Me and my big mouth. A couple of weeks ago, I got in touch with Richard Fernadez, the nice chap who bought my project Rover 75 in 2012. I asked him if he was bringing it to the 2014 Pride of Longbridge – and despite a very busy schedule, Richard said he would make an effort to bring the car along. The conversation then turned to how it was running, and as expected, he said everything was tickety-boo.
Until recently that’s how the story has been. We have kept in touch during his tenure of my old – and much-missed – Rover 75 1.8 Club SE, and it’s good to know, that it has been performing well for its new parents on the Suffolk/Essex border.
That was until a few days ago. I received an email from Richard with a plea for help and advice. Enclosed, was a truly shocking estimate for a headgasket job from his local MG Rover ‘specialist’ for… wait for it… brace yourself… £1780+VAT. At first I thought they had mistaken the car for a KV6-powered example! The worse thing was that the estimate didn’t even include a head skim. For those who don’t know the score, this is around £1000 more than the norm for a non-turbo 1.8-litre K-Series. In fact, its nothing short of offensive and criminal.
I grabbed the phone and gave the chap a call, as I was a bit confused as to why it had blown. If, in fact, it had blown at all. Fast forward a day, and I’m hurtling northbound up the A12 heading for Suffolk, one of my favourite Counties. I have a bootful of tools, and I’m not afraid to use them. Once there, and with the kettle and water supply tested, sleeves rolled-up, I went into full Quincy mode.
It wasn’t long before I found the cause – the garage had correctly diagnosed that cylinder four was full of coolant but, something else had caught my eye. At the back of the cylinder head, was a pool of orange OAT coolant. No more than a thimble full, but a sure sign that the inlet manifold gasket has given up the ghost. Acting quickly, we tried to find a replacement, and see if that could solve the problem, but time was against us – and we missed a Colchester motor factor by five minutes. Damn, another hour wasted in travel time. We were battling against fading light, so in the name of experimentation, I tried the less-than-perfect idea of turning over the gasket and re-fitting it. Worth a pop I thought!
Once re-assembled, I turned over the engine minus its spark plugs. Not a good idea, as it sprayed everyone within a few feet, as a pretty orange fountain ensued, as the cylinder evacuated the flooded coolant. With dried plugs refitted, and the stored fault codes erased from the ECM, I turned the ignition key through squinted eyes and grimaced face, fearing the worse. But the damn thing burbled into life instantly. Sounds silly now, but we both could have cried with relief.
Richard’s lovely wife, Jill, with ‘er indoors in tow, came dashing out of the house, after hearing the car start up. Just for a moment, everyone was pleased as punch, as before it would only run on three cylinders, with a flashing amber lamp on the dash.
Sadly, it was not all over.
There was a faint sign of goo under the oil cap, and it was then that Richard explained the car had got rather warm previously. Obviously, the inlet manifold had caused a leak that caused an airlock, and that had caused it to overheat. Despite a rock steady temperature gauge sitting a millimetre under the mid way point (textbook 1.8), and the heater working fine on idle, the engine has suffered a trauma.
There is the slimmest of chances that I might be able to sort the car out, and I left Richard and Jill with a frank and honest low down of the long term prognosis of their English patient.
When you love a car like a family pet, it’s unconditional in some cases. To some of you reading this, the opinion might be, ‘they must be simple’. But the car is just too damn good to scrap, and they are going to trailer the car down to leafy Sussex for me to pull the head off, and check for warpage, and liner protrusion. I’m not holding my breath, but equally, the fat lady has not started singing yet!
We’ll keep you posted.