Took the 216 for its first test in anger since the new clutch (and sump) was fitted last month. On a 100-mile journey up the motorway, the Rover proved faultless. Acceleration was sprightly enough, and although the gearing is on the low side (4,000rpm equates to an indicated 72mph), the Honda’s inherent smoothness as high crank speeds means that this is no chore. In fact, it seems to be a positive advantage, as the engine is right in the sweet-spot of its power band on the motorway, meaning you have on-tap acceleration at the flick of your right big toe.
The most amusing aspect of this 216GTi is that its rev-limiter comes in at an indicated 7,800rpm, so even though the real power arrives as late as 4,500rpm, you still have a reasonably wide power band to play with (certainly compared with your average turbo-diesel). It takes some time to acclimatise to this, especially if you’re used to bigger, torquier engines, but once in the correct frame of mind, it is a hoot.
Handling is also on the tidy side of interesting. Damping seems much stronger than it is on standard R8s, and although this particular car has 91,000 miles on the clock it still handles tightly and true to how Rover intended (i.e., some understeer, followed by lift-off oversteer when provoked). Brakes are not quite up to the job, but this seems a Rover family trait (certainly during the era this car was made, anyway).
Preparations continue, and seeing as we are still well within budget (the car cost £Zero; the clutch was £25; oil and filter, £10; and a new rear shelf and back lights, £10), a full (plugs and brakes) service will be following shortly. All that remains to be done is to get the PGM-FI relay off and re-soldered… (we have an intermittant starting problem).
Oh, and we still need a spare distributor…
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.