.
    The only problem I still have got is, that the ALB system does not work anymore and so I am still looking for the ALB pump with the expnsion tank.
    I anybody will keep such a part, please let me know in a short comment and I will tell you my mail address.

  7. The car looks like It has just rolled out the factory but I’m a bit confused with the photos. The “car of the year 2005” pics show it with leather seats and alloy wheels. It now seems to have cloth seats and plastic wheel trims. What’s happened. Has it been used for spares or is this one that was made earlier.

  8. @2 & 5: Yes, these early cars are very well made and specified, probably the best level of quality Rover (and Mini?) ever reached. In direct comparison with the late 97 built Tourer this early car rules in about every area – despite being nearly 7 years older. This ranges from much cheaper feeling column stalks on the late car to much lower quality brake and fuel lines… But Rover started to cheapen these quite early on, the interior took a significant nosedive when the single colour, one-piece centre console was introduced.

    @10: I do have a spare ALB unit, I am just undecided if I should sell it or keep it for this car. But I also have the Honda Concerto manual, which painstakingly details how to dismantle and overhaul the complete ABS. What is the error on yours?

    This car used to have full leather, but donated the leather seats to our Tourer (as well as the early hubcaps). The early seats are not only better, but also easier to keep clean with two small kids. I used to have a second set, but that ended up in AROnline’s project Rover 216GTi some years ago.

    At the launch the 216GSi was the only model available in Germany, the brochure showing “this” car in pearlescent cherry red with the grey leather (no beige or blue available here). Standard fit was four electric windows, electric sunroof, power steering and catalyst. Even later I think we never received R8s without power steering here. This one had all options (with manual gearbox), which were 3 options: ABS, pearlescent paintwork and a package comprising of leather seats, A/C and alloys. This level of equipment was quite often found on these early cars. They also had heated front seats as standard when leather was ordered, something the UK never got and the parts manuals do not show up…

    The alloys are still there, but the pics with hubcaps show the car on winter tyres.

  9. At my ALB the ALB was working all the time. It was working without using the breake and it was not stopping to pump. My local Honda dealer told me that one of the valves does not close anymore and so he had to change the complete pump with the brakefluid expansion tank.

  10. Friend of mine has one of these Honda-engined Rovers. A surprisingly good drive, with a nice gearbox and not too lacking in torque (by Honda standards). Hers is held together with gaffa tape and chewing gum, but despite not being pampered still provides reliable transport.

  11. Great cars, I just got rid of my 1991 sli, the AR Online rat rod car that Keith drove back from Romania in 2011.
    Rust was the killer in the end, but it’s replacement a 25.000 mile 1992 214 gsi is more than a adequate replacement even though it doesn’t have power steering.
    The quality of the early cars are a notch above the later models and the underseal is actually about 1/2 inch thick on some areas of the floor.
    Those early leather seats do look rather good in your tourer, now to find some for mine.

  12. “horrible dash”??? Are you for real? The original R8 dash was the most boring looking exercise in square lines and lack of detail I’ve seen foe a while! At least the later one had shape and form, still looks modern(ish) now…

  13. hye…im dani and from malaysia.i also got one of rover model…its tc 2000 very old and belong to my dad.sadly the engine parts is very hard to find.im planning.now its only parking inside garage all the time..its really sad coz the car is lot of meaning to me since i was child..if u got info about this model it would be great… 🙂

  14. Looks like it is game over about 5000 miles later. Unnoticed loss of coolant, steam, smoke and noises from the engine… And no time at hand to drop in the original engine which I still have here (garages seem not interested). Anyone interested in taking it on as a project (incl. engine)?

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